I would say the toughest decision in an off-road adventurist’s life is picking the perfect ATV/UTV for their needs and riding conditions. Most will not be real enough with themselves concerning their budget as well as the type of terrain they ride. It seems we find ourselves caught up in the horsepower war or that inevitable need to impress our friends. I would say those with money (and those without who can’t admit they can’t afford some machines) sometimes like to get the next best machine and even try to one-up their buddies.
I listed a few things to take into consideration when looking for and purchasing that new off-road toy. My goal here is not to overshadow the joy of searching for a new toy but to hopefully shed some reality in your search and help you make the purchase and keep a long-lasting grin on your face.
How will you use your machine?
Knowing the general use of your off-road machine will help you decide just what kind of rig you need. If you have a small urban farm and plan to tow or work this machine a lot then you need to consider this. All major manufacturers have utility based off-road ATV and UTV’s with plenty of power to get any scope of work completed. These utility machines can be a tad more basic and offer a great ride but are work focused. Most include massive towing capabilities and large dumping beds for the chores around the farm. These can also be used for the hunting camp or during harvest as well as some trail riding if the desire presents itself.
If you feel the recreational side of your family is more important then, you might look at a sleeker more, sporty rig to trip down the trails. Some are made for higher speeds while some are made for exploration. Creating a new trail is better suited in a slimmer more-nimble machine with longer suspension travel to keep the wheels in touch with the ground. While swift fun in the wide-open landscape can be exhilarating too!
Types of trails
Knowing that you will ride on relatively flat land or maybe in the mountains can greatly influence your buying decision. Having 2WD/4WD selection is really commonplace on all machines however some handle the tough terrain better than others. If you know you get a lot of terrible deep mud or deep water, you may look for a factory snorkeled rig. Getting familiar with where you ride on a more regular basis is crucial to making a good choice but knowing that most machines are suited for many conditions is a bit of comfort. A good 4WD will most likely treat you well over the years and if you happen to have any sensitive terrain like grass, then an unlocking rear differential will come in handy both on and off the trails. If your trails have many rocky sections, then you need to consider the ground clearance of the machine. This is the height off the ground down the center of the machine. Higher center ground clearance is good and helps the buggy get over trail obstacles easier.
Age of Riders
Always keep in mind just who will be riding with you. Do you have kids? Are they looking to go riding in a machine with mom and dad or will they have their own? Most manufacturers have age limits on their ATV’s and some even make small machines for the kids, but you should always truthfully evaluate your kid’s ability to handle the machine before buying what they want and may not need. I know, novel idea, right? But you would not believe how many parents buy whatever the kid says they want/need and then blame the machine for any potential accident. Also, if you purchase a SXS/UTV then you need to think about seating and safety belts in the machine. Smaller children will slip out of the seat belt if not strapped in properly and that’s never good. Even first-time buyers in their adulthood have trouble getting the grasp of an off-road machine so choose wisely.
How will you haul it?
Here is one last thing that some never consider until they have signed the dotted line and are off to ride in their head. How will you safely get the rig to and from home or the trail? If you live on a farm and plan to use the machine there, then chances are you may never have to put the beast on a trailer but if you are an avid trail rider then the ones around the back forty are going to get boring really quick. Be sure that you, your car/truck and trailerare all capable of towing and controlling your load when moving up and down the highway. Be prepared that your new UTV will weigh most times over 1,000-1,200lbs and some top out at 1,500lbs with no gas!
The excitement of purchasing a new quad or side by side is a powerful one. Making an informed decision based on the type of riding, terrain and your skill level are important for a safe fun time for all. Do the research to find YOUR perfect ATV/UTV — take some test rides and don’t get caught up in the horsepower game as tempting as it may be.