AWD vs 4WD

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 03/08/2023

textThe car technology terminologies can get confusing. This is especially true when you are purchasing a new car and you have no idea what some of the terms mean. If you are planning to buy an SUV(Sports Utility Vehicle), there are two major terms that you will come across —AWD and 4-wheel drive. Both of these terms might seem similar to you, but they are quite different.

Before we get into the difference between AWD and 4wd, it is important to understand the importance of buying 4-wheeler insurance while you buy a new car for yourself. Third-party four-wheeler insurance is mandatory as per Indian law. A car insurance plan provides you with financial backup in case of an accident on the road involving the insured car. It also ensures that you can drive on the road without any stress.

With Tata AIG, you can purchase car insurance online in a few simple steps. There are different types of insurance policies that you can choose from including comprehensive car insurance, third-party 4-wheeler insurance, and standalone own-damage insurance. Moreover, multiple add-on covers are available for you to choose from with your car insurance plan.

Let us get into the AWD vs 4WD difference.

All-Wheel Drive Vs 4 Wheel Drive

The difference between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive can be difficult to comprehend. Technically, both these terms drive all four wheels of the car. Yes, in both these driving techniques, all the wheels are operated but the difference lies in the way the wheels operate in each of these systems.

The key aspect of AWD vs 4WD is listed below:

  • AWD is the full-time car system that drives the rear and front wheels of the car.

  • 4WD is the part-time car system in which you can choose to engage the rear and front wheels during a drive.

Let us get into the detailed difference between all-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive.

Parameters of all-wheel drive vs 4x4 4-wheel drive AWD(All Wheel Drive)
Principle of working The system needs to be engaged to send power to the rear as well as the front wheels. The power is sent all the time to the rear as well as the front wheels.
Transmission of power A transfer case is used in this case so that the power can be transmitted to all the wheels of the car.  In this, a centre differential comes into use to transmit the power to the rear and front wheels of the car.
Power delivery The power that is sent to the front as well as the rear wheels is equal.  The system is able to calculate the amount of power that is required by each wheel and the  variable torque is then delivered to each axle as per the conditions of the road. In this case, the inputs of the car driver are not needed.
Suitability of the mode This is suited for vehicles that are driven in extreme off-road situations and off-road Sports Utility Vehicles(SUVs). This is best suited for crossovers and SUVs that are driven in various road conditions. It is also suitable for high-performance cars for great road grip and superior handling. 
Flexibility The 4WD can be turned off and the traditional mode, that is, 2WD can be chosen. The driver does not have any choice between 2WD and AWD. 
Efficiency of fuel It is more than AWD. It is less than 4WD.

Now, that you know the difference between all-wheel drive and 4x4, we will get into the details of both mode

What is All Wheel Drive?

The AWD is a system that transfers the power to the rear and front wheels of the car. There are two different types of AWD systems available. These are

  • The full-time AWD which sends the power to all the wheels of your car constantly.

  • In the second one, the system transmits power to only 2 wheels of the car. But, when there is a requirement(like low traction) the power is automatically transmitted to all the wheels of your car.

Due to the variations in the supply of torque, AWD cars are suited for on-road driving.

Benefits of AWD (All Wheel Drive)

Here are some of the top advantages of AWD:

  • One of the major benefits is that engaging the system of the car requires no inputs from the driver of the car.

  • The system is intelligent as it automatically comprehends the loss of traction on the road and transmits the power to all the wheels of the car.

  • The handling of the car improves in the AWD system as variable torque is supplied to the wheels of the car.

  • The AWD system comes in handy across various road conditions like snow, wet, and some light off-roading as well.

  • You can choose from plenty of cars when it comes to the AWD system. Some of the best sedans and full and mid-size SUVs have an AWD system.

What is 4 Wheel Drive?

The four-wheel drive is a simple and traditional system when compared to the AWD system. When you engage the system, equal power is transmitted to all the wheels of your vehicle. But, the 4WD system requires the driver’s inputs to drive the rear and front wheels of the car. The power is transmitted to the wheels of the car using a transfer case that is acting like a locked differential.

The 4-wheel drive is ideal for off-road conditions. This is suitable because all the wheels of the car spin at equal speeds so whichever wheel of the car has some traction will be able to get your car in any tricky conditions. The 4WD cars also come with low and high-range gear that you can choose from.

Benefits of 4WD(4 Wheel Drive)

Here are some of the top advantages of 4WD:

  • The 4WD is known as the rugged system, and if you love off-road driving conditions then it is best suited for you.

  • The system can be controlled manually. Thus, when the driver is in the system they can engage it.

  • The pulling power of the 4WD system is better than the AWD system.

  • Modern cars come with better and more advanced 4WD systems. Thus, your experience of driving does not get hampered.

  • With 4WD, extreme off-road conditions can be handled easily and you can also drive the car on a bad road.


If you are planning to use your car for on-road driving and only light off-roading then the AWD system is suitable for you. If you are looking for an SUV or a crossover for daily commuting then the AWD system will be more efficient. But, if you are an adventure enthusiast and want to take your car for extreme off-roading then a 4WD is better for you. They are more rugged and they are able to pull higher loads than the AWD system. Now that you are aware of the difference between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, you can choose which one is right for you. Also, while you choose the right car, do not forget to choose the right 4-wheeler insurance plan to ensure that your car is secure while driving on the roads in India. You can compare plans and choose the right one from Tata AIG.

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