AWD vs 4WD

I’m looking to get a vehicle that will drive safely in extreme weather conditions and has a towing capacity > 3000 pounds.

Should I be looking at AWD or 4WD vehicles? What are the pros and cons?

How much “> 3000 pounds”?

Where I live most people in that position buy 4X4 full size pickups with the crew cabs. The next best thing is a Chevy Tahoe or Suburban, or the GMC versions.

I’m assuing that, like many people here you want to tow the trailer to Florida or Phoenix in December or January. That needs a sturdy vehicle.

An AWD such as the Subaru Outback cannot hack this type of work.

The Mid-Size SUV’s were designed for what you have in mind. Personally I like the Nissans and Toyota’s. Both are EXCELLENT in very adverse weather. The new Pathfinder and 4runner are rated as Class III (up to 5000lbs). Extremely reliable.

Pickups are fine IF you put a lot of weight in the bed or constantly drive around in 4wd during the winter. Pickups usually have a very light rear-end which is NOT very good for snow.

I was looking to be able to haul a loaded uhaul trailer if need be.
3000 lbs would be adequate, more would be better if I don’t have to compromise on other things

I’ve heard good things about the 4runner and was thinking of looking into that.
I assume the other Mid Size SUV’s you mention are 4WD like the 4runner?

The new 4Runner is more hardcore than the old with base models in part time 4wd only. You only get the awd feature with the upper end models.

I would look for a used pre 2010 models in 6 cyl. Ours easily handles up to 5K(no higher with the 6 cyl). It rivals many car based models in ride and handling and with a body on frame, is much stouter off road. It has a mutltimode drive train in the base model with lots of standard features (incl. power lumbar, climate control, traction and stability control) some features that the new 2010 base models don’t have.

It can do AWD open center diff. for road like a Subaru, 4wd locked center diff. like a truck for off road deep mud snow, and 2wd for a little more economy. As a bonus, it’s one of few models that allow low range in awd for tarred roads and really low gearing. IMO, they went a step backwards in the new model as far as bang for the buck. They do so much so well, they’re well worth a look from 2003 to 2009 models. I have yet to meet a road or off road condition, including glare ice, that it didn’t handle as well as any car/truck I’ve ever had. But, I do run with studded mud/snows in the winter and spring.

Thanks for your feedback on the 4Runner. It sounds like just what I’m looking for.
How should I consider mileage? What’s a typical life expectancy for these cars?

A neighbor has 240K miles on her 2002 4Runner and that’s typical of those I’ve known and kept them. They are typically solid. Mileage is to be expected in the 16 to 23 mpg range, depending upon habits. It’s all relative; there aren’t many vehicles that will tow 5000K lbs safely, handle all weather conditions, go off road and ride quite and comfortably w/o some mileage penalty. We live with it. A Prius it ain’t.

After learning more about OP’s actual plans, I concur that the 4 Runner is the best vehicle for the job, and will also have the longest projected life. These vehicles lead difficult but long lives in the Middle East, Africa and the Australian Outback. These are areas where, for instance, a Ford Explorer would not make it very far or long.

Sorry to rationalize the vehicle I own, but on the 03 trailblazer I have choices that I like. 2wd saves gas, auto 4wd engages front shaft but only kicks into 4wd as needed, lower gas mileage but works wonderful in WI winter weather, 4hi, never use, 4 lo use when towing the boat out of sand and gravel launches. I have a friend with an awd jeep that has never gotten better than 14 mpg. 2wd I get 15 city and 23 highway, awd all the time I think cuts down gas mileage and growing up on 2wd vehicles 99% of the time I am in 2wd and consider the option for my choice of fuel efficiency and knowing how it will handle a plus.

Small pick ups usually only pull about 2 thousand. It is a horsepower to GVW ratio that determins how much of a load you can tow safely. This information is available in the repair manual which every owner should buy.

I currently have 170k on my 05 4runner. I do a tuneup once a year…oil changes every 5k miles…and replaced the front brakes twice and the rears once…also replace the radiator fluid every other year…and the tranny fluid twice so far…That’s it…all normal maintenance…NO REPAIRS yet.

I’ve kept 2 Pathfinders well past the 300k mile mark with minimal repairs (less then $1500 in repairs).

AWD: Pay me now AND pay me later…

4WD: Pay me now and later, you can just leave it in 2WD until you save up enough money
to make the 4WD work again…

So right…you just have to pay for that security and capability; just like adding automatic transmission over a manual, a more powerful engine, tow package, limited slip etc. All cost more to buy and often maintain.

I would second this opinion. We have a 2003 4Runner. Ours is the V-6 and has selectable 4 wheel drive. Normally it is driven in 2 wheel drive. However, it can be put in 4 wheel drive Hi and driven on dry pavement just as in 2 wheel drive. If the going is really rough, it can be shifted into 4 wheel drive Lo where it really pulls. If the wheels start to spin, the differentials can be locked out with the push of a button and the wheels all turn at the same rate. If you are still stuck, Toyota packs a bottle of brandy in the glove compartment. I tried the extreme measure first. In 2003 there was a V-8 model as well that was always in 4 wheel drive, but did have a 4 wheel drive low and a differential lockout.
We run beween 22 and 24 mpg on the highway. We find the 4Runner comfortable for long trips.