What's Best For Towing?

Published: Summer 2013
Photo of a truck towing a boat out of the water

Two-Wheel, All-Wheel, or Four-Wheel Drive

When considering a tow vehicle, what are the advantages and disadvantages of all-wheel drive (AWD) versus two-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD)? What makes AWD and 4WD different, and how does each system work for towing? At the end of the day, if all three systems are available on a tow vehicle you're considering, which should you choose? To start, it helps to know a little about each system and how it works.

Two-Wheel Drive

Two-wheel drive includes both rear-wheel drive (RWD) and front-wheel drive (FWD) systems. The most common and inexpensive drive systems are also the simplest. A shaft from the transmission drives a gear in the differential (or transaxle) that in turn drives two wheels (either front or rear). Front-wheel-drive vehicles generally have better performance in slippery or rough conditions than rear-wheel drive for two reasons: First, the engine and transmission are positioned directly over the front wheels, adding weight over the tires for better traction. Second, the wheels are pulling the vehicle along rather than pushing it, providing a better mechanical advantage.

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