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How to Choose an ATV for Beginners

For beginners, mastering the nuances of ATVing can be thrilling yet daunting. Hence, finding the perfect balance of dependability, safety, and comfort in a quad is paramount. A brand-new 250cc typically fits this bill. However, your debut four-wheeler does not have to be confined within the limits of a certain price point or class.

When choosing a beginner ATV, it is crucial to consider size, basic features, safety, utility, and upkeep. Additionally, always opt for a reputable brand whether buying a new or used quad. This way, you are guaranteed a wise investment and a choice you will not regret.

As this guide aims to underscore, purchasing an ATV as a beginner involves more than just picking a flashy ride. It is about matching the machine to your preferences and needs. Let us delve into key factors for finding your ideal weekend warrior.

Two ATVs Parked Near Forest

First, Understand ATV Basics

In a previous post on the Most Reliable ATVs on the Market, I covered in detail the main niches in the ATV landscape and the creme de la creme per sub-segment — from entry-level to high-performance models. However, depending on your skill as a rider, it may be unnecessary for you to sift through all those recommendations.

Novices are generally advised to try entry-level, youth, utility, and sport-utility trims. These trims are more forgiving and a better platform for learning to drive an ATV. But if you are confident in your skills and would like to get your hands on a sport quad, a small-displacement model would be a good place to start.

Still, regarding riding skills, your first ORV could be a modest 200cc youth quad or a more robust 450cc machine like the Polaris Sportsman. It really depends on your prowess and heft — in addition to your personal preferences. You can even go as far as riding a Yamaha Raptor 700. However, beginners should err on the side of caution and avoid going beyond 450cc on their first machine.

Have a Prospecting Checklist

Once you have a good grasp of ATVing fundamentals, the next step is creating a checklist for your beginner quad. Like the above, I have discussed this topic in length in another post on Essential Tips for Buying an ATV.

Irrespective of your skill as a rider, certain factors must be considered if you are to decide on a machine that will outlast your off-roading needs. These include upkeep and repairs, size and engine capacity, customization, dealer selection, and insurance.

There is also the question of whether the quad is solely a personal purchase or one you intend to pass down to younger children. The same goes for reselling the machine at a later time. If it were the latter, you may need to be more careful with your choice. These factors could also determine whether going for a used machine versus a new one (or vice versa) would be more practical.

Avoid Fancy Features Until More Experienced

A couple of shared blunders among ATV riders are impulsive buying and being overly eager with their first-time purchases. While these are ‘happy’ problems to have and often signify the absence of budget constraints, it does not change the fact that some wish they had done differently with their debut machines.

Choosing the right beginner ATV entails extensive research and patience—two things that impulsive buyers lack. It also does not help to be near an auto dealership when you have this tendency, as it only makes it more convenient to succumb to the habit.

In the same breath, it can be tempting to want all the bells and whistles in your first-ever ORV — with the mentality that more features equate to a more reliable quad. But for riders just beginning to learn the ropes of ATVing, it does not make sense to have fancy features they do not fully understand or use.

Hence, the most logical thing to do is to veer away from powerful, flashy engines and features until you have gained more off-roading experience. This ensures that you are closer to the goal of procuring a machine that is age and skill-appropriate and will not be a cause of regret in retrospect.

Have Purpose in Mind When Shopping

You should have a solid idea of the intended application of your soon-to-be four-wheeler. You may ask yourself: “Am I aiming to ride casually?” “Do I intend to take the sport more seriously once I have learned the basics?” These are non-exhaustive but should be a good reference for your ATV selection process.

When it comes to application, a big part of it is considering the type of terrain you are most likely to traverse. This aspect should never be overlooked, as it often leads to complaints and dissatisfaction. Not to mention that knowingly riding an ATV on unsuitable terrain compromises its off-road reliability.

Application goes hand in hand with safety features — a factor that should not be prioritized only for youth quads. Depending on your age, off-roading savvy, and confidence in your riding skills, you may need more of these safety features or just the bare minimum, like effective brake levers (view on Amazon) and throttle limiters.

Consider the Quad’s Upgradability

If your ATV purchase is meant for the long haul, then customization becomes a crucial consideration. Not all ATV models have an extensive aftermarket support. Hence, you must research the machine’s upgradability before your scheduled purchase.

Youth ATVs leave much to be had in this aspect. But if you opt for a reputable pure-sport or sport-utility machine as your debut quad, your options are almost limitless. Some things to look into are the wheels, subframe, storage, brakes, suspension systems, and compatibility of the four-wheeler with third-party modular attachments like the Kolpin ATV Flat Rack (view on Amazon).

Check Out Available ATVs in Your Vicinity

To choose the best ATV for your needs, you can browse local listings on online platforms like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and ATV-dedicated forums. These platforms often offer many options where you can filter based on your preferences.

You can also visit dealerships in your area to see their inventory of new and used ATVs. The good thing about this route is that dealerships often offer warranties, financing options, and reliable service departments, making them a beginner-friendly option.

If you want to go the extra mile, shows and expos offer a great opportunity to see a variety of ATVs up close and speak directly with dealers and private sellers. It is an exciting way to inspect your prospected ATV in person. Moreover, it is a great way to stay abreast of the most reliable and reputable ATV brands in the market.

Whichever option you choose, make it a point to ask for maintenance records and take the four-wheeler for a spin if possible. Doing so will give you a better grasp of the machine’s current working condition and the ability to catch any subtle flaws hiding in plain sight. The test ride, in particular, allows you to assess whether the ATV’s performance and handling match your skills and preferences.

Negotiate the Price

Once you tick all your checkboxes, it is time to buy your first-ever machine. But don’t just easily hand out your hard-earned money. Regardless of the size of your budget, it pays to get the best bang for your buck. After all, your expenses do not end with your ATV purchase. There are still customization, maintenance, and repairs to prepare for.

There are generally two ways to do this—either haggle with the seller or make your ATV purchase during the off-season or winter months. You will notice considerable price drops during the latter since fewer buyers are actively seeking recreational machines. Dealerships often hold clearance sales and offer better financing options during this time to attract buyers.

Conclusion — Best ATVs for Beginners: How to Choose

Fulfilling this checklist may not make your purchasing decision impervious to flaws, but it can bring you closer to owning an ATV with the fewest problems possible. For a beginner, having a trustworthy, capable off-roading machine is all-important. Today’s guide just enlightened you on how to get this done!