Do you really need all-wheel drive? | Consumer Reports
Do you really need all-wheel drive? | Consumer Reports

[MUSIC PLAYING] With the first
snowfall of every year, consumers are inundated with
a barrage of advertising, showing how a car with all-wheel
drive or four-wheel drive will save them from
winter’s icy clutches. I’ve been out there
most of my life. And why not? According to the Federal
Highway Administration, 41% of all weather related
car crashes on US roads are due to conditions involving
snow, sleet, ice, and slush. Accidents caused by
winter weather result in 150,000 injuries and
2000 deaths each year. But can all-wheel drive save you
when weather turns really ugly? Consumer Reports evaluations
show that all-wheel drive may provide some benefit, but it’s
no guarantee it will get you through a grueling storm. Through weeks of driving in
snowy conditions at Consumer Reports’ 327 acre test
center in Connecticut, we conclusively found
that all-wheel drive is good for getting
your car moving on a slick surface, such as
a snowy, uphill driveway. But all-wheel drive is
of little added help compared to an ordinary
front-wheel drive sedan when it comes time to
stop or steer your vehicle. Our evaluations conclusively
showed that using winter tires matters far more than
having all-wheel drive in many situations. We conducted braking tests in
an all-wheel drive 2015 Honda CRV– the best selling
compact crossover– with its original,
all season tires, and then with winter tires. We also brought out a
front-drive Toyota Camry rolling on its own
set of winter tires. When both the front-drive
Camry and all-wheel drive CRV wore winter tires, both stopped
from 60 MPH in about 300 feet. But when the CRV had its
original, all season tires, it took more than 650
feet to come to a stop– more than twice as far. And an increased stopping
distance of an entire football field compared to when
it had winter tires. As for handling, we found that
some all-wheel drive systems fared better than
others in getting cars around corners in the snow. A significant factor was
the available grip provided by their all season tires. Even in the hands of our
professional drivers, some all-wheel drive systems
produced too much wheel spin and didn’t provide the same
level of confidence and comfort level as others. Our test track
observations lead us to advise that
using winter tires provides the best grip and
assurance for going, stopping, and cornering, no
matter what you drive. And buying winter tires
for a front-drive car will cost far less than the
several thousand dollar premium you’ll pay for all-wheel drive. We realize that swapping and
storing tires twice per year is a nuisance. And in places where street
plowing is thorough, you can probably get by
with all season tires that are in good condition. But most all-wheel
drive owners don’t think of equipping their
cars with winter tires. According to our survey
of 54,000 subscribers who drove all-wheel drive
or four-wheel drive vehicles in the snow for more
than six days last winter, fewer than 15% equipped their
vehicles with winter tires. The rest kept rolling
on their all seasons and took their chances. At Consumer Reports,
we strongly recommend buying four winter tires for
whatever vehicle you drive. For our winter tire buying
guide and other all-wheel drive testing information, check

100 thoughts on “Do you really need all-wheel drive? | Consumer Reports”

  1. Diego Spaish says:

    The best technique for stopping in snow is downshifting. I'm not good with cars, but I never even would have guessed that AWD was supposed to help with stopping.

  2. Kevin Beck says:

    I have a vw touareg all wheel drive with dif lock an low it's better than front wheel drive just put winter or off road tires n it

  3. Brian Jr Spero says:

    Never had winter tires. The only reason I got an all wheel drive car is to climb the mountains. Also while I have indeed slipped of the road twice before (oops) the All Wheel Drive did the job well enough. It may not have KEPT me on the road, BUT IT GOT ME BACK on the road and out of the snow bank with no issue. The highways are usually pretty good where I am, even when snowy, and i just play it extra safe WHEN GOING DOWN hills. I don't know why but this car has NO PROBLEM going UP icy hills (the time I went into a snowbank was…kind of my fault. Didn't turn enough.)

    Anyway I lease this car so I ain't buying any new tires!

  4. Paul A says:

    It's absurd how they call snowy conditions "weather turning ugly". And then the hypocrites go and enjoy things like skiing which is only possible due to "ugly" weather.

    I never knew humans could be so ignorant.

  5. ClayZ says:

    As usual, it’s the comments that veer off track.

  6. shaun bullock says:

    Was traction control on or off for these tests

  7. scottthewaterwarrior says:

    It depends on the car too. IDK about stopping distances (I'm sure it is worse) but my 2015 Subaru Forester actually corners better with just all seasons then my 2002 Volvo XC70 with snow tires. I love taking the Volvo to snowy parking lots and sliding around, but I've taken the Subaru and even disabling the stability traction control, its no fun at all. The rear end just will not kick out no mater what I do.

    The real trick for snow driving though, regardless of vehicle or tires, is to just slow down. I might make an exception to that for my grandma's 2003 Toyota Corolla, no ABS or anything, and it has trouble getting grip for acceleration/braking in just rain! IDK if it is just because of how light it is, since the all season tires are in good shape.

  8. mrnovacan says:

    Ask towing companies what type of vehicle that they most often tow out of the ditch in winter it is awd and 4×4`s.The extra traction doesn`t compensate for stupid.

  9. S Canada says:

    No shit winter tires and all 4 , come on we already know that. Put winter tires and compare

  10. 机器人.dk says:

    Most important is HOW you drive in the snow. I've driven RWD pickups for 30 years in some of the nastiest snow storms and never got stranded anywhere or lost control. Just take it slow and easy, don't slam on the brakes, let the engine slow you down. I've wised up a bit in my old age and now have a Subaru AWD but drive it with just as much caution..

  11. ken lynn says:

    AWD isn't about stopping. Its about going and having some degree of control. If AWD stops a person from having one little fender bender because of the improved handling it gives you, then its worth it. Living in Northern Ontario, I wouldn't be without my 4 x 4 truck and my AWD SUV.

  12. Only american's are so silly thinking that 4 wheel drive would save you from buying winter tires in a middle of a winter!

  13. N L says:

    if you live in a flat area with snow, get FWD if you live in the North East (NY, CT, ME, MA, NH, VT) get AWD/4WD

  14. drwisdom1 says:

    This video is almost totally correct. Good snow tires on an extra set of wheels is what you need in the winter. The only thing I disagree with is the claim that it is hard to switch tires twice a year. We live in the mountains of Colorado, and as this video states, the reason we got AWD was getting out of our uphill driveway and to avoid getting stuck. From the driving standpoint, AWD makes it easier to drive too fast in the snow but doesn't stop any better than FWD.

  15. Gmen pg says: it slid like..6 football fields? im confused haha. thats far af

  16. Daniel Schwind says:

    Its also matters how you drive also. Many people drive way too fast in snow. Experience matters and having driven small front wheel drive cars in Wisconsin winters for 40 years have never been in the ditch using all season tires. Still 4wd is the best when I owned a F150 Off Road edition.

  17. steve james says:

    no ofc not.
    but if your like us and live in a snow belt and are filthy rich then why not

  18. Google User says:

    Sadly, 99% of AWD vehicles on the road run all season tires
    in the winter so they are in fact a traffic HAZARD.
    Driving nothing more than a cavalier with SNOW tires, i have NEVER missed a day of work and constantly pass stranded, stuck, and flipped over 4wd trucks and SUVs every time it snows.
    AWD is USELESS without winter tires

  19. Édouard Murdoch says:

    In conclusion: a good set of winter tires is more important than AWD

  20. Waldemar Ishibashi says:

    What a strange conclusion: do you really need AWD? No, you really need winter tires… Winter tires should be considered mandatory while driving on the snow or ice. You can do a video about that.
    When talking about the sense of AWD – take the same car, like CR-V. Pack it with people and go on holiday. I don't even mean in the winder. The car acts more confident while accelerating from zero, up hill and in the rain. It is not a must, but it does add a lot of comfort and the front tires will spin way less often.

  21. J Fike says:

    how does 4 winter tires for AWD cost more than 4 tires for FWD car….? makes no sense

  22. Mike J Womack says:

    My 2001 Audi A6 2.7T EATS SNOW

  23. Mister Berzins says:

    Rear wheel drive car cause the most problems in the snow.

  24. Bass Ackwards says:

    Do you really need a car? Take the bus! Awd is for traction, in mountain areas it's a huge help. That's an awd snow tires vs fwd tires.

  25. nattyphysicist says:

    Misleading title. Rename to WINTER TIRES ARE BETTER IN WINTER

  26. Jackie Chan says:

    It's not about that, to even get moving in the snow awd is the best and offers straight line stability.

  27. Erik Pendleton says:

    In areas that get infrequent snow, snow tires are not practical, while AWD/4wd can make a difference in getting to work, the store, or Grandma's house when her heat goes out. Additionally, 4wd vehicles will generally retain the value diffence over 2wd when you go to sale vs. consumable tires. Of course you have to be careful regarding stopping distances, but here the comparison isn't going to be 4wd on all seasons vs. fwd on snow tires. It just isn't. Now having said that, I had a '93 BMW years ago that had sport tires and it was deadly in any inclement weather. For that car is did get 4 good snow tires on steelies and actually got to use them a few times. The difference was amazing – I couldn't believe how the thinner snow tires transformed that car. But it seems in the last 5-6 years we have had a real reduction in snow fall in my area.

  28. Erik Pendleton says:

    Who is driving at 60mph on that kind of snow?

  29. David Sparling says:

    CR should stick to testing toasters…

  30. Binshuo Hu says:

    what if I live in New Mexico, California, Texas or Arizona?

  31. Jakub Prokop says:

    Didn’t even watch the video. The answer is yes. You cannot survive in Maine without winter tires and 4 wheel drive.

  32. David Klimek says:

    Consumer Reports: is there one good tire in the snow you can use all year long? If one has front wheel drive ,do you need snow tires on the back?

  33. Lost in Iowa says:

    How about an awd with all seasons against a FWD with all seasons. These stupid test are apples and oranges. I also hate the snow tire tests on an ice ring. Sorry but I dont drive on the. I drive on roads that have snow, packed snow, slush, and ice. Why can you just do real world test.

  34. Felix T says:

    Buddy you need to shave.

  35. Kharlos O. says:

    Should’ve tested it going up hill

  36. thomas medeiros says:

    All wheel drive helps to provide extra traction. That’s why it’s called all wheel drive and not all wheel stop. The stopping power of any type of Drive train is determined by the friction the tires have against the type of surface they are on. A studded tire will provide the most friction on ice. A tire with deep wide spread cleats will bite into loose snow. I live in a cold winter climate. I use the engine and transmission as a brake on my 4 wheel drive Jeep equipped with studded snow tires all round. Hill decent in low range with this set up provides optimum power.

  37. thomas medeiros says:

    It is annoying to have to stop or try to drive around front wheel drive cars on slippery hills. I live in a city with lots of hills that my Jeep 4+4 can climb easily if it is not blocked by these FWD cars.

  38. Anthony Hernandez says:

    Who told this dirty fker his beard looked good enough to be on camera with?

  39. Robert Carlson says:

    We are on our third Forester. I also drove an Impreza for awhile. All these vehicles work great. I drove in snow for 30 years and wish I had a Subaru plenty of times. Unfortunately it was a rear wheel work van or a four wheel drive truck. I know that now that I am back in Florida the Subaru AWD is great. Big rain, good tires, hit the large puddle of water on the road, and these cars pull straight through.

  40. Tony Lee says:

    Why did they keep hammer it in? Every one knew that winter tires were much better in snow. AWD was the next best thing because no one wanted to pay for snow tires. I bought the best all season tires available and they were almost as good as snow tires.

  41. Peggy Ireland says:

    I live in Northern Ontario, Canada, and commute 225 km a day on some pretty tough roads. If you think winter tires make a difference try studded winters. Driving my VW Tiguan with studded winter tires I toodle along past cars & trucks, and make big 4x4s look ridiculous. The only thing that slows me down is bad visibility.

  42. RON H says:

    A good question from a .org that tests toasters

  43. paulnmarshall says:

    Gee who would’ve thought a heavier car would’ve taken longer to stop than a sedan?

  44. db Productions says:

    I drive all an wheel drive car. And I mostly only go out and drive when it's snowing out. Just because it's fun and I have never been let down.

  45. Da Ven says:

    How much less safe are winter tires than all-season tires on dry pavement? Many of us will be choosing maybe 7 days on winter tires in snow, but maybe 90 days on winter tires on dry pavement. Do the 7 snow days make up for the 90 days?

  46. Dweezle Zappa says:

    If the psi in your tire is at 32 psi and its terribly snowy drop your tire pressure down to 28 psi on all four tires it will give you a little extra grip as long as you have actual tread on those tires, it won't help one bit if your tires are bald or balding.

  47. maxwell smart says:

    In Minnesota this February we had the most snow fall for the month of February. My Subaru Forester gets around great!

  48. Dick Jolt says:

    Must be cohoots with tire manufacturers, yes AWD does make difference, this video is more fake news

  49. Darth Daddy says:

    Nothing really helps a bad driver with poor reflexes … when my awd starts to slip while trying to stop , turn wheel in desired direction and feather the gas peddle .. awd is the best for all situations if you know what you’re doing.

  50. hotspur666 says:

    In Canada winter tires are required Dec 15 to march 15 but most are used from mid october to mid april!(sometime we have snow storms in mid May and in september!)
    So we have less killing than russkies who are too cheap to buy winter tires and die like flies!(more actually, they are all DRUNKS all the time!) On the other hand, in Canada, steel studded tires are forbidden in summer on pavement…on gravel roads, it's OK, better in mud…

  51. Bader Jamal says:

    This video missed the point. It's about able to climb the tiny hills in winter

  52. ATL TECH DOJO says:

    U can't stop if u never get going. 2wd cars never leave the driveway. My 2wd Jeep would get stuck in 2 inches of snow. My 4wd escape with a/t tires would plow through 1ft of snow on a dirt road. No shovel needed.

  53. Q- Bert says:

    I’ll buy an extra set of winter tires when CR buys me the rims to install them on.

  54. coffeehawk says:

    If you ask anyone that has used quality snow tires they will tell you it is all that matters. AWD just helps you accelerate faster. It is unintuitive, myself guilty too initially, but friction is only a function of the tire compound interacting with the road and the mass above it. Think of the fastest and best handling cars in the world – all have no tread design and are rear wheel drive (F1, Indy, Dragsters).

  55. guyina4x4 says:

    Title fail!

    Should be

    Should you buy winter tires?

  56. Randy Kroells says:

    On the prairie drift snow your fwd car will be stuck with the wheels off the ground.

  57. James Bray says:

    LOOOOOOOL, who in their right mind thought that a heavier AWD system would improve braking distance??

    Tbh, I’ve never had an issue getting stuck with snow tires and RWD. RWD also reduces your car’s propensity for understeer, and lets you correct it if it does happen. Appropriate tires are obviously crucial, but people who think they need FWD or AWD for the winter just need to learn how to drive.

  58. Chris says:

    Their conclusions are hardly surprising. AWD is really only good for keeping you from getting stuck. Won't keep you from an accident if you're driving like a fool.

  59. Saul Abraham says:

    What about the difference between awd and fwd both with winter tires.. Is it worth the extra cost for awd? I live in Toronto, Canada

  60. Rich S says:

    Boy this was a poorly done test with so many variables unaccounted for. Apparently nobody at CR knows about physics. Yes winter tires are always better than all seasons and worth every penny and that's the message they should have stuck to. What was the purpose of comparing braking distances in vehicles with different weight and centers of gravity? Why choose a CRV instead of an AWD Audi sedan to compare with a Toyota sedan? Could it be because the Audi quattro is a superior AWD system in a vehicle that's closer in weight and center of gravity? Yeah lets see how that test looks but then you would have to say yes AWD is superior. They know that a quattro on Nokian snows would trounce a Camry on cheap snow tires in every category. Which brings us to other important variables like which AWD system and what snow tires? Not all are created equal and that also makes a difference. Consumer reports really dropped the ball on this, what happened to them? They were a good source of information in the past, apparently that's not the case these days.

  61. Allen Playz says:

    Imagine a RWD Camaro stuck will their summer tires cause their owners like their stock rims and don’t wanna change tires
    If you did that then you wouldn’t have read my comment cause omae moi shinderiu

  62. Frank W says:

    With winter tires on a front wheel drive you give up handling as well control and ride. A test was done proofing this and the findings show that a good set of all season would work just as well as putting winter tires on the vehicle. Other thing to consider is your driving skills. That is a major factor as well.

  63. Tito says:

    Get a Subaru!

  64. Christian Juneau says:


  65. Peter Rod says:

    all wheel drive for snow and mud must have.

  66. Clint Smitheman says:

    In temperatures below about 40F, winter tires provide better traction in all conditions versus all season tires (dry, wet, snow and ice). So with the exception of folks living along the Gulf Coast or the lowland areas of the Southwest, everyone should be using winter tires in the United States during the cold season.

  67. Shaunn Hartmann says:

    I see there are a lot of comments about tires… If someone can't afford tires, this video is for them. I have a 2013 Outback and traction control has came on when my tailend was slipping out. It was on a curved merge lane, and happened just before I straightened out the wheels to drive straight. I purposely let off the accelerator so I wouldn't understeer. Not too many FWD vehicles, that I know of, have rear traction control.

  68. Lori Stone says:

    My driveway is steep and the AWD lets me get the RAV4 in the garage when it snows. Other than that, I rarely use the AWD.

  69. Daniel St-Denis says:

    Almost the same here in Québec, December to mid March.

  70. Adam Bassett says:

    why did you say things properly and not tell misinformation. All wheel drive has nothing to do with how much a tire costs, It has to do with tire and rim size and how common the tire is not what drive train your vehicle has. the tires on my honda Accord and my CR-V cost exactly the same amount, One is FWD and the other is AWD. Stop spreading misinformation. Several thousand dollar premium? Are we putting studded winter tires on a truck now? COME ON!

  71. Faust Sin says:

    Honestly every vetran trucker I have talked to has told me even if you have AWD drive like grandma so you might a well just get FWD and drive like a grandma the only one is RWD you are screwed in the snow regardless, the deciding factor is allways the quality of the tires period

  72. James Vollan says:

    I had a Subaru Forester for 16 years and I believe that ten times where the all wheel drive got me through tough situations. All wheel drive is not a cure all, sane driving using common sense helps keep you safe.

  73. Kane Viva La Kane says:

    What about people living in countries with no snowfall

  74. Shishizurui says:

    i don't know why they used a crv, its awd system from what i've heard is pretty bad should have been a legacy vs camry – I tried snow tires on my impreza because my job was having me work 6-7 days a week, it helped a little bit but it isn't noticable until the snow gets fairly deep but hey maybe someone who drives more spirited would say otherwise.

  75. AndysGeneral says:

    It's just so you don't get stuck. I never saw it as anything more

  76. CYZ Aero says:

    I was expecting a comparison of FWD vs AWD versions of the same model. Winter tires vs all season tires is clearly obvious.

  77. Dreamy says:

    The verdict? Buying Winter Snow tires is 3 times more important than getting AWD. A FWD car with winter tires is far superior to any AWD with all season tires

  78. Mr. Khan says:

    He’s reading from a board on top of the camera

  79. STohme says:

    The good formula is to use snow tires on AWD vehicle.

  80. William Kordu says:

    Ridiculous comparison

  81. Bryon Shimizu says:

    AWD vehicles need all the tires to be the same diameter. If you get a flat and need to replace the tire, you might be buying four new tires. Please write an article on this.

  82. Kimchi King says:

    So by these guys logic, a RWD Miata with winter tires is like a Subaru Forester in the snow?

  83. Daniel Bradford says:

    I lived in a state with significant winter snow (Kansas) for the first 37 years of my life. Used to pass people with AWD who had run in the ditch because they thought AWD meant they could drive as if it were July instead of January.

    Unless you're going offroad, you don't need AWD. You need winter tires and you need to learn how to drive (carefully, attentively) in snowy/icy conditions.

  84. jilo kizito says:

    Snow, sleet, ice or slush are the things we never know of in Africa.

  85. Tommy Wolfe says:

    In Florida we have torrential down pour‘s and some very poor road conditions resulting in hydroplaning, This test did an excellent job dealing with the snow & ice conditions. It did not speak to all other conditions and all four-wheel-drive’s are not created equal. Personal experience my Subaru outback has a far superior all-wheel-drive than my BMW X5.
    Consumer report needs to consider these two points and do a second YouTube.

  86. Russell Condie says:

    The psi sensors make it a challenge to swap tires.

    You must have the tires removed from the rims.

  87. C M says:

    Let's see how front wheel drive does pulling out of a snow covered parking spot, you have to shovel to get it out. Where as AWD SUV, very minimal shoveling to get the car out, just drive it out of the spot. That's when I really appreciate my AWD

  88. Eric O'Neill says:

    Living in Massachusetts and West Virginia; throughout every bad snow storm, blizzard and so on. The vehicles I see most in ditches, on the side of highways, turned over, in accidents are SUVs and cars with AWD. So many people believe that if a vehicle has AWD/4WD that it prevents them from slipping and sliding in icy/snowy conditions and often I see them drive fast in such conditions. I've always had FWD drive cars since I started driving. The cars that I've owned that handled the best in snow with good all season tires were cars you wouldn't expect to do well in New England and West Virginia blizzard conditions.

    2013 Prius V (wagon) I'm thinking because of the higher ground clearance than the standard Prius, plus the added extra weight of the body, plus weight of the battery pack in the rear. I've driven through two bad snow storms, cut through 7 inches of snow and cleared small snow banks without losing traction.

    1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais. This little car was a beast in the snow. I driven this little car through countless blizzards , snow storms, northeasters, cut through a foot of snow and never once did I get stuck. The car was small and light, and the ground clearance was nearly 6 inches.

    2008 Scion XB. Like the Oldsmobile, I've driven through countless blizzards, snow storms, northeasters both in Massachusetts and West Virginia. Even though it had low ground clearance, it cut through the snow like butter, even on all season tires. Only got stuck once trying to make it up a mountain road that was layered in ice.


    1989 Chrysler New Yorker. Car was big, heavy and was crap in the snow. Great car when there isn't snow and I actually enjoyed owning it, but it wasn't a good winter car.

    1999 Oldsmobile Cutlass I had didn't last long enough to make it winter. Bought has a cheap clunker to get to work. Lasted a few months.

  89. Michelle Marie says:

    Ok then get an AWD car with really good winter tires

  90. Rick T says:

    Dear CR, Camry vs. CR-V => Apple vs. Orange what's wrong with this comparison???

  91. Jimmy Ng says:

    Just use winter tyres with AWD. Perfect combo. So the answer is yes, you need AWD

  92. azaquihel says:

    I'm super confuse, i got 12 years of driving on harsh winter conditions( Rockies , 10K elevation, average of 350 inches of snow per season ) and i drive with fwd and all season tires…..that i change every 2-3 years( because i am poor). I usually got stuck on the parking lot when the plower buries my car, 2 or 3 times per season, i am talking nissan stanza, vw jetta, and currently mazda 3, i have never been involved in an accident, if you can't slow down, for a few hours per season , if you don't understand momentum, or snow conditions and how to drive on dry snow, ice or slush……please, for the sake of all of us, go and expend as much money as you can in your vehicle

  93. Robert Cruz says:

    BS I love my Subaru,

  94. Brian Rener says:

    What about the newer all season tires with the snow symbol rating ? We got a set last year and they seem to be a nice choice between regular all season and pure Snow tires.

  95. rockybernina says:

    Last year when it snowed 18 inches over night. People in my complex couldn’t even move their cars. I with 4×4 just scooted past them with ease.

  96. Leslie says:

    short answer, no. long answer, also no.

  97. FallenStarz649 says:

    Maybe using an actual vehicle made to drive in adverse conditions would be a better idea. A CRV is basically a Civic with all wheel drive.

  98. RICARDO DIAZ says:

    So for someone who Travels a lot from California to Arizona and we don't deal with Snow, would you recommended to Not get AWD? Asking for a Friend 😉🙈

  99. David Mason says:

    No it is just something else to tear up. I might consider it if I lived in a snowy state. Down south we rarely have snow and the few times we did the fwd worked fine. Buying an AWD here is just an extra expense and they are less reliable.

  100. Anthony Flynn says:

    Anyone who lives in a snowy climate who does not use winter tires is a complete moron who should be fined for reckless endangerment.

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