ATVs vs. UTVs: Which to Buy

Planning to invest in one of these four-wheeled bad boys but can decide whether to go for an ATV or a UTV? Well, hop in, and let’s go over the major differences in the design and use of these two types of off-road vehicles so you can make a more informed buying decision.

ATV and UTV sales showed consistent upsurge over the past years, providing solid evidence of the growing popularity of these off-road vehicles. Maybe you’re planning to get one for yourself, or maybe you’re just curious and want to learn more about these awesome machines. In any case, below is a quick overview to help you get a better understanding of these rigs, from their design, use, and costs.

What Is an ATV?

Also called “quad bikes” the design concept of an ATV (All-terrain Vehicle) follows that of the motorcycle, complete with straddle-type seats, a chain, and handlebars for maneuvering. They have a small and narrow build which makes them nimbler while running and easier to transport as they can fit into the back of a pickup truck or utility trailer. Their size profile also allows them to squeeze through dense brushes and tightly-spaced trees with little to no hassle. ATVs are generally made for single-rider use, but there are two-person models available in the market as well.

When Do You Use an ATV?

ATVs are predominantly used for adventure rides and extreme sports. Their lightweight and slender body profile (as well as other features) allows riders to speed through dirt roads and obstacles and enjoy some air time while tearing through tracks and trails. Sport quads are equipped with high-performance motors and accessories, with options for upgrades and modifications for smoother and faster runs during races and rallies.
ATVs can also be used for transporting hunting supplies, game, and small farming equipment. However, because of the ATVs size, their carrying capacity is pretty limited to light cargo.

What Is a UTV?

A UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicle) or also called “side-by-side” (SxS) is a beefier version of the ATV. Unlike ATVs which are basically like a dirt bike with four wheels, a UTV is much more like a golf cart on steroids (mega-loads of steroids).
UTVs have automotive-style seating with backrests and seatbelts. All UTVs have a dedicated seat beside the driver, but there are models that have additional rows of seats at the back to increase total passenger load by up to four or six. Also, UTVs are maneuvered using a steering wheel instead of a handlebar, and have roll cages to protect the riders in case the vehicle tips over.

When Do You Use a UTV?

UTVs are primarily designed for labor and can be used in a variety of working conditions. Their huge build and spacious beds allow you to carry a variety of farming and industrial tools, and given their powerful motors you can easily attach a trailer at the back to increase the load capacity. Many farmers turn their toys into tools by attaching plows, mowers and other farming implements behind the UTV and use them as sub-tractors. UTVs can also be accessorized with a variety of aftermarket parts like racks, bed covers, and others to make them more utilitarian.
This doesn’t mean though that UTVs are no fun, because there are high-performance UTVs which are used for sports and entertainment. Just don’t expect them to make sharp turns with ease like ATVs.

How Much Do ATVs and UTVs Cost?

Generally, ATVs are more affordable than UTVs. The selling price for ATVs start around the $4,000 mark and can go all the way up to $19,000. On the other hand, a budget UTV can cost around $7,000 while the more robust models can reach well up to $29,000. In addition to the unit’s price, both ATVs and UTVs can be upgraded with a host of accessories like HID or LED lighting, audio systems, cab kits, and others. Such modifications can significantly increase a machine’s price to around $40,000 or more.

So, Which Is the Better Rig?

Both are actually great choices depending on how you intend to use them. If you are more of a recreational rider or an aspiring racer with very little need to use your off-road vehicle for labor, then go for an ATV. However, if your main reason for acquiring a machine is for farm or industrial work and perhaps take your family and friends for an occasional ride, then a UTV would be the better option. Knowing your purpose for wanting an off-road vehicle will help you determine what type of rig to purchase, as well as help you plan for future upgrades and modifications.