What to Look for When Buying an ATV

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Buying an ATV is exciting but can also be overwhelming, with many options and features to consider. 

This article is your compass through the maze of choices, ensuring you make an informed decision that matches your needs and preferences.

1. Purpose and Use

When selecting an ATV, your intended use is a key deciding factor. Here’s a brief overview:

  • Recreational Riding: Choose an ATV with moderate engine size and responsive suspension for comfort and safety during leisure rides.
  • Utility Work: Opt for an ATV with a powerful engine, durable frame, and features like cargo racks and towing capabilities.
  • Racing: Select a lightweight ATV with a performance-oriented engine and advanced suspension for speed and agility in competitive environments.
  • Hunting or Fishing: Look for an ATV with a quiet engine, camouflage options, and extra storage for outdoor activities.
  • Trail Riding: The ideal ATV should balance comfort and performance and have good suspension and navigation features for diverse trails.
  • Youth ATV Riding: Safety is paramount; choose an age-appropriate, smaller, less powerful ATV with essential safety features to ensure a secure and enjoyable riding experience for beginners.

For more information about different types of ATVs, check out our guide.

2. Brand Reputation

Regarding reliability and durability, brand reputation plays a significant role. Renowned brands like Honda, Polaris, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Can-Am are known for their quality. 

However, don’t just rely on brand names. Check reviews, seek recommendations from seasoned ATV riders, and visit forums for a broader perspective.

3. Dealer Availability and Reputation

Choosing the right ATV dealer is as important as selecting the brand. A reputable dealer ensures:

  • Efficient Services and Repairs: Quick and effective maintenance keeps your ATV in top condition with minimal downtime.
  • Access to Spare Parts: Ready availability of parts is essential for timely repairs.
  • Expertise and Support: Good dealers offer valuable advice on maintenance and upgrades.
  • Warranty and Post-Sale Services: Reliable dealers provide solid warranty terms and after-sales support.
  • Long-term Relationship Benefits: A strong dealer relationship can lead to loyalty discounts and personalized service.

A dependable dealer is vital for a hassle-free ATV experience, ensuring you’re always ready for the trails.

4. Engine Size

Engine size in ATVs varies, and the right choice depends on the rider’s age, experience, and intended use:

  1. Large Engines (600cc and above): Best suited for experienced riders, these ATVs are great for demanding tasks like hauling and plowing.
  2. Medium Engines (250cc to 600cc): Ideal for intermediate riders or those who need a balance between power and manageability.
  3. Small Engines (Under 250cc): Perfect for beginners, younger riders, or light use. They’re easier to handle, cost-effective, and fuel-efficient.

5. Transmission Type

The transmission type of an ATV significantly influences the riding experience and handling. Understanding the different transmission types helps in making an informed choice:

  • Manual Transmission: This type requires the rider to manually shift gears, offering a high level of control. It’s ideal for experienced riders who prefer a more engaged riding experience.
  • Semi-Automatic Transmission: Combining elements of manual and automatic, this type allows for gear shifting without clutching. It’s an excellent middle ground for those who want some control but with less complexity.
  • Automatic Transmission: These are the easiest to operate, perfect for beginners or riders who prefer simplicity. Automatic transmissions eliminate the need for gear shifting, allowing the rider to focus more on the terrain and less on the riding mechanics.
  • Reverse Gear: Consider ATVs with reverse gear for better maneuverability in tight spaces, adding practicality for various uses.

6. Four-Wheel Drive or Two-Wheel Drive

2×4 ATVs are best for flat, easy terrain track racing or casual riding. They are lighter, faster, and more maneuverable but offer limited traction for challenging environments.

4×4 ATVs are designed for rugged, uneven terrain; 4×4 ATVs provide superior traction and stability, essential for off-road adventures, heavy-duty work, or navigating through mud and rough trails. They are typically heavier, more expensive, and less agile, but their versatility in challenging conditions is unmatched.

For more insights, check our article with the pros and cons of 2×4 vs. 4×4 ATVs.

7. Power Steering

Power steering in ATVs can significantly enhance handling and reduce fatigue, especially on rough terrain. However, it does add to the cost. 

Read about the Pros and Cons of Power Steering on ATVs.

8. Suspension Options

The suspension system of an ATV plays a pivotal role in the quality of your ride, especially when it comes to handling different terrains and personal comfort. 

  1. Independent Suspension: Features individual suspension for each wheel, offering a smoother ride and improved traction on uneven ground.
  2. Solid Rear Axle Suspension: Links both rear wheels to a single axle, moving together. Ideal for racing and heavy-duty tasks on flat surfaces, it offers stability and power but may be less comfortable on rough terrain.
  3. Adjustable Suspension: Allows changes in settings like ride height and stiffness, providing versatility for different uses and personal ride preferences.

9. Safety Features

Prioritizing safety is essential, especially considering the diverse environments and challenges these vehicles can face. Here are helpful safety features to look for:

  1. Tether-Style Kill Switch: This critical feature ensures the engine shuts off if the rider falls off the ATV.
  2. Speed Limiter Systems: Speed-limiting features are essential for young or inexperienced riders and should be a top consideration when purchasing an ATV.
  3. App-Controlled Geofence for Youth Riders: This advanced feature allows parents or supervisors to set boundaries for where the ATV can be ridden. It’s an excellent tool for keeping young riders safe and within a predefined area.
  4. Learning Key: Some ATVs come with a learning key or mode that limits the ATV’s performance, making it more suitable for beginners who are still getting accustomed to riding.
  5. Automatic Braking Systems (ABS): ABS prevents wheels from locking up during braking, offering better control and reducing the risk of skidding, particularly on slippery surfaces.
  6. LED Lights and Reflectors: Good lighting and reflectors improve visibility, which is crucial for riding in low-light conditions or on shared trails.
  7. Hand Guards: Handguards protect the rider’s hands from debris and branches, offering additional safety, especially on narrow or wooded trails.

Related: 10 Effective Tips to Prevent ATV Accidents

10. Practical Features and Accessories

When selecting an ATV, considering practical features and accessories can significantly enhance its utility and functionality. Here’s what to look for:

  1. Winch: Invaluable for pulling heavy loads or assisting in recovery if you get stuck, a winch is a must-have for many ATV users, especially those who venture into challenging terrains.
  2. Cargo Rack: A cargo rack is essential for those who plan to carry gear, whether for camping, hunting, or just a day out on the trails. It adds significant carrying capacity to your ATV.
  3. Tow Hitch: For those who need to haul trailers or other equipment, a tow hitch expands the utility of the ATV, making it a versatile tool for work or recreation.

11. Comfort Features

While not essential, these comfort features can significantly enhance your ATV riding experience, especially on long or challenging rides.

  1. Hand Warmers: Keep your hands warm and flexible for better control and safety in cold weather.
  2. Windshield: Enhance comfort, especially at high speeds or in cold, windy conditions, with added protection from the elements.
  3. Heated Seats: Stay cozy during cold weather rides, improving overall comfort.

12. Price and Budget

When planning your ATV purchase, consider the following to establish a well-rounded budget:

  1. Vehicle Cost: Determine how much you can afford to pay for the ATV.
  2. Extra Features and Accessories: Include the cost of any necessary accessories or upgrades in your budget.
  3. Gear Costs: Factor in the expense of necessary safety gear like helmets and protective clothing.
  4. Maintenance Expenses: Allocate a portion of your budget for regular maintenance and potential repairs.
  5. Insurance: Include the cost of insuring your ATV, which is crucial for protection against accidents or theft.
  6. Options for New vs. Used: Weigh the pros and cons of buying new or used ATVs based on your budget and needs.
  7. Resale Value: Consider the potential resale value of the ATV, as some brands and models maintain their value better than others.

13. Test Ride

Always test-ride before buying an ATV. It’s the best way to ensure the ATV meets your expectations in performance, comfort, and handling.

A test ride reveals how the vehicle feels and behaves in real-world conditions and is crucial for identifying underlying issues when buying a used ATV.

For more tips, see our “20 Questions to Ask the Seller When Buying a Used ATV”.

The Bottom Line

By considering these factors, you’re well on your way to finding the ATV that’s perfect for your needs and adventures. Remember, the right choice is an informed one!

Haavard Krislok
Haavard Krislok
Haavard Krislok is an ATV and off-road enthusiast with a rich background spanning two decades in owning, maintaining, repairing, and utilizing ATVs for farming, logging, and hunting. Outside his professional life as an engineer and project manager, he cherishes recreational trail riding and is the creative force behind BoostATV.com, serving as its owner, editor, and content creator.

Welcome to Boost ATV

Hi, I’m Haavard, the guy behind Boost ATV.  I made this site to share what I have learned as an avid ATV owner and enthusiast. I hope it can help boost your ATV experience! About Me