Life is full of important decisions: where to settle down, what to name your children, miracle whip or mayonnaise, and whether to purchase an ATV or UTV. While I’ve got the first three figured out, my husband and I are beginning to ponder the importance of the last pairing as we explore purchasing a new toy to add to our arsenal. ATV or UTV?
The Fight for the ATV
The term “ATV” is typically synonymous with the slang term “quad” and conjures up images of four-wheeled vehicles intended for single-rider use. Thus, when I say it, I imagine myself roaring down dirt roads alone and returning to the truck to find my boys and the dog have eaten all of the sandwiches we packed for lunch.
Four wheel ATV’s have dominated the off-road market since 3-wheel models were pulled off the market due to safety concerns in the early 90’s. Their open construction gives riders the feeling of riding a super-powered pony down trails of all kinds. Meanwhile, the ability of the rider to help control the vehicle by manipulating the position of their body weight makes quads a formidable choice for riders needing to make tight turns, especially in racing-style situations.
Can-Am’s Defender offers among the best options for carrying a load. The 38 x 54 x 12 in. cargo box is roomy enough to carry most loads that don’t require some type of towing and trailer. When it comes to capacity, the Defender puts up better numbers than much of its closely priced competitors. The box is capable of carrying 1000 lbs and the tailgate itself can withstand 250 lbs. The Defender DPS, XT, and XT Cab models offer the same cargo box dimensions and capacity, but the payload on the XT Cab is 1200 lbs because of its enclosure, so if you choose that model and want to carry a full bed load, tell your big friend that it might be best to jog along next to the Can-Am. MSRP of $10,999
John Deere Gator
One of the most trusted name in field equipmenet, John Deere produces a wide range of all-terrain vehicles. For a recreational UTV it brings the John Deere Gator RSX850i. Its 8.9 square feet of cargo space is capable of carrying 400 lbs along with a payload capacity of 800 lbs. They come in four different styles – standard, sport for rock and sandy terrain, trail for the backcountry ideal for hunters and midnight black special edition all starting at MSRP $12,000.
Yamaha Viking EPS
As shown previously, price is not always reflection solely of how much a machine can carry, but if it was, we would be very confused by the $10,999 price tag on the Wolverine because it claims a bed capacity of 300 lbs. A better option may be the Viking EPS. With an MSRP of $11,999, its 600 lb load capacity makes more sense.
Polaris Ranger ETX
The Polaris Ranger ETX is a budget machine in the UTV world because it’s priced below $10,000. The Ranger’s cargo box is notably smaller than the Can-Am at 32 x 42 x 11.5 inches. As also should be expected, the cargo load is much less, in this case half. Yes, the 500 pound box load and 1000 pound payload will not support nearly as much freight as other UTV’s, but this model is for those who only need the bare minimum. If you want something to cruise around in with a buddy, this is a good option. If your job calls for constant transportation of heavy loads, opt for the higher priced machines. MSRP $8,799
Arctic Cat HDX
The price tag on the Arctic Cat’s HDX 500 XT is not reflexive of its bed capacity. The 600 lb cargo box capacity will cover small jobs, but little more than that. Prospective buyers can look into an aftermarket electric cargo box lift sold by Arctic Cat, because even 600 lbs is a lot for human arms. Other options include the bigger HDX 700 XT, offering a 1000 lb cargo box capacity. The Prowler 700 XT and Prowler 1000 XT only support 600 lbs in the box, but they are more performance oriented UTVs and less concerned with load size. MSRP of $11,999
The Honda Pioneer 700 offers serious load capacity at an affordable price., the cargo box capacity of 1000 lbs seems difficult to beat in the UTV market. While Honda’s name doesn’t suggest the industry specialization that may come with brands like Arctic Cat and Polaris, it manages to outdo its competition by offering seriously affordable machines. MSRP $10,299
Beyond maneuverability, ATV’s are also on the up-and-up when it comes to pricing. Typically cheaper than UTV’s, ATV’s can also be purchased in a wide variation of body and motor sizes, making them an easily customizable choice for riders of different sizes.
ATV’s are fun to ride, capable of more nimble maneuvers and typically more affordably priced. However, all I keep thinking about is the one-rider limitation and sitting on the tailgate hungry, gnawing on a stale granola bar because I went out riding alone.
The Bargain for the UTV
While many people still hear the term “UTV” and automatically think of farmers toting around bales of hay and tools on the farm, these machines have crossed the line from “blah” to “bada bing!” with the introduction of high performance models like the Polaris RZR and John Deere RSX850i. No longer are these machines intended for just hauling junk around the yard. In fact, many are built for performance.
One of the major benefits of the UTV for recreational use is the ability to safely carry more than one rider. With seats intended for multiple riders, UTV’s can reliably create a good time for families in one machine. This reasoning makes it understandable that the cost will, indeed, be higher of that than an ATV. However, think of it this way: buy two ATV’s or one UTV. While you’ll probably fight over who drives, it’s likely the UTV purchase will be the better value.
An additional UTV benefit is also storage space. Let’s face it: trucks are cool because you can throw stuff in the back. Most UTV’s offer the same benefit, hence the name “Utility Terrain Vehicle,” where “utility” refers to the ability to carry things with you in a dedicated space. Whether you need to take some tools, a cooler, hunting gear or camping supplies, the UTV offers a reasonable way of packing your gear along.
Not to mention, the aftermarket for UTV’s is growing rapidly. From custom wheels to light kits and extreme suspension options, UTV owners can spend as much cash on customizing their ride as they did to buy it. And as someone who can’t leave good enough alone; I kind of dig that.
And the winner is…
In our house, the winner will be a UTV. While the specific make and model has yet to be determined, the UTV is the best fit for our needs and style of recreation. However, there’s no doubt that there will always be a market for both; toys are just as different as their riders, and that’s what makes offroad motorsports fun!