What is a 4-Wheel Drive? | Its Advantages & Disadvantages

4-Wheel Drive: What It Is, Advantages & Disadvantages in Driving

Reading time: 3 mins

If you’re looking to buy a new car, you’re probably overwhelmed with a variety of choices from car make and model to all the added features. But, first and foremost you’ll have to decide on what drivetrain system you want to use:

• Two-wheel drive (2WD), or

• Four-wheel drive (4WD)

But, what are the differences between 2WD and 4WD vehicles? Is a 4WD better than a regular 2WD car? Learn whether or not a 4WD is right for you by going over the advantages and disadvantages.

What are the Differences between a 2WD and a 4WD?

Car Drivetrain System2-Wheel Drive4-Wheel Drive
CharacteristicsMostly sedans
Light and compact in size
Powered by only two wheels
Also known as 4×4
Big and sturdy 
Powered by all four wheels

Basically, 2WD vehicles – which are most sedan cars – are powered by only two wheels, either in the front or in the back, while 4WD vehicles are powered by all four wheels. 

4-wheel drives or also known as 4x4s, have a drivetrain system that distributes an equal split of power from the engine to all four wheels of your car. It goes through the rear and front axles, making all four wheels’ spin as you drive. This means that 4WD vehicles can be more powerful than 2WD cars. 

Examples of 4WD vehicles available in Singapore are: Jeep Wrangler, Mitsubishi Triton, Ford Ranger, Nissan X Trail and Honda CR-V to name a few.

What are the Advantages of 4WDs?

Improved traction and grip 

The heavy weight of a 4-wheel drive improves the traction and control of the vehicle. When the weather affects road conditions, even paved highways can be dangerous. Heavy rains, flood waters and muddy roads can force your tyres to lose grip of the road, causing you to lose control of your car. 

In this case, 4WDs are more durable since all four wheels are actively engaged with the ground. 2WDs are fine in regular driving conditions, but if you’re keen to go off-road or want more safety in the rain, four-wheel driving is a better choice.

Increased Power

With better traction, comes increased power. After all, power is distributed to all four wheels, instead of just two. This gives 4×4 vehicles the extra boost needed to drive over obstacles and go up steep inclines easily.

Added Features

One of the biggest motivations behind buying a 4-wheel drive in Singapore may not be for off-roading because of its other unique features. For one, 4x4s have more cabin space and are ideal for big family cruises and road trips.

On top of that, 4-wheel drives give you a slightly raised position on the road. It can improve your view of other vehicles and road hazards, so you can avoid accidents. And no doubt, bigger vehicles tend to command a relatively superior road presence due to its size and luxurious styling.

Safety

Of course, safety is always an important factor to contemplate when buying a car. Although you may think that bigger equates to safer, take note that the added weight of a 4WD also increases the braking distance required to make a complete stop. Because of this, lighter vehicles are able to avoid collisions better than heavier vehicles. 

However, 4-wheel drives do have a sturdier frame to protect its occupants if another vehicle crashes into it. Plus, as mentioned, its grip and traction make it safe for off-road adventures and driving in severe weather conditions.

What are the Disadvantages of 4WDs?

Fuel Economy

However, the added power and weight of a 4WD vehicle makes them fuel-guzzlers and less efficient than 2-wheel drive cars. You will inevitably burn more fuel by driving with all four wheels generating power at once. 

This is why the newer 4WDs allow you to switch between 2WD and 4WD systems, letting you save fuel when you’re driving in normal conditions. Ensure to check with your car dealership because older models may not have this feature.

Insurance & Added Costs

One of the glaring differences between a regular 2-wheel drive and a 4WD is that it’s more expensive to buy and insurance premiums are likely to be higher. You can easily compare prices online by getting a quick car insurance quote

Besides that, the extra equipment and size of the vehicle also increases the cost of repairs and maintenance. Not forgetting, COE and annual road tax costs.

Summary of the Advantages and Disadvantages of 4WDs

Advantages Disadvantages
Ideal for off-road driving
More power
More spacious
Added safety
Heavier
More expensive
More fuel consumption
Higher added costs

So, Should You Buy a 4WD?

Four-wheel drives are powerful and spacious. However, this may not be what you necessarily need for your daily commute to work. If you enjoy driving off-road or have to navigate tricky driving conditions every day, a 4WD is a good purchase. 

Consider these advantages and disadvantages thoroughly. Ultimately, the road conditions you drive on and your daily driving activities can help determine which type of car you should buy.

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