Most car buyers don't pay much attention to what wheels are driven in their vehicle, and that's too bad because it makes a difference for the kind of driving you do most, as well as where you drive and what you do with your vehicle. At the very least, the percentage of car buyers who choose all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD) is just about half of all passenger vehicles sold today. Keep in mind that the number and location of the driven wheels make a difference in how your vehicle handles, the traction provided, and how your tires will wear, as well. Here's a guide that should help you choose.

Front-Wheel Drive

Most cars made today have front-wheel drive. In these vehicles, the transmission transfers power from the engine to only the front two wheels. This means there's no long driveshaft that travels to the back. Front-wheel drive cars have some advantages in that they're typically less expensive, easier to maintain, and simpler to repair. The car is lighter, and fuel efficiency is usually better as a result of the configuration. Cost of ownership is also less due to the simplicity.

Since the driveshaft doesn't travel to the rear wheels, front-wheel-drive cars generally have more legroom because most of mechanicals reside in the front of the vehicle. No transmission and driveshaft tunnel needs to occupy space in the passenger footwell area.

On the flip side, there are some negatives to front-wheel drive cars. Since the front wheels have to bear the burden of steering, braking, and acceleration, there are compromises. Cars may do something called torque steer where tje vehicle pulls towards one side under hard acceleration. There's also wheel-hop with higher horsepower FWD cars that pull the car forward and lose and gain traction repeatedly, causing the front wheels to hop until full traction is achieved. Also, under normal driving circumstances, a front-wheel drive vehicle's tires will wear out faster than other setups.

Rear-Wheel Drive

This is the one configuration that's more for driving enthusiasts than the rest listed here. Rear-wheel drive (RWD) was actually the first type of drive for American cars, and it's still the best choice for those who want performance and driving dynamics. Unsurprisingly, most sports cars feature rear-wheel-drive, seconded by all-wheel drive. On occasion, you'll find a front-wheel drive sports car (case in point, the Acura Integra). In the case of rear-wheel drive, power from the engine is sent exclusively to the rear wheels. The preponderance of steering and braking is done by the front wheels. Drive rear-wheel drive car, and you'll experience understeer, where the back of the car can kick out and overtake the front wheels.

Cars with RWD will are more dynamic to drive since they handle better than FWD because the weight of the engine combined with the rear differential make for a more balanced automobile.. Acceleration is usually better in a RWD vehicle because the weight is transferred to the rear over the drive wheels and traction is improved (in dry conditions) while torque steer is virtually eliminated..

RWD can be tough to manage in slippery conditions because the back wheels can lose traction and cause a loss of control. Even with modern technology like traction control, ABS, and stability control, it can be challenging to drive a RWD vehicle in slick conditions. RWD vehicles don't sell well to the American public. They're tight on back seat space because of the driveshaft and the rear differential. The tradeoff is fun for practicality, and you have to ask yourself if that's worth it. Much of it depends on your needs, where you drive, and your priorities.

All-Wheel Drive/4-Wheel Drive

There are more all-wheel/four-wheel drive vehicles sold than the other two configurations combined. It's not just because they're more desirable by more car buyers but also because more vehicles are built with AWD/4WD than ever before. Heck, you can even get an AWD Toyota Corolla now, something that never existed before.

Both AWD and 4WD provide added traction than FWD or RWD, and that's ideal for areas with a lot of precipitation. 4WD is typically found in larger SUVs and trucks and is designed for off-roading. AWD, however, can be had in two forms including part-time (automatic) and full-time AWD. Part-time AWD means the car usually sends most of its power to the front wheels and adjusts to all-wheel drive when the car senses front wheel slippage. Full-time AWD sends power to all four wheels 100 percent of the time. Many vehicles offer AWD as an option while other brands like. Subaru provide it as standard equipment.

AWD and 4WD vehicles permit better traction in slick conditions, off-pavement, and even when towing. Keep in mind that AWD and 4WD do not equate to shorter braking distances.These systems also add weight to a vehicle, which may compromise stopping distances and reduce fuel efficiency. They're also more complex to repair, and they cost more.