Table of Contents
So you have been thinking about ATVs for awhile now and decided you want to go ahead and make a purchase, but do you know everything you need to know? Have you done your due diligence and made sure that this will be the right purchase for you, or maybe your family?
There are a lot of things that need to be considered before going out and buying an ATV and they really are not to be taken lightly. You want to be sure you purchase the right ATV for the right reasons and you really don’t want to make a suboptimal decision and end up wanting to sell it a few years later because you aren’t satisfied.
I for one am in favor of ATVs and I think they are a great investment when used and driven responsibly but you need to do all the research you can to make sure you end up with the right ATV for you.
Her are 23 things I look for before buying an ATV, some good, and some bad, but in the end, it will get you the right vehicle!
Are ATVs Dangerous?
The short answer to this is yes. ATVs ARE dangerous if not driven responsibly. That being said, any off road or on road vehicle is dangerous when not driven properly. One of the most important things to have is the right gear for riding such as a helmet, riding boots, goggles, and gloves to help protect you from debris, trees, rocks, and even crashes. When driven responsibly, ATVs are not only safe but are SUPER FUN!
Now if you are getting a utility ATV and putting around the farm, not doing anything silly, then maybe you don’t need all that gear.
What Do You Need an ATV For?
This is probably the biggest question you need to ask yourself before you even look at the very first ATV. What will you be doing with your ATV? This answer is really very simple and comes down to 2 basic questions.
Will I Be Hauling Stuff On My Atv Or Going Through Deep Mud?
If you answered yes to either part of this question, then a utility ATV is probably the best option for you. Utility ATVs provide the unique option of having four wheel drive and racks to haul things on most models. Utility ATVs are the workhorses of the two types of ATVs currently available. They are great for mudding, carrying hay bales or other gear around the farm, or even trekking out into the woods to sit in your favorite hunting stand all while carrying your equipment for the days hunt.
Do I Want To Go Fast On Trails Or On A Track With My Atv?
Sport ATVs are the way to go if you answered this question with a yes. This doesn’t mean that sport ATVs can’t go deep in the woods or carry you to your hunting stand, but utility ATVs fill that role better.
Sport ATVs are my personal favorite and I like to go as fast as I can through trails in the woods with the trees zipping by me. While I have yet to take mine to the track and enjoy the thrill of hitting whoops and jumps, I have plenty of friends that track raced and always loved it. One thing that I do love is the dunes and man are sport ATVs fun at the dunes. From drag racing to climbing huge dunes and spraying up sand like a madman, dunes are an amazing experience for a sport ATV.
Do You Have Room to Drive An ATV?
If you don’t have anywhere to ride your ATV legally, then you probably would be better off not getting one. A lot of land is private these days and the owners of this land don’t want ATVs and other offroaders coming in tearing up their trails. And you definitely can’t ride it on the road unless you have made your ATV street legal.
Now if you have permission from landowners, or own a lot of land yourself, then you are good to go. There is also the option of going to the track if you decide to get a sport ATV. Actually being able to get on the track with a sport ATV is getting harder and harder to do these days though. I talk a bit about this in my article What Happened to Sport ATVs: 11 Reasons Why Sport ATVs Are Dead?
Where To Store Your ATV
ATVs take up more room than most riding lawn mowers and if you don’t store them properly then you can get yourself into a lot of trouble. You really don’t want to store them somewhere that can’t be locked up so if you live in an apartment complex and want to just park it in the parking lot, then that is a no no.
Ideally a garage is the best place to store an ATV because it is better protected from the elements and critters than anywhere else. Other good options include an enclosed trailer or detached building from your house (Make sure you keep these locked up and keep honest people honest). If all else fails, you can always rent a small storage building and pay each month to store your ATV.
Who Will Be Driving The ATV?
This is a safety topic that many ATVers neglect to think about. If you are an adult, it doesn’t really apply because you are grown and you can decide what the right ATV is for you to drive but if you are picking an ATV for a child, a teenager, or a plain old beginner, then you need to consider how much power they need and what size ATV they need.
When picking an ATV for ANYONE UNDER THE AGE OF 16, always choose the proper size ATV per the manufacturer guidelines because serious injury or death can occur if not. I know it will be tempting to go out and get a larger ATV for your kid because “he will grow into it” but that is a very unsafe practice. I don’t care if you want to save some money, is your kid’s health or life worth that savings? Check out this article on how to choose a youth ATV.
Will You Have Friends To Ride With You?
Most ATVs are not designed to carry passengers. A passenger can interfere with the operator’s ability to shift his or her weight properly during maneuvers, which can cause a loss of control but if the answer to this question is yes, then you may want to consider a utility ATV because they have models that are designed to carry passengers. If your ATV is designed for more than one person, be sure your passenger:
- Stays seated to keep the vehicle’s center of gravity as low as possible.
- Keeps their feet on the footrests and does not extend their hands beyond the edge of the ATV.
- Dismounts before you cross a road and walks across.
Can you have a passenger on a sport ATV? Yes of course they can but they are definitely not designed to so the best bet would be to keep it to one driver and no passengers on a sport ATV.
How Much Does An ATV Cost?
If you are buying a new ATV, depending on what you get can go up to $16,000 for something like a Can-Am Renegade X MR 1000R or just above $9,000 for the sport models offered by Yamaha like the Yamaha Raptor 700R or the Yamaha YFZ450R SE. Youth model ATVs run much cheaper than the adult models in the $2,000 to $3,000 range. The good thing about new ATVs is that they come with factory warranties and have the latest and greatest technology when it comes to the motorsports world. You can also usually talk a dealer down in price kind of like a regular car salesman which makes it pretty sweet to get some cash knocked off that price tag.
Should You Buy A Used ATV?
Buying used ATVs is a GREAT idea if you don’t want something as pricey as a new ATV or just don’t want to spend that type of money at all. When buying used there are a lot more things that need to be considered and looked into but it can be a budget friendly option as long as you know what to look for on an ATV.
What To Look For In A Used ATV
The price HAS to be right for the condition of the ATV. Most people prices their rides by the amount of work or mods they put into their ATV, not how much it is actually worth. Take some time to familiarize yourself with ATVs and ATV prices both new and used so you have a better understanding of what what price you should actually pay for a used machine.
Perform a thorough visual inspection of any ATV you decide to buy, but especially a used one. Used ATVs tend to have damage that even the original owner is not aware of and could save you money if you can catch them before the sale. You should check for excessive wear on components, broken or cracked parts, paying careful attention to areas that are critical for the ATV to operate correctly.
Take any ATV for a test ride before committing to a purchase. This is twofold because for one you will want to know what the ATV feels like. If you are not comfortable with the ATV or just don’t like the way it drives then you can make the decision whether or not you want that ATV based solely on that factor.
The other reason is to perform a riding inspection. Make sure the ATV is mechanically ok and does not exhibit any signs of malfunction or odd behavior while the engine is running and the ATV is in motion. Take about 10 minutes to ride around and after the test ride is over, park it somewhere that a leak will be very noticeable should there be any leaks on the machine. Oil and hydraulic fluid leaks are indicative of larger problems and should be avoided for the most part.
Don’t Buy An ATV That Needs Major Repairs
If you find an ATV that states that it needs a lot of repairs or you find that the ATV needs major repairs on your test drive, avoid purchasing it. Large repairs may end up costing you more than you would spend on a new ATV if not careful, especially if you are not handy enough to do the repairs yourself. Mechanics aren’t cheap and ATVs that are in need of mechanic worthy repairs most likely have other problems that have not surfaced, or will soon.
But Minor Repairs Are Okay
Minor repairs are definitely ok as long as they will not cost an arm and a leg to fix. Things like needing new tires, or an oil change, or cracked fenders or plastics are not such a big deal and anyone with a few tools can take care of these no problems. You will need to get in the habit of doing small maintenance and repairs anyway because ATVs will be going off road and will get banged up from time to time. They will also need to be maintanenced on a schedule to make sure the ATV stays in the best condition for the longest possible time.
Shop Within Your Budget
New ATVs or used ATVs, that is the question. Since I just told you what to look for in a used ATV and how much new ATVs were, decide what your budget will allow you to purchase. If purchasing an ATV is going to break the bank for you, then just save up for a little longer and wait until it is more affordable. Set aside a little money each paycheck and start an ATV fund. It won’t take long and you won’t be stressed about how much it will cost to buy this ATV.
Talk It Over With Your Significant Other
If you are single and decide you want to buy an ATV, this step probably isn’t for you but if you are in a relationship or married, this needs to be a decision that can be made with confidence and that means asking your significant other to help you make the decision. I mean hell, you will probably be riding with them or letting them drive anyway right? So they may as well be a part of the conversation so you can be sure that an ATV purchase is right for you, and make sure you didn’t skip over any details.
Make Sure Buying An ATV Is Not A Chore
Don’t make buying an ATV a chore. Don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t rush out there to make a decision. Finding the right ATV should actually be fun. When I bought my first ATV, I went around to powersport shops and asked questions, got involved, and got to know the guys at the dealer and had fun learning all the things they had to say.
Then I got to test drive a BUNCH of ATVs when I actually went shopping to see what I would like. THAT is the really fun part, getting to drive a bunch of different machines to see where you see yourself.
When You Can Ride an ATV
For most places we have winters cold enough to NOT want to ride out in the cold temps so most people will have a riding season, some shorter than others. If you live somewhere that snows ALL THE TIME, then you may want to think about exactly what you want and is it worth it for a short period of time. I live in southeastern North Carolina and I ride for most of the winter months as long as I wrap up really tight in some winter gear, I am normally good to go for short periods of time.
Where You Can Ride An ATV
I discussed a bit earlier on in this article the WHERE, but I want to hit this topic a bit more in detail. There are so many places to ride an ATV it isn’t funny, but the real question is where is it legal to ride an ATV?
You can’t ride an ATV on private land unless you have express written or verbal permission from the land owner. If you trespass and the owner decides to call the cops then you can be facing fines and if the cop is having a bad day, may decide to book you.
You are not allowed to ride ATVs at any National Park for the most part. A lot of national forests allow ATV use on specified ATV trails and roads only. Bureau of Land Management lands will often permit the most ATV use which will be limited to trails. Some BLM managed land is permitted to be used openly, which means just about anywhere on that land.
Maintenance Costs Of An ATV
Buying an ATV is not just a one and done purchase. ATVs require a lot of maintenance. Some maintenance is required every few rides and doesn’t really cost much more than your time and you will need to gas up for every ride as well. Some maintenance should be done every year and if you are going to store yours for the winter then there are definitely a few things that need to be done each year. Check out my article about winterizing an ATV right here.
Before you buy an ATV, check out what kind of maintenance you will need to perform and also take a look at the prices for all the equipment and oils and maintenance items you will need. Factor this into your buying as well because a lot of ATVers don’t even think about these expenses when searching for a ride.
Can You Haul Your ATV?
Look, if you don’t have anywhere near you to ride, then your ATV will be a garage queen if you don’t have a way to haul from spot to spot to ride. If you don’t already have a way to haul your ATV then you need to consider the option of getting a truck or a trailer to get your ATV from place to place.
When buying a hauler, be it a truck, open trailer, or enclosed trailer, make sure your ATV will fit! If you already have a truck or trailer, measure your ATV choice before the purchase to make sure it will fit what you have currently. If it doesn’t you may need to step down a size or two or get a bigger hauler.
ATVs Are Very Loud
ATVs are very loud. As a matter of fact, ATVs are louder than dirt bikes. This is generally due to the larger sized engines producing more combustion inside their engine which then carries out through exhaust, making the sound we can hear from miles around. If you really want to get some more details about why ATVs are so loud, I cover that in one of my other articles.
Just so you know, most sport ATVs produce up to and over 100 decibels easily and you should always wear hearing protection when riding one. Noise above 85 dB over a prolonged period of time may start to damage your hearing and loud noise above 120 dB can cause immediate harm to your ears so it is crucial to wear hearing protection.
Learn How To Drive An ATV
Maybe this should have been covered earlier but, do you even know how to drive an ATV? If you do that is great and if not, that’s ok too. Learning to drive an ATV is not that hard and with a little practice you can be riding around everywhere.
One thing you can do is to take a local class on ATV riding or get with a friend who has an ATV to see if they will teach you. If you want to take a look at an article I wrote on how to drive a manual ATV with a clutch, then this article can really help you get started in 6 easy steps.
Manual transmission ATVs are a lot of fun but are not for everyone so the transmission type is another consideration to think about when buying an ATV.
Are There Aftermarket Parts?
Parts, parts, and more parts. For ease of maintenance and replacement of damaged parts, you may want to consider a larger brand name and a newer model for parts availability. Nothing sucks worse than having a part break and your quad be down for repairs for an extra long time because you can’t find parts. Picking a brand with good aftermarket part stock can alleviate this problem and make sure you can always find what you need on time.
Take Your Time And Do Your Research
Slow down. Don’t jump on the first machine that is all shiny and new and catches your eye, UNLESS IT IS A KILLER DEAL. 99 percent of the time it pays to wait and do your research to find the best deal and the best quality when searching for your perfect ATV. As I said before, sellers often try to get what they put into a quad, not what it is worth so make sure you don’t overpay. Use NADA guides to determine what the best prices are, shop around, and do price comparisons so you can make sure you get the right ATV for the right price.
Narrow Down Your Search
Now that you have looked at several ATVs, narrow down your search to 2 or 3 of the best ones. Once you have done that, make a pro and con list for each machine based on your needs and wants. When you only have a few machines to choose from after looking at so many, you may see something you like more about one ATV more than the other or even something you don’t like that you didn’t see before. It will be easier to pick from a few different ATVs and make sure you have made the right choice.
Buying Your ATV
Now that you have taken the time to scrutinize your decision and have picked out your very favorite ATV, it is time shell out some cash and bring that thing home with you. Once you have taken all of the 23 things I talked about into consideration, you will KNOW you have picked the right ATV and now it is time to go home and sling some dirt and enjoy your new purchase.