You are currently viewing How to Tell if Vehicle is AWD by VIN

While the VIN itself doesn’t directly indicate AWD, you can often confirm it through: 1) online VIN decoders like Carfax or Vincheck, which may include it in vehicle history reports; 2) physical checks for additional driveshafts and AWD badges; or 3) consulting the owner’s manual, manufacturer, or dealership for accurate information.

When it comes to choosing the right vehicle, understanding its features is pivotal. For practical drivers, the need to determine whether a car is All-Wheel Drive (AWD) can significantly impact their decision-making process.

Imagine planning a road trip, cruising effortlessly through city streets, and conquering mountain paths. In this comprehensive guide, we aim to demystify the process of identifying AWD in a vehicle through the decoding of Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) and alternative methods.

Don’t worry if you’re not a car expert – we’ve simplified it for you. Buckle up to empower your next adventure-ready car decision!

What is All-Wheel Drive (AWD)?

All-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) are crucial features for diverse driving conditions. Unlike Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) or Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD) setups, AWD sends power to all four wheels simultaneously, while 4WD is manually engaged, typically used in off-road situations.

This simultaneous power distribution enhances traction and stability, making AWD a preferred choice for practical and adventure-driven drivers. Whether navigating slippery roads in the rain or conquering snowy terrains, AWD provides the necessary grip for a confident and controlled driving experience.”

How to Tell if a Vehicle is AWD by VIN

Understanding your car’s All-Wheel Drive (AWD) status begins with decoding its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). The VIN is like your car’s unique DNA, holding essential information about its make, model, and features.

The first three characters, known as the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI), disclose the car’s birthplace and creator. Moving on, characters 4 to 9 form the Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS), offering insights into the model, body type, engine, and series.

The last eight characters constitute the Vehicle Identifier Section (VIS), providing an exclusive ID for your specific car. To identify if your vehicle is equipped with AWD, focus on specific characters within the VIN.

The positions of these characters vary among manufacturers, making it crucial to refer to a VIN decoding guide specific to your vehicle brand. Online tools like Carfax or Vincheck simplify this process by providing comprehensive vehicle history reports, which often include AWD status.

But wait, ever heard of VIN cloning scams? It’s like a car ID theft! Learn more about protecting yourself from car title scams, such as VIN cloning, in our guide on car title scams.

Locating the VIN on the Vehicle

Let’s quickly find where this secret code is hidden in your vehicle. The post discusses various possible locations to find the VIN on a car:

  • Driver’s Side Dashboard: Typically located near the bottom corner of the windshield.
  • Driver’s Side Door Jamb: On a sticker containing other vehicle details like manufacturer name, tire and rim sizes, and manufacturing date.
  • Under the Hood: Positioned in front of the engine block, on top of the radiator, or the driver’s side firewall.
  • Spare Tire: This may be located on the spare tire itself; to check, lift the spare tire and inspect underneath.
  • Documents: VIN can be found in documents such as title records, service records, insurance cards, insurance policy documents, and through car insurance provider apps.
  • Owner’s Manual: For new cars, the owner’s manual often includes the VIN or provides information on where to find it.

Caution: Avoid relying solely on one method for AWD verification. Pitfalls may arise if using only an online VIN decoding tool. Cross-reference information through multiple methods to ensure accurate identification of All-Wheel Drive (AWD) in your vehicle.

Alternative Methods to Check for AWD

For those who prefer a hands-on approach or seek additional confirmation, alternative methods exist to verify if a vehicle is equipped with All-Wheel Drive (AWD).

  1. Physical Inspection: One of the simplest methods involves a visual check for additional driveshafts. AWD vehicles typically have multiple driveshafts connecting the front and rear axles. Inspect the underside of your car, looking for these additional components, which are indicative of AWD functionality.
  2. Badges and Emblems: While badges like “4×4” or “AWD” are common indicators, some vehicles, especially European models like Mercedes and BMW, may use terms like 4Matic and xDrive. Check the rear and sides of your car for labels such as “AWD” or “4MATIC. However, badges alone can be deceiving, as they can be purchased online.
  3. Consult the Owner’s Manual: When in doubt, refer to the owner’s manual that came with your vehicle. Look for sections related to AWD or drivetrain options to confirm your vehicle’s capabilities.
  4. Manufacturer or Dealership Confirmation: For precise and official information, consider reaching out to the manufacturer or your car dealership. They can verify the AWD status of your vehicle based on its VIN or provide additional details about the drivetrain specifications.
  5. Engine Placement: Examine the placement of your car’s engine. All-wheel-drive vehicles often have engines positioned sideways. Check the drive lines connected to the engine; if they link to both front and rear wheels, your car likely has all-wheel drive.
  6. Consult a Technician or Mechanic: Seeking professional advice is a straightforward method. Technicians and mechanics possess extensive knowledge and can quickly determine your car’s drivetrain during routine maintenance or inspections.
  7. Inspect Under Your Car: For a hands-on approach, check underneath your car. Look for the differential, a critical component in all-wheel-drive systems. If your car has two differentials (front and rear), it likely features all-wheel drive.

Whether you prefer a hands-on inspection or seek confirmation from official sources, these methods empower you to confidently identify if your vehicle truly has All-Wheel Drive.

Benefits of AWD and Considerations for Buyers

Now that we’ve explored various methods including ‘How to Tell if Vehicle is AWD by VIN,’ to identify All-Wheel Drive (AWD) in vehicles, it’s crucial to understand the benefits of having this feature and consider key factors when making a purchase.

Benefits of AWD:

  • Stability in Every Season: AWD isn’t just for extreme off-roaders; it’s your go-to companion for everyday driving. Experience enhanced stability, especially during unpredictable weather conditions like rain and snow.
  • Enhanced Traction: AWD provides power to all four wheels, improving traction and stability in challenging driving conditions like snow, rain, or uneven terrain.
  • Winter Warrior Confidence: Conquer snow-covered roads with the assurance of an AWD-equipped vehicle, transforming your car into a winter warrior that tackles icy conditions with ease.
  • Versatility for Urban Explorers: Navigate the urban jungle with ease, seamlessly transitioning between different road surfaces. AWD adapts to various terrains, giving you the freedom to explore the city and beyond.
  • Practical Assurance for Everyday Adventures: For practical drivers, AWD is not just a feature; it’s a reassurance. Enjoy a smooth, controlled driving experience in all scenarios, making every journey a confident adventure.
  • Improved Performance: AWD enhances overall vehicle performance, especially during acceleration and cornering, providing a smoother and more controlled driving experience.

Considerations for Buyers:

  • Fuel Efficiency: While AWD offers performance benefits, it can sometimes result in slightly lower fuel efficiency compared to Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) counterparts. Consider your driving needs and priorities.
    If you are looking for a fuel-efficient vehicle, check out our guide on the best cars for long-distance driving with the highest fuel efficiency.
  • Maintenance Costs: AWD systems may have higher maintenance costs. Factor this into your overall budget and consider the long-term costs of ownership.
  • Climate and Driving Conditions: Assess your typical driving conditions. If you frequently encounter snow, rain, or rough terrain, AWD may be a valuable investment.
  • Vehicle Type: Consider the type of vehicle you need. AWD is commonly found in SUVs, crossovers, and certain sedans. Ensure the vehicle type aligns with your preferences and lifestyle.


Deciphering All-Wheel Drive (AWD) is now within your grasp. Armed with insights into VIN decoding, cautionary tips, and buyer considerations, you’re ready for a confident car purchase.

Whether it’s conquering diverse terrains or ensuring safety, AWD offers a world of benefits. Navigate your car-buying journey wisely, embracing the power and versatility that AWD brings to your driving experience. Safe travels!

Additional Resources:

For further exploration, utilize the following resources:

These tools offer valuable support in your journey to decode Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) and gather comprehensive information about your prospective All-Wheel Drive (AWD) vehicle.


What is all-wheel drive (AWD)?

AWD is a drivetrain system that can send power to all four wheels of a vehicle. It enhances stability and traction, especially in challenging weather conditions.

Should I check the owner’s manual for AWD information?

Yes, the owner’s manual is a valuable resource. Look for a dedicated section on AWD in the “Features” or “Drivetrain” part of the manual.

Are badges a foolproof way to determine AWD status?

Not necessarily. Badges like “4×4” or “AWD” are common, However, badges alone may not guarantee AWD, as they can be purchased independently.

Can I trust interior controls to determine AWD status?

Many SUVs and trucks have interior controls for AWD settings, allowing drivers to engage different levels manually. However, some modern cars have automatic AWD engagement, making it less apparent through interior controls.

Are 4WD and AWD interchangeable terms?

No, 4WD and AWD refer to distinct drivetrain systems. 4WD is often associated with off-road capability and manual engagement, while AWD is linked to automatic, on-demand power distribution for enhanced on-road performance.


  • Naveed Ahmed

    Hello there, I'm Naveed Ahmed, an experienced auto industry blogger with over 5 years of experience. My passion for cars and trucks started at a young age, and I've been writing about them ever since. I strive to provide readers with accurate, up-to-date information that can help them make informed decisions when it comes to buying, selling, or transporting their vehicles. As an expert in the auto industry, I'm always keeping an eye on the latest trends, innovations, and changes in the market. When I'm not writing about cars, you can find me tinkering with my own vehicle or exploring new scenic drives. I'm also a big fan of classic cars and enjoy attending car shows and auctions.

  • Justin Smith

    Justin Smith is a highly skilled freelance writer with over three years of experience in content editing, writing, and SEO. Specializing in the automotive industry and car trade insights, she delivers valuable and engaging articles. With a passion for cars and a focus on keyword ranking, Justin Smith's expertise empowers readers to navigate the complexities of buying and selling vehicles. Choose Justin Smith as your trusted author for authoritative car trade insights.