When you go to buy a utility terrain vehicle (UTV), you need to consider multiple factors. The engine and fuel efficiency are two elements that many people prioritize. However, there are other factors that should be considered.
Look into the seating capacity, towing capacity, safety features, and more. Finding the right balance of power, functionality, comfort, and budget for your specific needs is important. Test driving different UTV models on various types of terrain can help inform your buying decision. Consulting with sales staff and other UTV owners can also provide valuable insights as you evaluate the many options on the market today.
UTVs, also known as utility task vehicles or side-by-sides, are off-road vehicles with four or more wheels designed for recreation, farming, and other utility purposes. They typically have bench or bucket seating for two or four passengers and are characterized by a small open cab design with a rollover protective structure. UTVs come in a range of engine sizes and seating configurations to accommodate different uses and numbers of riders.
Smaller UTV models like the Honda Pioneer 500 have two-person seating and are powered by engines under 1000cc, making them lightweight and maneuverable for tight trails. Full-size sport UTVs such as the 4 seat rzr have four seats and 1000cc engines capable of high speeds across open terrain. Ranch and farm models like the John Deere Gator RSX860i have expanded cargo beds and side-facing rear seats for workers and gear. Custom accessories allow additional passengers depending on the model, but most stock UTVs max out at four seats with a total weight capacity of around 1000 pounds. Knowing passenger and cargo limits is important for safe operation when evaluating UTVs for purchase and recreational use.
Think about how you plan to use the ATV. Will it be strictly for recreation and trail riding? Do you need it for utility purposes like hauling cargo or towing equipment on your property? This will help determine what size and type of ATV makes the most sense. Recreational riders can often get by with a lighter and nimbler sports ATV, while those needing cargo and towing capacities will want a larger and more rugged utility model.
A key consideration when purchasing a UTV is its towing capacity, which refers to the maximum weight the vehicle can safely tow. Towing capacity largely depends on the UTV’s size, engine power, transmission, chassis strength, and other mechanical factors. Most sport-style UTVs have limited towing capacities of around 1,000 pounds or less, while more powerful utility and recreation models can tow over 2,000 pounds. Higher tow ratings allow UTVs to haul heavier loads like larger trailers, equipment, supplies, and even other off-road vehicles. When determining the right UTV towing capacity, it’s important to consider not just the maximum tow rating but also engine power, transmission gearing, tongue weight, and appropriate hauling accessories. Carefully matching the tow vehicle and trailer weights ensures safe, stable towing and avoids overloading the UTV.
Consider the types of terrain you’ll be riding on. If you’ll solely stick to groomed trails and flat surfaces, a smaller and lower-powered ATV may suffice. Those riding in mud, hills, and rough off-road conditions will want a model with higher ground clearance, a more powerful engine, and good suspension. The tires equipped also make a difference. Knobby tires provide enhanced traction in muddy or slippery conditions.
ATV engines typically range from around 50cc up to 1,000cc for high-performance sport models. If you’re a beginner or smaller rider, a 300-400cc engine should offer plenty of power. Bigger riders and those looking for more speed and torque may want 500cc and up. Big-bore utility ATVs with 700cc+ engines have tremendous hauling power but are more expensive.
Most ATVs are either manual clutch or automatic. Manual clutches require using a clutch lever and shifting, which takes more skill and coordination. Automatics are easier for beginners to use since no shifting is involved. They’re convenient but may feel slower compared to a clutch model. There are also models with dual-clutch automatics that offer performance benefits similar to a manual.
2WD vs. 4WD
Two-wheel drive ATVs are lighter, nimbler, and easier to maneuver. They work well for recreational riding and flat trails. Four-wheel drive models provide substantially more traction and control in difficult terrain and conditions. The increased traction helps prevent getting stuck and improves hill climbing abilities. They’re the best bet for utility use and challenging off-road conditions.
Reliability and Maintenance
Some ATV brands and models have better reputations for reliability and lower maintenance costs. Reading reviews and talking to other owners can provide insights into this. It’s also good to consider the availability and cost of replacement parts. Most ATVs require basic maintenance, like oil changes, tire replacement, battery replacement, and more over time.
Especially if you’re a beginner rider, look for ATVs equipped with features like speed limiters, adjustable throttle limiters, and training modes. These allow you to control the power output and top speed while you’re getting comfortable riding. Other useful features include winches, extra cargo racks, and specialty tires tailored for the conditions you’ll encounter.
Comfort and Ergonomics
Consider the overall comfort, seat design, ease of reach to controls, and riding position offered by the ATV. The controls and layout should feel natural to you. Trying out different models can help assess this. Look for a model designed to accommodate your height and body type to allow proper control and minimize fatigue.
ATV prices span a wide range, from a couple of thousand dollars for basic recreational models up to $10,000+ for high-performance sport quads or premium utility models. Set a budget and find the best ATV you can afford within that range. Factor in costs for gear like a helmet, riding apparel, and any accessories you may need.
Test drive several models before making a purchase. Consult reviews and experts for input, but choose based on which ATV ultimately feels most comfortable, capable, and fits your budget. With so many options out there, take your time to make the best decision. The right ATV can provide many years of off-road adventure and fun.