Off-roading is an exhilarating experience that many are thrilled to have tried. Whether it’s on sand, gravel, riverbeds, muddy tracks, or rough roads, driving through natural terrain excites adventure-seekers. And while there are different types of off-road vehicles you can use, let’s focus on the ATV and UTV – and discuss which one is better.
Both ATVs and UTVs are great, heavy-duty options for off-roading and utility work. When it comes to fun, it depends on your preference. They’re both fun to ride and are reliable for heavy-duty tasks such as hauling, towing and plowing.
Nevertheless, they have some distinctive characteristics and differences which you should consider before making a buying decision. Aside from the differing price points, one may be a better choice than the other depending on your needs and expectations.
For beginner off-roaders, choosing between the two can be confusing. This article compares the ATV and UTV and discusses the essential factors to consider before making a choice.
All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV)
ATV stands for All-Terrain Vehicle, instantly implying its use for all kinds of terrain – whether it’s on the sand, rocky paths, muddy tracks, snowy roads, or any unstable ground. ATVs are also known as “quads” and “four-wheelers,” although many ATVs today have three or six wheels.
An ATV is designed for solo riders, but some have room for two. It has mud tires and handlebars and rides similar to a motorcycle. With that, riding an ATV is more physically demanding than a UTV. You have to straddle the seat and maintain your balance, especially in challenging terrain so that you don’t fall off.
Lightweight and Efficient
ATVs also provide a more efficient way to get around. Since it has a smaller build compared to the UTV, it can easily tread through tighter spaces. The ATV’s size is also advantageous for racing, as it is lightweight and agile when it comes to taking sharp turns and quick maneuvers. As such, it’s the rig of choice for off-road racing enthusiasts. Sports ATVs can take on jumps, road bumps, and tough terrain. If you need something that delivers high performance and can handle aggressive turns, definitely go for an ATV.
However, it’s not exclusive to extreme sports aficionados. An ATV is a flexible automobile that can be used for other purposes as well. Take it on your trail escapades and camping trips to have that extra thrill and sense of adventure. An ATV’s size and weight makes it easily towable as well.
Ideal for Quick Jobs
If you want to maximize the function of your ATV, you can also use it for land mowing, light cargo towing, snow plowing, and winching. With some additional supplies, you can strap down some cargo to your ATV for transportation. If you need some work done, say around a farm, an ATV is a reliable companion as well. Take note, however, that if what you need is a heavy-duty all-around vehicle for specialized work, then a UTV might be a more useful choice.
In summary, ATVs are great for both recreational and work purposes. There are high-end sports ATVs that can hit up to 700 cc – these are usually lightweight and designed for jumps, sharp turns, and rough landscapes. But if you’re looking to get some work done, there are utility ATVs that have a bulkier build. These are primarily used for farming or hunting. There are also youth ATVs (Check price on Amazon) that range from 50 cc to 125 cc, specially designed for kids or even adults who want to have some fun on four wheels.
You should buy an ATV if you:
- Want to ride solo
- Need to traverse tighter spaces
- Need to make fast maneuvers
- Are on a budget
- Are interested in sports ATV competitions
Utility Task Vehicle (UTV)
Also called a “side by side” or “SXS,” a utility task vehicle or UTV is a larger automobile designed for specialized work. While ATVs are mainly for sports and recreation, UTVs are built for functionality and utility work. Typical work involves hauling equipment, transporting cargo, farming processes, and towing heavy loads.
Like the ATV, rough terrain is no match for a powerful UTV. The difference, however, is the design. While the ATV resembles a motorcycle, a UTV is more like a car. It has a roll cage, a steering wheel, pedals, gear shift, a passenger seat in front, and in some cases, bench seating at the back. The rear is also used as a cargo hold. Thus, it’s useful when you need room for more than one person and when you have supplies to load.
Armed forces use UTVs when traversing bumpy trails to remote areas. For instance, if there’s a need to transport medical supplies and food to an outlying mountain community, officers or medical personnel can use a UTV to get there. Often, the tracks in these areas are rough or nonexistent, but the UTV is a dependable vehicle built to handle unpredictable terrain effortlessly.
Ideal for Heavy Jobs
UTVs can also be used for construction and farming purposes. But whatever you use it for, a UTV is ideal if you need to transport large cargo, haul some equipment, or tow bigger stuff like trailers.
Fun for the Family (4-6 Passengers)
Nevertheless, a UTV’s purpose is not necessarily limited to specialized work. It’s also a popular choice for families who go on off-road adventures. With extra seats in the back, a UTV can carry a total of 6 passengers, making it excellent for group exploits. Front seats also have seat belts, making it a safer option than an ATV. Have some older adults you want to take with you? A UTV is a great choice. So basically, if what you’re looking for is family trail adventures or group camping, a UTV is a well-built vehicle that’s certain to give an enjoyable experience.
Customize Your UTV
Another good thing about the UTV is that it’s highly customizable. You can opt to have LED lights (Check price on Amazon), a stereo system, in-cab heaters, wheel upgrades, and personalized stickers. Customization and personalization are deciding factors for some buyers, and a UTV has so much room for potential enhancements.
In summary, the UTV is mainly used for heavy-duty work, but it can also be great for group riding purposes. If your primary use is for work and tasks, the UTV is the vehicle you need.
You should buy a UTV for:
- Performing heavy-duty tasks regularly
- Carrying or transporting cargo
- You need room for one or more people
- You’re interested in customization
- It fits within your budget
Questions You Need to Ask Before Choosing
Now that you know the primary differences between an ATV and a UTV, here are a few things to ask yourself before finally going through with the purchase:
- Purpose: What would you mainly use it for?
This is the first question to answer. Buying off-road vehicles like ATVs and UTVs is not a decision taken lightly, so you must first determine the purpose it will serve.
If you’re into solo riding, easy maneuvers, or sports racing, choose an ATV. But if you want a heavy-duty, stable, and functional vehicle that can handle cargo and passengers, a UTV is the better choice.
- Location: Where would you be riding?
This is another essential factor to consider. Both can handle rocky terrain, sand dunes, and generally rough paths. However, the ATV is the rig to buy if you’re going to explore tighter spaces like woody forests. Its smaller build and capability for stress-free maneuvers is perfect for cruising on space-limited areas. If you’re covering hilly zones where the path might be steep, choose the UTV over the ATV. It’s heavier and more stable, lessening the risk of flipping over and causing accidents. Plus, the seat belts provide extra safety.
- Budget: What is your budget?
Now for the million-dollar question – the budget. How much do you expect to spend on an off-road vehicle? Generally, ATVs are much cheaper than UTVs, which is not a surprise since UTVs are bigger and require higher performance. Youth ATVs start at about $300 and up, while sports ATVs can range from anywhere between $5000-$9000. UTVs, on the other hand, may cost you above $10,000.
Also, there are extra costs that come with purchasing an ATV or a UTV, including maintenance costs and any other accessories you wish to buy. Safety gear like helmets (Check price on Amazon) and protective jackets may also be necessary, especially if you’re participating in extreme sports.
Trusted ATV and UTV brands include Honda, Polaris, Can-Am motorcycles, and Yamaha.
Final Words – ATV vs. UTV
As for the question on which is more fun to ride between an ATV and a UTV, it really depends on your concept of fun – whether you like things better when you’re solo or with a group. Both vehicles can handle unpredictable terrain; the rest is up to you to decide.
Kris is an avid off-roader and outdoor enthusiast who loves to brave the elements and take on challenging terrain. He also enjoys sharing his passion and knowledge with others so that they, too, can appreciate the ride.