People unfamiliar with ATVs often assume they are only suitable for trail riding and play. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
ATVs’ immense versatility makes them stand out from other types of vehicles and is much of the reason behind their widespread adoption in work and leisure.
ATVs are mainly used for: Recreation, like trail riding, hunting, or racing; As a lightweight alternative to heavy machinery in farming, landscaping, or property maintenance; Transporting cargo and people efficiently over rough ground for leisure or professional use.
These are just the tip of the iceberg regarding what an ATV can do. Please continue reading to learn more about some creative ways people enjoy and benefit from their ATVs.
Related: What Is an ATV? (ATV vs Quad vs UTV vs Motorcycle)
1. Recreational Riding
Recreational ATV riding is when someone rides an ATV with no purpose other than enjoying the riding experience. It can be a fun, exciting, or relaxing leisure time activity, depending on your riding style and where you choose to ride.
For many people, taking their ATVs out on the trails or to a race offer an excellent way to de-stress and recharge after a long and hectic work week.
There are several categories of recreational ATV riding, which vary in intensity, comfort, and difficulty.
Trail Riding and Sightseeing
Depending on where you live, you may have access to a network of dedicated ATV trails. The trails are typically unpaved off-road trails with varying degrees of riding difficulty.
People usually ride ATV trails for the same reasons people cruise the highway on their motorcycles or go for a Sunday drive with their sports car.
The riding experience is enjoyable, and you also get a unique nature experience. In some parts of the world, like Northern America, you’ll find trails that take you through the wild and untouched wilderness that offers breathtaking views like nowhere else.
An ATV allows people not physically capable of multi-day hikes to experience beautiful remote locations and landmarks that otherwise would be hard to reach.
To ride an ATV trail, you usually have to pay a small fee and adhere to the rules that apply to the specific trail. You can rent an ATV or bring your own.
Some ATV riders are more thrill seekers than looking for scenic views.
ATV mudding is a pastime activity where people take their often modified ATVs to the woods or swamp to find the wettest and nasties mud hole.
The goal is to get across the pit, get stuck, or a little bit of both. This form of ATV riding is not for the faint of heart but only for those not afraid to get covered in mud.
Those living near a desert get to take their ATVs to play in the dunes along with dune buggies, motocross bikes, and off-road vehicles.
Rear-wheel drive quads with paddle-style tires on the rear axle for improved traction in the loose sand are the preferred ATV type for this riding style.
Related: 14 Fun & Exciting ATV Activities to Try Now
2. Sport and Competitive Racing
While some race ATVs for a living, most people race them as a fun and exciting hobby.
Common ATV racing disciplines include:
- Woods racing
- Desert racing
- Hill climbing
- Ice racing
- Cross country (also known as hare scrambles races)
- Speedway or flat track
- TT (Tourist Trophy)
- Drag racing
Sport ATVs are typically built to emphasize speed and performance rather than utility.
Essential characteristics of a racing quad include a lightweight construction with a low center of gravity, a high-power engine, and excellent suspension.
Closed Course ATV riding
This form of riding is geared mainly toward people who have never ridden ATVs and is typically offered at various adventure and activity parks. The riding is usually beginner level and usually happens on a closed course with guidance from an instructor.
3. Homesteading and Small-Scale Farming
Suppose you own a homestead or a small hobby farm. In that case, you may be looking to mechanize heavier and more labor-intensive agricultural tasks without buying expensive farming equipment built for full-scale operations.
This is where an ATV may come in handy. Their unique design bridges the advantages between a pickup truck and a tractor.
With implements and various attachments, a utility ATV becomes almost like a mini tractor while still capable of many of the same tasks as a truck.
Almost any farming implement you can get for tractors is available in a less complex and expensive ATV version.
Some examples of small-scale fieldwork an ATV can perform include:
- Spreading fertilizer or manure
- Sowing or Seeding
- Mowing grass
- Spraying Weeds
The various forms of Implements can be towed behind the ATV or mounted on the front or rear cargo racks.
An ATV isn’t always the best choice for your small-scale farming operation. If all you do is field work and no trail riding or hauling cargo, you may be better off choosing a compact tractor.
Related: 8 Vehicle Types That Are Similar to ATVs
4. Farming and Ranching
Ranch owners and those running full-scale farming operations likely won’t consider an ATV for fieldwork. However, ATVs have proven helpful for various other tasks around the farm.
Transporting Supplies Across the Farm
A day of farming involves a lot of carrying tools, gear, and supplies, such as feed and hay bales, around the property.
While ATVs can’t carry or tow as much as a truck, they make up for it in convenience and off-road capabilities.
An ATV is swift to get on and off, easily loads up with gear and can go almost anywhere. All the small time savings add up throughout a day or a week.
A busy farmer usually welcomes with open arms the time and energy they save from not having to carry the tools around or getting in and out of a truck all day.
While an ATV doesn’t hold the capacity to mow larger fields, they are perfect for mowing and maintaining pasture fields in more uneven terrain.
The tool you need for this type of job is a flail mower, a more powerful version of a lawn mower.
Fence Building, Maintenance, and Supervision
Fences are not always accessible by road. ATVs allow you to carry the tools and supplies you need to build fences in more rough terrain.
Various fencing attachments, such as fence post racks and fencing-wire winders, simplify the fencing process further.
And when you’re out checking and maintaining existing fences, you can bring a few spare fence posts and a coil of wire to make repairs on the spot.
Managing and Moving Livestock
Some traditional cowboys still swear by horses to manage their herd of cattle. But today’s modern ranchers often prefer ATVs due to some of their advantages.
An ATV is faster, can go on for days without getting tired or hungry, will carry more tools and gear, and can get through even more challenging terrain than a horse.
With an ATV, the rancher can get much more done in a day’s work and can look after or move more cattle in a few hours than a full day by horse.
Maintaining a Horse Paddock
For horse owners, an ATV is useful not only for carrying a few hay bales but also for maintaining horse paddocks.
A box-blade grader helps level out the larger bumps, and a landscape rake ensures a smooth and comfortable finish.
5. Small-Scale Forestry
Forest owners or professional forestry entrepreneurs use ATVs in various small-scale forestry operations.
If you don’t own a tractor or when the woods are too dense and narrow for a tractor to fit, an ATV may be just what you need.
Common tools to collect firewood with your ATV include a logging trailer, a skidder attachment, and a winch.
Related: My Favorite ATV Logging Equipment and 23 More
Thinning is essential in young growth tending. This type of forestry requires a lightweight, narrow, and nimble vehicle that can fit between the remaining trees and drive near them without damaging the roots.
Using a forest trailer with a hydraulic crane, you can use an ATV to collect the trees you cut without damaging the ones left to grow.
This setup also allows you to collect trees fallen in storms or other times you’re doing selective tree-cutting. However, you typically use larger machinery with a higher capacity for clearcutting operations.
Heavy Machinery Field Repair Jobs
When a large forestry machine like a feller or a forwarder breaks down fa into the forest, an ATV allows you to bring tools and supplies out to remote locations otherwise not accessible by truck.
6. Property Maintenance
Homeowners and property maintenance contractors find ATVs useful due to their ability to maneuver tight spots and carry various implements and attachments.
ATVs are widely used in winter maintenance, such as clearing snow with a plow or snow blower attachment or spreading sand or salt with a spreader. Their main benefit is the ability to maneuver tight spots where larger machinery won’t fit.
While ATV snow plows work well, they are primarily for those that use their ATVs for more than just clearing snow.
For smaller stretches of gravel road up to a few miles, an ATV can do a good job keeping the road in shape.
Attachments such as a box blade scraper or a grader mage short process of smoothing out ruts and filling in potholes.
7. Landscaping and Garden Work
In landscaping and garden work, ATVs are used to clean up leaves, pine needles, or other debris with a rake, remove logs and branches of a cut-down tree, or mow grass using a mower attachment.
They are also used to smooth and level dirt and to spread seeds and fertilizer to make new lawns.
Lawn-friendly tires are preferred over more aggressively threaded mud tires to help prevent damage to the surface.
8. Leisure and Hobbies
Many ATV owners use their vehicles mainly as a tool to simplify various outdoor hobbies and outdoor recreation.
Hunters use ATVs to collect big game in hard-to-reach off-road locations, haul gear to a deer stand, or get to more remote hunting locations without hiking for days.
Related: 16 Must-Have ATV Hunting Accessories for the Ultimate Rig
Enthusiasts use a lot of gear to make the ice fishing hobby more effective and enjoyable. An ATV setup with the proper ice fishing accessories allows you to spend more time fishing rather than hauling gear back and forth.
Long, tedious hikes while carrying a bare minimum of food, gear, and drinks to save weight isn’t for everyone.
An ATV allows you to cover more ground and camp in more remote locations without sacrificing comfort.
9. Public Safety Agencies
Natural catastrophes, forest fires, and accidents don’t always happen somewhere with access by road.
Various public safety agencies use ATVs to improve and extend the reach of their services into environments where they cannot use other, less mobile vehicles.
Examples of branches where ATVs are commonly used include:
- Firefighting and wildland fire control
- Emergency medical services
- Military operations
- Border control and security
- Land and wildlife management
10 Professional Use
Industries operating in remote locations mainly use ATVs to carry tools, supplies, and people beyond the reach of other vehicle types.
Whether repairing a remote tv-antenna, supervising a pipeline project, or surveying for oil or minerals, an ATV can help workers, and consultants get to where they need to be.
Examples of industries that use ATVs include:
- Construction and mining
- Land management and surveying
- Mineral, gas, and oil companies
- Surveying and land registration
Looking for more inspiration on things to use an ATV for? Check out our post on 46 ideas for ATV uses.
Why Do People Use ATVs?
Why do people use ATVs over other types of vehicles? Here are some of the most common features that make an ATV the preferred alternative.
Off-road capable. One of the ATVs’ characteristic features and main advantages over any other type of vehicle is their ability to maneuver effectively through rough and rugged terrains. ATV stands for All Terrain Vehicle for a reason; there is (almost) no limit to where it can go.
They offer effective suspension that can handle bumpy and rocky grounds and four large tires with aggressive tread patterns for flotation and traction in wet and muddy conditions.
Easy to maneuver. ATVs are lightweight, fast, and extremely nimble to drive in tight spots.
Can carry people and cargo in rough terrain. An ATV can take one to two people, depending on the model. And they can carry gear at the front and rear cargo racks, or you can attach a trailer if you need to transport more than the ATV can carry.
Versatile. Recreational and utility types of ATVs are incredibly versatile. Unlike a compact tractor, you can go camping with your ATV after plowing the fields. And unlike a motocross motorcycle, you can tow a load of firewood to your cabin when you come home for a trail ride.