Blog Car Care Advice FWD vs. AWD in Snow: Which Is Better? (+Other Insights)
Car Care Advice

FWD vs. AWD in Snow: Which Is Better? (+Other Insights)

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Shopping for a new vehicle to drive in the snow?
Unsure whether FWD or AWD best suits your needs?

While AWD is the better vehicle for snow driving, it’s helpful to know the performance of FWD vs AWD in snow before you visit a dealership. 

You wouldn’t want to pay for equipment you don’t need, right?
That’s why we’ll look at the differences between these two drivetrains on wintery roads, which one to buy, and three factors to consider before you do. 

This Article Contains:

Let’s begin. 

FWD vs. AWD in Snow: Which Is Better? 

The choice depends on how severe your winter weather conditions are: 

Verdict: While an FWD car is better than an RWD vehicle (rear-wheel drive), AWD outperforms FWD in ice and snow because it can engage all four wheels. If some of the tires lack traction, the other tires can still provide forward motion. 

However, AWDs may struggle to provide enough traction in deep snow, so in these cases, you’ll need a four-wheel drive, or at the very least, winter season tires with your AWD.

Let’s dive a little deeper into these two drivetrains to make an informed choice for winter driving. 

FWD vs. AWD: What Are the Differences?

To understand the differences between FWD vs AWD in snow, let’s look at how each system works and its pros and cons. 

A. Front Wheel Drive (FWD)

Front-wheel drive means the engine powers the front wheels. Essentially, the front wheels are responsible for moving the car forward and steering. 
Here are its pros and cons:

Advantages of FWD:

Disadvantages of FWD:

Now, let’s look at the AWD system. 

B. All Wheel Drive

All-wheel drive cars send power to all four wheels. 
Here’s what you need to know: 

Advantages of AWD: 

Disadvantages of AWD: 

Now you know the advantages and disadvantages of each system.

So, which one should you invest in for winter?
Let’s find out the other considerations you need to keep in mind.     

AWD vs. FWD: Essential Considerations

Firstly, you should base your decision on the weather and road conditions you commonly drive in.
Here are a few questions to guide you:

The more questions you answer “yes” to, the more probable it is that an AWD car is the way to go. 

However, besides the road and winter conditions you drive in, there are other key factors to consider.

1. Winter Tires

Winter tires (like Bridgestone Blizzak) use soft rubber compounds and special tread designs for better grip. A FWD vehicle with snow tires may outperform an AWD with all-season tires in a snowy condition. 


How much do snow tires cost?
You’ll typically pay between $100-$200 per tire. However, a premium winter tire will cost a little more.   

Note: While a snow tire set will provide more grip than all-season or summer tires, your AWD still won’t have the extended gear range to deal with steep inclines. So don’t get too adventurous with your AWD, thinking winter season tires got your back.

2. Stability and Traction Control

Most modern vehicles have electronic systems to monitor wheel motion for improved stability and traction control.      

With winter season tires, this technology can help a front-wheel drive car offer equivalent performance to an AWD for snow driving. So, if you’re tight on budget, putting dedicated winter tires on your front-wheel drive vehicle could save you the additional cost that comes with an AWD. 

3. Pre-owned Vehicles

If you want an AWD vehicle on a budget, consider a certified pre-owned car or SUV. This is a great way to save money and get the all-wheel drive features you want. 

Another factor to consider is that while a new AWD is more expensive, it’ll also be easier to resell or trade in later. AWDs tend to hold their value for longer. 

Want to know more about AWD and FWD systems? 
Let’s clear things up. 

AWD vs. FWD: 4 FAQs

Here are answers to some AWD-FWD questions you might have:

1. Is AWD the Same as 4WD?

AWD and 4WD (four-wheel drive) are not the same. In addition to distributing power to each of the four wheels equally, a 4WD offers additional high and low gears for better traction and power.

Another difference is that all-wheel-drive is generally always active and happens automatically. 4WD is either always on or requires the driver to engage it to transfer power to the rear axle.  

Generally, pickup trucks and larger SUVs use 4WD (E.g., Jeep Wrangler). Smaller SUVs and passenger cars tend to use AWD. 

Remember this: 4WD is better for extreme off-road, deep snow, and low-gear situations. 

2. Is Every AWD System the Same?

There are different ways to implement all-wheel drive, and each brand engineers their system differently. 

For example, the AWD Subaru symmetrical system distributes power to each wheel as needed using a center differential in the transmission. However, the 2019 Ford Edge system can completely disconnect the rear axle and operate as an FWD vehicle for fuel efficiency. 

This means you should choose your AWD system carefully. You may be able to offset some of the disadvantages of AWD if you find the right implementation option.  

3. Which Is Better Off-Pavement?

All-wheel drive is better for driving on unpaved, slippery roads as it’s optimized to find traction on any surface, even if there’s less grip. 

Now, a few miles of dirt road won’t stop a new front-drive car, but ultimately, AWD is superior. 

4. Which Is Better in the Rain?

If you want the most reliable system for slippery roads, opt for an AWD vehicle. All-wheel drive vehicles can sense wheel slip and adapt to wet weather, even when equipped with summer tires.

FWD vs. AWD: Get a Grip on Winter Driving  

Ultimately, AWD is better for driving in snow as it provides increased traction. A front-drive car will only get you through mild winter conditions, but it’s still better than an RWD vehicle.

Regardless of which vehicle you choose, you’ll need to service it properly so it continues to handle well in the snow. 

Don’t feel like braving the winter weather to have your vehicle serviced?
AutoNation Mobile Service will come to your driveway! 

We’re available seven days per week, offer online booking, and provide a 12-month|12,000-mile warranty on all repairs. 

Contact us today to stay warm this winter.