ATV vs. UTV: What’s the Difference?


ATV vs. UTV: The global all-terrain vehicle (ATV) market had an estimated value of $3.92 billion in 2020. Of this, North America (the US and Canada) accounts for 58%. All in all, experts project the global ATV revenue to grow to $4.59 billion come 2025.

A separate report projects the global ATV and UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicles) to reach $14.1 billion by 2025. Just like with ATVs, North America is also the biggest user of UTVs.

If you plan to get an off-road vehicle yourself, it’s best to know when buying a UTV is better and when an ATV is more ideal. While both can be great additions to your off-roading arsenal, they do differ in many ways, too.

To help off-road adventurers like you make the right choice, we created this ATV vs. UTV buying guide. Read on to learn what sets the two apart so that you can decide which one better suits your rugged tastes.

What Exactly Is an All-Terrain Vehicle?

An all-terrain vehicle is a motorized vehicle that can handle almost, if not all, types of terrains. It comes with a straddle seating position that makes it easily identifiable. You also maneuver an ATV with a handlebar steering mechanism instead of a steering wheel.

Some ATVs have three wheels, while others come equipped with four wheels. ATV tires usually need lower levels of pressure than those in a UTV or a standard vehicle.

Most ATVs also have a design that accommodates only the operator. A single-rider capacity means they can safely carry only the rider and no one else. However, there are a few models designed to carry the operator and one passenger.

What About a Utility Terrain Vehicle?

A utility terrain vehicle also goes by the name “utility task vehicle” and “side-by-side” (or SXS, for short). UTVs are always four-wheeled drives, unlike some ATVs that may only have three wheels.

UTVs are also more like normal cars in that they come with a steering wheel rather than a handlebar. They’re also capable of seating passengers side by side, with some even having a 4 seater side by side design. The largest UTVs can even accommodate up to six people, including the driver.

Like ATVs, UTVs can handle almost all types of terrains, and you can even drive them on some public roads.

When Investing in an ATV May Be a Better Choice

Since ATVs are smaller, they are more nimble and better at making quick turns than UTVs. Their narrower physique allows for easy access to tight areas, like tree-dense backroads. It’s also easier to hop on and off an ATV, thanks to their open design.

The smaller size of ATVs also makes them more lightweight than UTVs. Thanks to their lightweight feature, they make for faster off-road vehicles than UTVs. This is why ATV dealers offer factory-made or customizable models for racing.

Operating an ATV is also more challenging, as you need to keep your balance on the straddle seat. It’s almost like riding a bike or motorcycle, as your weight plays a role in the ATV’s manipulation. This is why riding an ATV is a sportier, more active way of off-roading than driving a UTV.

Considering that ATVs are usually for a single rider, they can cost a few thousand dollars less than UTVs. Major ATV brands have starting models that cost $5,000 or less. However, higher trims with more features are usually within the $8,000 and $9,000 range.

Having said all that, an ATV may be better suited for you if you prefer solo (and speedier) rides. It may also be a more ideal choice if you want a more affordable off-road vehicle.

When Buying a UTV Makes More Sense

UTVs come with a roll-cage-like enclosure that acts as a safety and protective feature. They also come with car-like bucket seats or benches instead of straddle seating. For this reason, many folks find UTVs safer and more comfortable than UTVs.

UTVs, aside from accommodating more people, also come with a bigger cargo capacity. This makes them ideal for group adventures, as everyone would have enough space to sit in comfort. At the same time, the larger cargo room can fit everyone’s gear and other backroad essentials.

What’s more, you can register a UTV and use it on public roadways (except state and interstate highways). This isn’t something you can do with ATVs.

You can customize a UTV for sport riding, but many choose to use them as a trusty workhorse. Aside from their larger cargo capacity, UTVs also usually have bigger engines. This gives them more hauling and towing power than single-rider ATVs.

With all these benefits, you can expect most UTVs to be more expensive than ATVs. The median UTV price back in 2020 was $16,999. However, today’s models have prices between the $5,000 and $10,000 range.

With all that said, a UTV may be the right choice for you if safety and space are your priorities. You may also find a UTV to be a better investment for work tasks that involve rugged terrains. Plus, you can pretty much use a UTV like a regular car on many city roads.

Base Your Decision on Your Particular Off-Roading Needs

If you like solo rides and more challenging off-roading experiences, an ATV may be your better bet. The same goes for if you want a more affordable vehicle that can still work on various terrains.

However, buying a UTV may be a smarter move if you want more functionality and space. A UTV is also more ideal if you like taking trips with your pet (or your better half).

Ready for more sports and outdoors guides like this? Then please feel free to browse our site for more educational reads!


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