All wheel drive or four by four?If you’re thinking about buying an all-wheel-drive (AWD) or a 4-wheel-drive vehicle (4WD), here are some things to consider:

  • Safety: Most of the time AWD/4WD vehicles are just as safe as regular vehicles, but there are a few exceptions. Take a look at the government crash test ratings for the models you’re considering to make sure.
  • Expense: AWD vehicles, and now some 4WD vehicles, usually come with some extra electronic safety systems. Two of these systems, stability control and traction control, have been shown to reduce single-vehicle accidents by as much as 40%. If you factor the value of these electronic safety systems into the cost of AWD or 4WD, it may not seem so expensive. There’s one more thing to consider: while an AWD/4WD system costs $1500-$2000 more, it may help you get out of a sticky situation (you know, like being stuck in a snow drift at midnight on a deserted mountain road…). You definitely want to weigh the expense against the convenience of these systems, especially in places where it snows.
  • Fuel Economy Impact: This is something that some people use to justify not buying an AWD/4WD vehicle – the common misconception is that AWD/4WD vehicles use more gas because of the way the systems are designed (more parts are turning when the vehicle is moving, so therefore there’s wasted energy and the fuel economy is worse). However, when you look at the mileage ratings of comparable AWD/4WD and non-AWD/4WD on the window sticker, you’ll find that simply isn’t true. If you compare the AWD version of a vehicle to the two-wheel drive version, you’ll find that the fuel economy is identical or very close (provided the engines are the same of course).
  • Resale value: There are some markets in the country (Colorado, for example) where if you decide not to buy AWD/4WD, especially in a vehicle that people expect it on, you’ll lose a lot of resale value. In these “4wd markets” 2wd vehicles have lower resale value because no one wants to buy a two-wheel-drive Suburban or F150 (because the perception is that 4WD is a necessity). Conversely, there are some markets (South Florida, for example) where 4WD or AWD aren’t really needed, and therefore resale value on a 4WD/AWD isn’t usually any better.
  • Insurance Costs: We have found that AWD tends to reduce insurance costs on vehicles, but 4WD tends to increase insurance costs. Call your agent to be sure, but there is a benefit to looking at AWD over 4WD most of the time, at least in terms of insurance savings.

When you’re thinking about getting AWD or 4WD, make sure you consider safety ratings and extra safety equipment that may come with the option. Also, ask yourself if you can afford the extra expense of AWD/4WD and if it is worth some peace of mind. There’s no need to worry about fuel economy, but resale value is critical to your decision – take a look at your local market and find out if AWD or 4WD is valued in your area. Finally, make sure to call your insurance agent to find out about insurance costs for each type of vehicle.

As always, take your time when buying a new or used car. Do your car research, get multiple car financing quotes, and feel free to contact us with your questions.

About The Author