4WD vehicles cost more in every way:
a. More to maintain
b. Uses 10 to 20 percent more fuel; assuming that the 4WD version gets an average 17mpg and the 2WD version gets 21mpg, over 1,100 gallons of fuel would be saved per 100,000 miles resulting in a savings of over $3,600 (assuming gas at $3.25 per gallon).
c. Higher insurance; the insurance companies perceive that you may be engaging in “offroad” activities
d. Additional stresses to the vehicle’s systems, such as tires
e. Adds up to $2,500 to the cost of the vehicle
f. Rides higher off the ground, higher propensity to rollover
To illustrate this point, Honda sells an SUV called the ‘Pilot’. The ‘Pilot’ is available in a 2WD and 4WD variant in all trim levels. Honda also offers a brilliant technology (nice job Honda!) which electronically and dynamically de-activates the cylinders when not in use; for example when the vehicle is cruising at a constant speed. However, this technology is not available in the 4WD version! The implication is that the 4WD requires required more energy to power all wheels AND the additional weight (175 pounds) required to support the 4WD system. The engineers probably concluded that the 4WD system would overly stress the ability of the vehicle to potentially operate on fewer than all cylinders and thus would not enable the cylinder de-activation feature.
Dealers make a higher profit margin on the increased cost of the 4WD vehicles. Firsthand dealer comments included “this car handles better in the snow”, “we have 50 4WD’s on the lot and only 1 2WD – what does that tell you?”, “it will have a higher resale value”, and “4WD will handle better in-general”. These comments are a stretch and tried to play into emotions and sensitivities that are generated by the marketing machines. In most cases the cost of 4WD does not justify the benefit – and in-fact may cause additional financial and operational complications. If you must, buy a good pair of snowtires for winter driving and you’ll be ready for anything.”