If you live in snowy or rural areas, you might want to consider the benefits of buying a car with all wheel drive. Most cars on the market are front-wheel drive, meaning that power and turning both happen at the front of the car. All-wheel drive (AWD) cars have power going to all four wheels, and are different from four-wheel drive (4WD) cars in that all the wheels have power all of the time, whereas you can turn the 4WD system on and off in a 4WD car. The main benefit of both these types of cars is increased traction on slippery, wet, off-road and other generally uneven surfaces. Most car makers have at least one or two models that come standard with AWD systems, such as BMW (xDrive), Audi (Quattro), Mercedes-Benz (4-Matic) and Volkswagen (4-Motion). One maker, Subaru, uses AWD on its entire North American product line.
All-wheel drive provides excellent traction in the snow, and this is where most of its benefits are seen. When driving on slippery roads, AWD helps the car stick to the ground, providing more safety and security when cornering. The driver has much more control of the car, and can navigate much more easily on snow and ice than can a driver of a regular two-wheel drive car.
One thing to note about AWD cars is that they require even tire wear and symmetrical tires. This means that if you irreparably damage one tire, you usually have to buy four new tires regardless of the condition of the other three. This can get expensive.
Again, though, for areas that get a lot of snow, all-wheel drive is probably the best option for your car if you can afford it. Cars such as the Subaru Forester, Volvo S60 AWD, Infiniti G35/37x, and SUVs like the Toyota Highlander, Mercury Mountaineer, Suzuki SX4 and Honda CR-V all come in AWD, giving you that extra level of safety when you need it most.