Choosing a Youth ATV: Keeping Your Child Safe

I have been in the market for an ATV for my son for awhile now and have been trying to figure out what ATV would be the best for him. I know many things determine what the right ATV for a child will be and I have learned a lot in the process of choosing an ATV for him. 

ATVs can be dangerous to kids for many reasons. Is suggested that children under the age of 16 do not operate ATVs over 90cc. With proper training and the right size ATV for the rider, choosing a youth ATV is easy.

It’s easy to say “I am going to get a bigger ATV so my kid doesn’t outgrow it.” While you may be saving money in the long run, it can be the cause of serious injury or even death of your child. I want to talk about all the factors you need to take into account before you buy your child’s first ATV. 

Preparing Child and Parent For ATV Ownership

The first thing that needs to be addressed before you even think about making a purchase is whether or not you AND your child are actually ready for them to have an ATV. 

As a parent, you need to be mentally and emotionally prepared that any off road vehicle such as an ATV, dirt bike, or UTV can be inherently dangerous. Making sure you are prepared to deal with injuries that may happen has to be in the forefront of your mind. You also need to talk with your child and make sure they know the risks involved with riding ATVs.

Riding recklessly will cause injuries faster than anything else when it comes to ATVs. ATVs are loads of fun and are loads of fun to ride fast. For a child these actions can cause serious harm because they don’t have the judgement, awareness, or strength to control ATVs that go too fast. 

Another very important piece of the puzzle is picking the right gear. Gear is essential to help reduce the risk of injury should they fall off or wreck their ATV. Having the proper sized gear for your child is key for ensuring their safety. If gear is too big or too small it will not protect your child like the manufacturer intends. The leading cause of ATV related injuries are head injuries.  Just because you are on four wheels, does not mean you don’t need to wear a helmet. Amazon has a great selection of youth protective gear for good prices so go take a look!

ATV Categories

ATVs come from the manufacturer and are designated with different categories. For adults, there are sport and utility ATVs, and for younger riders there are three categories. These categories are designed for smaller hands and feet, and travel at slower speeds appropriate for their age. All owners and riders must consult these warning labels before going out for a ride to ensure they are riding the proper type of ATV.

Ages for ATVs

Age is another factor to consider when choosing an ATV for your child. Coupled with the size of your child, you can make the right choice. ATV manufacturers place labels on their ATVs that state the minimum age requirements for riders. Check out this chart before you purchase an ATV that is too large for your child.

Child’s AgeATV Engine Size
Under 6 years of ageNot Recommended
Age 6-11Under 70cc
Age 12-1570-90cc
16 years and olderOver 90cc

Keep in mind, if your child is small for his or her age, these guidelines will shift a little. Kids need to be able to reach all the controls, be able to grab the brake with their hands, and touch the foot brake and gear shift if you choose a manual transmission.

Manual transmissions or automatic transmission is the next consideration. For MOST children, an automatic transmission will be the better choice and will allow your child to focus on riding, and not having to shift gears constantly. While looking for an ATV for my 6 Year old son, I am looking for an automatic transmission.

Gear Required

I mentioned before that you need to make sure your child has the correct gear and the correct sizes of gear.  Now I want to talk about exactly what gear your child should have. 


Gloves protect your child’s hands from getting blisters from the constant vibrations and feedback from the handlebars. They will also protect their fingers from getting struck with small branches when riding through trails or trees.


One of the top priorities is a Division of Transportation (DoT) approved full face helmet. A bicycle helmet or any other helmet not approved for use with off road vehicles is NOT a replacement for a proper helmet. These helmets are designed to help protect the head and face from injuries from impact.  The full face design is necessary to protect the mouth, chin, and face area.


Goggles should always accompany a full face helmet for extra protection. Goggles obviously protect your child’s eyes and vision is an important part of their growth.  Make sure you buy goggles that are not too tinted. This will make it harder for them to see in lower light situations.

Riding Boots

High riding boots with shin guards are an awesome piece of gear and do exactly what they say. I don’t know how many times I rode without boots with shin guards and had tree limbs or branches whack me right in the shin making me end up getting a pair for myself. They are also stiffer in the ankle areas reducing the chance of ankle related issues.  These mostly relate to dirt bikes but can apply to ATVs as well when riding in rough terrain or if your foot slides off the pegs

Long Sleeve Shirt 

Long sleeve shirts will not only protect from abrasions on your child’s arms but after riding for several hours in the sweltering sun will also protect from the damaging UV rays.

Riding Pants

Riding pants are specially designed and often have leather portions on them where the rider would generally have their legs near the hot engine.  ATV engines can get very hot and burn your child’s skin very badly.

Making sure you remain safety focused is something that needs constant attention. A young rider can forget any one piece of gear and it can mean the difference between a safe ride or an injury or possibly even death.

Youth Rider Training

There are many training programs in your local area that can give you and your child the proper training needed to ensure their ATV is treated with the respect that is needed to maintain a safe riding environment.  I strongly suggest that you search for a local training program to help as it will give you piece of mind and educate your child on the law, proper riding etiquette, and training.

Safety should be your number one concern as a parent but the bottom line is that youth ATVs can be fun AND safe as long as you follow the guidelines I have written about. As long as you make sure your child has the proper gear and has the right size ATV for their age and size, it will be years of fun ahead.