What Is An SxS (UTV) Vehicle? Everything You Need To Know

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A side-by-side (SXS) is a versatile off-road vehicle, also known as a utility terrain vehicle, or “UTV.” These machines are well known for their rugged chassis and dual-bucket seat layout. Most side-by-sides are engineered with a roll cage, wind protection, and other essential safety gear for off-road adventures.

For farmers, ranchers, and hunters, the SXS’s ability to haul heavy loads (like substantial cargo) and traverse difficult terrain makes a UTV an essential tool on the field.

But a side-by-side isn’t just for work–but play, too. Features like side-by-side seating, efficient steering wheel controls, and a terrain-adapted design are fan favorites in the recreational off-roader community. 

Unsure if an SXS is right for you? Torn between a UTV and an ATV? Keep reading. 

Characteristics of a Side-by-Side

While all side-by-side vehicles are different, they share some key characteristics:

Side-by-side Seating 

All SXS vehicles have at least two parallel seats, while larger models can fit up to six passengers. SXS vehicles prioritize safety, incorporating safety features like seatbelts, support handles, and rollover protection.

Easy Steering 

SXS vehicles have car-like steering wheels and foot pedals. However, the specialized off-road steering wheel is designed for rugged terrain and offers precise control, setting SXS vehicles apart from traditional ATVs.

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Off-Road Capabilities 

Unlike golf carts or other small transport vehicles, side-by-sides (SXS) are designed for off-road use. Their powerful engines, robust suspension systems, and four-wheel drive equip them for diverse terrains such as rocky trails, desert dunes, and muddy paths.

Side-by-Side Vs. All-Terrain Vehicle: Key Differences

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are similar to side-by-sides in that they are great for off-road use, but several key differences distinguish SXS vehicles from ATVs. 

  • Size
  • Passenger capacity
  • Safety features
  • Utility

Differences in Size and Passenger Capacity

SXS vehicles are larger than ATVs, meaning more room for passengers and cargo space. Most sport-model SXSs are around 48 to 60 inches wide, while utility-model SXSs are usually between 58 to 64 inches wide, with lengths ranging from 110 to 160 inches.

ATVs tend to be designed for solo riding and offer limited passenger capacity. The increased size and passenger capacity of SXS vehicles makes them perfect for group adventures and work-related tasks alike.

Safety Features: UTV vs. ATV 

SXS vehicles typically have more safety features than ATVs, contributing to their growing popularity.

These vehicles come with roll cages and seat belts that help ensure a secure off-road experience. The added safety features of SXS vehicles make them ideal for work –for farmers, loggers, etc.–and for families that love off-roading. 

For more information on innovations in ATV and UTV technology, check out this resource here.

Utility and Functionality of a UTV vs. ATV

SXS vehicles offer more utility and functionality than ATVs, with options for hauling and carrying equipment. These vehicles wield features like dump beds or towing capabilities, making them ideal for work tasks.

In contrast, an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) is better for traversing narrow trails but offers limited utility and functionality for work applications. At most, you can put a snow plow on your four-wheeler, but they lack towing and other functions that make the UTV superior. 

Types of SXS Vehicles: Sport, Utility, and Hybrid Models

SXS vehicles span various models, catering to different preferences and uses, including:

  • Sport models, with an emphasis on speed and performance
  • Utility models, which are built for work and heavy-duty tasks
  • Hybrid models, which offer a combination of features from both sport and utility models

Know what each of these models is capable of before you buy.

Sport Models

Sport models of SXS vehicles are designed for high-speed off-roading and exhilarating performance. These models come equipped with:

  • Turbo-charged engines
  • Adjustable suspensions
  • Larger tires for better traction
  • Higher ground clearance for tackling rough trails

Sport models, focusing more on performance, are apt for adrenaline junkies in pursuit of thrilling off-road experiences. The Can-Am Maverick X3 is a premier sport model side-by-side (SXS) on the market right now. 

Utility Models

Utility UTVs are often used by farmers for herding cattle or trekking across hard-to-access farmland, while hunters and loggers use them to haul game, supplies, and other materials to or from remote locations.

These models often boast features like a dump bed or towing capabilities, which don’t appear on sport SXS models. Typically, UTVs designed for hauling can tow anywhere from 1,000 lbs to 2,500 lbs, with additional capacity in the dump bed. 

Emphasizing practicality and functionality over high-speed performance, utility models are an ideal choice for those who need a reliable and versatile off-road vehicle for all weather conditions. Right now, the Polaris Ranger XP 1000 is one of the best-value UTVs you can purchase. 

Hybrid Models

Hybrid SXS models combine the strengths of both sport and utility models, providing versatility for various uses and terrains. While hybrid UTVs aren’t as streamlined as the sport models, they still are capable of high-speed riding on rough trails.

Much like a utility model, hybrid models can tow cargo and come equipped with a small bed for moving supplies (be it camping or work supplies).

Select hybrid models will feature a hybrid powertrain, combining electric and gasoline power for improved efficiency and power-to-weight ratio. The versatility of hybrid models makes them an excellent choice for those who want a single off-road vehicle that can perform in any situation.

For the latest and greatest in hybrid UTV models, check out the Honda Pioneer series of side-by-sides.

Choosing the Right SXS for Your Needs

Finding the right side-by-side can be a tough process, especially if you’re unfamiliar with off-road vehicles. We recommend finding a local dealer who can help walk you through the process. 

To find a dealer near me, use this tool.

Assessing Your Needs

First, you should identify how you intend to use the side-by-side. Think about what type of terrain it will be used on. Ask yourself how many passengers you foresee carrying, and any additional tasks you want the SXS to perform.

Do you need it to pull trailers? Does it need a robust suspension for rough terrain? 

The answers to these questions will inform the type of SXS your dealer recommends.

Comparing Models and Brands

When comparing different SXS models and brands, evaluate an SXS on engine size, suspension, and other features.

You’ll also want to research popular SXS models and brands like Polaris, Can-Am, Yamaha, and Honda, and evaluate their advantages and disadvantages.

The price of an SXS will usually hinge on the features available. Although, even one of the cheapest UTVs on the market — the Honda Pioneer 500, totaling around $9,000 — comes with a 5-speed automatic transmission, 1,000 lbs towing capacity, and a storage rack on the back. 

Higher-end machines like the Polaris Ranger, however, come equipped with more sophisticated features like an onboard GPS, digital display, heated seats, HVAC, 3-6 seat capacity, and up to 3,500 lbs of towing. But, you’ll be paying the price, as new models can start at anywhere from $30,000 to $45,000. 

Test Driving and Making a Decision

Once you’ve identified what kinds of models fall within your price range (while still meeting your basic requirements), it’s a good idea to take a few for a test drive. 

During test drives, pay close attention to the vehicle’s handling, acceleration, and braking to gauge its performance. When test-driving, ask questions about maintenance and general upkeep costs. And while you’re at it, it can’t hurt to ask for recommendations on how to store the SXS

Final Thoughts

SXS vehicles can easily cost as much as a used car, so you’ll want to keep them in good working order. One way to ensure your SXS enjoys a long lifespan is to store it in a temperature-controlled, safe location when you’re not using it. 

You can always store your SXS in your garage or barn, but if you’re short on space (or you’re worried about freezing winter temps), using a local storage solution like Neighbor is a great alternative. Neighbor thoroughly vets their hosts so you know that your side-by-side vehicle will be stored in a safe, nearby place at an affordable price.  

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