Is all-wheel drive worth it?

By Product Expert | Posted in FAQs, Tips and Info on Sunday, January 24th, 2021 at 11:46 pm
2021 Chevy Tahoe front/side view

All-wheel drive is an oft advertised and flaunted feature of modern vehicles, especially crossover SUVs and performance-oriented sedans. AWD is different from 4WD, the latter of which usually adorns trucks and truck-based SUVs.

It usually costs about $2,000 to add all-wheel drive to vehicles for which it’s available. Is AWD worth the extra cost?

Dude loads bike into the back of a 2021 Chevy Tahoe offroad

To buy or not to buy?

The important thing to consider when debating whether to add all-wheel drive to your vehicle is how much you’re going to use it. While this may seem obvious, some buyers opt for AWD intending only to use it on the occasional off-road or rough terrain outing.

What’s the difference between all-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive?

As noted above, all-wheel drive is most commonly available for cars and crossovers, while 4-wheel drive is found primarily on trucks and truck-based SUVs. All-wheel drive utilizes a front, rear and center differential to provide power to all four wheels. Four-wheel drive, on the other hand, uses two differentials and a transfer case.

When Not to Buy a Vehicle with All-Wheel Drive

A good rule of thumb is that if you’re using your vehicle on paved roads at least 90% of the time, all-wheel drive probably isn’t worth it. It will be more economical, both in terms of vehicle price and long-term fuel costs, to simply rent an AWD vehicle for those off-road expeditions.

If you are going off-roading, Ford has a pretty sweet new feature called 1-Pedal Drive to help with that.

When to Buy a Vehicle with All-Wheel Drive

In addition to those who often go off-roading, all-wheel drive may also be worth it for those who live near or spend a lot of time in places with unpaved roads. The systems can help improve traction and acceleration in slippery conditions.

AWD is also popular with those who live where it rains or snows for many months out of the year. However, people often overestimate how much all-wheel drive systems help in inclement weather. For example, snow tires are actually a more effective way to deal with snowy/icy conditions.

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