Understanding your ATV fuel consumption and mileage is essential to avoid getting stuck out on the trail with an empty tank and no reserve.
In this post, we’ll look at how much fuel an ATV use on average, what factors impact ATV fuel consumption, and what you can do to maximize your ATVs gas mileage.
What Is the Average Fuel Consumption of an ATV?
The average ATV fuel consumption is about 15 to 20 miles per gallon (MPG) but can go as low as 10 or as high as 25 depending on terrain type, riding style, load weight, and wheel size.
ATVs are typically not as fuel efficient as cars and other vehicles designed for on-road use but can compete with some of the larger trucks.
One noticeable difference is how the gas mileage in an ATV typically fluctuates much more than in on-road vehicles.
ATVs are known for their high versatility and ability to operate in varying riding conditions. In addition, ATVs come in a wide range of types and sizes, specifically designed for various rigging applications. All of these variables contribute to a less predictable fuel economy.
The long list of factors that can affect ATV fuel consumption can come as a surprise to beginners and can make predicting the expected mileage challenging.
What Factors Affect ATV Fuel Consumption?
Fuel consumption is not a constant metric and can vary quite a bit depending on several factors. Some are things you can influence, while others stem from design choices made at the factory.
Engine Size and Horsepower
Bigger engines with a larger cylinder volume and more horsepower tend to burn more fuel than smaller alternatives.
However, when pulling hard, a bigger engine that operates at only half its capacity might use less fuel than a smaller engine being pushed to its limit.
2-Stroke vs. 4-Stroke Engines
Most modern ATVs use 4-stroke engines, while some racing quads and youth models still opt for the 2-stroke design.
A 2-stroke engine ignites fuel on every other stroke, while a 4-stroke only ignites fuel every fourth stroke.
That doesn’t mean a 2-stroke use twice as much fuel as a 4-stroke, but while modern 2-stroke engines are becoming increasingly fuel efficient, they still use significantly more fuel than their 4-stroke counterparts.
Fuel Injection vs. Carburetor
When fuel-injected engines entered the ATV industry, they significantly improved gas mileage.
Carburated ATV engines control the fuel/air mixture mechanically and cannot adapt to various riding conditions.
Fuel-injected engines, on the other hand, work electronically and continuously adjusts the fuel/air mixture for optimal fuel efficiency. A range of sensors throughout the engineering, air intake, ignition system, and exhaust helps a computer calculate the optimal mix at all times.
As a bonus, fuel-injected engines typically control engine temperature better, contributing to lower fuel consumption.
Tire Size, Tire Pressure, and Weight
What tires you use and how they are set up can significantly impact your ATV’s fuel consumption.
As a general rule, a bigger and heavier tire requires more engine power to turn and thereby uses more fuel. Note that a physically larger tire is not always heavier and that there are considerable variations in tire weight between the various models.
Just as important as the tire size is what tire pressure you use. Using the proper tire pressure can significantly impact ATV performance, fuel consumption being one of them.
Airing down the tires from the recommended tire pressure increases rolling resistance leaving the engine working much harder to maintain the same speed.
Transmission & Drivetrain
ATVs with constant 4-wheel drive typically use more fuel than models with selectable 2wd/4wd from constantly having to keep the entire drivetrain powered.
The vehicle’s transmission, clutch, and gear shift system also impact fuel efficiency. Some claim CVT transmission systems are more fuel efficient, but I don’t have data to back this up.
Vehicle Gross Weight
A heavier vehicle typically uses more fuel per mile. When you’re towing a heavy trailer, expect a noticeable jump in fuel consumption.
Expect a noticeable decrease in mileage on an overnight camping trip with the ATV loaded to its limit with gear and possibly a passenger compared to a quick spin on the trail with only yourself and no additional cargo.
Modifications & Fuel Consumption
Popular ATV modifications like installing an aftermarket exhaust can remove restrictions that prevent the engine from performing optimally and improve fuel consumption by up to 10%.
One forum user reported an improvement from 12MPG to 18MPH in similar riding conditions after changing the exhaust on his bike.
Keep in mind results will vary from model to model, and you might not see any noticeable improvement.
Another downside of installing an aftermarket exhaust is the increased sound level, making such modification less desirable for many ATV riders.
As with cars, the rider driving style plays a significant role in fuel efficiency. Fuel consumption increases as the engine is pushed harder and dig more into its potential.
A more active riding style with heavy acceleration, heavy braking, and large variations in speed typically cause a significantly higher fuel consumption than a smoother and reserved riding style.
To conserve fuel, it is recommended to practice slow accelerations and gentle breaking while maintaining constant and moderate speeds.
When they take their ATV out for the weekend, most people measure smiles per gallon and not miles per gallon, myself included.
This fundamental difference in typical riding style is worth remembering when comparing ATV fuel efficiency against vehicle types designed to transport people and goods from A to B as economically as possible.
Riding Conditions & Terrain
The terrain you ride in dramatically affects how much fuel your ATV uses.
Smooth trail riding at cruising speeds on a hard, level track with minor variations in elevation is typically where you’ll get the best mileage.
At the other end of the scale is technically challenging off-road riding in wet, sandy, or bumpy terrain with significant changes in elevation where the ATV gets pushed to its limit for each mile you travel.
Don’t be surprised if you notice double the fuel consumption between the two extremes.
ATVs Are Not Bound by the Same Fuel Economy Standards
Cars, trucks, and other vehicles designed for on-road use must meet regulations like fuel economy standards and emissions regulations to be legal.
ATVs are also bound by similar emission regulations but not fuel-economy standards.
The lack of regulation allows manufacturers to tailor ATV engines more toward specific needs without being restrained by having to meet a particular fuel efficiency requirement. This freedom allows for more extensive variations in engine and vehicle designs and is one of the reasons why gas mileage can vary so much from one ATV to another.
Always use fuel with an octane rating as recommended by the manufacturer. Running a lower octane fuel can make the engine run poorly and less effectively with increased fuel consumption. It can also potentially damage the engine over time and may void the warranty.
While lower octane is cheaper per gallon, you likely won’t save any money overall.
Running a higher octane fuel than the manufacturer recommends typically doesn’t result in any noticeable benefits, so your best bet is to stick with what the manufacturer suggests.
You may have heard how important aerodynamics is to fuel economy in cars and other high-speed vehicles. While not entirely irrelevant, aerodynamics are not as important as the other factors on our list for ATVs that spend most of their time at much lower speeds.
How Can I Calculate My Atv’s Fuel Consumption?
How many miles an ATV can go on a tank of gas depends on how much gas the fuel tank holds and the ATVs fuel consumption in the current riding conditions and setup.
Vehicle fuel consumption is typically indicated as miles per gallon in the US.
The easiest way to calculate your ATV’s fuel consumption is to zero the trip counter the next time you fill your tank.
The next time you refuel, you take note of how much gas you need to fill to top off the tank and the distance you’ve traveled since the last time you visited the gas station.
Then, take your traveled distance (in miles) and divide it by how much fuel you’ve used (in gallons) to calculate miles per gallon (MPG).
As an interesting experiment, you can compare the difference between a tank where you’ve spent most of the time out on the trails and one where you’ve done heavy utility work or challenging off-road riding.
To calculate how far your specific ATV can go on one gas tank, you need to determine how much fuel the gas tank holds. You typically find this information in the owner’s manual or an online spec sheet.
Multiply the vehicle’s MPG with the tank size to know your ATV’s reach without refueling.
When planning a trip, you must consider how the specific route affects fuel consumption.
On longer trips, bringing a couple of gallons in reserve is good practice, as the theoretical calculations don’t always match actual real-world conditions.
How Can You Improve Your ATV’s Fuel Efficiency?
With gas prices rising, ATV riders pay more attention to fuel consumption than ever before. Some of the factors that affect your ATV’s fuel consumption are out of your control, but here are a few tips on things you can do to save fuel.
- Practice a more conservative riding style with less hard acceleration and braking.
- Ensure proper tire pressure, and don’t run heavy, oversized tires.
- Keep the ATV properly maintained and in good condition. Address issues like dragging brake pads, worn wheel bearings, or a slipping drive belt.
- Consider a fuel additive to clean the carburetor insides or the injectors on a fuel-injected bike for optimal efficiency.
- Adjust the carb if the ATV isn’t running properly.
- Don’t bring more gear and cargo than you need to save weight.