The thrill of ATV riding is incomparable. Deciding whether you want an ATV or UTV can be tricky, but in this post, we break down the main differences to help you make an informed decision.
Choosing between these two vehicles can be difficult. Both have their advantages, but in certain situations, one might be better than the other.
This guide will help you understand the differences as well as the pros & cons between the two so that you can determine which is best for your needs, an ATV or UTV.
So let’s dive into what makes each vehicle unique!
What Is The Difference Between an ATV and a UTV?
Both ATVs and UTVs are heavy-duty off-roading vehicles. Originally designed for utility work, they quickly became recreational vehicles as well.
You will have fun riding either. ATVs tend to be smaller, faster, and squeeze through tighter places. UTVs, on the other hand, are larger and offer much comfort.
Before you settle on an ATV or a UTV, you need to understand more about distinctive characteristics, suitability, and differences. Let’s have a look at ATV vs. UTV in terms of features, benefits, and cons.
ATV (All-Terrain Vehicles)
As the name suggests, you can ride ATVs on all terrains, be it snowy roads, muddy tracks, rocky paths, sand, or any other uneven ground.
It is commonly known as a quad or four-wheeler due to its four wheels, though some have six or three wheels.
ATVs are compact and designed for not more than two people; a rider and a passenger. As a result, they are lightweight and efficient, thus suitable for recreational activities.
You can use it for hunting, trail riding, racing, and other quick jobs that need enhanced maneuverability.
Read our guide on the Best ATV for Trail Riding
Features of ATVs
- No seat belts
- One straddle seat
- 3,4 or 6 wheels
- Handlebar-like steering
- No roll cage or roof
Pros and cons of ATV Compared to UTV vehicles
- Pocket friendly-Due to the small size, the ATVs cost less. On average, you will spend $10,000 compared to $15,000 you would for the basic SxS vehicle. The provision for customization and various modifications is what makes the UTV options more expensive. So, if you are on a budget, ATV is the best option.
- Lightweight -Compared to UTVs, ATVs are small and lightweight, giving them an upper hand when it comes to tighter places. Unlike the UTV, which works best on tough ground, the ATV can be used on soft turf without fear of much impact on the terrain. In case of emergencies, the vehicle can be towed easily and can even fit on small trailers. Their lightweight also makes them swift, thus best for racing.
- Great maneuverability– Smaller vehicles have better maneuverability. Most ATVs have a max of 50-inch width, which facilitates nimble movement. It can make tight turns common on rough terrains and pass through narrow spaces with ease. So, if you plan to adventure through densely forested areas, the quad is your ideal pick.
- All-terrain road vehicle– If you want to enjoy solo in an active and affordable ride, ATV is your best pick. It is versatile for various terrains and undertakings such as hunting and farming, giving you the much-needed convenience.
- Compact– Apart from being lightweight, ATVs are compact. Unlike large UTV that aren’t easy to tow and store away, you can easily put ATVs on a pickup truck’s bed to move or keep them when necessary. You can always bring it along whenever and wherever.
Cons of ATV compared to UTV
- Accommodate only one or two people-For ATV to be compact, it means a compromise on its seating capacity. So, if you like two or more friends on an adventure, a four-wheel is not the best option.
- Physically demanding-If you do not like stretching your limits when riding, you would want to avoid quad vehicles. You can easily like to use ATV’s handle-bar-like steering, but the challenge lies in controlling it to keep balance.
- Lack of safety features -Quads feature an open design that may expose you to risk as you straddle the motor. If you are starting, you can easily fall off, and even so, expert riders may experience accidents once in a while.
UTV (Utility Task Vehicle)
UTVs, also known as side-by-side (SxS), are off-road and more specialized vehicles designed for functionality and utility tasks. They have 4-6 wheels and a side-by-side bucket seat that can accommodate between 4 and 6 people.
UTVs are more spacious and best for transporting cargo, hauling equipment, towing heavy loads, and farming processes.
Due to its robust design, the vehicle is also a good choice for exploring tough terrains outdoors. Of course, you will need specialized accessories such as aftermarket tires.
Features of UTVs
- Standard steering wheel
- 2-6 passengers bench seating or bucket seats
- Roll cage with some having factory roofs
- Seat belts
Pros and cons of UTVs over ATVs
Side-by-side vehicles are a great investment as they can help you explore various trails and still get some work done. Check below how UTV can beat quad in some areas.
- Accommodate more people– Unlike the quads with a maximum of two people seating, the SxS vehicles hold up to six passengers. You get an option to ride solo or bring along buddies during an adventure.
- Enhanced loading capability– Transporting more and heavy cargo is made easier with UTVs. And, although quads can carry some load, SxS is customizable to add more storage space. They are even designed with additional compartments in the cargo bed and under seats for the extra load.
- Hauling ability-ATVs are large with a big engine, thus heavier payload capacity. As a result, the SxS can transport bigger and weightier equipment. You only need to buy a model based on your hauling needs by checking the vehicle’s towing rate.
- Comfort-If you are not ready to compromise comfort even when exploring outdoors, SxS is best for you. You can customize to your liking for enhanced comfort. Even so, add-on like windscreens not only provide protection but make the vehicle comfier.
- Safety– Compared to ATVs, UTVs are safer due to their enclosed design. The vehicle has a roll cage, seat belts, and a windscreen that protects you from adverse weather elements. Furthermore, you can always add some protective attachments to keep safe and enhance your comfort level.
Cons of UTV compared to ATV
- High price tag-Side-by-side vehicles are large and easy to customize, making them more priced than their counterparts.
- Less maneuverability-Maneuvering sharp corners and tight spaces may not be possible with SxS vehicles. However, SxS UTVs have come a long way from the initial UTVs on the market and the difference in maneuverablity isn’t as much a trade off as it used to be.
Which is better, ATV or UTV?
ATV is better if you:
- Are on a budget
- Desire to maneuver faster
- Need to pass through tighter spaces
- Want to ride solo or with just a friend
UTV is better if you:
- Intend to transport or carry cargo
- Have regular heavy-duty work
- Intend to customize it
- Want to ride with more than two people
- Do not mind about the price range
What’s more fun; ATV or UTV?
Fun is relative, and so riding on either ATV or UTV can be exciting based on your needs and preferences. The difference is what might make the ride so exciting.
ATVs are smaller, and therefore they can squeeze through tight spaces. Consequently, they can easily go off-road on rough terrains, which give you much adventure outdoors. ATVs are also best for racing as they can jump through poor paths and negotiate tighter corners.
Riding an ATV is physically demanding. You need to utilize hand controls, straddle the seat and keep the balance at a go. For some, the challenges are what give them fun.
Conversely, UTV is larger, offering more comfort. You have many options to customize the SxS vehicles to your liking and as previously noted, UTV SxS vehicles have come a long way and the maneuverability isn’t as limited as it used to be. This is what makes SxS UTVs so fun and versatile for larger parties.
Are UTVs safer than ATVs?
By design, the SxS has more safety features. Seat belts, Roll cages, windshields, and doors make the vehicle safer. In fact, you can customize your side-by-side vehicle to ensure you are safe and enhance your comfort level.
That is not to say ATVs are that bad when it comes to protection. Its open design can be a plus as you can always jump over in case of any mishap. Wearing protective gear, such as ATV helmets, goggles, and gloves are important no matter which vehicle you choose.
What are UTVs good for?
By now, you must have realized both UTV and ATV have their benefits over the other. But, if you are still wondering where UTVs takes the lead, check the following points:
- When hunting big game- If you want to go hunting with us as a group, you need a UTV vehicle. You can accommodate your hunt group and still have room to lug around large pursuit equipment.
- Farming- If you farm and need to tow heavy loads such as trailers, haul farming tools or carry large cargo, you need an SxS vehicle.
- Winter riding and plowing snow-Side-by-side vehicles are designed with tough traction to maneuver snow rides with ease. A plus to UTVs is the enclosed design that further protects you from the cold.
- Comfortable trail riding-If you want to combine comfort and trail rides, UTV is the best pick. You can ride them on rough trails and carry more equipment for your comfort during the adventure.
- Group and family rides– If you plan to adventure with friends and family, you need SxS models. You can tag along up to 5 persons for fun and shared adventures while undertaking utility tasks comfortably.
ATV or UTV: Which is ideal for you?
After reading up to this point, you should have the answer on the ideal vehicle for you. Both four-wheeler and SxS are great but with their benefits and drawbacks over the other. So, make a decision based on purpose, location, safety, comfort, and budget.
In the end, you are the one to do the ride. If you are confused on which one to shop for or maybe do not understand the difference clearly, try them all and appreciate the fun and convenience of both ATV and UTV.
About the Author:
Ally is an avid outdoor enthusiast who has spent most of his free time backpacking through South America, Iceland, Vietnam, and Europe. He loves sharing his experience through blogging. His mission is to get more people in the mindset of protecting our planet by sharing its beauty.
Fun ATV Riding Clothes
While protective gear is essential on the trail, it’s ok to look cute and share your wilder riding side with the world. I’m a big fan of ball caps and love this adorable “ATV hair, Don’t Care” hat from Sew Vivid Design on Etsy. Be sure to Check out all this cute ATV apparel.
Get This FREE ATV Pre-Ride Inspection Checklist Now!
Recommended ATV Riding Resources
- Top ATV Trails Near Me in the Southeast
- Must-Have ATV Accessories
- ATV Riding Clothes– Everything you need to get started
- ATV Trails Near Me Facebook Group
More Related Resources
Another thing to consider when getting an ATV/UTV is the insurance cost. If you need more ideas on this topic, read our guide on How Much Does ATV Insurance Cost?
And if you’re ready to try out some new off-roading adventures, check out this post about Pink Jeep Tours.