What’s the Difference Between an ATV and UTV?

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.


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.

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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.

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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!