Difference Between FWD and 4WD

4WD empowered vehicles offer greater flexibility and navigability to the user, as all four wheels can be controlled by the individual. However, for a vehicle empowered by FWD, control may be restricted as the vehicle’s power capacity is limited to the front wheels.

FWD vs 4WD

The main difference between FWD and 4WD is that while both are drive train subtypes, FWD can solely supply power to the front wheels of an automobile and 4WD can effectively empower all four wheels of a car.

FWD vs 4WD 2

This translates to the 4WD being imbued with an enhanced power capacity that comes in handy while traveling on undulating terrains. A vehicle empowered by FWD may not be well-suited for such challenging terrains.

Comparison Table Between FWD and 4WD

Parameters of ComparisonFWD4WD
Powering CapacityFWD empowers the front wheels of the automobile.4WD empowers all four wheels of the automobile.
Full-FormFWD stands for Front Wheel Drive.4WD stands for Four Wheel Drive.
Control and NavigabilityLesser control and maneuverable features.Control and navigability are more advanced.
Suited TerrainsTraction is better on slippery surfaces. Not suited for rough terrains.4WD vehicles are well-suited for rough, undulating outdoor terrains.
Driveshaft Requirements Driveshaft is absent.Driveshaft is present.
Fuel EfficiencyHighly fuel-efficient. Saves fuel by empowering only the front wheels.Not very fuel-efficient. Consumption of fuel can be very high.
Cost EfficiencyThe price of the vehicle and additional costs of maintenance is moderate and comparatively lower than 4WD vehicles.The price of the vehicle and additional costs of maintenance is higher than FWD vehicles.
Weight of VehicleThe car is lighter than a vehicle empowered by 4WD.The car is heavier than a vehicle empowered by FWD.

What is FWD?

FWD or Front Wheel Drive is a type of drivetrain that transfers power from the engine to solely the front wheels of an automobile. The FWD system is a favorable match for cars designed to operate on simple terrains.

The engine in FWD vehicles is located either longitudinally or sideways. This provides better traction while driving the automobile. The absence of a driveshaft is an added bonus, as this ensures minimal wastage of the interior space in the vehicle.

Additionally, the cost of maintaining such a vehicle is lower in comparison to other drivetrain types, as it operates on a lower fuel expense, producing a reduced amount of emissions.  

However, a downside to such models may be the threat of over-steering at relatively higher speed limits. Moreover, in low traction road conditions, the front wheels can lose traction rendering steering completely ineffective.


What is 4WD? 

4WD or Four Wheel Drive is another type of drivetrain commonly used in vehicles to evenly transfer power from the engine to all four wheels of the automobile.

It is also commonly known as the 4X4 drivetrain system. Fitted with a transfer case, the power from the engine is divided uniformly between the front and rear wheels.

These vehicles are best suited for rough terrains as these cars offer unmatched traction in complex road conditions. Although these cars tend to consume more fuel, the 4X4 system can be turned off to switch over to the RWD system. This effectively reduces fuel expenditure in these vehicles.

However, a pitfall of such advanced technology is the additional weight it adds to the car body. A 4WD car is also more expensive than a model empowered by FWD, due to the additional functionalities it has to offer.


Main Differences Between FWD and 4WD

  1. The main difference between FWD and 4WD is that both layouts differ in terms of their power capacities. While FWD can successfully empower the front wheels of an automobile, the 4WD can effectively power all four wheels of a vehicle.
  2. The element of control is more pronounced when dealing with a vehicle with 4WD tech as compared to a vehicle with FWD. The former can provide enhanced navigability on rough, undulating terrains. The latter may be unsuited for such terrains as the back wheels may lose traction quite early.
  3. FWD does not require a driveshaft to operate. This is because the engine and wheels empowered by the FWD are located in the front of the vehicle. This eliminates the need for a driveshaft. Conversely, a 4WD requires a driveshaft to operate.
  4. FWD vehicles are lighter than 4WD vehicles because the driveshaft that transfers power to the rear axle is removed in the former. 
  5. The cost of a vehicle operating on the 4WD system is higher than the FWD empowered vehicle. The 4WD layout offers additional power and features, thus, amplifying the cost of the automobile in the process. FWD vehicles are comparatively cheaper. Their maintenance costs are also lower because the parts are relatively less than a 4WD.
  6. The next difference between the two can be noted in terms of the fuel consumption of each. FWD is more fuel-efficient. The 4WD vehicle, on the other hand, operates on higher fuel consumption rates, thus adding to the cost of its maintenance.


With the augmentation of technological knowledge, we have witnessed rapid developments in the automobile industry. Drive systems are considered to be one of the most essential components of any vehicular transport.

FWD and 4WD are both drivetrain systems that are commonly used in modern vehicles. FWD is a systemic mechanism that transfers engine power to the front wheels of a car, in turn eliminating the need for a driveshaft.

This makes the cabin spacious as well as lowers the weight of the car. From an economic point of analysis, such cars may be the best option for people looking for cost-effective, low fuel consuming vehicles, with commendable traction on plain terrains.

4WD is famed for its capacity to simultaneously transfer equal power from the engine to all four wheels of a car. Such cars are befitting for undulating, rocky terrains as they offer unmatched control and maneuverability to the driver. However, these additional offerings make the model quite expensive.

Both models have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. But one cannot discount these seminal differences between the two types of drivetrains. The decision between the two will be based on an individual’s preference and the particularity of his driving conditions.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S036031991402905X
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022489897000165
AskAnyDifference HomeClick here
Search for "Ask Any Difference" on Google. Rate this post!
[Total: 0]
One request?

I’ve put so much effort writing this blog post to provide value to you. It’ll be very helpful for me, if you consider sharing it on social media or with your friends/family. SHARING IS ♥️

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments