Car’s today have all sorts of extras and add-ons. The sheer variety of different specifications on a car can be confusing, especially if you’re not a petrolhead or mechanically minded. You might even be ashamed to ask a question about what a certain thing means. One of the most common confusions is around FWD, RWD and AWD. These terms are seen with almost all cars, but if you don’t know your GTI from your G and T, then it might as well be a foreign language. Here’s our quick guide to what the difference between FWD, RWD and AWD.

FWD, RWD and AWD: What do they mean?

FWD is front-wheel drive. RWD is rear-wheel drive. And AWD is all-wheel drive. You might sometimes see all-wheel drive referred to as four-wheel drive.

What are the differences?

With all three terms, it refers to where the power of the car is distributed from. In other words, when you put your foot down on the pedal, which wheels do the engines turn. In front wheel and rear wheel drive, only one pair of wheels is powered. The others will obviously move, but only through the motion of the vehicle, rather than the engine powering them.

In simple terms. Front wheel drive is where the power is sent to the front two wheels. Rear wheel drive sends power to the back two wheels. And all-wheel drive distributes the power evenly between each wheel.

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Front-wheel drive can mean you spend less money on petrol. Because the engine and the drivetrain is both at the front of the vehicle, then you will get better traction than you might have when power has to be sent to the back of the car. You might also find that front-wheel drive cars have bigger boot space, as they don’t need the powerful drivetrain to take up space in the back of the car.

The biggest advantage of rear-wheel drive vehicles is that you have better handling. In a front-wheel drive vehicle, the front wheels have to power the car and steer the vehicle. This can have a negative affect when you take a corner, especially when you are going faster.

An all-wheel drive vehicle is ideal for going off-road. Because power is sent to all four wheels, if one loses traction, then the other wheels should be able to compensate. But all-wheel drive cars tend to be heavier, as the drivetrain takes up more space, meaning you will burn more fuel.

Which option is best for me?

If you are using the car for the commute and mainly tackling simple roads with little variation, then front-wheel drive with it’s better traction and lower fuel consumption might be the best option for you. If you tackle a wider variety of roads or want something a bit sportier, than rear-wheel drive is probably a better option. All-wheel drive is ideal for anyone living in the countryside or where roads are affected by inclement weather. These cars also tend to be bigger, so if you want something that feels safer for you as a driver, this is the option to go for.

Get traction on your car search

If you’re weighing up the differences, speak with an expert about your next car.

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