Obviously, there are times when an ATV is better and when a UTV is better. It all depends on terrain, riding application, and rider preference.
This post focuses on when an ATV makes the better alternative and not as much on its downsides.
ATVs Are More Nimble and Maneuverable
ATVs offer a smaller turning radius, are not as bulky, and offer more precise handling, making them easier to maneuver through tight spots and technically challenging terrains.
ATVs are more agile with a rider-vehicle connection, similar to a motorcycle or snowmobile, whereas UTVs are more comparable to driving an automobile.
Also, ATVs are easier to reverse, where the rider has a complete overview of everything behind the vehicle. This is useful when maneuvering through a forest or inside a barn.
The more agile and maneuverable properties of an ATV prove a significant advantage in situations when:
- Maneuvering tight spots on challenging off-road trails.
- Passing through narrow 50″-inch gates or less.
- Making tight turns, forward or reverse.
- Working dense forest grounds or rugged terrain.
ATVs Offer Better Off-Road Performance
While both ATVs and UTVs can handle deserts, rocky grounds, off-road trails, fields, and pastures, ATVs get the upper hand when things get tough.
The added ground clearance, lighter weight, and superior agility and maneuverability make an ATV unstoppable in more rugged terrain.
On hard turfs, both vehicles will work, but on softer grounds, ATVs are much less likely to sink in due to their lower ground pressure.
And where a UTV may end up high-sided on a large rock or bump, the ATV can maneuver itself around.
Finally, ATVs are faster off-road, which will get you from A to B through rough grounds faster.
Due to their fast acceleration and maneuverability, ATVs are easier to drive between obstacles while maintaining their speed. In contrast, UTVs may need to slow down and back up to get through.
ATVs Are Cheaper to Buy and Own
A new UTV costs between $12.000 to $28.000, while ATVs are significantly cheaper, with a typical price range from $5.000 to $15.000.
The price difference between the base and high-end models is quite large, but this applies to ATVs and UTVs.
All-in-all, you should expect to pay $7.000 to $13.000 more for a UTV than a comparable ATV.
Besides the higher purchase cost, heavier UTVs typically use more fuel, particularly the more powerful sport SxS models.
Also, UTVs are typically slightly more expensive to service, maintain and insure. And if you are paying for storage, the smaller ATV fits in a smaller and cheaper storage unit.
ATVs Are Better for Solo Riders
If you’re anything like me and prefer to ride solo, an ATV is the better alternative.
UTVs are geared more toward bringing passengers and cargo, whereas ATVs are designed around the rider in focus.
In my opinion, the centered riding position makes for a much more fun and engaging riding experience.
ATVs Offer a More Active Riding Style
Where UTVs are more like an automobile where the driver and passenger sit in a fixed seating position, strapped down by a seatbelt, ATVs rely on the rider moving around as a central part of safe and effective vehicle operation.
When riding on hilly grounds or fast cornering, it is essential for vehicle stability that the ATV rider shift their weight from front to back and side to side, depending on the situation.
While this riding style can be physically much more challenging, it can also be much more fun, depending on what you prefer.
ATVs Are Easier to Transport
ATVs are typically physically smaller than UTVs, making them easier to transport.
Where a UTV requires a flatbed trailer, you can fit a UTV in most full-sized pick-up truck cargo beds. With a truck deck, you can even fit two ATVs on your truck without dragging a trailer.
ATVs Are Better for Plowing
Unless you only plow large open areas with no tight maneuvering, an ATV is probably the better alternative for plowing snow.
Proper traction is essential in successful snow plowing, and a UTV does weigh more. However, the superior maneuverability and rider overview of an ATV makes it much better for plowing sidewalks and driveways or between buildings and other objects.
Throw a couple of sandbags and install chains or studs on your ATV to improve traction, and you are good to go.
The Bottom Line
An ATV is better than a UTV if you prefer solo riding, ride in technically challenging terrain with narrow passages, or need high maneuverability.
This post focuses only on the benefits of ATVs. If you’re looking for a more balanced comparison, please head over to our complete guide for deciding whether an ATV or UTV is better for you and your needs.