ATV vs. UTV: Which Should You Choose?


Once upon a time, it took a mighty pull of a cord—sometimes repeatedly—to start an all-terrain vehicle (ATV for short). ATVs of yesterday required strong arms to steer and navigate over and through their off-road environments. They were cumbersome beasts at best. Much has changed since those bygone days. If you can drive a car, you can easily operate today’s user-friendly ATVs. There are even SUV-like all-terrain vehicles called UTVs, also known as Utility Task Vehicles or side-by-sides, that can haul big loads and seat a number of passengers in comfort.

That makes these off-road kings more popular than ever. Electric starters, electronic fuel injection, power steering and on-demand 2/4WD and all-wheel drive are just a few of the many features making them appealing to a wide audience.

ATVs rank as the most popular choice for their mobility and ease of operation. Referring to ATVs as the off-road, pint-sized pickup truck of the woods accurately describes their many uses. ATVs take landowners where they can’t go on a tractor. They take individual hunters from their camp to the deer stand. Landowners use them to ride around and survey their property.

All the above holds true for the mightier UTV. The name alone implies big-time multitasking, as UTVs are beefed up versions of ATVs. Carrying passengers, heavy load hauling and more power are obvious UTV benefits.

Which is right for you? The answer all depends on budget, intended use, and believe it or not, driver age.

If you are shopping for a four wheeler ATV or side-by-side UTV, you may be kicking off your journey with the question: which is best? Read on for the answers you're looking for. 

ATV & UTV Differences

The ATV’s rugged stance, knobby tires and saddle seat are designed for a single rider. A hay bale, climbing treestand, toolbox or hunting gear can be strapped down on the rear platform. ATVs easily fit in pickup beds or on a small trailer. Size makes them beneficial for quick stops and starts while doing chores on the property. ATVs are priced several thousand dollars less than UTVs, making them more popular for all-around off-road use. Mobility is the greatest benefit. The ATV is the one-man show and perfect for basic hunting and property work. UTVs are for bigger jobs, like dropping off and picking up multiple hunters in the woods, hauling heavy loads and even pulling a 1,000-pound trailer. If you have a lot of people and gear to haul, get a UTV. UTVs really shine for covering distance. Truck-like cabs and bench seats invite passengers to lean back and enjoy a comfortable ride. Hitch up a trailer, load the bed and treat it just like a mini pickup truck. You can even accessorize them to your heart’s desire.

Operating Age

Age limitation happens to be a common reason that four wheeler shoppers are turned away. If the age of the intended driver does not fit the requirements of the model, then by law dealers cannot sell it to them.

ATVs are categorized for safety and maneuverability. One size does not fit all, which is why ATVs that are for sale at a dealer have to stick to an age limit that typically correlates with engine size. 70cc to 90cc engine sizes are for ages 12 to 15; 150cc and larger models are for ages 16 and older. Age limits are easy to find posted on safety labels that are attached to individual models.

ATVs intended for use by adults have greater speed and performance capabilities, and are larger and heavier than youth models. Sticking to the appropriate age ranges while operating off road vehicles reduces risk to the rider, and helps to ensure they can handle the vehicle effectively. 

What's Your Pursuit?

What do you plan to use it for? Most customers come into the showroom already knowing those answers based on filling their needs. Most customers are looking for an ATV that can do several things on their property, that can go places they cannot get to in a truck. The versatility of ATVs goes beyond increased access through tough terrain; fishing, hunting and doing light chores all fit the bill for ATVs. 

“It comes down to engine size, horsepower and what features the customer needs in the ATV,” says Spencer.

“ATVs have come a long way,” Spencer adds. “All you do is press the start button and it fires right up, the throttle is on the handlebar and you even have electronic fuel injection, just like your truck.”

All it takes is a boarding ramp to load most ATVs into midsized and larger pickup beds. Bigger models can ride on a common 5x8 utility trailer with ramp.

Off Road Utility

UTVs, also known as side-by-sides, get their name from their seating configuration. UTVs come in models that’ll carry two to six passengers and have payloads running up to 1,500 pounds. Power is a plus. 

“If there is anything close to a workhorse, like a pickup of off-road vehicles, the UTV is it,” Spencer sums up.

Vehicle Service

“The beauty of our locations are we service what we sell,” Spencer says. “We run off the same service and warranty computer server system as the manufacturer, so all the customer history is available to us.”

Servicing your ATV or UTV at the same location where it was sold is a benefit of doing business at Bass Pro Shops/Cabela's Boating Centers. Another benefit is the Power Pros, factory trained and certified by Textron to provide the best and most up-to-date service and technology available. Extended warranties and maintenance packages are available all in one place.

“We sell complete kits for do-it-yourself maintenance like oil and filter changes,” he says. “When they buy those at our dealership, the information is recorded in the shared system for warranty purposes.”

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