Understanding the difference between hours and miles in an ATV and how they relate to each other can be confusing. How many hours per mile is normal? Is there a way to convert hours to miles? What do these numbers mean, and what can they tell you about the bike’s condition? These are some of the questions we’ll look into.
What Hour-To-Mile-Ratio Is Normal in an ATV?
To help determine what hour-to-mile ratio is normal, I’ve looked up a few real-life examples on various ATV forums, and ATV marketplaces. I’ve also included the readings on my own Polaris Sportsman.
Make and Model
Honda Rancher 420
Honda Rancher (unknown engine size)
Honda Foreman (unknown engine size)
Polaris Sportsman 500
Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 (mine)
Polaris Sportsman 850
Polaris Sportsman 570
Can-Am Outlander 650XT
Can-Am Outlander 1000
Can-Am Outlander 800
Can-Am Outlander 800
Can-Am Outlander 800
Honda Foreman 500
Can-Am Outlander 800 XT
Can-Am Renegade 800
According to my findings, the mile-to-hour ratio in ATVs varies vastly, ranging from 2.4:1 all the way up to 23.8:1. The Can-Am Renegade with a ratio of 23.8:1 has traveled almost ten times as far as the Honda Rancher with a ratio of only 2.4:1. Another way to see it is the average speed of the Can-AM is about ten times that of the Honda.
I consider myself an average ATV rider with some farm work, some trail riding, some technical forest-riding, and even some mudding. With an hour-to-mile ratio of 9.5:1, I find myself in the middle of the scale.
How Do You Convert ATV Hours to Miles?
What if you know the hours on your ATV but want to know how this transfers to miles? Is there a good way to convert hours to miles?
There is no way to directly convert an ATVs hours to miles and vice versa without knowing how fast the bike has been ridden. However, an ATV typically travels from 10 to 15 miles per hour on average. This equals a typical conversion rate in the range of 1:10 to 1:15.
Some ATVs spend most of their life at mid to high speeds on trails or are used in racing. These bikes typically have a low hour count relative to miles traveled.
Other ATVs are run mostly at slow to moderate speeds for farm work or technical riding such as rock crawling. These bikes typically have a higher hour count relative to the miles they have traveled.
Depending on your ATV’s primary usage, you can use these general guidelines to go from hours to miles or back.
- Mostly Utility Work: 2.5:1 to 5:1
- Mixed-Use: 5:1 to 15:1
- Mostly trail riding or racing: 20:1 or more
So if you own an ATV that’s primarily been used for higher speed trail riding with 100 hours on it, you find the mileage by multiplying the hours by 20. 100 hours times 20 equalts to an estimated 2000 miles.
If you know the mileage but not the hours, you divide the 2000 miles read from the instrument panel by 20, giving an estimated runtime of 100 hours.
Again, these are just some general guidelines to give you a ballpark estimate. There is no way to do a precise conversion between miles and hours.
What Do Hours Mean on an ATV?
The hours on an ATV, often called engine hours, measure how many hours the engine has been turned on. The metric acts as the primary marker for keeping track of service intervals and overall vehicle wear.
What Does Miles Mean on an ATV?
The miles on an ATV are registered by the odometer and tell the total distance the vehicle has traveled. The metric is used as a secondary marker for keeping track of service intervals. With most ATVs, the mileage offers a less accurate indicator of vehicle wear and overall condition than the engine hours.
Hours vs. Mileage in an ATV Maintenance Chart
Keeping up with service and maintenance is crucial to ensure proper vehicle operation and optimal service life. This applies to all types of vehicles and machinery, ATVs included.
The manufacturer knows from experience and tests how long each component will last on average before it wears out. They also know at what intervals we need to make various adjustments and when to replace filters, oils, and fluids.
This information is systemized into a periodic maintenance and service schedule to track when to perform the specified service and maintenance tasks. This ensures safe and proper vehicle operation and enables the manufacturer to offer a warranty provided that the schedule is completed and properly documented.
The big question is how to track when the next service is due or when to replace various components.
We can quantify and measure different aspects such as distance traveled, hours of operation, units produced, and days, weeks, and months in use.
A typical ATV maintenance chart uses three different metrics to determine the maintenance intervals: hours, miles, and calendar – whichever comes first.
- ATVs that are primarily used for trail riding ads on miles relatively quickly. The mileage interval usually occurs first in these bikes, triggering the specified maintenance task.
- ATVs primarily used for slow-speed utility work or technical riding don’t put on as many miles and usually reach the hour-mark before the mileage.
- Other tasks need to be performed regardless of mileage or hours and are scheduled by a calendar. The calendar typically uses markers such as pre-ride, daily, weekly, monthly 1M, 6M, 12M, etc.
Why ATVs Use Hours and Miles but Cars Only Use Miles
Which metric gives the most accurate representation of wear and tear is not the same in all vehicles.
- Hours make for a more accurate service-interval timer and vehicle wear and tear indicator in more stationary/fixed machinery and vehicles that regularly operate at slow speeds or a standstill.
- Miles is better suited in more mobile vehicles that rarely run without moving forward at a decent speed whenever the vehicle is in use.
As you may have noticed, with cars and other fast-moving on-road vehicles, we usually only talk about mileage and not engine hours to keep track of service intervals or when we’re considering the vehicle’s overall condition.
While most modern cars do count engine hours, the metric is not as relevant to determining wear and tear on components such as brakes, bearings, and axle joints. The engine hours don’t say how far the vehicle has traveled, only how many hours the engine has been running.
A car spends most of its time cruising at highway speeds and less time idling at a near standstill. The overall vehicle wear correlates well with distance traveled (mileage).
Also, for most people, the concept of mileage is more relatable than hours. Cars are primarily used for transportation from A to B. We use miles not only to keep track of when the next service is due but also how far it’s to the next city or far we can go without refueling.
That’s why using miles makes more sense in on-road vehicles such as cars and motorcycles.
With off-road vehicles, heavy equipment like excavators, or other vehicles that spend much of their time at medium to slow speeds or even operating at a standstill for hours, the mileage doesn’t provide a good representation of vehicle wear.
On these vehicle types, the engine hours typically offer a more accurate indicator of wear and tear than the mileage.
ATVs fall somewhere in between a car and an excavator. They typically don’t travel as far and at such highway speeds as most other on-road vehicles, but they usually move more than an excavator.
What’s unique about ATVs is the wide range of riding applications. The miles, hours, and the ratio between them vary quite a lot depending on how the bike is used. By using hours miles, depending on which comes first, we get a more flexible maintenance schedule that ensures proper maintenance regardless of how you use your ATV.
Please note that the service manual’s recommended intervals are based on average riding conditions. If your bike is subject to more severe use, it will wear faster and needs to be serviced more frequently.
What Can Hours and Mileage Tell About the ATVs Condition?
In an ATV with high mileage or high hours, it is generally a good idea to look out for signs of wear and tear, as both of these metrics tell us something about how much the vehicle has been used.
- The hours typically tell more about the condition of the engine and less about overall vehicle wear. It doesn’t say anything about how far the ATV has traveled.
- The miles usually offer a more accurate indicator of wear in wear parts such as bearings, brakes, or bushings.
However, the numbers by themselves tell only part of the story. High mileage or high hour count doesn’t always mean that the bike is worn out and in poor condition.
You also need to consider how well the bike is kept up with maintenance and overall care. A well-maintained ATV with relatively high mileage or hours could offer a much better deal than one that’s used only half as much but is neglected when it comes to service and upkeep.
Another critical factor is how hard the ATV was used previously.
One hour at near idle putting around the farm is quite different from riding one hour flat out on a track day. The latter causes more wear to components such as bearings, tires, engine, transmission, and suspension.
Riding applications that cause excessive wear and tear (according to the Polaris user manual):
- Frequent immersion in mud, water, or sand.
- Racing or race-style, high RPM use.
- Prolonged low-speed, heavy-load operation.
- Extended idle.
- Short trip cold weather operation.
The Hours-to-Mileage Ratio Can Indicate How Hard the ATV Was Ridden
Comparing the hours of runtime to miles traveled can indicate how aggressive precious owners drove the ATV.
While there is no rule without exceptions, a high hour, low mileage ATV has likely not been ridden as hard or aggressively as one with low hours and high mileage.
Do ATVs Go by Miles or Hours?
Some ATVs count hours, some count miles, while others count both. The hours are typically used as an addition to the mileage to keep track of operating time between service intervals.
However, when an ATV is listed for sale, they typically go by miles rather than hours. Most sellers also include the hours as it’s a good indicator of the bike’s condition and how hard it has been ridden.
How Are ATV Hours Calculated?
Not all ATVs use the same method to count the hours.
Most ATVs count hours only when the engine is running, including active runtime and idling. However, some models, such as some from Can-Am, count hours whenever the key is turned on and even if the engine is not running.
Therefore some Can-Ams may have a disproportionally high hour count from intentionally or unintentionally leaving the bike for extended periods with only the ignition on.