Buying the ideal ATV for a 10-year-old kid is not an easy task. The child’s age should not be the only factor to consider when making your decision. The child’s readiness and past riding experience are just as important. If you choose a too small and underpowered bike, they will soon be bored with it. On the other hand, if you choose one that is too big and powerful, it may end in disaster. No one answer fits all to this question, but this article will hopefully provide you with some helpful advice so you will be able to choose wisely.
The ideal ATV for a 10-year-old matches the child’s readiness and past riding experience. It should not be too heavy and large for them to operate properly, and it should have no more power than they can control. For any 10 year old that is not into racing, the three ATVs I recommend are the Honda TRX90X, The Yamaha Raptor 90, and the Polaris Sportsman 110EFI. All of these are of good size and power for a 10-year-old and are of good enough quality to take the beating they will be exposed to. As you look at the available ATVs, try to find something with a weight of no more than 300 pounds (136 kilos) and not more powerful than 110cc.
First, a few words about responsibility
With the number of ATV related treated injuries in the US involving children under 16 being well over 26000 (in 2016) and the average number of youth deaths at 77 (2010-2013), there’s quite understandable that organizations like The American Academy of Pediatrics warn that no child under the age of 16 should drive or ride an ATV.
Simultaneously, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that children ages 6 – 11 don’t ride ATVs with engines larger than 70cc.
I am not here to lecture you, but please keep in mind that ultimately it is your responsibility as an adult to decide what your kid can and can’t do.
Under the right circumstances, your kid can safely ride an ATV, but it is your job to determine what those circumstances should be and not your kid’s.
So should you ever let your 10 year-old-drive your full-size, full power adult quad?
I strongly advise against it. You don’t let the kid take the car out for a drive, do you? Neither should you let it ride an adult-sized ATV.
The kid will most likely be able to operate the bike just fine in a controlled situation. All the main controls are easily available at the handlebar, and most modern ATVs even have servo power steering to assist.
But there is a big chance that things can go out of hand quite fast.
To properly ride an ATV, you rely heavily on using your body weight to lean when making turns and riding on slopes. A child this young lacks the physical abilities to operate a full-size bike properly.
At the same time, they have likely not yet developed the cognitive skills needed to handle the immense power these machines have.
While still potentially hazardous, purpose-made ATVs for kids are a much better option. But I don’t need to tell you this. You are already here looking for an appropriate ATV for your kid,
Age and readiness
Determining your kid’s age should be relatively easy. On the other hand, determining their readiness requires some more considerations to be made on your part.
By readiness, I mean physical abilities like strength, size, weight, and coordination, but also cognitive skills like judgment, discipline, and risk assessment.
While most ATVs are labeled with a recommended age for that specific model, you should not let it be the only deciding factor.
Some manufacturers likely raise their recommended ages to the higher end of the scale. This is done because the readiness of a child this age varies so much. So to avoid liability issues, they play it safe.
At the same time, there are 10-year olds that are not ready to be let loose on bikes recommended for this age.
The Polaris user manual for their ATVs with a minimum recommended age of 10 states that no child under the age of 10 should operate or ride the vehicle. And even if the child meets the age requirement, they state that it is important to remember that children differ in skills, physical abilities, and judgment.
Making an honest, common-sense assessment of the child’s readiness and then choosing the proper size of ATV will greatly reduce the potential risks involved in ATV riding. If your child is on the small side and has never ridden an ATV before, you should even consider getting a 70cc bike intended for children in the ages between 6-10, to begin with.
When you start riding, and you see that the kid doesn’t have the maturity or the strength to operate the ATV safely, it’s better to step things down a notch until they are ready. This sure won’t be a popular decision. So if you are unsure, see if you can find a bike to test ride before making your purchase.
It’s important to remember that some states may have specific rules regarding allowable age for operating an ATV, so check your state for rules.
Size and weight
For the child to operate the ATV properly, it needs to be able to shift the weight of the machine from side to side by shifting his or her body weight.
To do this properly, the feet need to reach the footrests.
When your child stands on the ATV’s footrests with his hands on the handlebar, there should be at least 3 inches of clearance between the seat and the child’s pants.
The ATV should be no more than 3-4 times the weight of the kid. Never buy a bike that your kid needs to “grow into.”
Most 10-year-olds are capable of learning to operate an ATV that has a clutch. But this is one extra element that adds to the complexity of riding.
With a single-speed automatic transmission, all you need to focus on is pushing a thumb throttle to control the forward thrust. This option is easiest for beginners.
Then there is also the option of a semi-automatic with an automatic clutch for simple starting and stopping and manual transmission so that young users can learn to shift.
When a beginner is learning to ride an ATV, the focus should be on learning basic driving skills like speed control, braking, and properly making use of his body weight to balance and maneuver the ATV in different driving situations.
So unless your kid already has years of riding experience and is looking to go into more organized ATV racing, I recommend you look for something automatic or semi-automatic.
Even if you wanted to, you’d be hard-pressed to find many ATVs within the recommended range of engine sizes that are fitted with a clutch and manual transmission.
All three of the models of ATVs I’m recommending here in this article are automatic or semi-automatic.
In a few years, when you decide that your kid is ready to move up to the next size of ATV (125-250cc), there still are lots of automatic options available. Most sports and utility ATVs are sold with an automatic transmission, even on adult bikes.
If they go into racing, they will likely need to learn how to ride with a clutch, but for now, I think it’s best to keep things simple with an automatic.
Electric or gas powered
While researching this article, I was surprised by the number of articles recommending flimsy, super slow, plastic electric ATVs, even for older kids. Most of these are low quality and low performance compared to what is recommended in this article. They may be fun to play with when your kid is 5-6 years old, but when they get up to 10, and you feel they are ready to try out the motorsport world, they might as well get “the real deal,” right away.
Maybe in the not-so-distant future, electric ATVs will become more commonly available as “real” high-quality ATVs, even for adult-sized bikes. But until then I would advise you to choose gas.
As of today, none of the major brands offer high-quality electric ATVs for 10-year-old kids. But I would not be surprised if they start popping up sometime soon.
If your mind is set on an electric ATV for your 10-year-old, you should have a closer look at the TomRide TR290. The bike is intended for kids for 10 years up and packs quite a punch with a rated top speed of 30mph (50kph). This is a relatively small company, but the product seems really promising. The bikes are available worldwide.
Engine size and top speed
Most gas-powered ATVs intended for 10-year-olds have engines in the range of 90-110cc. Some people argue that these bikes are too small, too slow, and boring, and therefore recommend buying a 250cc instead.
I generally don’t recommend this because, for most 10-year-olds, 250cc is just too much power and weight to be handled safely. When they become 12 and more experienced, it may be time to switch. Manufacturers don’t advise these bikes to be used by riders under 16.
A better option is to buy the strongest and fastest bike in the 90-110cc range, but make sure it is fitted with a proper, adjustable speed limiter. This way, even beginners can use the bike safely, and you can increase difficulty-level gradually as the kid’s skills get better.
For racing purposes, it is even possible to increase the power output of a bike like this while keeping it at a manageable size and not as fast as a 250.
Recommended Safety Features
Some make the mistake of buying an underpowered and undersized bike, thinking it will keep the child safer.
A better option would be to look for a machine that offers adaptive safety features. This way, the child will have a machine that grows with their skills.
Features you should look for are:
- Parent-adjustable speed limiter, 3 different steps is common.
- Safety Tether to stop the bike if the kid falls off.
- Keyed ignition switch to keep control of who goes riding and when.
- Quality tires with a well-threaded pattern and good quality rubber for good traction and durability.
- Front and rear lights to see and to be seen in dim light conditions.
- Good quality shocks and brakes.
I don’t emphasize price too much in this article. If your budget is on the smaller side, I strongly advise you to buy a used quality bike in good condition, rather than buying a cheap new bike that will give a lesser driving experience and most likely lots more hours doing repairs.
My nephew had a couple of cheap China-made ATVs when he was this age, and while fun when they worked, they didn’t last for long.
The resale value of a quality bike is much better than in the cheaper models, so when your kid outgrows the bike, you will get a good chunk of your money back.
To sum things up
Based on the above factors, any of the recommend ATVs in this article would be a good choice.
I would probably put my money on the Honda TRX90X because of the well-known Honda quality and because the 90cc Honda engine slightly outperforms even the 110cc Polaris Sportsman 110EFI. Be aware that the Honda lacks reverse as the other models have.
Which one you choose will ultimately be a matter of personal preference, but you can’t go wrong with any of them.