If you are in the market for a new car (or a used car) there is a lot that you need to consider. One important thing to keep in mind is the kind of drivetrain that you want your vehicle to have. Each has advantages and disadvantages and it’s important to understand each in order to make the right decision when purchasing a vehicle. The four different types of drivetrain are all wheel drive (AWD), front wheel drive (FWD), rear wheel drive (RWD), and 4WD (4 wheel drive).
Front wheel drive (FWD) means that the power coming from the engine is relayed to the front wheels of the car or truck. With FWD, the front wheels are pulling the car to create movement. The rear wheels are only following the front wheels and don’t receive any power on their own. The pros to a FWD vehicle is that it typically gets better fuel economy and emits less carbon dioxide. Since the weight of the engine is located over the driving wheels, a FWD vehicle can maintain better traction in the snow. However, car enthusiasts claim that FWD vehicles are less fun to drive.
Rear wheel drive (RWD) means that the power coming from the engine is relayed to the rear wheels. The rear wheels are responsible for pushing the car forward, much like a bicycle. The front wheels do not have a power source and are able to move and turn because of the power coming from the rear wheels. Because the weight of the drivetrain on a RWD vehicle is spread more evenly than a FWD vehicle, it has better balance. This is why most sports cars are RWD and RWD cars are considered to be more exciting to drive. The cons of an RWD vehicle are that they do not perform well in poor weather conditions like rain or snow because it is more prone to loss of traction on slick roads.
There are two different kinds of four wheel drive (4WD) systems. A part-time 4WD system lets the driver select if the power from the engine is relayed to only two wheels or to all four wheels. The default setting is typically rear wheel drive. A full time 4WD system permanently engages all 4 wheels.
All wheel drive is essentially the same thing as a 4WD drivetrain, but there is no option to relay power to only two wheels. Power is relayed to all four wheels at all times. The term AWD can be used for vehicles with more than 4 wheels in which all of the wheels are powered. The biggest advantage of an AWD vehicle is that it provides the best traction in all kinds of conditions. The cons of an AWD vehicle are that it is much heavier which hurts acceleration and uses more fuel. AWD is also the most expensive drivetrain option.