If you are in the market for a new truck or SUV, you have one big decision ahead: 4x2 vs 4x4?

While there are benefits to both drivetrain configurations, they will both have different effects on the performance of your vehicle, and it is important to understand the differences between them. 

If you have never heard those terms or are having a tough time deciding which to pick, we are here to help you out.

This post will tell you everything you need to know about 4x2 vs 4x4 drivetrain configurations, and how to choose between them. 

4x2 vs 4x4

Definitions: 4x2, 4x4, AWD, Full/Part Time

The drivetrain of your vehicle is the mechanical system that connects the engine to the wheels.

There are several different types of drivetrain configurations, each designed for different kinds of driving conditions.

Here are a few definitions of drivetrain configurations that you should know, before we get into the details of each. 

Toyota Prado120 GX470 LandCruiser in Senegal
defender ex-tec

4x4 

4x4 is the term used to describe 4 wheel drive cars. In a 4x4 vehicle, all 4 wheels are being actively driven by the engine.

4x4s are generally best at driving on slick roads or bumpy off-road terrain – we’ll get more into the uses later. 

People commonly refer to all type of off-road cars as 4x4's, regardless if they are full time 4x4's, AWD's or part time 4x4's. We will get to the definitions of all of these below.

4x2

In a 4x2, or 2 wheel drive vehicle, only 2 of the 4 wheels on the car are actively driven by the engine.

It could be the front 2 wheels or the rear wheels. These vehicles are often more fuel efficient and affordable than 4x4 vehicles. It's one of the biggest wins in the 4x4 vs 4x2 battle.

hilux camper

Part-time 4WD

A part time 4 wheel drive vehicle can be converted from 2 wheel drive to 4 wheel drive mode.

When switched into 4 wheel drive mode, the front and rear axles are synced together with a shift lever.

These kinds of vehicles are designed to accommodate for different road types and weather conditions. 

Part-time 4WD vehicles generally have a high and low speed mode.

They should be switched into 4 wheel drive mode only in necessary off-road conditions, and should only be driven on concrete in 2 wheel drive. 

toyota troopy 4x4

Full-time 4WD

Full time 4 wheel drive vehicles are more or less the converse of part time 4WD – they can operate in both 2WD and 4WD modes, but default in 4WD.

They can be driven in 4 wheel drive at all times, or switched into 2 wheel drive on smooth streets to save gas. 

4x4 vs 2x4

Automatic 4WD

An automatic 4WD vehicle will shift into 4 wheel drive automatically, when the vehicle senses that the tires are slipping.

These vehicles can be handy for someone who regularly switches between on road and off road driving, or in an area with unpredictable weather conditions. 

Superwinch vs Warn comparison
overlanders in the desert

All Wheel Drive (AWD) 

All wheel drive, or AWD, is another term that you will commonly see used to describe 4x4 vehicles.

The main difference is that an AWD vehicle supplies power to all 4 wheels all the time – there are no manual or automatic settings to revert to 2WD. 

If you're after and all-wheel-drive vehicle, you need to decide whether you'd like to have the option to choose low gear or not.

Pros and Cons of 4x2 and 4x4 Drivetrains

The best drivetrain configuration for your new SUV will depend on your priorities, budget and the type of driving you normally do.

Here are the pros and cons to both drivetrain types, to give you a better idea of how they work. 

4wd vs 2wd

4x2 Pros: 

One of the biggest benefits of a 4x2 drivetrain is the affordability.

Not only are 4x2 vehicles less expensive at the outset, they are also more fuel efficient than 4x4s, and cost less to repair and maintain. 

These are doubtless the greatest advantages.

But let's not forget the fun factor. If the vehicle is rear-wheel-drive, you can have a lot of fun with it in a safe environment. The Honda S2000 is a great example for this argument.

You can also have fun with a 4x4, but the experience is different.

4x2 Cons: 

The main downside to driving a vehicle with a 4x2 drivetrain configuration is that it is more likely to slip or get stuck in mud or sand.

Because power is only directed to 2 wheels, the wheels that are not being actively driven will not have the power to maintain control on a slippery surface. 

4x2 vs 4x4 differences

4x4 Pros: 

4x4 vehicles are great for handling slick roads in rainy, snowy or icy conditions. Because power is supplied to all 4 wheels, they have a better grip on the road and are less likely to slip where 4x2 vehicles might. 

They are also good for off road driving. 4x4 vehicles are less likely to get stuck in the mud or in deep sand.

If you are a serious off road driver, 4x4 – full time or automatic – is an absolute necessity. 

4x4 Cons: 

While 4x4 vehicles are great for driving in slick conditions and off road, there are some downsides. They are generally more expensive, because of the extra drivetrain components.

They are also less likely to be fuel efficient. It takes a lot energy to power all 4 wheels at once, so you will have to fill up the tank more regularly than you would with a 4x2 vehicle. 

Who Should Buy a 4x4 or a 4x2 Vehicle?

There are benefits to both drivetrain configurations, but it is important to understand the difference – each type of vehicle will be better for certain needs. 

A 4x4 vehicle is best for someone who does a lot of off road driving. They are ideal for driving on muddy or slick surfaces without getting stuck.

If you plan on taking your SUV camping and overlanding, or need a vehicle that can operate on outdoor farmland in any conditions, a 4x4 drivetrain is the way to go. 

Additionally, you might want a 4x4 vehicle if you live in an area that sees a lot of snow and ice.

4 wheel drive vehicles can get through high snow and drive safely on icy roads without needing to put chains on the tires. 

On the other hand, if you live in an urban area with generally dry weather conditions, a 4x4 vehicle is probably unnecessary. You will save yourself money on the initial purchase, as well as on fuel and repairs, by buying a 4x2 vehicle.

You wouldn't need to make any sacrifices with respect to space, as many SUVs nowadays come with a 4x2-only option. 

Are you planning on doing a lot of travelling with your new SUV, or not sure if you might expect snow in the future?

A part-time or full-time 4WD vehicle may be a little pricier at the outset, but it will give you the best of both worlds – the fuel saving efficiency of 2WD in urban areas, and the power of 4WD when you are overlanding or driving in the snow. 

route of landcruising adventure

Final Thoughts - 4x2 vs 4x4

Now that you understand the difference between 4x4 vs 4x2 drivetrain configurations and the pros and cons of each, you can decide on the best configuration for your new truck or SUV.

In the end, it all comes down to your lifestyle and preferences. 

For off road driving and dangerous weather conditions, a 4x4 vehicle will be safer and more practical. For urban driving on smooth roads, a 4x2 vehicle will save you money and fuel.

If you want the security of four wheel drive while still saving fuel, you may want to invest in a part-time or full-time 4WD vehicle. 

We hope this post has been helpful in understanding the benefits of 4x2 versus 4x4 vehicles. Whichever type you choose, get out there and explore safely!

At the time of writing this article, Mongolia has virtually no paved roads. 95% of the roads in the country are just dirt tracks.

Can you guess, what is the most popular car in Mongolia

The Toyota Prius...

Please let us know what do you think! We'd love to read about your experience in the comments below!