In the U.S. alone, there are more than 1.2 million people who own ATVs. If you’re considering buying an ATV, you’re certainly in good company!
But before buying an ATV, there’s a lot to consider. Making an impulse purchase could result in spending a lot of money on an expensive toy that doesn’t fit all your wants and needs. You’ll also want to know about all the costs involved — from licensing and registration to yearly maintenance to storage.
This ATV buying guide will cover everything you need to know about buying an ATV. Read on for everything you should consider on the journey to buying your first ATV, plus all our best tips for getting the ATV you want at the best price.
What is an ATV or Four-Wheeler?
ATV stands for all-terrain vehicle — sometimes called a UTV, four-wheeler, or quad. It’s an off-road vehicle designed with low-pressure tires, high ground clearance, a strong suspension, and a lot of horsepower so it can handle all kinds of rugged terrain. Most ATVs have four-wheel drive so they’re able to accelerate over rough ground or through mud or water. They can also typically climb steep, rocky, and sandy hills.
ATVs are also good for hauling, which makes them incredibly popular for hunting and camping, or as work vehicles on farms and ranches. But many people own ATVs just to drive them for fun. Riding ATVs is relatively easy, and with a short driving course, people of all skill levels can enjoy them. Their versatility is a big reason why they’re so popular in the U.S.
Different types of ATVs
Like all motorized vehicles, ATVs come in a wide range of types, shapes, and sizes. These are the most popular ATV models you’ll likely encounter.
Utility ATVs are designed to do heavy jobs, and usually designed with accessories like storage racks and towing hitches. They’re commonly used in agricultural, ranch, and even construction settings. They’re also great for jobs like snow removal, and for camping and hunting. They have a low suspension and engines that typically range from 250cc to 700cc.
Sport ATVs are built for performance, meaning they’re fast, can accelerate rapidly, can turn tight corners, and have premium suspensions. These ATVs are good for racing, jumping, and navigating courses with tight turns. While their motors range in the same sizes as utility ATVs — 250cc to 700c — they’re built to be smaller, lighter, and more streamlined.
Youth ATVs are made for children and teens. They can come in sport or utility models, but are generally smaller, with engine sizes ranging from 50cc to 125cc. Youth ATVs also often come with extra safety features, like automatic shut-off if the rider falls.
Entry-level ATVs are a step above youth ATVs, but still with smaller builds and smaller motors, ranging from 125cc to 250cc. These can also come in sport or utility models, but are made for beginner riders. Their smaller size and less powerful engine makes them easier to handle, so new riders can build up their skills safely.
Utility Sport ATV
Like the name suggests, this category combines the hauling ability of a utility ATV with the speed and premium suspension of a sport ATV. The result is a powerful machine that can be used for work — and then play.
For doing extremely hard jobs or navigating over the toughest terrain, some riders choose high-performance ATVs, built with the most powerful engines so they can handle any kind of ride without sacrificing power or speed. Engines in high-performance ATVs range from 350cc to 800cc.
How Much Does Buying an ATV Cost?
The pricing of an ATV varies greatly depending on what type and size you get, what size motor it has, its brand, condition, and other factors.
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of new ATVs is typically between $6,000 and $16,000, with a wide variety of incredibly popular models available for under $10,000.
But an ATV costs more than just its purchase price. Other costs to consider include:
- Costs for licensing your ATV.
- Insurance coverage for your ATV and all riders.
- Ongoing maintenanceto keep your ATV in good riding condition.
- Storage for your ATV when you’re not using it.
ATV accessories you might need
Another factor that could increase the cost of your ATV is outfitting it with the accessories you need. Some common ones include:
- Racks, extenders, and other storage features
- Bumpers and brush guards
- Winch kits
- Speakers and stereos
- Hand guards
- Track kits
- Hunting accessories
You’ll also need the right tires and wheels. ATV tires come in many styles that are designed to give the vehicle better performance on different types of terrain. You can choose from:
- All-terrain performance tires.
- Tires for loose sand and desert riding.
- Tires for water and mud.
- Tires for climbing rocks and steep hills.
- Tires for snow and ice.
- Tires for speed.
Most ATVs come outfitted with factory tires that are good for general, all-purpose riding. But if you need better performance on a certain type of terrain, you’ll almost certainly want to upgrade.
Buying a Used ATV vs Buying New
One choice that can greatly affect the cost of your ATV is whether you buy it new or used.
Buying a new ATV
When buying a new ATV, you’ll generally go to a dealership or a manufacturer’s lot. You can also visit an ATV show to see models from many different manufacturers in one place.
The biggest upside to buying a brand new ATV is that you can get the exact model, features, and accessories you want. New ATVs should also be in great condition, and often come with a warranty so you don’t have to worry about breaking down for a while.
The tradeoff is that a new ATV will generally be more expensive than a used one. Markup on lower-end models isn’t typically very high (generally 3-8%), so while prices are negotiable, you may not have as much wiggle room as you like. If you’re looking for the best deal on a new ATV, look for an older model that’s been on the sales floor for a while — dealers will want to move those more quickly than new models. Another good trick is to shop in May and June, when many manufacturers are releasing their newest models. Dealers want to make room on the floor for those new releases, so you might find a good deal on last year’s ATV.
Another benefit to buying a new ATV is that, depending on the ATV dealer you use, financing may be available. Monthly payments can make even high-end ATVs affordable, if you qualify for financing with a low interest rate.
Buying a used ATV
When buying a used ATV, a big drawback is that you’re limited to what people in your area have listed for sale (unless you’re willing to travel to pick up your ATV). However, buying a used ATV can get you a great deal — used prices are generally much lower than new.
The big thing you have to keep in mind when buying a used ATV is its condition. Carefully check it over for signs of damage, and be sure to test drive it to check its performance. Some things to check before buying a used ATV include:
- The tires, bearings, and ball joints.
- The shocks.
- The CV boots and CV joint.
- The engine.
- The brakes.
- All fluids.
- The chain and sprocket.
If you aren’t experienced enough to give a used ATV a full examination, consider bringing a more knowledgeable friend with you to check out potential purchases and go with you on a test ride.
Some good places to look for used ATVs for sale are in local auto sales publications, or online classifieds like Craigslist. Be on the lookout for scams, and verify the VIN on any ATV you might buy to ensure it isn’t stolen.
Things to Consider When Buying an ATV
Before you go out and buy your ATV, there are a few more things you should consider.
What you want and need
First things first: Consider how you’ll use your ATV. Some options are:
- Hunting and fishing.
- Farming, ranching, and agricultural work.
- Lawn care and landscaping.
- Snow removal.
- Recreational trail riding.
You might use your ATV for just one of those options, or for several of them. But those will help inform the type of ATV you should get.
What’s your budget?
Your budget will help you determine the model and size of your ATV, but also whether you can shop for a brand new ATV, or if you should search for a used one.
Where do you live?
Do you live in a rural area where you can keep your ATV right on your property and ride all the time? Or do you live in a city, where you’ll have to store it or tow it to places where you plan to ride?
Where do you plan to ride your ATV?
What’s the terrain like there? Are there steep or rocky hills that will require more horsepower to climb? Is there a lot of water and mud?
How often do you plan to ride?
If you plan to ride your ATV seasonally or only occasionally, you’ll want to take storage into consideration. Your ATV should be properly winterized and stored during cold weather to keep it in good running shape. If you’re looking for affordable ATV storage near you, check Neighbor.
What’s your skill level?
One last consideration is your skill level and experience riding ATVs. If you’re a beginner rider, it will be safer to start with a smaller, less powerful ATV. You might also want to buy your first ATV used, particularly if you plan on upgrading in the future.
Top 6 ATV Brands in 2021
In 2021, these are some of the top ATV brands in the U.S.
The Key to Buying the Right ATV: Research
Before you buy an ATV, research, research, research. Whether you plan to use it for work or just for play, careful research will ensure you get the right ATV for your wants and needs.