Can I Drive My AWD (All Wheel Drive) On The Beach?

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Last Updated on September 30, 2022

I have found a lot of people asking about driving their AWD or All Wheel Drive in the sandy area, more specifically on the beach. It is important to have a proper idea about your vehicle and trails. While exploring, you may face different kinds of terrains and the relation between your vehicle and terrain should be good enough. Not all vehicle models will provide the same ride quality on specific terrain.

However, In this article, I will be discussing whether you can drive your All Wheel Drive on the beach or not. So, let’s move into the core section.

In a word, you are allowed to drive your AWD or All Wheel Drive on the beach. Although your AWD vehicle is not designed for off-roading use, you can use it for your off-roading purposes. Because the ground clearance of an AWD is good enough and the sand is neither too deep nor too soft. 

While hitting the trails, you should stay on compact sand that is hard. Without it, it is a good idea to keep your focus on the signs where people got bogged. You should stay away from the place. Otherwise, you may face danger.

Well, before you start driving your AWD on the sand, you need to learn the systems of 4WD and AWD. Otherwise, your preparation for driving AWD on the beach will remain incomplete.

Driving AWD On The Beach

Is Your AWD (All Wheel Drive) the same as 4WD (Four Wheel Drive)?

Basically, the 4WD and AWD are the same. Both models are designed for driving all four wheels of your vehicle. The specialty of AWD is that it is more capable of inclement driving conditions such as gravel, ice and sand on your trail.

The basic difference between the AWD and 4WD is the features and drive trains. In general, there are three basic groups: AWD, Part-Time 4WD and Full-Time 4WD. The torque supplement is the parameter to differentiate between systems.


  • The option to operate 2WD is absent.
  • The rear and front axle differential cannot be locked.
  • Constantly dispatch torque to all four wheels.
  • There is a downside to the brake assist and automatic CPU traction.
  • AWD holds a low range feature, is more fragile and is less effective in conditions if there is high torque needed.
  • A few AWD is part-time, driving the onwards wheel only till there is no traction loss found and torque is directed to the back wheel automatically.
  • Differentials hold the capability to limit slippage among axles in conditions where low traction exists. You will find some high-tech AWD that can provide 100% torque to the rear and front axles.

Part-Time 4WD

part-time 4wd
  • The torque is split among the four wheels evenly when the 4WD is selected.
  • Normal Operation: The vehicle is driven in 2WD, powering the backside wheels usually.
  • 4WD can be selected by electronic switching or a mechanical lever.
  • The range is low for extreme off-roading conditions.
  • Not supposed to have a differential between the rear and front axle. It limits its use of an off-road vehicle.
  • The 4WD feature on bitumen ground can result in damage and extra stress to the drivetrain.

Full Time 4WD

full-time 4wd
  • Torque is offered on all four wheels.
  • The torque is divided between two axles.
  • For different conditions, the drive train option is available.
  • Low range: For providing the multiply effect of torque, drive train gearing gets changed.
  • Normal operation: rear and front axles are split using a differential that allows various rotations among the axles when needed.
  • Diff lock: locks the middle differential up and restricts the difference of rotation between the rear and front axle in order to receive the highest traction.

How Does AWD Behave When You Take It On The Sand Or On The Beach?

Obviously, you need to be careful when you drive your AWD on the beach, especially if you are a newbie and don’t have much idea about your vehicle’s behavior. This is because of the fewer features and inadequate torque.

While driving, you have to make sure that you are avoiding all the cautions like if it is dunes or soft sand. To be honest, hard sand is the best terrain for your AWD. Because in this kind of terrain, the wheels will receive traction. 

List Of The AWDs That Have The Capability To Drive On The Sand Or On The Beach?

According to experts, most AWDs have the ability to be used on the sand. Because they hold a good ground clearance. From your end, you need to stick with the guidelines. So in short, the AWDs holding higher ground clearance are capable of driving in the sand. 

Here are a few AWD examples that hold the capability of driving on the sand or beach:

  • Jeep Renegade
  • Jeep Cherokees
  • Ford Escape
  • Ford Territory
  • Subaru XV
  • Subaru Forester
  • Toyota Rav4
  • Honda CRV

The AWD Vehicles You Should Not Drive On The Sand Or On The Beach?

Obviously, you need to know which AWD you should not take to the beach. As I mentioned, ground clearance is the main factor to consider. If the clearance of your AWD is not up to the mark, there is a high chance that your car will scrape across the sand and will kill your momentum. 

Without it, ruts created by the other vehicles’ tires on the sand will make your clearance lower. So, it’s all about the ground clearance that you need to pay attention to.


About the Author: Brian Silvestro

Brian Silvestro is the founder and chief editor of OffroadersArena. He spends his free time tending to his BMW iX SUV and explaining its merits to anyone who'll listen.

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