In the Driver’s Seat: AWD or 4WD – Getting Through Winter

What you need to get home safely during blizzard season

Whether you’re shopping for a brand-new or a new-to-you vehicle, deciding which features are most important can be a daunting task. Add to that the stress of those features having to get you through a Midwestern winter, and before you know it, you’re reaching for the jar of antacids! Should your car have four-wheel drive? Or all-wheel drive? Aren’t those the same thing? Before you reach a state of full panic, please take a deep breath, and try to relax. Our car buying expert, Mike Pastorelli, is here to try to shed some light on what can help get you through the winter driving season and home safely.

First, let’s sort out the two systems. The line between all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) is getting blurrier as both systems continue to get smarter, so there are lots of exceptions to the following. In the most high-level, general terms, all-wheel drive delivers power to all four wheels without the driver having to do anything. Traditionally, four-wheel drive also delivers power to all four wheels, but needs to be switched on by the driver and cannot be left on indefinitely. Practically speaking, an all-wheel drive car is better for changing road conditions, and a four-wheel drive is what you want if you have to drive through deep snow a lot.

The downside to both systems can be the cost. The reality is that, depending on your situation, you may not need either one! At first glance, these features seem essential – we live in a cold-weather state with a potential for great amounts of snow, so an all-wheel drive vehicle must be best. Actually, in many cases, it’s because we live in a cold-weather state that it’s almost the opposite. We are generally well-equipped to clear the snow we get, and by the time many people are leaving for work, main roads are fairly clean. Now, there are always exceptions. If you live in a rural area or have a long driveway that you will have trouble getting out of, AWD will most definitely come in handy. If your price range only includes front-wheel drive cars, don’t forget that snow tires can be a less expensive (and still very effective) option. Blizzak by Bridgestone makes a good snow tire that several of my past customers swear by. Most of the vehicles we see on the road these days are front wheel drive and they usually do just fine in our winter climate.

If you have any doubt about which one is right for you, or you’d like to talk over these options in more detail, I’d be happy to sit down with you and chat about your situation and try to help you find a safe ride for the winter!