There are a number of things to consider when shopping for a winch on a side-by-side. Weight capacities can be confusing, especially when their numbers are in the thousands of pounds. Winches can be expensive, which makes choosing the right one so important. Here are some helpful tips.

Consider the weight rating

While not a set-in-stone rule, in general it is smart to avoid dipping below 4,000 pounds, especially when the winch is going on a bigger UTV. All winches serve their own purpose, however, and a lighter duty winch can be fine if it will only be used for lighter duty tasks. If you live in an area where rain comes around frequently and mud is a common obstacle, a heavy duty winch might be a smart option because you will need a good amount of power to get out of some tough jams.

Consider brand and quality parts

Oftentimes the price fluctuates between companies that it is easy to find a 4,500-pound winch for the same price as another brand’s 3,500-pound winch. Naturally, there are different grades of parts and equipment included in the package, and some companies have better established names than others. Just know to look around at prices before visiting one website and adding a product to the shopping cart.

Consider accessories

There are some important factors to consider before even looking at the quality of the materials in a winch package. You need to look into the parts needed before buying a kit. A winch mount is often overlooked, but the winch needs something to seat itself on. With many utility UTVs, a mount is built in. For many sportier side-by-sides, a winch mount will have to be purchased before installing, since their frame and axle styles do not provide adequate space for one. Many companies will include a mount in the winch kit, but some will require a separate purchase.

Consider its primary use

Considering the different parts within a winch system, there are several factors that may change from product to product. Know exactly what you may be using it for before buying and you will have a better idea of how to break down the many variables like horsepower and line material. Most heavier winches will claim horsepower between 1.5 hp and 2 hp, but sometimes more.

Consider the winch line

On a 4,500-pound winch the line should run from 45-to-50 feet or more. That is enough length to hopefully find a connection for getting out of jams. Usual options are wire rope or synthetic rope, each with its own benefits. Wire is more resistant to heat and abrasion and it is cheaper, while synthetic rope is stronger for the given diameter but can experience more wear over time and it costs more.

Consider the winch when buying a new UTV

WARN, Superwinch and other companies offer aftermarket winches that will fit many UTVs, but some UTV makers offer their own winches, which can cut out some of the hassle of making sure the product is appropriate for the vehicle. Can-Am’s Defender does not include a winch, but the Defender XT and Defender XT Cab models both come with 4,500 pound winches. Similarly, Arctic Cat’s HDX 500 XT does not include a winch, but the upgraded HDX 700 SE Hunter Edition comes with a WARN 5,000 pound. winch.