2x4 vs 4x4 - Which is better?

You’re planning a road trip, but you aren’t sure about what vehicle to drive. 2×4 vs 4×4 – which vehicle is better? There are many things to take into consideration. A major factor to account for is how much off-road driving you will be doing. Terrain also plays a huge role when it comes to deciding whether to hire a 2×4 or 4×4 vehicle.

If you want to go on your own adventure through Africa, you might want to have a look at 4×4 hire to find the best vehicle for your adventure.

2×4 Vehicles

Standard Cars

Two-wheel drive (2×4) is where 2 wheels use one axle to drive 4 wheels. Two-wheel drive also uses only one differential. This is what standard cars use.

Push and Pull

Two-wheel drive (2×4) are basically just used for you to be pushed or pulled along a tar road. Two-wheel drive is not ideal for slippery or muddy conditions – you have less control (traction).


Energy goes to the least resistant wheel, which isn’t ideal for off-road situations when driving a 2×4. If you are off-road and one wheel is on the sand and the other is on a rock, the energy will only go to the one wheel, causing only that wheel to turn. Thus leaving you stuck. When both tyres are on a tar road the resistance is the same.

Differential Locks

2WD has differential locks (diff locks) added on which locks the back wheel and gives you that extra traction that you wouldn’t get because of the slipping of the differential. – The wheels need to turn at different speeds. But it still doesn’t have 4WD. It doesn’t have a second gearbox, so doesn’t have a low range and high range – only has the diff lock to help out a bit.

4×4 vehicles

Two Differentials

Four-wheel drive (4×4) is where 4 wheels use 2 axles to drive 4 wheels. The four-wheel drive uses two differentials. 4x4s can drive both wheels at the same time, so it splits the energy and gives you that kick to drive off-road. 4×4 sends energy to the front and the back wheels.

Hub Locks

Hub locks can lock the hubs and is used to prevent axles from snapping. They need to be locked when going into 4WD. You need to do this manually. When you disengage from 4WD into 2WD again, it’s important to free the hub locks because you’re driving much faster and high speed will destroy it. When you change from 4WD to 2WD, it must be a mental process that you take the hub locks off.

Two Gearboxes

4x4s have two gearboxes, but some vehicles have a permanent four-wheel drive where a second gearbox isn’t needed. Four-wheel drive and the low range gearbox are the main aspects of off-road vehicles. This combination gives you a range that can get you pretty much anywhere.

Three Range Gears:

  • 2H (two-wheel drive high range)

Two-wheel drive in high gear is found in normal cars which drive on tar. With a 4×4 vehicle, you can change to two-wheel drive to drive on tar after being on a trail.

  • 4H (four-wheel drive high range)

This gear is used when you want more traction. The terrain where this gear is used is on: sand dunes, a sandy road or a dirt road.

  • 4L (four-wheel drive low range)

This gear is used when you need the most traction. The terrain where this gear is usually used is rock hopping, sand dune driving or tough rocky road driving.   Hopefully, this comparison makes choosing between a 2×4 vs 4×4 a bit easier. Choosing the right vehicle really depends on what terrain you will be encountering on your journey. Planning a 4×4 trip and need to hire a vehicle? You might want to have a look at 4×4 hire to find the best vehicle for your adventure.

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