Do I need an all-wheel drive in California?

When getting a car, there are many things you’ll generally consider. One of them is the drive train. So, do I need an all-wheel drive in California?

You don’t need an all-wheel drive in California. A simple rear or front-wheel drive will be enough due to the pleasant weather in the state. But if you regularly drive to the Lake Tahoe area, you may get an AWD. Factors to consider in choosing a drivetrain include the location, purpose, and cost.

An all-wheel drive offers more traction, which can be useful for driving off road or in slippery conditions. But this rarely happens in the Golden State. Here, we discuss whether you need an all-wheel drive in California.

Type of Drivetrains

When looking at a car, you’re likely to see any FWD, RWD, 4WD, or AWD somewhere. If you’re not familiar with cars, you could just consider them random inscriptions. But these inscriptions could determine your car’s performance. The types of drivetrains are:

1.      Front-Wheel Drive FWD

Front-Wheel Drive vehicles are propelled only by their two front wheels. The engine powers the two front wheels, determining how the vehicle moves. The two rear wheels spin and work, but they don’t have any power and will move in the direction of the front wheel. This is quite common.

2.      Rear Wheel Drive

Most cars before the 1970s were RWD. The engine powers the rear wheels in the rear-wheel drive, making this type of car the opposite of the FWD. With the rear wheels powering the car’s movement, the front wheels can serve steering functions. The front wheels in FWD pull, and the back wheels in RWD push. This type of drivetrain is common in muscle and sports cars, and some heavy-duty utility vehicles also use it. However, the RWD has reduced traction, so it’s not suitable for certain conditions where the road is slippery.

3.      All Wheel Drive AWD

 In All Wheel Drive vehicles, the engine sends power to all the four wheels so they can propel the car forward or backward as may be necessary. They’re generally costlier due to how complex it can be to deploy this technology in vehicles. This influences their resale value which is much higher than that of FWD. AWD vehicles have better traction and can guarantee better performance off-road. In AWD, all four wheels can operate and gain traction independently of one another. This is usually common in SUVs and cars. The AWD has three differentials, one in the front, one in the back, and one in the center.

4.      4 Wheel Drive 4WD

Closely similar to AWD is a 4WD. The difference is that in 4WD, you can choose whether you want to have it on or off. You can’t do this with AWD because it’s always on. 4WD is mostly for trucks and heavy-duty hauling vehicles. Both drivetrains will give traction and are great to handle. A 4WD uses two differentials and a power case to supply all the vehicle’s four wheels with power.

What To Consider When Choosing A Drivetrain

Most people in California don’t need all-wheel drive to get around. A regular front or rear-wheel drive will be enough. If you’re thinking of the right drivetrain for you, consider the  following factors:

1.      Location

In a place like California, having an AWD might be unnecessary in California if all you’re doing is driving around town or just a regular commute. Your location in the state will also matter. Although California is known for its sunshine and wildfires, this isn’t a general thing. There are indeed parts of the state where it snows. The state has a diverse climate, and in the high elevation areas and northern parts, you may find snow. If you live in these places, such as the Sierra Nevada, you may need an AWD because the roads are slippery when it snows. You can get winter tires, and your FWD would still do a good job as long as the snow doesn’t get too severe. Beyond that, you don’t need an AWD to get around anywhere in California, and owning one isn’t worth it.

2.      Purpose

Your purpose for the car could also influence the drivetrain. If you use the car for serious off-roading, it won’t hurt to get an AWD. But if that’s not the case, this might not be worth it for anyone. AWD is only necessary for extreme conditions, and those conditions are rare in California. You may also get it to be exempt from chain tire laws. This especially applies if you visit the Lake Tahoe area, where any non-AWD vehicle is required to use chains regardless of the type of tires they have on. While it’s great for inclement weather and ensures better handling, it’s not the best choice for hardcore off-roading.

3.      Cost

AWD vehicles cost more than FWD or RWD. So, you have to consider whether it’s worth it for you to spend so much on a vehicle. The cost of AWD vehicles isn’t just the initial higher price. You’ll still have to spend more on fuel because it has lower fuel economy due to the extra hardware that adds more weight to the vehicle. Beyond that, it’ll cost more to maintain an AWD or repair it should it ever develop any fault. 

However, if you’re planning to sell it, you might be able to get a better deal for it. But that’ll depend on where you choose to sell. People will most likely pay less for an AWD in Southern California as it doesn’t exactly improve their driving experience. But if you’re selling it in a place like Denver, you’ll get a much better deal. The tire of an AWD vehicle will also wear out faster, which means you’ll spend money on tires.

In Conclusion

All-wheel drive cars are great, but they have limited usefulness when driving them in California, and the added cost of buying, maintaining, or repairing one makes it unnecessary to do so. Instead, stick to FWD, and you may add winter tires during the snowy period.