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The Difference Between ATVs & UTVs

a group of people driving atvs and utvs on a dirt road

Embarking on an off-roading adventure is like stepping into a realm of pure exhilaration and exploration. Picture this: John, his heart racing with excitement, grips the wheel of his brand new side-by-side UTV, ready to lead his friends into the wild unknown. Meanwhile, not far behind, Jake’s grin widens as he deftly navigates his nimble ATV through the twists and turns of the wooded trail.

In this guide, we’re delving into the dynamic world of off-roading, exploring the key distinctions between ATVs and UTVs. Whether you’re craving the spacious comfort and power of a UTV or the agile maneuverability of an ATV, we’ll help you choose the perfect off-road companion for your next adrenaline-fueled escapade. So buckle up and get ready to discover which ride suits your style and adventure ambitions best!

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Size and Dimensions

When it comes to size and dimensions, ATVs and UTVs differ quite a bit. ATVs are designed to be more compact and lightweight, with most models weighing under 1,000 pounds. They typically have a narrower stance and a smaller overall footprint, which allows them to navigate through tight spaces and technical trails.

UTVs on the other hand are larger and heavier-duty vehicles, with dry weights commonly starting over 1,000 pounds. They have a wider stance and overall larger dimensions compared to ATVs. While UTVs can still handle moderate trails, their size does limit their agility in very tight or technical terrain.

To compare some example dimensions:


  • A common single-seat ATV like the Honda TRX450R is about 85 inches long and 46 inches wide, with a dry weight of around 600 pounds.
  • A two-seat ATV like the Can-Am Outlander 1000R XT is 103 inches long and 48 inches wide, weighing about 740 pounds dry.
  • A typical two-seat UTV like the Polaris Ranger XP 1000 has dimensions of 148 inches long by 63 inches wide, with a dry weight of 1,662 pounds.
  • A larger four-seat UTV like the Can-Am Maverick X3 has a length of 154 inches, width of 64 inches, and dry weight of 1,750 pounds.


As you can see, UTVs are substantially larger and heavier than even two-seat ATVs. This added size and weight allows UTVs to carry more passengers and gear, but does impact their maneuverability on tight trails.


Seating Capacity

One of the main differences between ATVs and UTVs is their seating capacity. ATVs are designed for single riders, with the driver straddling the seat and steering with handlebars. Some 2-up ATV models allow for a passenger to ride on the back, but the seating is sparse. UTVs, on the other hand, typically have side-by-side seating for the driver and passenger and can fit anywhere from 2-6 people depending on the size of the vehicle. The additional seats in UTVs are often bucket-style for more comfort.

The solo seating design of ATVs provides a more connected experience between the rider and the outdoors. With no passengers to distract you, it’s just you, the machine, and the trail ahead. The thrill of riding fast over rough terrain or executing sharp turns and jumps is exhilarating. However, the limited passenger capacity does mean you won’t be able to share the ride if you’re with a group or family members. That’s where UTVs have the advantage – their multi-passenger capability allows groups to hit the trails together. Families with kids, groups of friends, and couples can all pile into a UTV and enjoy the ride. The additional cargo space also means you can pack along gear, camping supplies, coolers, and more.


Maneuverability and Handling

When it comes to maneuverability and handling, ATVs and UTVs have some key differences due to their size and design.

ATVs are extremely nimble vehicles that can turn on a dime. Their compact size, narrow wheelbase, and motorcycle-style handlebar steering allow them to adeptly navigate tight trails and technical terrain. ATV riders can easily maneuver around obstacles like large rocks and downed trees thanks to the ATV’s agile nature.

In contrast, UTVs have a wider wheelbase and heavier frame that makes them less nimble than ATVs. However, what UTVs lack in agility, they make up for in stability at higher speeds and on uneven ground. While UTVs won’t be able to delicately maneuver around obstacles like ATVs, their wider stance and heavier weight provide more stability when traveling over rough landscapes at higher velocity.

So when it comes to choosing between maneuverability and stability, ATVs are the clear winner for nimbleness while UTVs take the prize for composed handling at speed over rugged terrain. Decide which handling characteristic is most important for your off-road needs.


Speed and Power

When it comes to speed and power, ATVs and UTVs differ quite a bit. ATVs generally have lower top speeds, with most models topping out at under 112 km/h. Their engines are smaller and more lightweight, often 500cc or less. This makes ATVs quicker and more nimble, but limits their raw power and torque.

UTVs can reach much higher speeds, normally between 40-80 km/h or more depending on the model. Their engines are larger, usually 800cc and up. This gives UTVs more power to haul heavier loads up steep hills and challenging terrain. More power also means faster acceleration and the ability to maintain higher cruising speeds across flats, trails, and wider open areas.

The trade-off is that UTV engines consume more fuel and require higher maintenance costs over time. But for riders who want more thrilling speed or need to cover ground quickly with passengers and cargo, UTVs deliver more power where it counts.


Cost Considerations

When it comes to price tags, ATVs are generally the more affordable option compared to UTVs. Entry-level ATV models can start as low as $4,000 while basic UTVs often run $8,000 or more. The increased cost for UTVs comes from their larger size, heavier-duty components, and extra seating capacity.

While the upfront purchase price is lower for ATVs, a key consideration is cost per passenger. With most ATVs only seating one person, the entire cost is for that single rider. Meanwhile, a two-seater UTV can split the price between two people. And larger four- to six-seat UTV models spread the cost across even more passengers.

Operating costs are also a factor. The smaller engines of ATVs mean better fuel efficiency compared to the larger, more powerful engines in UTVs. Insurance premiums may also be lower for ATVs depending on your policy. However, UTVs can balance out these higher running costs by distributing them across multiple passengers.

When tallying your total budget, ATVs shine for solo riders who want an affordable way to hit the trails. But groups and families looking to ride together may find UTVs ultimately more cost effective since their larger capacity allows splitting the costs. Assess your typical passenger loads and needs to decide whether an ATV or UTV makes more financial sense for your adventures.


Safety and Stability

When it comes to safety and stability, UTVs have some clear advantages over ATVs thanks to their wider stance and rollover protection systems.

UTVs are designed with a much wider track width and wheelbase than ATVs. This wider stance provides more stability, especially at higher speeds and on uneven terrain. The wider stance helps resist rollovers and tipping during tight turns or sidehilling on slopes. UTVs also sit lower to the ground compared to ATVs, improving stability through corners.

Many UTV models also come equipped with rollover protection systems (ROPS). These are physical bars or structures that provide a safety zone around passengers in case of a rollover accident. ROPS are not commonly found on ATVs. The ROPS on UTVs greatly improve safety and reduce the risks of a rollover.

While UTVs have stability advantages, ATVs require more skill from the rider to handle properly. Their narrower stance means they have a higher center of gravity and are more prone to rollovers if turning too sharply or traveling at speed across uneven terrain. Less experienced riders may find it easier to control a UTV versus an ATV in challenging conditions. ATVs require active riding skills and weight shifting techniques to manage stability on slopes, corners, and over obstacles. Proper training and practice can help ATV riders develop the techniques required to handle these nimble machines safely.


Ideal Use Cases

When selecting between an ATV and UTV, it’s important to consider the ideal use case for each vehicle. This can help determine which is the better fit for your needs.

ATVs tend to be the best choice when:


  • You’ll primarily be riding solo and value maneuverability over speed
  • Navigating tight trails or technical terrain
  • Covering long distances on the trail
  • Racing or competitive riding
  • Exploring hard-to-reach areas


UTVs tend to be preferable when:


  • You’ll frequently have multiple passengers
  • Hauling heavy gear or equipment
  • Hunting or outdoor work tasks
  • Going on leisurely trail rides as a group
  • Desire more cargo and storage capacity


As you can see, ATVs cater more to solo riders who prize agility, while UTVs are better suited for groups who want to ride together and bring extra cargo or supplies. Assess whether you ride alone or in a group most often to help determine if an ATV or UTV aligns better with how you plan to use your vehicle.



Maintenance is an important factor to consider when choosing between an ATV or UTV. While both require regular upkeep, there are some key differences in maintenance needs and costs.

ATVs generally require less intensive maintenance than UTVs. Their smaller engines and more basic design means fewer components to inspect and replace. Typical ATV maintenance includes oil changes, air filter cleaning or replacement, lubricating parts, and adjusting cables. These tasks can often be done at home by the owner. ATVs may only need serviced a few times per year.

In comparison, UTV maintenance is more involved. Their larger, more powerful engines have more filters, fluids, belts, and parts needing regular service. Most UTV owners rely on dealerships or shops to perform maintenance since it requires special tools and lifts. Service intervals are also more frequent, sometimes every few months. Common UTV maintenance includes engine oil and filter changes, gearcase oil replacement, CV joint lubrication, belt inspection, valve adjustments, and brake fluid flushes.

The maintenance costs for UTVs are predictably higher than ATVs. The typical ATV owner may spend $100-300 per year on basic upkeep items. For UTVs, owners can expect to budget $400-800 annually for scheduled maintenance services. Replacing common wear items like tires, batteries, and brakes will be more expensive on UTVs as well.

When tallying long-term costs, UTVs generally require a greater time and money investment to keep them running properly. ATV owners gain more convenience with easier, less frequent maintenance tasks. However, UTVs offer a smoother ride and more capabilities to balance their higher maintenance needs.


Riding Techniques

Proper riding posture and techniques are essential for safely operating ATVs and UTVs. Here’s a comparison of the riding styles for each vehicle:

On an ATV, riders sit astride the seat and control the vehicle with handlebars, much like a motorcycle. Keeping your weight centered on the seat and your feet firmly on the footrests is key. You’ll need to lean into turns and shifts your body weight to help steer the ATV. Use your arms and legs as shock absorbers as you ride over bumpy terrain. Sitting or standing are both acceptable postures depending on the ATV model and your riding style.

With a UTV, you sit in a bucket seat and steer with a steering wheel, similar to a car. Sit upright with your back against the seat and grip the wheel at 9 and 3 o’clock. Let your legs relax so they can absorb impacts from the terrain. Avoid locking your arms and white-knuckling the wheel, as this reduces shock absorption. Unlike an ATV, you should remain seated when riding a UTV for maximum control and stability.

For both vehicles, look ahead on the trail and avoid fixating your eyes right in front of the wheels. Scan side to side to identify upcoming obstacles and the best path. Keep your speed in check for the riding conditions. Brake early before turns and obstacles, releasing the brakes before turning to avoid skidding. Never make abrupt steering movements at high speeds.

With practice and experience, you’ll get a feel for the proper techniques for operating ATVs and UTVs safely and confidently on the trails.


Adding Accessories

One of the best parts of owning an ATV or UTV is customizing it with fun accessories. Here are some popular add-ons for each vehicle type:


ATV Accessories

ATVs can be enhanced for improved performance, comfort, and style:


  • Performance exhausts add horsepower and change the engine sound.
  • Suspension lifts raise ground clearance for rough terrain.
  • Tires like mud tires or sand paddles adapt to different conditions.
  • Guards protect critical components like the radiator and drive shaft.
  • Rack extenders provide more cargo capacity.
  • Audio systems with waterproof speakers let you ride with music.
  • Custom graphics kits allow ATV owners to stand out.


UTV Accessories

UTV owners also have many options for enhancement:


  • Roof panels and windshields boost protection from the elements.
  • Winches help extract stuck vehicles from mud or snow.
  • Bumper guards defend the body from impacts.
  • Light bars illuminate the path ahead.
  • Cargo boxes and racks haul additional gear.
  • Rock sliders shield the underside over rocky terrain.
  • Doors with storage add convenience.


The wide range of accessories allows owners to optimize their ATV or UTV for capability, comfort, and personal style.


Environmental Impact

When it comes to environmental impact, ATVs tend to have less of an effect than UTVs. This is primarily due to their smaller size and weight. The average ATV weighs under 1,000 pounds while UTVs tip the scales at over 1,000 pounds. This means ATVs exert less pressure per square inch on the ground compared to heavier UTVs.

Additionally, ATVs have a narrower track width and smaller tires. They can navigate trails single file without widening paths or chewing up terrain. UTVs need more space to travel which can lead to more damage to the landscape over time. Their knobby tires also dig deeper ruts into muddy or soft ground.

ATVs produce fewer emissions due to their smaller, more fuel efficient engines. They require less gas or diesel to power their lightweight frames. UTV engines have to work harder to move extra weight, burning more fuel in the process. This increases emissions of greenhouse gases as well as other byproducts.

When it comes to noise pollution, UTVs tend to be louder than ATVs on average. Their bigger engines and exhaust systems put out more decibels, especially under heavy throttle. ATVs can still generate noise, but UTVs are more disruptive to wildlife and nature lovers seeking peace and quiet.

For those concerned about leaving the smallest footprint possible, ATVs are the better choice. However, UTVs can employ technologies like catalytic converters and noise dampening materials to reduce their impact. It comes down to choosing the right machine and operating it in a responsible manner.


Resale Value

When purchasing an off-road vehicle, it’s important to consider how well it will retain its value over time. This can impact your return on investment if you eventually want to sell or trade-in your ATV or UTV.

In general, ATVs tend to hold their value slightly better than UTVs. There are a few reasons for this:


  • ATVs have a lower initial purchase price, so depreciation is less drastic.
  • The mechanics of ATVs are simpler, making them cheaper to maintain and repair.
  • ATVs remain in demand for recreational riding, even as they age.


That said, UTVs have become increasingly popular over the last decade. Brands like Polaris RZR and Can-Am have cult followings, which helps maintain strong resale pricing.

Well-maintained UTVs with desirable features and low miles can still fetch good money on the used market. But you may take a larger depreciation hit in the first few years of ownership compared to an ATV.

To maximize resale value for either vehicle type, focus on preventative maintenance, avoid excessive modifications, and keep mileage low. Purchasing from a leading brand and sticking to popular color/trim configurations also helps.

While ATVs may win out slightly based on depreciation, both offer reasonable value retention if cared for properly. So you can make your purchase decision based on your needs and intended use without worrying too much about future resale.



In summary, ATVs and UTVs both offer thrilling off-road experiences but cater to different needs. ATVs are more agile and compact, designed for single riders who want to zip through tight trails and uneven terrain. Their light weight and nimbleness provides an unparalleled connection to the outdoors. UTVs provide more stability at higher speeds and ample room for groups, making them perfect for friends and families who want to hit the trails together. Their additional power can readily tackle passengers, cargo, and rugged conditions.

When deciding between an ATV or UTV, think about your typical number of riders, need for storage, and the types of trails you plan to tackle. Solo riders who enjoy technical handling challenges will likely prefer an ATV. Larger groups who want space to bring extra gear while still retaining off-road capabilities will appreciate the size and versatility of a UTV.

By understanding the core differences between ATVs and UTVs, you can zero in on the off-road vehicle that best matches your priorities and enhances your adventures.

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Difference Between ATVs and UTVs Q&A

ATVs (All-Terrain Vehicles) are smaller, single-rider vehicles with handlebars for steering. The rider straddles the seat and operates with hand controls, like a motorcycle. UTVs (Utility Task/Terrain Vehicles) are larger vehicles designed for multiple passengers side-by-side in bucket seats, with steering wheels and foot controls like a car.

Both ATVs and UTVs are popular in Canada for recreation and utility use. According to industry statistics, ATV sales have historically been higher in Canada, but UTV sales have been growing rapidly in recent years and now rival ATVs. Geographic region plays a role too, with UTVs more popular in western Canada’s wide open spaces.

ATVs tend to be more maneuverable and nimble due to their small size. They can handle tight turns and dense forests much easier than larger UTVs. ATVs are also generally less expensive, smaller, and have a lighter environmental footprint. These factors make ATVs well-suited for single riders focused on high-adrenaline recreation.

UTVs have more passenger and cargo capacity, with room for 2-6 people side-by-side. The added weight and 4 wheels provide more stability over rough terrain. UTVs also have more power and speed over long distances. These traits make UTVs popular for hunting, farming, and other utility purposes across Canada’s rugged landscape. The roll cage also provides more safety.

Key features to consider for Canadian terrain include:


– 4WD/AWD for traction in mud and snow

– Chains, studded tires or tracks for winter grip

– Winch for unsticking your vehicle

– Heated seats and hand grips for winter comfort

– Towing capacity to pull equipment, game or gear

– Storage for supplies on long trips

– Reliable engine and cold-weather performance

Both carry risks, but UTVs provide more direct rollover protection thanks to their roll cage and seat belts. UTVs distribute weight over 4 wheels rather than 2, adding stability. But they also have more power and speed, requiring caution. Ultimately, safe riding comes down to responsible use, proper gear, and matching the vehicle performance to your experience level.

Some 2-up ATV models accommodate a passenger, but it’s generally not recommended, especially for children. Most ATVs are designed for one rider. Carrying a passenger affects weight distribution and handling, raising rollover risk on uneven terrain. If carrying a passenger, the rider should be experienced, use extreme caution, avoid excessive speed and only go on permitted trails.

Most recreational UTV models hold 2-4 passengers side-by-side. Youth models may only hold 1 passenger. Some larger utility UTVs can carry up to 6 passengers side-by-side in three rows of seats. Pay attention to the vehicle’s ROPS rating for certified passenger capacity based on rollover protection standards.

On public land, ATVs and UTVs must obey provincial speed limits, just like other vehicles. Speed limits range from 20 km/h up to 50 km/h depending on the trail. Average top speeds are:


– ATVs – 90-105 km/h

– UTVs – 110-150km/h


Faster operation is possible, but highly dangerous on uneven terrain. Excess speed is a major cause of serious ATV and UTV accidents in Canada. Adjust your speed down to suit conditions.

In most Canadian provinces, you do not need a driver’s license to operate an ATV or UTV. However, valid driver’s licenses are required for highway-legal UTVs in some areas. And youth under 16 generally need safety training and supervision when operating any off-road vehicle. Riders should thoroughly understand provincial rules and operating laws before hitting the trails.

Provincial crown land, designated ATV/UTV trails, private land with owner consent, and areas with off-road vehicle access permits offer legal places to ride in Canada. Riding in prohibited areas like public roads or nature reserves can result in fines, vehicle seizure and license demerit points. Check regional trail maps and regulations to find legal riding locations.

ATV and UTV trail permit pricing varies regionally. For example:


Alberta – $40-66 annually

Ontario – $180-310 annually

New Brunswick – $252 3-year permit

Quebec – $197 3-year permit


Daily and weekly permits are also available in many areas. Permits help fund trail maintenance and ATV safety programs.

New ATV pricing averages:

Youth models – $3,000-$5,000

Recreational – $6,000-$12,000

High-Performance – $13,000-$18,000


New UTV pricing averages:

Light-Duty Recreational – $12,000-$16,000

Full-Size – $16,000-$25,000

Crew Cab 4-Seaters – $22,000+


Of course, used models can offer big savings off new MSRP pricing.

Each option has trade-offs. New provides warranty coverage, latest designs and tech, and no question of past misuse. But new vehicles depreciate quickly. Used provides substantial cost savings, often on lightly-used machines. But evaluate condition carefully for issues. For a first-time buyer or kid’s machine, purchasing new may give added confidence and peace of mind.

Key cold-weather features include:


– Heated grips and seats

– Windshields and cabin enclosures

– Aggressive snow tread tires

– Iced track kits/chains

– Hand guards and wind deflectors

– Winches to unstick vehicles

– Storage bags to keep gear dry


Look for ATVs/UTVs built specifically for snow use, with ample ground clearance and cold-tested components.

Properly securing gear is vital for safe ATV/UTV handling. Options include:


– Rear cargo racks with tie-downs

– Front/rear storage boxes

– Towing small trailers for extended cargo

– Backpack strapped securely to the rider


Distribute weight evenly from side-to-side and front-to-back. Avoid big, loose loads that can shift unexpectedly. Make sure cargo does not block lights or impair visibility.

Great resources to discover top trails include:


– Provincial OHV trail maps and guides

– Local ATV/UTV dealer recommendations

– Regional ATV clubs and online forums

– Trail apps like Trailforks

– Topo maps for exploring new areas

– Friends with riding experience in your area


Focus on trails that match your skill level, vehicle capabilities and regional access permits.

Essential protective gear includes:


– DOT-approved helmet

– Goggles

– Long sleeves/pants

– Gloves

– Over-the-ankle boots

– Chest protector

– Knee/shin guards


Choose eye protection, gloves, boots and clothing specifically designed for powersports use, with abrasion-resistant materials. Ride within your limits so gear doesn’t get tested.

Top accessories for Canadian riders include:


– Snow plows and winch kits for winter

– Heated grips and visor outlets

– Tire chains and studs for ice

– Windshields, roofs and storage bags

– Heavy-duty bumpers and skid plates

– GPS units with trail maps

– Upgraded stereos and communication systems

– Performance air intakes and exhausts

– Lift kits for more clearance

Follow the break-in period and service intervals in your owner’s manual. Key points include:


– Oil changes

– Air filter cleaning

– Spark plug replacement

– Drive chain lubrication

– Tire condition

– Brake pad wear

– Suspension condition

– Electrical connections


Periodically inspect fasteners, controls, lights and other components too. Well-maintained machines are safer, last longer and hold resale value.

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