The Prominent Differences Between 2WD vs 4WD

When buying a new car, you need to go through many decision-making steps. One such confusing situation arises when choosing between two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive cars. To get the right one for different situations, one must know the difference between 2WD vs 4WD along with the pros and cons of both these types.

The Differences Between 2WD vs 4WD

Depending on how vehicles work, a car can be either a 2-wheel or a 4-wheel drive. Here are the differences between 2 wheel drive vs 4 wheel drive cars.

What Is a 2WD Vehicle?

In a two-wheel drive vehicle, the engine supplies power to only two wheels of the car while the remaining two wheels only spin. Today, the majority of the passenger vehicles we see on the road consist of a two-wheel-drive (2WD) system. As the engine does not have to provide energy for the 4wd or all-wheel-drive system, 2WD cars are comparatively lighter. As a result, these cars turn out to be fuel-efficient.

What Are the Types of 2WD?

When a car has a 2WD system, its engine energy goes to either the front wheels or back wheels. Based on this, this drive system can be a front-wheel-drive (FWD) or rear-wheel drive (RWD).

a) Front Wheel Drive System

This one is the most common one of the two 2WD systems that users will find in passenger cars. Vehicles with FWD are less weighty because they do not have a comparatively heavy four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive system. At the same time, front-wheel-drive system cars are less costly and more energy-efficient.

2 wheel drive vs 4 wheel drive
A 2WD Mitsubishi ASX (Source: EurovisionNim / Wikimedia Commons)

In front-wheel drive, the top of the front wheels carries the weight of both engine and transmission. It offers better traction than the rear-wheel drive system while driving on slippery tracks or climbing steep roads and hills. At the same time, there are almost zero risks of tire spinning on roads with ice and snow.

b) Rear Wheel Drive System

This type of 2WD system is common in pickup trucks, older models of SUVs, sports cars, and luxury cars. It transfers the weight to the back of the vehicle and offers increased rear-wheel traction in dry weather.

Consequently, drivers can get faster initial acceleration in these vehicles. RWD enables cars to provide better balance and performance by offering even weight distribution. Since RWD trucks have a more balanced weight, it can easily carry an empty bed or anything else with a light load.

Pros and Cons of 2WD

When there is a comparison between 2WD vs 4WD, two-wheel-drive cars are more cost-effective and lightweight. These are also fuel-efficient and save your money even after purchasing a 2WD vehicle. People who live in an urban area or places with moderate weather should choose this system.

The biggest drawback of 2WD is it can lose grip on the road when there is an accelerated weight. Especially in front-wheel cars, driving can sometimes become difficult. It is also not suitable for extreme weather conditions.

What Is a 4WD Vehicle?

When it comes to 4WD, all four wheels get an equal share of the total power of the engine. Thus, the driver gets maximum traction and can easily control the car even on the most uneven tracks. A 4wd is extremely useful while getting the car out of a heap of snow, driving through rocks and boulders, or climbing steep terrains.

Initially, this system was available in cars designed for low-traction conditions or off-track driving, such as pickup trucks. But there is a rise in its popularity these days even in passenger cars, such as crossovers and SUVs.


What Are the Types of 4WD?

If a car has a four-wheel-drive system, users can drive that in three different modes.

Full-Time or Permanent: In this 4WD system, all wheels continue to work at all times.

Part-Time or Manual: Manual shifting between two-wheel and four-wheel drive is possible in this system.

Automatic: The vehicle tracks the road condition and automatically switches between two-wheel and four-wheel drive as per the need.

Of these three four-wheel-drive systems, part-time and automatic 4WD models save more fuel as they consume less energy than the full-time four-wheel system.

Pros and Cons of 4WD

A four-wheel-drive system is ideal for driving in rural areas or on off-track. On wet or snowy roads, 4WD cars will provide the best driving experience with better traction.

The vehicles with the 4WD system are heavyweight, which affects the acceleration. These cars not only cost high but also need more servicing and consume more fuel.


Users must know by now the difference between 2wd and 4wd. It is evident from the discussion on 2WD vs 4WD that none of it is better than the other. But their usefulness in different situations varies. People who mostly drive in the urban locality and do not have to deal with harsh weather should choose two-wheel-drive cars. Contrarily, those who need to drive off-road a lot and experience extreme weather, like snow or heavy rain, must go for a two-wheel drive.