FWD vs. RWD: Which 2WD Vehicle Should You Buy?

In Arizona, spotting an all-wheel drive vehicle is like finding Bigfoot rummaging through your trash. (It’s quite a rare sight, is what we’re saying.) Because of our uniquely arid climate, nearly four in five drivers in the Grand Canyon State choose either rear- or front-wheel drive. That choice, however, is dependent on what drivers value most — traction and MPG or performance and handling? 

Understanding the differences between FWD and RWD will help you make the right decision when it comes time to buy a new vehicle. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of how both drivetrains function, as well as a list of advantages for each.

What is FWD?

A vehicle with front-wheel drive will typically have its engine and transmission mounted up front, transversely, sending power to the front axles and wheels. 

Most new sedans, SUVs and crossovers will be equipped with standard front-wheel drive these days, as a FWD layout is more affordable to manufacture and offers the best value for owners. This includes all popular Honda models like the 2021 Accord, Civic and CR-V.

Advantages of FWD

Better Traction – The main benefit of owning a car with FWD is its traction. Because of its weight distribution — that is, there’s more weight at the front, where the power is emanating — FWD cars can grip the road more effectively than a RWD car. This is especially useful on gravel, sand and questionably paved roads, e.g., like half of Arizona. 

Better Fuel Economy – Is FWD better than RWD? If you want more mpg, then yes, go with a front-wheel drive vehicle. Because of their layout, FWD vehicles are usually lighter than RWD or AWD vehicles, which effectively means you get more out of a gallon of unleaded.

More Interior Space – Another perk to buying FWD over RWD is passenger volume. Rear-wheel driveshafts run the length of the car, which can take up valuable cabin space and reduce legroom and headroom.

Safer – When it comes to everyday performance, front-wheel drive cars offer more consistency. Instead of oversteering and losing control, which is something that can happen with even the best RWD cars, FWD vehicles understeer. Understeering is easier to correct, making FWD safer than RWD cars, all things considered.

More Affordable – The price of FWD vehicles tends to be less than that of even the cheapest RWD cars. Even sporty front-wheel drive cars, like the Honda Civic Type-R, can be more affordable than comparable RWD sports cars, like the Toyota GR Supra.

Civic Type-R

What is RWD?

A vehicle with a rear-wheel drive layout will usually feature an engine and transmission mounted longitudinally up front, sending power to the rear axles and wheels. 

RWD is losing the popularity contest to FWD — only 20% of vehicles in Arizona are RWD — as its only major advantage can be found on the racetrack or construction site. 

Advantages of RWD

Better Turning – Although RWD cars can oversteer too easily, they’re usually better at taking corners at higher speeds. This is because each wheel on a rear-wheel drive vehicle has its own task. Of course, if you aren’t a skilled driver, the risk of driving a RWD car too aggressively is higher.

Higher Towing Capacity – Rear-wheel drive vehicles can sometimes be better towers than FWD rivals, though this isn’t always the case. 

Longer Tire Lifespan – Because front tires aren’t tasked with both steering and accelerating, RWD tires tend to last a little longer than FWD tires. Obviously, getting regular tire rotations, regardless of drivetrain, is crucial to keeping your car in good shape.

Bottom Line

If you’re about to buy an affordable, daily cruiser, and you don’t have to worry about snow and ice, you’ll want to seriously consider going with a front-wheel drive car. The best FWD cars are usually better on gas, cheaper, easier to control, and offer superior traction than RWD SUVs and sedans.

Need a quote on a FWD vehicle in Arizona? That’s what we’re here to provide. Contact your nearest Valley Honda Dealers to get an estimate, schedule a test drive, or request more details about any of our new Hondas for sale.