Guide to Buying an ATV or UTV

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While most Off-Road.com readers are truck and Jeep enthusiasts, a good number of our readers are also into ATVs or UTVs. And for those of you are are considering investing in one of these lighter weight off-road vehicles, we figured we’d help try to help you figure out where to start.

The first thing you need to figure out is what kind of vehicle do you want? Your two main classes are ATVs and UTVs and each of those has its own sub-classes.

Let’s look at ATVs first. When it comes to ATVs, you’ve got two main choices: Sport or Utility.

Sport ATVs

Sport ATVs are more compact, rev higher and like to go fast. The suspension will likely be stiffer than on Utility ATVs, but good Sport ATVs offer fully adjustable suspension so you can set it up suit the type of riding you like to do. Back around 2007 and earlier, the choices in Sport ATVs were vast, as a half dozen manufacturers offered 450cc machines with manual transmissions. Fast forward to today, and the Sport ATV market has largely dried up. The Yamaha YFZ450R is the lone remaining ATV in that 450 class. But there are still options. The Yamaha Raptor 700 family holds on to the manual transmission, but offers a more grunty engine and comfortable suspension that is absolutely at home in the sand dunes. The Honda TRX250X is the only other adult-sized traditional Sport ATV available and it is a good choice for beginners, but its smaller engine may not keep the attention of more experienced riders for long.

Both Polaris and Can-Am offer a modern take on Sport ATVs. More powerful and heavier than the traditional Sport quads, the Polaris Scrambler and Can-Am Renegade have a chassis reminiscent of a Utility ATV and forego the manual transmission in favor of a CVT. They also benefit from four-wheel drive, so they are better suited to playing in the rocks and mud. They’ve also got engines ranging from 570cc to 1000cc, so power is plentiful.

Sport ATV Models

  • Yamaha YFZ450R/Raptor 700
  • Honda TRX250X
  • Polaris Scrambler
  • Can-Am Renegade

Utility ATVs

Utility ATV

Don’t let the name here fool you. Yes, Utility ATVs can be a huge help on the jobsite or farm, but they can make for fantastic trail machines when the work is done. You’ve also got a huge variety of options from every major Japanese and North American brand – not to mention a couple of notable overseas manufacturers.

As you might expect, there is a big range in powerplants for this category. Adult-sized Utility ATVs include the 229cc Honda FourTrax Recon, the 1000cc Can-Am Outlander, and many more in between. Anything in the 450cc to 600cc range makes for a great choice for newer riders, as the power in manageable, but there is still enough on hand to keep you coming back to ride week after week.

Utility ATVs also give you the ability to carry gear hundreds of pounds of gear on the front and rear racks and the ability to tow up to 1500 pounds or even more via receiver hitch in the rear. You can also find some models from Polaris, Can-Am and Arctic Cat with a rear passenger seat. And if you really need to get some work done, you can find some six-wheel drive models, along with a couple of ATVs with a cargo bed in place of a rear rack.

Utility ATV Models

  • Polaris Sportsman
  • Can-Am Outlander
  • Yamaha Grizzly/Kodiak
  • Honda FourTrax (Foreman/Recon/Rincon/Rancher)
  • Arctic Cat Alterra
  • Suzuki KingQuad
  • Kawasaki Brute Force

Sport UTVs

Sport UTV

The category that gets the most press these days in Sport UTVs. This category started years back when people started modifying the old Yamaha Rhino to make them faster and sporty. Polaris took notice and came to market with the first ever factory Sport UTV – the Polaris RZR. In recent years the other brands have followed suit. The Can-Am Maverick has gone toe-to-toe with the RZR and they’ve pushed each other to new heights in suspension technology and horsepower. Arctic Cat, Yamaha, Honda and Kawasaki have all introduced Sport UTVs of their own.

You can find Sport UTVs with single row seating for two or dual row seating for four. And there are Sport UTVs designed for specific purposes. You’ll find 50-inch wide models designed for tighter trails and massive 72-inch wide machines for pure speed and handling performance.

Bottom line – if pure fun with one or more of your friends/family is what you need, a Sport UTV is for you.

Sport UTV Models

  • Polaris RZR
  • Can-Am Maverick
  • Arctic Cat Wildcat
  • Yamaha YXZ1000R
  • Honda Talon
  • Kawasaki Teryx KRX 1000

Utility UTV

Utility UTV

Utility UTVs, as the name implies, are machines designed to work. And while you can still take these out for a little fun, there are limitations due to their size and suspension set ups that can affect performance.

How good are Utility UTVs at working? The biggest ones can carry 1000 pounds or more in their dumping cargo beds and tow another 2000 or 2500 pounds out back. They can also carry as many as six people.

Beyond the traditional ATV manufacturers, the Utility UTV segment also has offerings from tractor companies like John Deere, Mahindra and Kubota. But the most popular Utility UTV is the Polaris Ranger. It has models that can carry two, three, four or six passenger across a wide array of price points. But Polaris is far from along, as machines like the Kawaskai Mule, Can-Am Defender, Yamaha Viking, John Deere Gator, and Arctic Cat Prowler are all well suited to getting the job done.

Utility UTV Models

  • Polaris Ranger
  • Can-Am Defender
  • Kawasaki Mule
  • Yamaha Viking
  • Arctic Cat Prowler
  • John Deere Gator
  • Kubota RTV
  • Mahindra Retriever

Sport-Utility UTVs

Sport Utility UTV

If you are looking to combine the joy of off-roading with friends and doing some work around the property, a Sport-Utility UTV is where we would recommend you start looking.

This is the newest class of vehicles, but there are plenty of options. These machines can still hold hundreds of pounds of gear in their rear cargo beds and tow 1500+ pounds out back, but they also have excellent trail manners and adjustable suspensions. They aren’t quite as sporty as the pure Sport UTVs, but they can certainly keep up on a spirited ride. And they make for excellent camping companions.

All of the major manufacturers have Sport-Utility UTVs, except for Suzuki, which has yet to produce any UTV at this point. This is the category that is likely to appeal to largest group of people, as it truly offers the best of both worlds.

Sport-Utility Models

  • Polaris General
  • Can-Am Commander
  • Yamaha Wolverine
  • Honda Pioneer
  • Kawasaki Teryx
  • Arctic Cat Havoc

How To Buy an ATV or UTV?

Utility ATV Polaris

Now that you know what you want, it’s time to come up with a game plan for buying your new machine. Of course, you can always visit your local dealer to see what they have in stock. But just like with trucks, a new ATV or UTV is not going to come cheap.

One worth alternative is online classifieds. The “ATVs For Sale” section on our sister site ATV.com is a great place to start. Not only can you find vehicles all over the country, but you can search by brand and category.

If you do find the ATV or UTV you need in the classifieds, we’d suggest doing so only if it’s located within a few hours of your home. This way you can see the vehicle in person before you hand over your money. Buying a used ATV or UTV puts the onus on the buyer to make sure the vehicle is in good working condition and hasn’t been run ragged.


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