One of the common concerns people have when considering getting a snowplow for their ATV is how good of a job it does plowing snow. How much snow can it handle, and how does it perform in the more challenging plowing conditions?
I was on the fence about whether I should get a plow for my ATV or spend a bit more and get an ATV snowblower instead. So I did some research to help me decide, and I will share my findings in this post.
So how well do ATV snow plows work? An ATV snow plow works really well for almost any depth of dry snow or for moderate to low depths of wet snow. It’s fast, maneuverable, and great for sidewalks. However, you will probably be better off using a heavier machine or a snowblower for deep and heavy snow.
How well an ATV snow plow works depends on many factors, such as what you are comparing up against, what you plan to achieve, what kind of snow conditions you typically get where you live, and what realistic alternatives you have to choose from.
Let’s see how well it holds up in different snow conditions.
Light, Dry, and Fluffy Snow Conditions
Dry snow is nearly weightless, easily moved by a simple breeze. With snow this powdery, the depth of snow doesn’t make a huge difference because of its lightness. Any ATV can plow powdery dry snow almost effortlessly.
However, you may find it challenging to keep all the snow in front of the blade. As you speed up, the powdery snow will overflow the plow blade, so you need several passes to move all of it.
If you expect a lot of plowing in powdery conditions, upgrading your plow with a rubber deflector that mounts on top of the blade is a good investment. This will allow you to plow snow in depths near the height of your blade without overflowing issues.
Most areas usually get bottomless powdery light snow only a few times each year. Typically, it’s the more demanding conditions that determine whether a snow plow attachment for your ATV is the right choice for you.
Wet, Compact, and Heavy Snow
This is where things start to become a bit more challenging. The wetter and more compact the snow gets, the harder it will be to plow. This is true with all snowplows, not just with ATVs.
In most cases, the ATV snow plow will have no problems with a couple of inches of even the heaviest snow. However, when the snow reaches depths of 6-8 inches or more, the relatively low weight of an ATV begins to show in the form of poorer plowing performance.
Tires begin to spin, and you may find the ATV struggles to keep the blade down to the ground.
The dense snow tends to lift the plow blade, so you must return for a second pass. Consequently, you get to struggle with the snow packed by tour tires from the first pass.
You can install a so-called down-force kit to prevent the blade from lifting.
The only problem is when the snow is deep or wet, the front end wants to push to whatever side the blade is angled.
Having a 4×4 quad is a must. For more inspiration on what you can do to prevent your tires from spinning, I recommend you head over to this article about the best ATV weight for plowing snow.
Real snow storms with several feet of snow are the most challenging. When you expect more than a few inches of heavy snow, you have no choice but to go out and plow during the snow to keep the snow at bay.
Waiting until the storm has passed can leave you with a plowing challenge that exceeds the capacity of the ATV.
If you put some effort into it, you will eventually tackle deep, heavy snowfalls as well, but it takes much more time and will put a lot more strain on the equipment.
So as you probably understand by now, whether an ATV snow plow is the right choice depends on how extreme your winter storms are.
There is a massive difference between getting 20 two-inch snowfalls and having five heavy snowfalls of a foot or more with snow. For the latter, and if you don’t want to go for a plow halfway through the storm, you should consider other alternatives than a plow.
Remember that the blades on ATV snow plows are relatively narrow (50 inches is considered average) compared to plows built for trucks or tractors. This means you will not move as much snow with each stroke as you do with the others.
The capacity should be more than enough for 2-3 homes, a few hundred yards of a driveway, and a few mid-sized parking areas. But if you plow many wide roads or massive parking lots, other alternatives with wider blades and heavier vehicles are better.
Speed and Maneuverability
On the other hand, few, if any, machines can compete with the speed, maneuverability, and nimbleness of an ATV. These abilities compensate quite a bit for the lack of pure pushing power.
Over time, this has the results evening out a bit.
It’s almost like comparing a race car to an SUV. The SUV can bring more people than the race car, but it will need twice the time to get there (as long as we leave speed limits out of the equation!).
This especially comes true where there’s not much space, like in small driveways, between buildings, and on sidewalks. You’ll find that areas like these often need to be left unplowed when using a truck or any larger-size machine.
After some practice with the ATV, you will «dance» around and have these areas free of snow in no time!
ATV snowplows are not very good for piling snow, plain and simple.
If space is a limiting factor so that the snow needs to be piled through the winter, you might as well start looking for other options than a plow. A snowblower or a tractor with a front loader is my top recommendation.
But if you are not too tight on space, you can stack up quite a bit of snow as long as you plan accordingly. Ideally, it would be best to push the snow out over the brink of a small hill or into the ditch of a road or a parking lot.
It is essential that you push the snow far enough over the edge early in the season so you have room for more on top or at the back of the pile. You cannot move the snow pile with the ATV as soon as it has frozen solid.
Different Surface Conditions
The plow will dig in on soft grounds like unfrozen dirt and gravel roads when lowered too low. Most plows are fitted with flotation shoes to prevent this, but even those don’t work in the softest conditions.
However, when the ground freezes solid, you should have no issues on hard surfaces like pavement and concrete.
User Experience: The Fun-Factor
You must expect to go through a learning process before you can master your ATV and plow to its maximum potential. Beginners may struggle a lot, even with smaller snow depths. But this will get better over time, for sure.
Another aspect to consider on the «user experience» side is the lack of protection from the elements. Suitable clothes and heated grips are a must if you want to avoid freezing your nuts off!
Last but not least, plowing with an ATV is a lot of FUN!
For many buyers, this is the deciding factor for choosing an ATV with a plow over, let’s say, a snowblower.
Unless snow depths become overwhelming or the weather is reasonably mild, you can anticipate a joyful experience from an activity that is often perceived as a formidable task.
ATV Snows Plow vs. the Alternatives
It’s easier to grasp the effectiveness of an ATV snow plow when we compare it with its most comparable alternatives.
ATV Snow Plow vs. Push-Style Snowblower
A snow blower is much slower than a snowplow but can manage much deeper snow.
Theoretically, you can pile snow where you want it, but when the snow is powdery dry, half of it tends to fly back straight in your face). Don’t get me wrong, I love my trusty Toro, but my cheeks are often red, and my glasses are impossible to see through after a job well done.
Using a snow blower can also be quite exhausting. Not as bad as using a shovel, but more than riding an ATV with a plow.
A snow blower is too slow for larger areas such as long driveways to handle the task efficiently.
ATV Snow Plow vs. ATV Snowblower
This is the best option for me, as the task on hand is clearing several feet of snow when I get to the cabin. I’ve found it to be the perfect combination of snow removal capacity and portability (I need to bring it there on a trailer).
As soon as the snow removal job is done, I can use the ATV for transport from the main road and up to the cabin.
ATV Snow Plow vs. Lawnmower Tractor
You can attach both plows or snow blowers to your lawnmower tractor. But this form of vehicle is much less agile, runs slower, and can be used only on smooth surfaces. Most of them lack 4×4, so the tires will spin once snow depths reach an inch.
ATV Snow Plow vs. Small Tractor or Backhoe
If you own a small farm or any other larger property, getting a mini tractor may be just as good an option as an ATV with a plow.
The front loader lets you pile snow more efficiently, and the heated cabin will be very nice to find on the coldest days.
The extra weight ensures that you can handle most plowing situations. Even when plowing icy and compacted snow.
It is, however, quite a bit slower and can’t get to the tightest spots.
How Much Snow Can an ATV Plow?
Most ATV snow plows should be able to plow 6-8″ of light snow. When the snow is wet, however, this number is significantly lower.
Are ATVs Good for Snow Plowing?
ATVs are great for plowing tight spaces with a lot of obstacles. They can handle moderate snow depths but do not work well with wet and icy snow. They are usually good enough for most homeowners.
Can you Plow Dirt With an ATV?
If you’re up for some light landscaping in the warmer seasons, the ATV plow may be just what you need to get the job done. Leveling sand, dirt, or gravel should be no problem if you don’t dig in too much at the time.
However, I would not use it grading longer dirt roads, as this can be very rough on the quad.