The winter is a tough time for any driver, no matter how skilled you are. All you want is a vehicle that’s going to keep you safe while driving in difficult road conditions.

You need something with either 4-Wheel-Drive or All-Wheel-Drive technology.

While both help you adapt to snow and ice, they also have major differences. Where you stand on those differences can help you determine the type of vehicle you want.

This post explains how 4WD and AWD are different and what technology you need in your next vehicle.

AWD VS. 4WD: The Differences

There terms all-wheel-drive (AWD) and 4-wheel-drive (4WD) are often used interchangeably. BUT, they are two different things.

All-Wheel Drive

Vehicles with AWD deliver power to all four wheels as opposed to just two like you see in rear-wheel or front-wheel-drive cars. This gives the vehicle better traction on difficult terrain or road surfaces that are covered in snow, rain, slush, or ice.

AWD is automatically activated when your vehicle needs more traction or finds itself in a tough driving situation. All-Wheel Drive vehicles tend to accelerate more smoothly due to increased traction.


  • Better traction in winter i.e. snow, slush, and ice
  • Automatic
  • Gives the driver better handling and control in tough situations


  • Costs more in fuel
  • Vehicles typically cost more
  • Doesn’t work as well as 4WD in off-roading conditions

Four-Wheel Drive

Vehicles with 4WD also deliver power to all four wheels, however, this increased traction is specifically designed for intense off-roading expeditions. People that enjoy rock-crawling, trekking and off-roading typically purchase vehicles with 4WD.

Another important distinction is that 4WD is manually activated by the driver when needed as opposed to AWD, which is automatic.


  • Better traction when rock-crawling, off-roading, etc.
  • Can be turned off in order to improve fuel economy
  • Gives drivers more control off-roading


  • Requires some technique to use
  • Vehicles typically cost more
  • Doesn’t work in all situations

Should I Buy a 4WD or AWD Vehicle?

Both 4WD and AWD vehicles are popular in Canada where the winters are long, cold and the roads are often tricky to navigate.

However, if you enjoy navigating difficult terrain and often plan excursions that include some type of off-roading than you want a 4WD vehicle.

If you don’t seek out difficult driving scenarios and just need a vehicle to manage spur-of-the-moment conditions (like heavy snowfall or icy patch) than you want an AWD vehicle.

Both vehicles are less fuel-efficient than two-wheel drive vehicles. However, 4WD is often the most expensive vehicle to maintain in terms of fuel costs.

AWD SUVs in Ontario

Shopping for an SUV with AWD? We can help! We have hundreds of Nissan SUVs equipped with AWD and 4WD technology, including the Rogue, Pathfinder, and Murano.

Nissan’s Intuitive AWD transfers power between wheels for enhanced control and traction.

The Pathfinder is another great Nissan SUV that offers its owners enhanced traction and control. It’s the only vehicle in its class with available selectable driving modes.

You can also choose to operate the vehicle in 2WD to increase fuel efficiency.