What Is Rear-Wheel Drive? – The Pros And Cons

What is Rear Wheel Drive?

Rear-wheel drive (RWD) is a form of engine and transmission layout used in motor vehicles, where the engine drives the rear wheels only. Until the late 20th century, rear-wheel drive was the most common configuration for cars. Most rear-wheel drive vehicles feature a longitudinally-mounted engine at the front of the car.

Rear-wheel drive (RWD) means that the power from the engine is delivered to the rear wheels and the rear wheels push the car forward. The front wheels do not receive any power and are free to manoeuvre the vehicle. Due to the weight of an RWD vehicle being more evenly spread than an FWD vehicle, creates a better balance of weight.

This is why most sports cars such as the Corvette and Camaro are RWD and are more exciting to drive. The disadvantage of an RWD vehicle is that they do not perform well in poor weather conditions such as rain or snow because they are more prone to loss of traction on slick roads.

Vehicles that feature rear-wheel drive are a bit more complicated. Power is transferred from the transmission to the rear wheels by way of a long driveshaft to a differential. RWD vehicles handle much better than front-wheel drive vehicles and you will notice the difference in curves, turns, and when navigating through traffic situations. Traction won’t be as good, especially in wet or snowy road conditions.

Rear-wheel drive vehicles are better for towing because the front wheels have better steering without a ton of weight on them. Plus, with the power transfer and the tongue weight of the trailer, the rear of vehicle squats, which gives the rear wheels more traction. If you get stuck, adding weight over the rear wheels may help.

Rear-wheel drive vehicles sometimes feature 4×4. When you put the vehicle into 4×4, the vehicle will get power to all four wheels as needed.

Rear-Wheel Drive

How Does a Rear-Wheel Drive Work?

The most common setup in rear-wheel drive vehicle involves having the engine at the front of the car connected to a driveshaft that sends power to the rear of the car. This arrangement dominated cars built in the twentieth century for several reasons:

  • Body-on-frame vehicles have more space under the vehicle because of the frame rails, making it more practical to run a driveshaft under the vehicle for power. Most modern cars are not body-on-frame, and generally have a lighter unibody design with a lower center of gravity.
  • As mentioned above, the rear wheels handling all of the power with the front wheels handling all of the steerings is straightforward, meaning it was cheaper to manufacture and simpler to service.
  • The engine at the front of the vehicle put something substantial in front of the driver and passengers if the vehicle hit something head-on.

Performance vehicles often use the rear-wheel drive for consistent and sharp handling. In mid-mounted and rear-mounted engine vehicles, power usually goes to the rear wheels to save weight and put the heavy engine over the driven wheels for better traction.

The fact that rear-wheel drive has been used for so long means the technology has improved dramatically over the years. Issues like oversteer (the rear of the vehicle losing traction in a turn) and poor traction in slick conditions are less frequent in modern rear-wheel vehicles.

What vehicles use rear-wheel drive?

  • Large sedans and family cars: While many large cars and vans use front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, many sedans and wagons mid-size and larger come in rear-wheel drive.
  • Trucks and SUVs: Most body-on-frame trucks and SUVs use rear-wheel drive as standard. Most will have an option for a four-wheel drive. Commercial trucks and vans use rear-wheel drive as well.
  • Sports and performance cars: Many car enthusiasts still prefer rear-wheel-drive vehicles for their handling characteristics and power delivery.

Advantages of Rear-Wheel Drive

  • During dry conditions, rear-wheel-drive improves handling due to “load transfer” in acceleration and more even weight distribution.
  • Rear-wheel drive tends to have less costly maintenance since there aren’t as many parts packed into a small space. Front-wheel drive repairs and maintenance may cost more since they have to remove more parts for workable access.
  • You won’t experience “torque steer,” the tendency that FWD vehicles have to veer to the right or left during acceleration.
  • Towing large loads is easier since the wheels doing the pulling are located closer to the load. Also, steering is much easier since the back wheels are providing the power while the front wheels do the work of steering.
  • While drifting is not recommended for most drivers, it is easier to drift with RWD than FWD or 4WD/AWD.

Disadvantages of Rear-Wheel Drive

  • The rear-wheel-drive may be more fun to drive, but it also makes it more difficult to master. With modern stability and traction controls, however, the driving differences of RWD don’t present a problem for most drivers.
  • There is less interior space due to more room needed for the transmission tunnel and driveshaft.
  • There may be less trunk room since more equipment must be placed underneath the trunk.
  • The driveshaft, which connects the front engine to the back axle, adds more weight. RWD weighs slightly more than FWD, but less than 4WD and AWD.
  • Additional materials translate to a slightly higher purchase price.
  • Since RWD pushes the car rather than pulls it, it has more difficulty maneuvering in wet and snowy conditions. With modern technology, such as stability and traction control, however, this disadvantage is greatly reduced.


What is rear-wheel drive?

Rear-wheel drive is most commonly found on sports cars and performance sedans. Rear-wheel drive is used exclusively in all categories of motorsport where it’s allowed.

It’s considered the driver’s performance as a trained and experienced driver can utilize the power being put down by the rear wheels to help steer the car through turns. You’ll find that rear-wheel drive cars typically have featureless interior space.

What is rear-wheel drive used for?

Rear-wheel drive is used exclusively in all categories of motorsport where it’s allowed. It’s considered the driver’s performance as a trained and experienced driver can utilize the power being put down by the rear wheels to help steer the car through turns.

Which is better RWD or FWD?

Most of the time, front-wheel drive cars get better gas mileage because the weight of the drivetrain is less than that of a rear-wheel vehicle. FWD vehicles also get better traction because the weight of the engine and transmission is over the front wheels.

What is rear wheel drive good for?

It also improves traction since the weight of the engine and transmission is directly over the driven wheels. Rear-wheel drive generally offers better initial acceleration than front-wheel drive because weight is transferred to the rear of the car upon accelerating, which boosts traction.

What rear wheel drive means?

The term rear-wheel-drive refers to a powertrain distribution system that places rotational propulsion on the rear wheels only. Although this was the most common type of driving configuration until the end of the 20th century, today most automobiles are front-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive.

Which is better AWD or RWD?

Because an All-Wheel Drive car only transmits half of the driving force at each wheel, the amount of grip available for cornering forces is greater than a Rear-Wheel Drive car for the same level of engine power. Means that the best AWD car will lose sideways grip at much higher cornering forces than the best RWD car.

Is rear wheel drive good in rain?

As anyone who has owned one will tell you, RWD cars are at their weakest in poor weather rain, and snow. Even with modern traction control, an RWD car is more prone to loss of traction on slick roads. In snow, RWD cars are the best-left home.

What is the disadvantage of rear-wheel drive?

The disadvantage of an RWD vehicle is that they do not perform well in poor weather conditions such as rain or snow because they are more prone to loss of traction on slick roads.

Is RWD good in snow?

Rear-wheel drive is not the best choice for snowy roads because rear-wheel drive vehicles tend to oversteer or fishtail, both of which are very dangerous. The majority of cars sold in the United States are either all- or front-wheel drive, both of which are safe driving options for snowy conditions.

Why is rear-wheel drive more fun?

Partly, it is oversteering that makes rear-wheel drive cars more fun, because there are few things as satisfying, and heart-fibrillating, as catching and correcting an oversteer moment, or, if you’re on a track and in possession of the necessary skills, holding a rear-wheel slide.

What cars are rear-wheel-drive?

Top 10 best rear-wheel-drive cars 2022

  • Mazda MX-5.
  • Porsche 911.
  • BMW 3 Series.
  • Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.
  • Jaguar XE.
  • Alpine A110.
  • McLaren 720S.
  • BMW i4.

Is rear-wheel drive the same as 2WD?

In the 2WD, the vehicle drivetrain system sends power only to two wheels of the car. If the power is sent to the front wheels, the vehicle is called a Front Wheel Drive. But when the power is sent to the rear wheels of the car, it is called Rear Wheel Drive.

How do you rotate tires on a rear-wheel drive car?

For vehicles that are 4-wheel, all-wheel, or rear-wheel drive, the rearward cross pattern is recommended. Rear tires are moved to the forward axle and kept on the same side of the vehicle while the front tires are moved to opposite sides of the rear axle.

Are rear-wheel-drive cars better?

Rear-wheel drive cars have better balance than front-wheel drive cars. Because the balance is better, the handling of the car will be better. Front-wheel drive cars have most of the weight of the engine and transaxle over the front wheels.

Do RWD cars need tire rotation?

For FWD or RWD cars, tire rotation needs to be performed every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. Be sure to consult your owner’s manual for exact figures. FWD Tire Rotation: Flip sides when moving the rear tires to the front. For example, the rear right tire will go on the front left side.

How often rotate tires RWD?

When to rotate tires for FWD or RWD cars should be every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. Again, though, you can check your owner’s manual to confirm this. Carrying out an FWD tire rotation at home? Be sure to flip sides when you move the rear tires, i.e., the rear right tire should go to the front left.

Is rear-wheel drive bad?

Because rear-drive vehicles have their drive wheels in a lighter part of the car than front-drive vehicles, they’re more prone to fishtailing. In this situation, a driver turns the wheel during acceleration, and the car’s rear wheels start to push it into a difficult spin.

What’s the best rear-wheel-drive car?

The 10 Best Rear-Wheel-Drive Cars You Can Buy:

  • Chevrolet Camaro.
  • Ford Mustang.
  • Genesis G70.
  • Jaguar F-Type.
  • Kia Stinger.
  • Mazda MX-5 Miata.
  • Porsche 718 Cayman/Boxster.
  • Toyota GR 86 and Subaru BRZ.