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3 min read

ATVs Vs UTVs: Which is Right for You?

ATVs Vs UTVs: Which is Right for You?

For off-roading enthusiasts, finding the right vehicle that effortlessly caters to their adventurous spirit is essential. But when you’re ready for something with more than two wheels, it is difficult to decide which machine should you purchase. Is an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or a utility terrain vehicle (UTV) better for you?


To help you make the right decision, we’ve put together this handy guide that describes the primary differences between ATVs and UTVs, and the pros and cons of each.

Here’s everything you need to know about ATVs vs UTVs.


What IS an ATV?

ATV stands for “All Terrain Vehicle”, which is also sometimes called a quad or four-wheeler. It is an off-roading vehicle meant for a single rider, with some models built for 2-up riding. It features one straddle seat, much like you’d find on a motorcycle. ATVs have handlebar-like steering but don’t offer the security of seatbelts, roofs, or roll cages.

ATV rider kicking up dirt on desert trail

The Pros:

  • Cost-Effective: ATVs are generally much more affordable than their big brother, UTVs. Some ATV models start around $6399, like the Polaris Sportsman 450 H.O., while brand new UTVs are priced around $15,000 and go up depending on engine size, seating, and capability.
  • Lightweight and Nimble: ATVs are zippy little things that excel in cramped spaces and are suited for quick turns, making them great for racing or tight trails. You can easily load an ATV into a smaller trailer or onto the bed of your truck. Thanks to their smaller environmental footprint, ATVs won’t tear up the terrain as much as UTVs will.

The Cons:

  • Tougher steering: The handlebar-like steering setup on an ATV could be tough for some riders due to its similar arm position to a motorcycle. Whereas, UTVs come with steering wheels comparable to their car or truck and are a little easier to get used to.
  • Limited Seating: An ATV only has enough room for one rider (or 2-up on certain models). If you’re a social butterfly and love hitting the trail with a large group, you’d have to get a bunch of your friends and their ATVs because you’re solo on your ATV.

ATV parked on rocky ridgeline


What is a UTV?

UTV stands for “Utility Terrain Vehicle, also called side-by-sides (SxS), boast buckets, or bench seats. These vehicles can usually accommodate between two and six people. UTVs are much bigger than ATVs and have a standard steering wheel, seat belts, and a roll cage. Certain models also come with factory roofs.

UTV parked on rocky terrain with mountain backdrop


The Pros:

  • Familiar Steering: Thanks to its steering wheel, controlling a UTV is a breeze. If you can drive a car, you’ll definitely be able to ride a UTV. Most come with power-assisted steering and won’t jerk if you are on unstable rocks or trail ruts.
  • Plenty of Seating: Some UTVs can comfortably accommodate up to six people, like the Yamaha Viking or Ranger Crew. While you can still enjoy the trails alone, you also have the option of bringing your family or friends along for the ride.
  • Easy Hauling: You can haul heavy loads with a UTV. Many models come with storage or a full bed, allowing you to carry more cargo.

The Cons:

  • More Expensive: UTVs cost much more than ATVs because of their larger size, larger engines, accessories, varied models, and extensive seating options.
  • Hindered Maneuverability: Though still rough-and-tumble on the trail, UTVs aren’t as agile as ATVs. Most UTVs can be as long as 12’ and are a standard 50"–60” width, but some can be as wide as 72” with long-travel suspension like the Can-Am Maverick X3 X rs.

RZR UTV kicks up dirt on track - high-speed action

Which One is Right for You?

When thinking about whether an ATV or a UTV is right for you, consider the following:

  • Size: ATVs are a lot smaller than UTVs. Do you enjoy riding alone or with others? Do you feel safer with a larger vehicle? Do you plan on hauling or carrying large loads with you?
  • Budget: What machine can you comfortably afford on your current budget? Do you mind spending an extra $5,000 more for a bigger vehicle?
  • Lifestyle: Do you have a need for speed or do you enjoy taking things slow? Does customization matter to you?

Ready to make your decision?

When choosing an ATV or a UTV, it’s wise to consider your budget, your lifestyle, and size preferences. While both vehicles are dominant on the trail, there are noticeable differences between these two four-wheeled machines.

Whichever one you end up buying, we can guarantee that you’ll have loads of fun aboard it!

Can't make up your mind? Explore more posts on our blog or learn about 2023's best ATVs and UTVs!