Four-wheel drive vs. two-wheel drive: Which is better for bad weather driving?

Which one will battle the traditional British weather with ease?

You’re looking for a new car. And, you want it to be able to battle traditional British weather with ease. Do you go for a two wheel drive or a four-wheel drive?

There are pros and cons of each, of course. And some cars perform better than others. So it’s important you know all the facts before you come to a decision.

We advise people on the best cars for their situation all the time. Funnily enough, it’s our job to do that. So, we’re going to discuss the pros and cons of four wheel drive and two wheel drive, and which one is best for bad weather driving.

What’s the difference between four wheel drive and two wheel drive?

Firstly, what’s the difference between the two?

Four wheel drive is where the car has power to all four wheels at the same time or when required. You can get all of the cars below in two-wheel drive as well, but some examples of four wheel drive cars are;

A two wheel drive, however, only has power to two wheels. Two wheel drive can either be rear wheel drive or front wheel drive. I don’t think I have to explain the difference between those two. Some examples of two wheel drive are;

There is also something called all wheel drive which is essentially four wheel drive at all times.

What are the pros and cons of four wheel drive?

Now we’ve established the difference between the two; what are the pros and cons?

Some of the advantages to a four wheel drive are;

  • A four-wheel drive can apply a varied or equal amount of power through each wheel to cope with different conditions. For example;
    • Ice
    • Snow
    • Water
    • Mud
  • Gives the vehicle better control
    • The surface area of the power load is doubled compared to a two-wheel drive, giving the vehicle better control.
  • Generally, cars with four-wheel drive are quicker off the line. This is compared to a car of the same power but with two wheel drive.
4WD vs 2WD

However, it does have its disadvantages;


  • Can be costly to run
    • This is both in fuel consumption and in wear and tear
    • Putting power through all four wheels will greatly increase the tyre wear.
    • Fuel consumption is also slightly higher. This is because it has to separate the power through the drive terrain to both sets of wheels.
    • Also, cars with four-wheel drive are more expensive.
  • They can be heavier
    • Due to the number of components, cars with four wheel drive tend to be heavier. This can have an effect on the acceleration.

What are the pros and cons of two wheel drive?

So, what about cars with two-wheel drive?

Some of the advantages to a car with two-wheel drive are;


  • Cars with front wheel drive offer better fuel economy
  • Cars with front wheel drive provide better traction, and therefore are pretty good in poor weather conditions.
  • The weight on cars with rear wheel drive are more evenly distributed
  • Cars with rear wheel drive are also better at acceleration and braking

But, of course, there are disadvantages to cars with two-wheel drive. For example;

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  • The weight distribution is not as even in cars with front wheel drive. This makes it more difficult to handle
  • And, because the weight is at the front, this can lead to more wear and tear
  • Cars with rear wheel drive do not fare well in poor weather conditions.
  • They also weigh more, this affects the fuel economy.
  • Rear wheel drive cars are worse in slippery conditions

4wd vs. 2wd; Which is better for bad weather?

Okay so we’ve looked at the differences between the two and the pros and cons of each. Now, which is the better for bad weather driving?

While cars with four-wheel drive are known for being better in bad weather conditions, that’s not to say that cars with two-wheel drive are totally useless. There are quite a few cars with two-wheel drive that are good for bad weather as well.

What are the best four wheel drive cars for bad weather conditions?

When our customers ask us which four wheel drive cars are the best for bad weather, these are the ones we recommend.

  •  Range Rover Sport:
    • This is a great all-rounder if you have the cash to part with. It drives well in all conditions. It looks good and is surprisingly fun to drive. However, it’s not the most economical.
    • The price ranges from £62.700-£95,900
  • Mazda CX-5:
    • This is amazingly light for the standard four-wheel drive SUV. It can cope with bad conditions extremely well. It isn’t as powerful as the Range Rover Sport, however.
    • The price ranges from £23,195-£30,995
4WD vs 2WD bad weather driving
  • Fiat Panda 4×4 Hatchback
    • It’s smaller than the aforementioned four wheel drive cars. But, it still does well when faced with poor weather conditions.  It’s also boasts the most economical engine out of the three.
    • The price of the Fiat Panda ranges from £14,710-£18,260

What are the best two wheel drive cars for bad weather conditions?

Surprisingly, the best cars with two-wheel drive for bad weather conditions are the ones you wouldn’t expect.

While you may think this list would be full of BMW’s, Mercedes’ and Lexus’. But actually, it’s the smaller vehicles with most of their weight over the front wheels that emerge triumphant. This is because the skinnier the wheels, the better it can cut through snow. And, keep maximum pressure over a small surface area on the road.

This is cars such as;

4WD vs. 2WD
  • Ford Fiesta
    • The Ford Fiesta is incredibly inexpensive to run and it’s also great to drive
    • Prices range from £10,000-£18,000
  • Toyota Aygo
    • The Aygo is also efficient in terms of fuel economy and is great in poor weather conditions.
    • You can also customise it
    • Prices range from £9,040-£13,965

What are the worst cars for bad weather conditions?

We’ve listed the best, which are the worst?

Honestly, the worst cars are the ones with no four wheel drive but with large tyres that spread the weight of the car over a large surface area. These vehicles have large tyres to gain traction on the road where the friction is much larger than wet, icy or snowy conditions. On the snow, this works against those cars. This is due to the spreading of the weight of an already light vehicle over a large surface area where there is no friction to work with.

Some examples of such cars would be;



So, there we have it. While cars with four wheel drive tend to be better to drive in poor weather conditions, there are some two wheel drive cars that also do the job just fine. However, there are ones that you should watch out for. And, the larger the car doesn’t always mean the better the ability to tackle snow and ice.

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Rachel Richardson
  • 5th October 2016

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