ATVs VS UTVs/Side by Sides

ATVs VS UTVs/Side by Sides

Choose the Right Tool for the Job

For a lot of tasks, you can use an array of tools to accomplish the same job.  But, when the job gets specific, you need a tool that is tailor made for it.  The same can be said with ATVs and side by sides.  You can accomplish many of the same tasks and ride on most of the same terrain with either style.  However, one will usually shine over the other in a given situation.  Depending on the rider and what the riding situation is will determine what machine is best.  If you are unsure of what style of machine is the best tool for yourself, take a look below at some of the considerations you should make.


Some might think that this category should be an easy win for the UTV.  Bigger is always better right?  In some cases that is certainly true.  But the smaller size and layout of ATVs can actually be an asset for getting some types of work done.

When the job requires frequent stops and get-offs, an ATV is the way to go.  With a simple swing of the leg, you can hop off your machine, do your task, and be back on just as quick.  This is great for running fence lines, checking feeders, checking traps and other tasks of that nature. 

The small build of an ATV allows you to get your machine into tighter spaces.  Maybe that’s in the thick woods for hauling lumber.  Or maybe it’s going between outbuildings on the farm or work site.

For work situations, a UTV really shines when you are using the machine to do the work.  This includes plowing, hauling, and using implements.  The wider stance and heft of the machine make a utility side by side far more suitable for these types of tasks.

The larger cab of a UTV allows for a crew to all be in one machine.  On the other hand, you will need a fleet of quads to haul the same number of workers.


The Play category is broad and expansive.  There are so many ways to have fun off road.  It can range from cruising down trails and conquering mud pits to flying high on an MX track and roosting through dunes.  There are machines in both categories designed to specifically excel in certain areas, so your options are plentiful.

When it comes to being nimble, it is hard to beat a quad.  The comparatively smaller size allows you to throw the weight of the machine around.  Whether it’s rocking side to side to get through a mud pit or side-hilling a dune, you can move the machine where it needs to be.  High-flyers are able to perform tricks over jumps.  Sport side by sides are getting more and more nimble with advancements in engineering, but they are still a step behind in that category.

The side by side wins the comfort battle almost every time for the majority of people.  The cabs and bucket seats are generally more comfortable than an ATV’s straddle-style seat.  This is especially true on long rides.  The wider wheelbase eats up bumps quite well.  The additional seats also make UTVs far more comfortable and practical for passengers.

One consideration that trail riders need to consider is the overall width of their machine.  Many states have a maximum width a machine can be to be legal on the trail.  In these states, full size side by sides are often too wide to be legal.  On the other hand, all stock quads are legal on these trails.

Hunters are a large segment of offroad riders and there is a good split between ATVs and side by sides.  Hunters in heavily wooded and extremely remote terrain may enjoy the maneuverability of an ATV.  Those with access to more open terrain might choose the UTV for its comfort and hauling capacity.


Another area where the ATV shines is in the storage and hauling department.  Because of their more compact size, ATVs are far easier to store and haul.  They can be tucked away in most garages while still leaving enough space for a vehicle to park.  A side by side, on the other hand, takes up more space and will often not leave enough room for a vehicle to park in the same garage stall. 

While some side by sides can fit in the back of a pickup, most need to be hauled on a trailer.  Larger machines like four seaters need to be hauled on a fairly substantial trailer because of their size and weight.  ATVs, conversely, can all be loaded into the bed of a full-size pickup.  It’s also easier to haul multiple ATVs on one trailer.  That said, if riding with multiple people and traveling in the same tow vehicle is something that you intend on doing, an ATV may be the way to go.


There is no doubt that all the above factors should play a crucial role in your decision making.  But this last one could be the deal breaker.  Everyone has their own budget and unfortunately some machines just won’t work for everyone’s pocketbook.

A brand new high-end side by side can run well over $20k, whereas a high performance ATV is closer to $15k.  Mid-range side by sides run around the $15k mark with mid-range quads around $8-9k.  Entry level UTVs start around $8k.  Entry level ATVs can be found for $5k and even less depending on the size and style of the machine. 

To get a side by side at ATV pricing for the same level of performance, you will need to dip into the used market.  This is a great option for riders who know what they are looking for and are not afraid of buying a used machine.

Which Tool Is Right for You?

As you can see, there are a few distinguishing features that separate ATVs and side by sides.  By knowing what you want to accomplish, you can choose the machine that best fits your needs.  There is an abundance of crossover between the two, choosing the right tool for the job will make you the most satisfied with your decision.  If you have already made your choice, let us know in the comments why you chose one over the other.  Your feedback can help steer a new rider in the right direction.


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