These days, you can get a car in just about any size, shape, and configuration you can think of, and advanced technologies are becoming more commonplace, even on entry-level models. However, a question that continues to nag car shoppers, especially first-time buyers, is whether they should upgrade to a car with all-wheel drive. With some like AWD EV cars, this is a no-brainer since more than one motor usually means that it comes standard and no upgrade is needed. In most cases, though, a certain amount of consideration is needed as AWD can noticeably increase the price of a car as well as impact fuel economy.
Everyday Benefits and Weaknesses
When deciding which drivetrain is the smarter choice, it’s essential that you understand the benefits of each and any possible downsides. Now, we already know that AWD costs more than 2WD, but what else do you need to know to make an informed decision?
- Offers improved handling, especially on difficult terrain
- Improved versatility
- Enhanced sense of safety
- Higher initial cost and poorer gas mileage
- Increased maintenance fees
The benefits of plain-old two-wheel drive, whether front or rear, is mostly the opposite. For those on a tight budget, the simple fact that it can cost a few thousand less is reason enough to opt for the simpler drivetrain. A good way to counteract the higher cost, especially when it comes to miles per gallon, is to choose one of the AWD hybrid cars available. The increased savings over the lifespan of the vehicle more than makes up for the higher sticker figure, and the added weight is small potatoes beside the already hefty battery.
In the past, you’d have to sacrifice practicality in the name of economy, but modern hybrids and even EVs have learned to maximize back-seat cabin and cargo capacity while still remaining true to their electric origins. In comparison to gas-powered sedans, coupes, and crossovers, they are just as capable.
The Best Way to Handle Speed
Performance-oriented cars have loads of horsepower and torque on tap. In most cases, this is put down through the rear wheels to ensure you have that incredible feeling of being launched forward. However, drivers lacking experience or confidence may find this a bit overwhelming. Luckily, all-wheel-drive sports cars are relatively common. The part-time AWD system directs most of the power to the rear wheels, so you still get that authentic sports car experience, but the front wheels can kick in to enhance turning dexterity or overcome unexpected road conditions like rain or mud.
Still, you probably shouldn’t be pushing a performance vehicle to the limits in unsafe conditions. But this added versatility helps you get some daily driveability out of your sports car. Unfortunately, not every engine is available with an all-wheel drivetrain, and you will often have to upgrade beyond the base model to unlock these customization options. This can add quite a bit onto an already high MSRP, but since most such cars hail from premium brands, the price shouldn’t dissuade many buyers.
While there are definitely pros and cons to consider when to AWD, choosing it over FWD or RWD will often devolve into a simple matter of cost and preference. A select few states are prone to particularly bad weather, especially in the winter, and it is highly recommended that you get an all-wheel-drive vehicle to help make daily driving easier. This can see your options limited, as not every make and model offers the feature. However, even standard 2WD cars can often deal with rain and small amounts of snow or mud.
In just about any other place in the USA, you will not really notice the benefits of AWD. The exception to this is performance vehicles, but even then, you will have to drive them in a very spirited manner to force the system to engage and send power to the front wheels. So, while all-wheel drive is technically better than 2WD in most situations, it is neither essential nor even fully utilized in most. Unless there is a good reason to opt for it, you can save a decent amount of cash by just sticking to the basic FWD or RWD.