AWD or 4WD For The Snow?

Last Updated on February 25, 2023 by Paul S.

Is it coming down to an all wheel drive (AWD) or four wheel drive (4WD) for your next vehicle?  Is it going to snow where you live?  Well, this article is going to provide some great info on how both systems handle the snow and how to drive through the white fluffy stuff and maybe sway you one way or another.

Did you know that in 2020, 4WD vehicles and AWD vehicles made up over 50% of the vehicles sold in the USA!  And it’s only going to grow from there!

If AWD or 4WD seems foreign to you check out our article that provides a little background information on 4WD and AWD here:  What Is The Difference Between 4 Wheel Drive and AWD?

If you are up to date on your knowledge, then continue and read on!

How Does AWD Handle In The Snow

So, if you get stuck backing out of the snow pile in your driveway (because the city just decided to plow, thx a lot!!) your vehicle will be able to quickly provide power to the axles that have traction.  When we say quickly, it means as quick as your phone reacting to your demands.  The AWD vehicles are equipped with tire sensors and microchips that react lightening fast, which makes the vehicle essentially a big computer!

While driving, it is the same case, if you need power to an axle because the other is slipping your car will turn it on to try and provide you some traction.

Just like with 4x4s if you are driving too fast and are driving in terrible road conditions there is no amount of AWD that can stop a 3,500lb vehicle on a dime.

Many people in states that see snow swear by AWD vehicles.

How To Use AWD In Snow

The best part about using AWD is that it’s always working for you!  You don’t have to do a thing.  Some vehicles may include buttons to allow you to control it a little for certain situations or allow you to pick the weather you are driving in so it can adjust its power ratio.  Other than that just drive carefully and reduce your speed and let the AWD do its thing!

If you are choosing between the two here are some of the top picks for AWDS from Forbes! Best all wheel drive vehicles for the snow

Is 4 Wheel Drive Good For the Snow?

4WD is good for the snow because you are going to have power to both of the axels providing you with maximum traction but depending on the 4WD system you have, you may not have power to all 4 wheels. The 4WD name is a little tricker than you thought! 

If you get stuck in a snowbank it may be a lot better for you in a 4WD than an AWD.  This is because you will be able to drop the 4WD system into 4 low which gives you more power and less of a chance to keep spinning your wheels. This gives you a better chance of getting out of that snowbank.

How to Drive In The Snow With 4WD

4WD systems are the opposite of the AWD in that they have to be engaged by the user.  If you are driving, you can typically only engage the four high, while four low can only be engaged when you are at a complete stop. 

As mentioned above, being able to choose 4 low when you are stuck is going to be a lot better system than an AWD system. 

While driving, just like the AWD vehicles, 4WD does not make you invincible to black ice and horrible conditions.  4WDs are typically heavier so if you are going fast and start to slip your 4WD system will not save you from sliding around!

Conclusion – AWD or 4WD For the Snow

Just like most things in life the answer to choosing between AWD or 4WD for the snow is not an easy answer.  As I have said in our previous article about AWD/4WD I think it comes down to where you live. 

If you live in a northern city that is dense and highly populated that gets snow then AWD is probably best for you.  If you live in the sticks or just want to wheel it on the weekends you will probably need 4WD! Or just get a 4WD because I like them better!

Remember to lower your speed in bad driving weather and don’t get too excited about either driving system because both could fail you if you are going too fast. Be safe out there!