Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

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biscuit
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Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by biscuit » Wed Dec 14, 2016 6:17 pm

We just moved from TX to NJ and cold weather and snow are new to us. We are looking to buy a minivan and my spouse thinks we need to buy only the one with AWD. Is it really necessary to go with AWD?

Appreciate your help. TIA!

hicabob
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by hicabob » Wed Dec 14, 2016 6:20 pm

AWD goes better in snow than FWD but doesn't stop any better. One could argue stopping is more important.

barnaclebob
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by barnaclebob » Wed Dec 14, 2016 6:21 pm

Here are the typical boglehead responses for this topic:

1) FWD with snow tires can be superior to AWD with all season tires.

2) Buy a subaru.

Jack FFR1846
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Wed Dec 14, 2016 6:34 pm

barnaclebob wrote:Here are the typical boglehead responses for this topic:

1) FWD with snow tires can be superior to AWD with all season tires.

2) Buy a subaru.



Hahahaha.......

says the guy with 2 Subarus with snow tires on them
Bogle: Smart Beta is stupid

btenny
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by btenny » Wed Dec 14, 2016 6:36 pm

The answer depends on how much snow and ice you get and how hilly it is where you live and where you drive. Plus if you have van I am guessing that you haul around kids and stuff and are worried aobut being safe.

I live in Tahoe and I see lots of solutions depending on pocket books and needs. If you want to save money and like your van and live in a flat area then snow tires with or with out studs will work fine. Even if you get a good amount of snow. And if you live in the city in NJ where it is flat and get little snow then you only need all season tires on a standard front wheel drive van or car. But if you live in the woods with lot of hills to climb up and down and there is lots of snow and ice in the area then you might need a AWD car or SUV.

Just remember the most important safety feature of the car is the driver. If you and your wife have never lived in snow country get some lessons on how to stop on ice and how to steer if skidding and do some practicing in parking lots.

So tell us where you live and where you need to drive.

Good Luck.

mhalley
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by mhalley » Wed Dec 14, 2016 6:43 pm

It also depends on how imperative it is for you to be on the roads when it is bad out, plus how your particular route falls on the priority list for snow removal/treatment. Will your boss have a canniption if you call in on a bad snow day?

briancof
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by briancof » Wed Dec 14, 2016 6:44 pm

From best to worst:

    -AWD with 4 snow tires
    -FWD with 4 snow tires
    -AWD with 4 all-season tires
    -FWD with 4 all-season tires
    -RWD with 4 similar tires
    -2 snow tires and 2 non-snow tires
If OP lives in reasonably flat urban/suburban areas with decent plowing, FWD with all-season tires, and ginger driving, is more than fine for snow. I've lived in Northern MA and Chicago and done fine with that setup.

Many folks get the idea that putting snow tires on only the front wheels is a good compromise, since those are steering and (in FWD) driving. The problem is that since the front wheels will grip more, the rear of the car wants to slide out around when braking or cornering. This is a difficult situation to control and ultimately dangerous. No evidence that OP was considering this, but many do try it and I only yesterday had to talk a family member out of it.

+1 to btenny's note that driver behavior will dominate anything about the car. Getting the car to "break loose" (in an empty parking lot) will help develop an intuition for snow dynamics and, ultimately, make the driver safer and more comfortable.
Last edited by briancof on Wed Dec 14, 2016 7:33 pm, edited 7 times in total.

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Flymore
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by Flymore » Wed Dec 14, 2016 6:46 pm

Always done fine with FWD in the snowy Cleveland area.
Rotate them at oil changes, keep the tire pressure up and replace them when the tread gets low, don't wait for them to go bald!

Nate79
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by Nate79 » Wed Dec 14, 2016 6:55 pm

Get snow tires no matter what.

carguyny
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by carguyny » Wed Dec 14, 2016 7:02 pm

As others have said, tires trumps everything. The best winter tires are made by a company called Nokian - you can go here and see if they make them for whatever vehicle you're looking at https://www.nokiantires.com/.

They're not available on Tire Rack, but pretty easy to find around the traps.

Wellfleet
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by Wellfleet » Wed Dec 14, 2016 7:06 pm

I'm interested in this too as the next car for us in a few years will be a highlander or pilot.

sport
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by sport » Wed Dec 14, 2016 7:08 pm

Flymore wrote:Always done fine with FWD in the snowy Cleveland area.
Rotate them at oil changes, keep the tire pressure up and replace them when the tread gets low, don't wait for them to go bald!

I am on the East Side of the Cleveland area (much more snow than the West side). I also have used FWD and all season tires for many years with no problems.

munemaker
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by munemaker » Wed Dec 14, 2016 7:35 pm

sport wrote:
Flymore wrote:Always done fine with FWD in the snowy Cleveland area.
Rotate them at oil changes, keep the tire pressure up and replace them when the tread gets low, don't wait for them to go bald!

I am on the East Side of the Cleveland area (much more snow than the West side). I also have used FWD and all season tires for many years with no problems.


I have a Honda CR*V with AWD (All season tires) and commute 50 miles (each way) on back roads with 3 substantial hills. I go through an area known locally as the snow belt. Never missed a day of work or got stuck in 18 years, been driving the CR*V for the past 7. Snow tires would probably be better, but I don't think it is worth the hassle of changing and storing them. I have never used snow tires, so I can't speak for how they perform.

sport
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by sport » Wed Dec 14, 2016 7:45 pm

munemaker wrote:
sport wrote:
Flymore wrote:Always done fine with FWD in the snowy Cleveland area.
Rotate them at oil changes, keep the tire pressure up and replace them when the tread gets low, don't wait for them to go bald!

I am on the East Side of the Cleveland area (much more snow than the West side). I also have used FWD and all season tires for many years with no problems.


I have a Honda CR*V with AWD (All season tires) and commute 50 miles (each way) on back roads with 3 substantial hills. I go through an area known locally as the snow belt. Never missed a day of work or got stuck in 18 years, been driving the CR*V for the past 7. Snow tires would probably be better, but I don't think it is worth the hassle of changing and storing them. I have never used snow tires, so I can't speak for how they perform.

In snowy areas, snow tires on rear wheels are essential on RWD vehicles. For FWD, they are better, but not as critical. However, you need them on all 4 wheels.

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tractorguy
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by tractorguy » Wed Dec 14, 2016 8:07 pm

I live in Chicago but my in laws live in in NJ. I've had much experience driving in snow in both places. I grew up in Southern Missouri that didn't have much snow but occasionally had issues with ice.

IMOP, a modern FWD car with all season tires, ABS, and traction control is so much better than the RWD cars I grew up with that I have trouble understanding what people are worried about. However, to address your concerns with a little more sympathy, my experience in urban areas is that most all roads get cleared pretty quickly. This is true in both NJ and Chicago. If you are able to flex your schedule and pay attention to the weather and avoid driving during the blizzard, then you shouldn't have a problem with any car built in the last 10 years. Pick up trucks are another story. The few I've driven in slippery weather had a disconcerting tendency to swap ends if you weren't very careful about how much gas you gave them on a corner.

The rules I gave my daughters when they were first learning how to drive.
1) Don't drive in blizzards. Wait for the road crews to clear the road. If they can't stay ahead of the snow, you've got no business going out there.
2) Watch out for ice. Ice is much, much worse than snow and sometimes can be on the road and invisible. Most of the snow incidents you see on UTube are on ice, generally early in the season or along the Mason Dixon line where they don't get much snow but it freezes.
3) Think way ahead before stopping or changing direction and don't come to a full stop if you're going to have to go up a hill.
4) Don't drive faster than the conditions allow. I can't count the times that I've been passed by somebody in snow only to see them a few miles down the road in a ditch.
5) If you don't have traction control, keep a light foot. You don't want to spin your tires because you have less traction when you're sliding then when they are still "stuck" to the road.
6) In most of NJ, you're going to be close to civilization so you call for help. If you're going to be in western Jersey (foothills of the mountains) you might want to consider carrying an emergency kit with a small snow shovel, candle, food, and a space blanket so that you can try and dig yourself out or stay warm and hydrated while you wait for a rescue.
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by Silverado » Wed Dec 14, 2016 8:23 pm

munemaker wrote:
sport wrote:
Flymore wrote:Always done fine with FWD in the snowy Cleveland area.
Rotate them at oil changes, keep the tire pressure up and replace them when the tread gets low, don't wait for them to go bald!

I am on the East Side of the Cleveland area (much more snow than the West side). I also have used FWD and all season tires for many years with no problems.


I have a Honda CR*V with AWD (All season tires) and commute 50 miles (each way) on back roads with 3 substantial hills. I go through an area known locally as the snow belt. Never missed a day of work or got stuck in 18 years, been driving the CR*V for the past 7. Snow tires would probably be better, but I don't think it is worth the hassle of changing and storing them. I have never used snow tires, so I can't speak for how they perform.


Perfect. I have been in snowy northern area for ten years with 2000 s-10 two wheel drive. No added weight in back. Never stuck, never not stopped, no issues. No snow tires.

I also think all this is overrated. But something like an awd subaru likely a good choice.

dbr
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by dbr » Wed Dec 14, 2016 8:27 pm

biscuit wrote:We just moved from TX to NJ and cold weather and snow are new to us. We are looking to buy a minivan and my spouse thinks we need to buy only the one with AWD. Is it really necessary to go with AWD?

Appreciate your help. TIA!


Having spent most of my life in snowy climates and having driven in everything from 1950's era RWD sedans to VW Beatles, to FWD, to AWD I would say the biggest single difference in my experience is the difference between rear wheel drive and front wheel drive. I can't gainsay snow tires. At one point that was standard procedure with us. These days we don't bother. Maybe chains are the formula -- done some of that. Studs have not been legal most places I have lived. I would say clearance is a big factor in deep snow. Without doubt though, the biggest single factor is experience and know-how with winter driving. And posters have added good reminders that stopping and avoiding skids are more significant than being able to pull out of snowbanks. It is possible a sophisticated AWD system working with electronic traction controls might offer better skid resistance, but I am not really familiar with the technology. I don't know, for example, if the capability of a current Subaru system is actually helpful compared to a run of the mill minivan. It might be significant that most of the snow plowing around here is done by rear wheel drive vehicles, but they have eight big rear tires and a couple of tons of sand sitting on top of that. I don't think of NJ as being a really snowy state. There was a time I worked midnights in a rural part of one of our snow states, so have seen some of the worst. We navigated that in a RWD sedan. The same goes for some ski country driving as well, also RWD sedan.

flyingbison
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by flyingbison » Wed Dec 14, 2016 8:35 pm

AWD is helpful. Snow tires are helpful. Neither is necessary.

carguyny
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by carguyny » Wed Dec 14, 2016 8:50 pm

AWD, FWD, RWD, ABS, TC, ESC, Steering - you name it all rely on grip. If you're in a slid with no grip having ABS is going to trim exactly 0 mph speed. If you increase the grip thresholds, you are better off no matter what people want to argue.

Crashing slower is always better than crashing faster - avoiding a crash is always better than crashing slower etc. More grip moves you down this continuum.

Your call if reducing that risk is worth the cost and hassle.

Spend sometime on a skid pad if you can find one and see how you feel spinning with no grip. Might help make the decision and worst case you'll probably improve your driving skills.

gmc4h232
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by gmc4h232 » Wed Dec 14, 2016 8:52 pm

Learning to drive in winter conditions will go a whole lot further than buying an AWD car and hoping it will make up for lack of experience...

flyingbison
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by flyingbison » Wed Dec 14, 2016 9:17 pm

gmc4h232 wrote:Learning to drive in winter conditions will go a whole lot further than buying an AWD car and hoping it will make up for lack of experience...


Yep. How you drive will be way more important than what you drive.

Law.74
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by Law.74 » Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:06 pm

The OP must be referring to the AWD Toyota Sienna. We've had both the AWD and FWD. When the 2011 FWD was totaled we replaced it with an AWD 2013. We have loved our Siennas but would not buy the AWD again. Little did we know that this model chews up tires. Research after the fact has proven we are not alone. Not only do AWD Siennas eat tires faster than other AWD vehicles they do not have a spare but instead come with run-flat tires. Run flats have their own problems. We use regular all-season tires currently with a full size spare that rides in the back when we leave town. I just had our third (including factory run flats) set of tires installed at ~50k. I bought quality all-season tires with a high mile "warranty". We will continue to rotate religiously so when they wear out prematurely we can at least get a pro-rated refund toward the next set. At least that is the plan...

Also note, many tire installers will not mount non-run-flats on a vehicle without a spare. I had to drive home and get the spare before Costco would let me pick up the van.

caveat: we receive only 16 days of snow and a total of 22 inches each winter, but drive into the Sierra and Wasatch ranges every winter.
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tetractys
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by tetractys » Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:12 pm

It's simple physics, all wheel drive is better than two wheel drive. Where the two wheel drive comes from, front or back, is immaterial. Most two wheel drives are limited slip, which is not great for gripping either. -- Tet

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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by TomatoTomahto » Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:17 pm

We moved to our house in Northern NJ and had 2 RWD cars (Mercedes and BMW). The BMW could make it up our hill with snow tires, the Mercedes could not, even with snow tires (and I tried studded snow tires for a short time). We have driven either AWD or 4WD ever since. I have also started using winter tires, and my car is the one we use when the weather gets dicey.

Our house is on a hill where you must accelerate going uphill, otherwise you won't make it, and if you lose traction you will either wind up in the pond (happened to one poor soul) or in the ditch (happened to my ex-wife, repeatedly, driving a FWD car without snow tires). I admit that it's a PITA of a hill, but it's not the only town in NJ with these kinds of hills and roads.

The main roads are relatively well plowed. Side streets are not always well plowed.

OP, welcome to NJ. It's better than many think, but worse than it should be :D

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wander
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by wander » Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:38 pm

I have driven to central NJ often. During snow, I always take my truck, which is FWD, without any issue. But since you live there, I think AWD should be a base requirement.

sport
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by sport » Wed Dec 14, 2016 11:02 pm

tetractys wrote: Where the two wheel drive comes from, front or back, is immaterial.

Having driven in snow country for many years, I respectfully disagree. FWD is highly superior to RWD in snow. In my area, it is almost impossible to drive a RWD car in the winter without snow tires. I have been able to drive FWD cars with only all season tires without much difficulty. Having driven here, on the edge of the "snow belt" for more than 50 years, I believe I have an educated opinion.

munemaker
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by munemaker » Wed Dec 14, 2016 11:05 pm

sport wrote:
tetractys wrote: Where the two wheel drive comes from, front or back, is immaterial.

Having driven in snow country for many years, I respectfully disagree. FWD is highly superior to RWD in snow. In my area, it is almost impossible to drive a RWD car in the winter without snow tires. I have been able to drive FWD cars with only all season tires without much difficulty. Having driven here, on the edge of the "snow belt" for more than 50 years, I believe I have an educated opinion.


That's my experience too.

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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by Spirit Rider » Wed Dec 14, 2016 11:39 pm

tractorguy wrote:However, to address your concerns with a little more sympathy, my experience in urban areas is that most all roads get cleared pretty quickly.

You must have lived in a different northeast. I have lived my entire life (several decades) in the northeast, except for a couple of years during my military service. My experience is the exact opposite. The roads in rural areas routinely get cleared much faster than urban areas. It has to do with density and the number vehicles clogging the roads. The larger cities can take days to clear side streets of even moderately large storms.

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vitaflo
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by vitaflo » Wed Dec 14, 2016 11:47 pm

Snow tires matter for winter more than anything else. And it's not just about snow. The rubber stays pliable in temps below 45 degrees, which all-seasons do not. They'll be safer even on dry roads.

For that same reason, you should never use snow tires in the summer, unless you want to wear them out super fast.

FWD or AWD, get whatever you want but invest in good winter tires.

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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by kjvmartin » Thu Dec 15, 2016 12:16 am

The wife and I drove separately, leaving home at the same time, during an 8" snowfall this past Sunday afternoon. She had the AWD and I had the FWD.

I got stuck in our yet-to-be-plowed parking lot. She slowly made her way to the destination. Neither of us have special tires, just OEM.

When I'm making my lease payment, I sometimes gripe that I could have either gotten a nicer trim or lower payment instead of AWD. This months payment will feature no such griping.

kjvm

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Watty
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by Watty » Thu Dec 15, 2016 12:42 am

If the model you are looking at has a front wheel drive and all wheel drive version you can ask your insurance company how much the policy will be with either car. If the AWD was dramatically better I would expect to see a significant reduction in the cost of insurance.

It would be interesting to here what the relative costs are. I suspect that the insurance for the AWD could actually be higher because it would be a bit more expensive of a car.

DireWolf
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by DireWolf » Thu Dec 15, 2016 12:44 am

Just get a Wrangler Rubicon with some DuraTrac tires and you can literally go anywhere.

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Watty
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by Watty » Thu Dec 15, 2016 12:53 am

DireWolf wrote:Just get a Wrangler Rubicon with some DuraTrac tires and you can literally go anywhere.


You would still need to know how to drive in snow.

I live in Atlanta where we occasionally get snow or ice but few people actually know how to drive on it. I have consistently noticed that a high percentage of the cars in ditches or in fender benders after a snow storm are four wheel drive SUV's that are over confidant when in the snow.

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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by Spirit Rider » Thu Dec 15, 2016 1:14 am

Watty wrote:You would still need to know how to drive in snow.

I live in Atlanta where we occasionally get snow or ice but few people actually know how to drive on it. I have consistently noticed that a high percentage of the cars in ditches or in fender benders after a snow storm are four wheel drive SUV's that are over confidant when in the snow.

Exactly. This is even more true in snow country. About once per year, I will be driving in heavy snow conditions, going < 50 and some SUV will blow by me doing 60-70. Yup, up ahead you will see them off the side of the road in the trees. Could I have gone faster? Sure, but as stated here many times AWD/4WD may help you go faster, not stop better if you are going to fast for conditions.

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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Thu Dec 15, 2016 7:43 am

The roads in NY/NJ are plowed with consistency if you are traveling on the major highway corridors, it's the local roads that can be an issue as it is up to each town to clean them. Some towns are better than others when it comes to salting the roads and plowing. The key in any of these situations is speed, if you think AWD is going to save your bacon you are seriously deluding yourself. Modern technology helps, have had my ABS kick in at low speeds but ultimately it is a little bit of luck and skill that will keep you on the road. The real worry should come from the other yahoos on the road who think 4 wheel drive equals 4 wheel stop especially when they are the oncoming traffic!

Nothing more white knuckle driving than driving on ice, have done it twice and let's just say I got lucky.
"One should invest based on their need, ability and willingness to take risk - Larry Swedroe" Asking Portfolio Questions

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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Thu Dec 15, 2016 7:47 am

Watty wrote:If the model you are looking at has a front wheel drive and all wheel drive version you can ask your insurance company how much the policy will be with either car. If the AWD was dramatically better I would expect to see a significant reduction in the cost of insurance.

It would be interesting to here what the relative costs are. I suspect that the insurance for the AWD could actually be higher because it would be a bit more expensive of a car.


Insurance will be higher because of car weight, more weight equals more damage caused all things equal. Liability costs will be higher.
"One should invest based on their need, ability and willingness to take risk - Larry Swedroe" Asking Portfolio Questions

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mikestorm
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by mikestorm » Thu Dec 15, 2016 7:59 am

briancof wrote:From best to worst:

    -RWD with 4 similar tires



I grew up in Massachusetts. When I was 19 I drove a 1987 Ford Mustang 5.0. RWD vehicle. If someone spit on the ground I'd lose traction. That said, this car was horribly fun in the snow. The only way I'd be able to get around corners when there was packed snow on the roads was to cut the wheel and gun it for a second, allowing the rear of the vehicle to spin around...sort of like a controlled fishtail. I got very good at this.

I'm now 41 and thoroughly realize I was a moron at the time, but boy was it fun :D

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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by eog » Thu Dec 15, 2016 8:45 am

briancof wrote:From best to worst:

    -AWD with 4 snow tires
    -FWD with 4 snow tires
    -AWD with 4 all-season tires
    -FWD with 4 all-season tires
    -RWD with 4 similar tires
    -2 snow tires and 2 non-snow tires
If OP lives in reasonably flat urban/suburban areas with decent plowing, FWD with all-season tires, and ginger driving, is more than fine for snow. I've lived in Northern MA and Chicago and done fine with that setup.

Many folks get the idea that putting snow tires on only the front wheels is a good compromise, since those are steering and (in FWD) driving. The problem is that since the front wheels will grip more, the rear of the car wants to slide out around when braking or cornering. This is a difficult situation to control and ultimately dangerous. No evidence that OP was considering this, but many do try it and I only yesterday had to talk a family member out of it.

+1 to btenny's note that driver behavior will dominate anything about the car. Getting the car to "break loose" (in an empty parking lot) will help develop an intuition for snow dynamics and, ultimately, make the driver safer and more comfortable.



I think this post above basically wraps up everything you need to know about which direction to go. I had a FWD with 4 snow tires for a couple of years and the car handled Massachusetts winters great but it was a pain to swap tires couple of times a year. I have had FWD with all seasons and never got stuck but I would wish that that I had an AWD every time the forecast showed snow. I just got a Subaru just because why not. My advice is get the AWD if you can afford it.

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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by dbr » Thu Dec 15, 2016 9:26 am

DireWolf wrote:Just get a Wrangler Rubicon with some DuraTrac tires and you can literally go anywhere.


It was years ago, but one of the funniest things I ever saw was a half dozen off-road vehicles stuck off the side of the road on one of the Colorado passes early winter. Apparently the highway wasn't snowy enough and some folks decided they needed justify their purchase by driving across a snow field. Little did they know that the field was more of a basin than a field with some pretty good snow depth at the time. Towing everyone out was going to be a project for sure.

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Kosmo
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by Kosmo » Thu Dec 15, 2016 9:27 am

Law.74 wrote:Not only do AWD Siennas eat tires faster than other AWD vehicles they do not have a spare but instead come with run-flat tires.

I was going to bring up this point. I would not buy a car that does not have a spare tire.

My wife and I both have AWD cars with all weather tires. I'm considering getting us both sets of winter tires mounted on steel wheels, but I'm not yet convinced of the benefit.

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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by SleepKing » Thu Dec 15, 2016 10:00 am

Law.74 wrote:The OP must be referring to the AWD Toyota Sienna. We've had both the AWD and FWD. When the 2011 FWD was totaled we replaced it with an AWD 2013. We have loved our Siennas but would not buy the AWD again. Little did we know that this model chews up tires. Research after the fact has proven we are not alone. Not only do AWD Siennas eat tires faster than other AWD vehicles they do not have a spare but instead come with run-flat tires. Run flats have their own problems. We use regular all-season tires currently with a full size spare that rides in the back when we leave town. I just had our third (including factory run flats) set of tires installed at ~50k. I bought quality all-season tires with a high mile "warranty". We will continue to rotate religiously so when they wear out prematurely we can at least get a pro-rated refund toward the next set. At least that is the plan...

Also note, many tire installers will not mount non-run-flats on a vehicle without a spare. I had to drive home and get the spare before Costco would let me pick up the van.

caveat: we receive only 16 days of snow and a total of 22 inches each winter, but drive into the Sierra and Wasatch ranges every winter.



Oddly I just spoke to our Toyota service crew about this exact fact. Our AWD Sienna is at 15k and we need new tires. Run flat uses softer rubber/compound and thus has lower life expectancy. We were told expect to replace Sienna AWD run flats every 12-15k miles. Service center said they've seen some as low as ~10k needing replaced! Runflats only come in 'all season'. So if you want snow tires, need to go sanz spare or keep in back of van...thus eliminating half of storage space. We decided to replace our run flats with other run flats, as wife is nervous about driving around even locally without a spare if we switched to traditional all seasons or snow tires. We don't have space to ride with a spare in the back.

Oh, for the OP, we are debating between 4-runner and highlander. Personally, leaning towards 4-runner based looks alone. Both are quality vehicles but will give you vastly different user experiences. Know if you want more a truck or car experience!

Sleepy

alfaspider
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by alfaspider » Thu Dec 15, 2016 10:08 am

Tires, tires, tires.

I'd much rather drive a RWD Corvette with 4 matching snow tires than an AWD Subaru with 4 mismatched summer tires in the snow. Most people running off to buy new cars when they move to the snow belt would be much better served by just buying tires. I learned to drive in the snow in a RWD car with mismatched tires. That was terrifying, but I didn't know any better at the time- I thought that's just how snow driving was :shock: .

Also, people make a lot of "learning" to drive in the snow. Honestly, snow driving is just basic car control, which alas many people never learn. These techniques apply any time the car is at its traction limits- though its rare to hit a car's traction limits on the streets while driving legally unless there is snow or ice. Go slow, give yourself extra time to both stop and turn. Don't get psyched out when others are driving too fast for the conditions- let them drive into the ditch- take care of yourself.

It's worth taking time to understand how your car behaves at the limit. The Sports Car Club of America operates car control clinics on wet skid pads that help with learning this- they are targeted at new drivers but I imagine they'd be happy to teach an adult. Most cars today will be tuned to understeer at the limit under most conditions. Understeer is when you turn but the car keeps going straight. Some RWD sports cars, and many older cars will oversteer at the limit- this is when you turn but the back end of the car wants to come around (i.e. you spin). HOWEVER, this may go out the window if you get on the brakes and try to steer at the same time- this shifts the weight of the car forward and can cause even normally understeer-prone car to oversteer (race car drivers will sometimes intentionally brake while turning "trail braking" to help the rear end rotate when the car is understeering). Modern stability and traction control can help tame these tendencies, but it's important to understand that any input to the car is going to be limited by available traction. If you are already stopping right at the limit of grip, there's no traction left to do anything else.

Finally, you may hear that you should steer into a spin. That's absolutely right, but people who have not practiced spin recovery are unlikely to do it correctly and trying to recover from a spin can often result in worse consequences than the spin itself if the car regains traction while pointed in the wrong direction. I'd follow the mantra "in a spin, two feet in" (brake and clutch for a manual). In an automatic with stability control, I'd just get on the brake and let the electronics work it out.
Last edited by alfaspider on Thu Dec 15, 2016 10:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by onourway » Thu Dec 15, 2016 10:12 am

Safety-wise, AWD does essentially nothing for 99% of drivers. It's all about the tires. AWD will allow you to get moving easier, and if you live in an area where you get some accumulation, may allow you to get out of driveways or off the street with less shoveling needed. Otherwise, once you're moving, it's all tires. In fact, I kind of think AWD makes most drivers less safe in slippery conditions because it masks the feedback that a 2wd car gives you about how much grip is available.

If you buy two sets the first year you own the vehicle, have the snows mounted on a 2nd set of wheels. Over the course of 4-5+ years of ownership the wheels will pay for themselves in reduced mounting and balancing costs and the tire costs average out. The additional costs of AWD have been covered in part and it's worth considering. Most AWD vehicles will cost more up front, get worse mileage than their 2wd counterpart, have higher maintenance and tire costs. For example, with many systems if you damage a tire you end up needing to replace two or even all 4 to keep tread depth balanced in order to not risk damage to the AWD system. Worth considering if all that is worth being able to get moving a little easier a few times a year.

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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by Dave55 » Thu Dec 15, 2016 10:20 am

I lived in northern NJ for 20 years - snow tires were a must in winter. Now I live outside of Denver, I just put 4 Bridgestone Blizzak's on my AWD - these are great snow tires. All of the State Trooper cars in CO use them in the winter.

My wife has a front wheel drive - not as good in the snow as AWD. But snow tires help immensely.

Dave

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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by dbr » Thu Dec 15, 2016 10:24 am

alfaspider wrote:Also, people make a lot of "learning" to drive in the snow. Honestly, snow driving is just basic car control, which alas many people never learn. These techniques apply any time the car is at its traction limits- though its rare to hit a car's traction limits on the streets while driving legally unless there is snow or ice. Go slow, give yourself extra time to both stop and turn. Don't get psyched out when others are driving too fast for the conditions- let them drive into the ditch- take care of yourself.



Your advice is appropriate.

I would say this is less about driving skill and more about having the experience and paying attention to be aware of conditions. Around my own neighborhood an example of this is to be aware when black ice* is forming at the approaches to stop signs and whether or not public works has sanded/salted or not. No tire or vehicle or ability to handle the vehicle stops a vehicle on that sort of surface. Various kinds of hazards can enter one's awareness in different areas. When I had to work nights out in the country the biggest issue to be aware of was estimating how deep the wind drifts were growing on NS roads with a strong W wind. In that case the critical difference would be driving a plow equipped dump truck vice a sedan, RWD, FWD, or AWD with whatever tires. In other words, wait until the roads are plowed and don't get too far behind the plowing. Those days out in the country were with RWD and snow tires. I don't guess in those days anyone had FWD or AWD though 4WD trucks would be common for farmers.

*The black ice I am talking about is accumulated condensation from vehicle exhausts that forms at very low temperatures in places where a lot of traffic is stopping and standing.

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IFRider
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by IFRider » Thu Dec 15, 2016 10:39 am

I drove my trusty 1987 RWD Toyota Corolla around Colorado, Wyoming, Montana for many years. Always with
all seasons, never snow tires. If things got dicey, I kept a pair of chains in the trunk for the rear wheels. I had
to use these chains maybe 3 times in the 10 years I drove this car.

I now have a Honda Pilot with AWD. The Pilot adds some additional ground clearance (the Corolla would bottom
out in about 6 or 7 inches of snow), and increased traction at the dreaded "red light at frozen intersection on a hill"
scenario.

The Pilot also adds a false sense of security, as others have noted. I drove much more carefully in the 2WD Corolla
than I do now. The anti-lock brakes on the Pilot have bailed me out of several situations I would not have gotten
into in the Corolla.

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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by PowDay » Thu Dec 15, 2016 10:57 am

I've driven a RWD volvo with bald all season tires through a blizzard and arrived safely.
I've also driven an AWD Subaru with winter tires through a blizzard and and arrived safely.

I could argue that since I got around fine in Volvo, then AWD and snow tires are unnecessary, but there is more to the experience then just arriving. With the Volvo it was a white knuckle experience, extremely stressful, and scary at times. With the Subaru, it's just another comfortable drive, no stress, I arrive at my destination ready to go.

Is an AWD Subaru on snow tires overkill? is it a luxury? maybe, probably, but either way It's worth it to me, and I will happily spend the money to ensure that I can comfortably travel in any weather.

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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by Morse Code » Thu Dec 15, 2016 1:54 pm

I'll chime in with my experience in West Michigan (70+ inches on average).

Three years ago we built our dream house back in the woods at the end of a long driveway with a hill leading up to the house. First year we had to park cars at the bottom of the hill several times during the winter. Then I discovered snow tires and now we go up the hill with all vehicles (FWD and AWD) without spinning and down without sliding. Even our AWD vehicles without snow tires would slide down the hill and activate the ABS when it was icy. With snow tires you can easily apply brakes down the hill on a sheet of ice without even activating the ABS. Of course, that translates to safety on the roads, not just convenience on my driveway. The difference is so dramatic, I will never let my family use a vehicle in Michigan without snow tires ever again. The added safety is worth every penny and hassle. I have become a winter tire snob. This is not the place to skimp if you love your family and live in snow country.
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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by btenny » Thu Dec 15, 2016 1:59 pm

Living in Tahoe in the winter gives me lots of fun stories. One of the best.

We had a big snow storm, maybe 24 inches of new snow fell over night on top of 3 feet that was in the yards. So the street was not plowed that morning when all of us were out blowing our driveways. The rental house across from us had a brand new Jeep Wrangler 4 X 4 with big tires and a light bar setting the the driveway. Two young boys came out and loaded the jeep with their snow boards and started to back out into the road. They did not do any shoveling or anything. They just backed into the street and got the Jeep stuck in the big snow. They had backed into a big drift. Teh Jeep was buried. They spun the tires for about 5 minutes before they realized it was in 2 WD. So then it was really stuck. So then they tried to shift into 4WD but having never done it before proceeded to do it wrong. The were grinding gears and spinning the wheels. They did not know how to put the thing into 4 wheel drive. They did not know how to shift the stick shift so it was noisy. Finally the older lady next door came out. She was about 80. She shoveled about 30 feet of her driveway. Then she drive forward straight out (she backed in the night before) and past these kids in her fwd sedan. She waived to them. She was going fast so she did not stop or slow do so her car floated up on the big snow and kept on going. She made it to the end of the street where it was plowed before she slowed down. We almost fell over laughing.

When we stopped laughing we went over and helped the kids shovel out the Jeep and taught them how to shift the thing into 4WD. They were nice kids and we did not want them to destroy the Jeep.

Now we have a good story. And yes you do need to learn how to drive your car in the snow.

Next time I will tell you about the car inside the house from black ice.

Good Luck.

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Re: Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vs All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Post by stoptothink » Thu Dec 15, 2016 2:00 pm

Morse Code wrote:I'll chime in with my experience in West Michigan (70+ inches on average).

Three years ago we built our dream house back in the woods at the end of a long driveway with a hill leading up to the house. First year we had to park cars at the bottom of the hill several times during the winter. Then I discovered snow tires and now we go up the hill with all vehicles (FWD and AWD) without spinning and down without sliding. Even our AWD vehicles without snow tires would slide down the hill and activate the ABS when it was icy. With snow tires you can easily apply brakes down the hill on a sheet of ice without even activating the ABS. Of course, that translates to safety on the roads, not just convenience on my driveway. The difference is so dramatic, I will never let my family use a vehicle in Michigan without snow tires ever again. The added safety is worth every penny and hassle. I have become a winter tire snob. This is not the place to skimp if you live where I live.


I've never had an issue despite driving in snow on all-seasons (mostly with a RWD pickup) for the better part of a decade in Utah. But, like you, the difference was night and day when we decided to try snow tires on our car (my wife is a little less cautious driver than I). I cheap out on the huge majority of things, this is not one of them.

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