Four-Wheel Drive or All-Wheel Drive: What Do I Need?

Feb 14, 2015 02:00 PM EST | Jordan Ecarma

Depending on how much snow you're battling, you may be considering getting a vehicle with four-wheel or all-wheel drive.

While the two terms are often used interchangeably, they are distinct. Both direct power to each of a vehicle's four wheels and help with acceleration on wintry roads, but 4WD and AWD have different functions and aren't found on the same types of vehicles.

But which do you need? And do you need either system at all?

If you're planning on doing some off-roading, you may want to spring for four-wheel drive, but those who generally keep to the regular road would probably want to choose all-wheel drive, which sends power as necessary.

"4WD denotes off-road capability, while AWD denotes additional on-road capability," Toyota spokesman Sam Butto told AutoWorldNews, adding that the difference "does not limit 4WD or AWD to either environment mentioned."

On the plus side, AWD or 4WD improves handling and provides better traction; however, buyers should keep in mind that vehicles equipped with these systems will cost more and have lower fuel economy. 4WD and AWD vehicles also require a bit more maintenance since the differentials will need oil changes.

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