4-Wheel Drive vs. 2-Wheel Drive Trucks

jimctrjimctr Member Posts: 2
I am considering buying a pickup truck for the
first time. I understand you can put chains on
wheels for snowy mountainous terrain in lieu of
having four wheel drive, but just how good a
substitute is this? If it is as good, how much of
a pain is it to equip your truck every winter.

Also, are studded tires as good as chain laden

I really don't want to take on the expense
of adding 4-wheel drive to the list of features
but maybe there is no suitable alternative.


  • andy_jordanandy_jordan Member Posts: 764
    If you decide to go 2wd you defintitely need to factor in the cost of a limited slip differential if you are going to be on less than ideal roads. Personally I would also include it on 4wd, but that's me.

    Chains / Studs can help, but check your local laws, they are not legal on all roads in all states, some ban them, some only allow them on unmade roads - the rules differ considerably.

    It really comes down to how much you are planning to use the truck off road, the inconvenience of putting chains or studs on your tires, or even buying a separate sets of winter tires / wheels can soon add up.
  • jmendojmendo Member Posts: 13
    Unless you really have a reason to use 4wd, such as live in the mountains of Colorado or Montana, or you drive in adverse terrain, there is no reason to pay the extra $2,000 to $3,000 dollars extra and have more things to go wrong, especially tranny problems, to obtain the 4wd option. 2wd trucks usually are a little bit lighter and can tow more and has higher gas mileage than the 4wd version. For 90% of the U.S. population, 2wd trucks would be just fine, but most people opted for the 4wd just so they either have the option to go off road in more tranverse terrain or just for props to tell their friends they have a 4x4. I own a 2wd 1999 1500 Chevy Silverado, and I am perfectly content with it being 2wd, as a matter of fact, the Z71 4wd versions are not much taller than mine and maybe have a 1 to 2 inch difference in ground clearance. That's one of the things you want in a good 4wd, and most trucks don't do very well in real offroading because they tend to bottom out and their transfer box which is even with the center of the diameter of the rear tires get hung up on things, if you want a real 4wd, buy a JEEP Wrangler Sport or a Hummer, besides that, buy 2wd.
  • quadrunner500quadrunner500 Member Posts: 2,721
    I once drove 300 miles at night in a 2wd vehicle, in a blinding blizzard, over Monarch pass, Kenosha pass and Crow hill, passed scores of stuck/overturned 4wd suvs, only to get stuck trying, failing to make it up my own driveway. When I had to park it on the street, the next morning it was buried by the snow plows, took about an hour to dig it out.

    Even here in Denver, I only need it maybe 3-4 times per year. But when you do need it, you need it right NOW.

    Off-roading is the least consideration, but the transfer case is protected in any event with a skid plate on Z71's. What's not protected is the fuel tank...

    Plenty of valid reasons for 4wd systems. If you live in rural areas where roads are dirt, they turn to mud and muck when it rains. Far more slippery than any snow or ice I have encountered.

    Chains work well, but vastly limit your speed and comfort, and are a big hassle to put on and take off.

    You don't need a Hummer or Wrangler to get up my driveway, but at times, you do need 4wd.
  • rskrsk Member Posts: 38
    I guess you never been down any logging roads. I live Ontario, Canada I also have a cottage in central Maine. I use Four Wheel drive during hunting season and to get in out of my favorite fishing holes. Most places I go never require four wheel drive however I have been places that a two wheel drive truck just wouldn't make it. I know because I have had to help pull people out of holes where they have gotten stuck with there two wheel drive trucks. When you start going through mud that is eight inches deep and the road has been torn up by logging skidders you want four wheel drive. I don't do extreme off roading in my pickup. I agree for that you want a jeep. A jeep however will never suit my needs and I don't plan on ever doing the Rubicon Trail.
  • andy_jordanandy_jordan Member Posts: 764
    Agree that a 4x4 pickup offers a safe compromise between a 4x2 and an extreme off roading machine. A compromise that is certainly appreciated in many parts of the country in adverse weather.

    BTW, rsk where abouts in Ontario?
  • rskrsk Member Posts: 38
    I live in Ottawa. Nice city not quite as crowded as TO. I like it and doesn't take very long driving and your out in the middle of nowhere.

  • gmacegmace Member Posts: 31
    I really like the low range you get with most 4WD setups. In rocky terrain, I want to go slow and not drag the truck. Leaving the front hubs unlocked and using low range is perfect. I debated on the additional cost, maintenance and insurance of the 4WD but glad I got it on a crew cab.
  • bigsnagbigsnag Member Posts: 394
    Some people can't justify the extra cost and mileage you lose. For a lot of people a two wheel drive, with a limited slip will get them where they need to go. My dad used to always say that a 2 wheel drive with limited slip was almost as good as a 4 wheel drive without limited slip. That was provided, however, that you know how to drive in slick stuff, mud esp.
  • abberaabbera Member Posts: 24
    It really depends on how much driving you do in snow, mud, etc. For most of us cityfolk (myself included) a 2wd with locking differential will keep us out of trouble as long as it is driven properly. I had a GMC with 4wd but still managed to get hung up with locking diff. by getting one front and one rear off ground. 2wd locking diff would have been just fine. If occasional chains are required to go up into the mountains, the time spent to put them on, drive with them and take them off may be well worth it as opposed to extra cost, maintenance and mileage penalty. The areas I would use 4wd for even have check points where chain installer will fo the dirty work for $20 or so. Still beats the cost over time of 4wd. SO, it just depends on you percent of time you "need" 4wd. I just took delivery on a new Silverado with 2wd and locking diff. and expect it will serve me just fine until I get tired of it. - Randy A.
  • gwmooregwmoore Member Posts: 230
    It is not how much you intend to go places where you need 4wd, it is if you EVER go places where you need 4wd.

    Been driving your truck a year and a half and are in the mountains when a freak early season storm gets you stuck. You're not going to say, "sure glad I got 2wd since I haven't needed 4wd for 18 months". That's an extreme example, but you rarely ever use that ABS braking system either. Might as well not get it. In fact, might as well pull out those seat belts, crumple zones, and air bags, they just cost a lot and weight your truck down.

    Fact of the matter, pickups have poor balance, so even if you never leave pavement, a wet launch ramp will paralyze a 2wd (seen it happen).

    Personal experience. We had a pickup with a camper on it out on a nice open hillside on a hunting trip. We weren't planning on needing 4wd, but we got an early season snow overnight. The snow melted in the morning and turned the hillside muddy. Went to leave and the 4wd did not engage. Found our very fast how worthless the truck was in 2wd. Now before you say that 4wd can fail, that's the first time I've had it happen, never heard of it happening to anyone else, and they don't make those kind of hubs anymore ('89 Dodge).

    Now to me, these situations, however rare, more than make the relatively small investment in 4wd a no-brainer. Even if you never leave the street though, it is worth it. Someone was talking about how his new GM with Autotrack probably saved him a collision on a rainy day when someone was running a 4-way stop as he was going through it, he hit the gas, and since the pickup has such poor balance, he was sure the Autotrack 4wd kicked in and saved his you know what. Get what ever you want, but don't be deluded into thinking the 2wd is just as good as 4wd, it just costs less.
  • moparmadmoparmad Member Posts: 197
    The desicion between 4WD and 2WD is really a matter of personal preference.Make no mistake a 4WD is much better in low traction situations than any 2WD.And a limited slip is nice in certain situations but remember,an open rear will generally go straight when spinning only one wheel,a limited slip will spin both wheels and then the rear end of the truck will go anywhere but straight.I use my 4WD probably about ten or twelve times a year,many times just to get out of the driveway,I feel it is worth every penny,but I can also understand that many people dont need it.
    If you do decide to get 4WD one thing to make you feel better(at least in my area)is that a 4X4 holds its value much,much better.My truck is 4X4 with an open rear end,I have never needed anything more than a quick shift to 4 Hi to get me home.I will say though that my 17,000$ truck does not see heavy offroad duty,just some muddy backroads,and an occassional Buffalo,NY area blizzard.
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    should be 4WD...period.

    A 2WD drive truck...is well.....a Station wagon with No roof!...(actually I think a wagon would be even better than a 2WD truck?)...(more weight)

    Why get a 2WD truck?...get a car man.

    For a 2WD...get a Lim.slip rear at least....a 2WD with open rear..is well....a useless truck.

    Michigan snow season has several people kidding themselves they can do just as fine with a 2WD as someone can with a 4WD.....Bull!

    I can drive very well in 2WD....but not as superior and SAFE and in control as 4WD. It's the other idiots out there who can't control themselves that we need to beware of.....and someday I may need to punch it in the snow to avoid them.....what will happen to YOU in your 2WD when Joe A-Hole is coming head on into your truck and Family and you are forced to punch it in the snow????

    I think you know the answer...

    I use it for much more than snow....but even if I didn't....My life and family/friends are worth much more than a few thousand dollars for the best option a truck can have.....

    - Tim
  • bigsnagbigsnag Member Posts: 394
    bad about 4WD, in the slick stuff, is that people tend to forget that they DON'T stop any better than a 2WD. That has gotten a lot of people into trouble. They get going and they go so well with 4WD, then they forget and all of a sudden "#%$#% I can't stop".
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157


    Actually that is a good point.....and that is also the Joe I am talking about we have to look out for!

    with 2 trannys,diffs,and drive shafts going...it does slow you down to a certain degree faster when you let off the gas....but not enough for what some morons need.

    A truck with no 4WD is like...

    - Ordering a Jim Beam and Pepsi..
    ...Eating a Resee's with NO Peanut butter inside!
    ...Going to the pet shop and NOT tapping the aquarium..
    - or think of it like the stooges and having Shemp(2WD) or Curly(4wd)
    .....Yeah Moe and Larry made due most of the time with Shemp......but it just wasn't Curly!!

    ..Now spread out..

    Nyuk Nyuk

    - Tim
  • moparmadmoparmad Member Posts: 197
    Actually a 4X4 will allow you to crawl down a slippery hill in 4 LO.Even if the truck slides some control is maintained because the tires are still turning,if you can fight the urge to hit the brakes.Also a 4X4 does give you a poor mans anti lock brake by lightly holding the gas while braking.One more tip that I was surpised many people didn't know.If you get stuck with only two wheels spinning,try lightly holding the brakes,it tricks your diffs into thinking all wheels have equal traction and has worked for me on many occassions.
  • RoclesRocles Member Posts: 982
    Ahhh....Out of all of these brutal snow stories (like a good fishing/hunting story), there must be some truth in justifying the extra cost.

    So...what does a clown in Florida, who doesn't boat, use as an reason? LOL! (oh sure--you all go into the swamp....uh huh...sure.)

    Yes, I own 4x4s but it's really do to the construction sites they're on as opposed to the MIGHTY BLIZZARDS every man seems to face while in a 4x4. If your not a manly man, generally a limited slip on a 2wd gets you by 365 days a year.
  • RoclesRocles Member Posts: 982
    due,....not "do". Damn! I was snow-blinded!! ;)
  • navy4navy4 Member Posts: 44
    It doesn't really matter. Buy what you want and can affort. And most of all, enjoy your truck!
  • navy4navy4 Member Posts: 44
  • BrutusBrutus Member Posts: 1,113
    I live in Alaska and you can get around in 2wd pickup, but there is no way that it is near as safe as 4wd. You can have limited slip and toss all the sand in the back as you want and won't even touch the added safety of 4wd. The majority of the weight of the truck is in the front with the engine and the cab. When you're trying to move that much weight with the rear wheels on slick roads, you're going to break traction for sure to get the vehicle rolling, but you also increase the potential for breaking traction with very slight accelerations at hwy speeds.

    The cardinal sin when driving on snow and ice is breaking traction at hwy speeds. If you do it with 2wd, the back end is going to fish tail and the chances of recovery at hwy speeds are not good. In 4wd, the front tires are pulling the weight. If you break traction in 4wd, all four tires break traction and the rear end isn't likely to fishtail. If you have ever had the opportunity to drive a 4wd on icy roads, it's a night and day difference from being in 2wd.

    Still, there are just as many 4wd vehicles in the ditches up here. Overconfidence is the biggest culprit. Alot of them end up there because of lane changes. The 4wd will help prevent fishtailing when accelerating, but when you are turning the front tires to change lanes, especially if there is a slight snow burm between lanes, you risk going sideways if you try to make too drastic of a lane change. The other problem is following to close. You may be confident with your 4wd, but the guy in front of you may not be. People do unpredictable, and often stupid, things in the winter. If you're behind one of those people, your evasive options are limited without risking losing control if you are followig too close. I'm a pretty agressive driver, even in the winter, but I make very gradual lane changes and try to maintain a reasonable distance.
  • moparmadmoparmad Member Posts: 197
    This topic really does boil down to personal preference.There are a million arguements to be made both ways.I think the facts are simply that four wheel drive is better than two wheel drive in low traction situations,and that most people dont absolutely need four wheel drive.It is just a damn nice luxury,kinda like power windows,door locks and air conditioning.I am also a carpenter and have used my four wheel drive on snowy NY roads many more times than on construction sites.But I'm kinda spoiled I don't do form work so I get there after the rough grade has been established.90% of the places I go in my 4X4 I could get to with a two wheel drive but it would require more spinning,more speed and more abuse to the truck.
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    So why abuse the truck and raise you blood pressure?

    Get 4WD if you get a truck....Period.

    - Tim
  • dekingkdekingk Member Posts: 44
    who doesn't have the natural ability to drive in adverse conditions. I have driven in the snow belt of upstate New York, where we get more snow than anywhere else in the US outside of the western mountains for 49 years, and have never had a problem getting around with 2WD vehicles. My present truck is a 98 Dodge Quad SB and it does just fine thank you. My thought is that the manufactureres have done a great job of convincing younger crowd that they need 4WD if it rains, and the public has taken the bait.
    To you guys who actually do go off road and slog through the mud and the muck, you don't have to remind me that you have an actual need for a 4x4. The rest of you who commute with a 4x4, too bad you don't know how to drive.
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    Somebody's a little grouchy here..

    - Tim
  • navy4navy4 Member Posts: 44
    Get the truck you want. The one that will do what you want it to and the one you can afford.

  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    with the truck you love Honey.....Love the truck you're with!

    ..(sounds like a song)

    - Tim
  • RoclesRocles Member Posts: 982
    ...even if it's a chevy, Tim?
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    ...Even is it was a Ford!

    ...Now that would have to be love to buy one of those!


    (Welcome back)

    - Tim
  • RoclesRocles Member Posts: 982
  • BrutusBrutus Member Posts: 1,113
    Nobody said you can't get around in a 2wd, but you're certainly more of a menace on the road, regardless of how great you are at driving in adverse conditions. People who drive too slow compared to the normal flow of traffic, take forever to get going when the light changes, or crawl up hills (either spinning or going so slow so as not to break traction and start spinning) are as much of a hazard as the guys who drive too fast for the conditions.

    I don't think anyone is saying that you can't do it or that those kinds of driving habits will be within the limits of the law. Then again, road courtesy has nothing to do with the law anymore than table manners do. Just my biased $.02 worth.....
  • dekingkdekingk Member Posts: 44
    4WD doesn't allow you to go any faster in snow than 2WD. In fact it is usually the 4x4s that are seen in the ditch when the going gets rough because so many hot shots think they can drive in anything at any speed with their rigs. I don't see 4x2s holding up traffic and I don't see them crawling away at intersections. It is just the attitude of some unskilled and uninformed drivers that is the real danger out there.
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    I started out that way....never ended up in a ditch though....but have calmed down since..

    EVERYONE was that way with their first 4WD.....weather you admit it or not...

    But I would still take a 4WD...over a 2WD...period..

    Actually I would never buy a 2WD truck....period.

    - Tim
  • theliztheliz Member Posts: 26
    I have owned a Mazda truck for about 9 years (over 200,000 miles) and it is 2wd. I have driven in all kinds of weather and I hauled a bed-full of furniture from Clarksville Tenn. to Charlotte NC--no problem. I think having 4wd is good but it can get some people in over their head (if the forecast is calling for a blizzard--stay home--a beer run is not worth risking your life). Besides, if you don't go off-roading 4wd is pretty much a waste. It's like having a Ferrari and never doing more than 60mph.
  • jridgway1jridgway1 Member Posts: 13
    Why do people buy Corvettes, Caddilacs, Lexus, etc. if all they need is transportation? Just buy a 4 cylinder econobox. It's style, comfort and a general good feeling. Same thing with trucks, if you like the 4x4 then what's wrong with that. Most won't ever need it but it's like insurance.... We probably get at most 2 days a year (Virginia) where I live that it snows enough to make 4x4 worth using. However, I use mine to pull a 6500lb boat and trailer up slimy ramps. 2 wheel doesn't cut it there.
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    what we need...the economy wouldn't be so damn good as it is now...

    - Tim
  • theliztheliz Member Posts: 26
    All I'm saying is to tell the truth. If you really go off-roading great--but if you're just an "asphalt cowboy" and bought the 4x4 because it looks tough, then confess. I don't go off-road and I don't pretend to be something I'm not. I admit, if I had a 6500lbs boat then I would buy a 4x4. I also think that 2wd trucks are ALOT more capable than some people think.
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    But we get enough snow here and I do enough back woods driving to warrant a 4WD.

    The extra they cost is also a good investment for re-sale....as you get just about that much extra!

    - Tim
  • quadrunner500quadrunner500 Member Posts: 2,721
    This business about buying 4x4 because it looks "tough" is something that never occurred to me. I guess that's how it's perceived by some who don't need it.

    My feeling is, if you need it, and you're not asking for it, you're asking for it!
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    The only ones that come up with these "theories" about why we buy them....are the ones that don't have them..

    - Tim
  • theliztheliz Member Posts: 26
    It's not just a theory--like SUV's, most 4x4's never leave the pavement. And we sell alot of them here in NC, where we seldom see more than 2inches of snow (except the Smokey Mts.). I have nothing against 4x4's or their owners-- I just don't think you need it to haul dirt or lumber from Lowes (even in the rain), some folks even haul boats with no trouble.
  • theliztheliz Member Posts: 26
    BTW, what states do you guys live in? I would absolutly agree that some places warrant 4wd. Of course 4wd just gets you alittle further before you get stuck--in the US Army I saw plenty of Hummers get stuck (mostly due to the driver).
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    I'm in Michigan and do plenty of weekend projects to warrant a truck.
    What am I to do?...sit around and wait for it all to be delivered?...think not..

    I even went with a 2500 as I do enough heavy hauling to warrant that. (Also wanted to try the new 6.0)

    Yes...most never leave the road....but off roading is not the only issue for a 4WD. I consider it even a safety option when you really think about it?

    I know several people that never use their truck...believe me. One has a 2500 Ram and says he would never put more than 1000 pounds in it cuz he does not want to "hurt" it?.....huh!??

    I saw a couple at the yard getting dirt...rolled back the cover to expose a perfect bed liner with not a nick on it....layed down a tarp....and stopped the bucket truck at about 1/5- 1/4 of a yard (but payed for a yard) of dirt....cuz that was all the weight they wanted to take at once with a 1500 4WD.

    Give me a break people...

    I use mine...so that's all I care..

    Good Luck

    - Tim
  • andy_jordanandy_jordan Member Posts: 764
    a fair comparison.

    A 2wd truck has a very low percentage of its weight over the driving wheels, unlike an SUV.

    Just go back and review the postings on these and similar topics any November / December - you will see all kinds of amateur hour attempts to provide more traction to the rear wheels - usually involving putting sand bags over the rear axle - but hey, they don't need 4wd!!

    And lets be honest, we all know what happens in 2wd on icy ashphalt if we want to turn left or right from a stop sign - you drive slowly so that the back end doesn't slide TOO fast.
  • theliztheliz Member Posts: 26
    It's not a question of weight over the axle when it comes to ice. A M-60 tank weighs over 40 tons--put it on ice and you have a huge green bobsled.
  • andy_jordanandy_jordan Member Posts: 764
    I'm really not too sure that that is a fair comparison either - to follow your logic, I have no idea how much my house weighs - but its pretty damn stable in icy conditions, and as relevant to a 2wd vs 4wd in trucks topic as a tank.
  • theliztheliz Member Posts: 26
    The house is stable because the foundation is NOT built on ice. The tank was a extreme example that you don't get traction on ice even if you have 4wd. I have found myself driving along fine in slush and snow but then hit some "black-ice" and slide. I'll try to keep the examples more relevant.
  • superjim2000superjim2000 Member Posts: 314
    The C3 will be out next year as a 2001,(September?) its new for '01 and since its AWD, not 4WD maybe you can get a discount from your insurance company.

    Anyway, dont quote me on this but I think if you get your GMC in 4WD I think theres a mode where you can have it on and it will act as a 2WD until it gets slippery.

    GMC's tend to be more expensive than Chevy's and should have more goodies standard. I think the C3 has 325 HP from its 6.0 when the normal 6.0 has 300.
  • wtdwtd Member Posts: 96
    I bought a 4x4 because I like the stance and I could afford it. Do I really need a 4x4? No. I live in SW MO and didn't even put it in 4x4 this winter. I like having it if I need it. If you want it and can afford it go for it.
  • andy_jordanandy_jordan Member Posts: 764
    that you cannot get traction on ice no matter how many wheel drive you have - I suspect that I have done more winter offroading than most people here and will take snow over ice any time.

    However, if the weather is that icy you don't drive - you will never, ever see me on the roads during an ice storm / freezing rain - it's just too damn stupid.

    If there are patches of black ice, frozen puddles, whatever, then you stand a much better chance of getting through it with 4wd than 2wd.

    If you slide whilst driving in a straight line it's no big deal, providing you are driving at sensible speeds and know what to do - and in such a situation it doesn't matter how many wheels are driving the vehicle. However, if you are maneuvering - i.e. all four wheels are not pointing in the same direction then the greater the ability to prevent traction loss / recover from traction loss, the better - to take the simple example of patchy ice, there is twice the chance that you will have a driving wheel on pavement with 4wd. As I mentioned at the start if there is so much ice that it forms a complete coverage, then I am not on the road.

    I am slightly confused by the direction this discussion is taking. theliz, you seem to be disputing whether 4wd is better than 2wd in marginal conditions - it flat out is, and at the risk of sounding rude it should be obvious that it is.

    Now whether 4wd is necessary for individuals, well that is down to individual applications and preferences - however, my view on this is that you are more likely to slide at a bad moment (when maneuvering) with 2wd than 4wd - if you are out of control there is a distinct possibility that you will end up off the road or in the wrong lane. I will pay the relatively small price for the security of 4wd, and use it whenever there is any doubt in my mind about the road surfaces.

    The problems start when people think that 4wd makes you invulnerable - I see more 4wd vehicles in the ditch than 2wd because drivers of 2wd vehicles know that they have to be cautious - 4wd owners think that winter doesn't exist for them.
  • mgdvhmanmgdvhman Member Posts: 4,157
    in a pick-em-up sucks....period.

    Even with extra weight over the axle...it still sux!

    "but I can go any place with a 2WD that you can with a 4WD"

    ....Keep telling yourself that....

    - Tim
This discussion has been closed.