Sport ATVs vs. utility ATVs vs. side-by-sides: Which should you buy?

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October 17, 2017 | Updated October 19, 2017


Key Points

Picking the right powersport vehicle

  • Sport ATVs are lighter, faster and better at absorbing shock.
  • Utility ATVs are better for carrying cargo and driving through rough terrain.
  • Side-by-sides can carry a passenger and haul heavy loads.

When you are in the market for a new powersport vehicle, one of the most important questions to answer is whether you need it for sport or utility. ATVs, all-terrain verhicles sometimes known as quads, come in both sport and utility varieties. Side-by-sides, also known as utility terrain vehicles, are equipped for even tougher purposes.

Figuring out which best suits your needs should be one of your first steps before you head to a dealer. To help make that determination, we'll help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of each model.


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Sport ATV

Sport ATVs are primarily used for racing. They tend to have smaller, lighter bodies than utility models, and they’re fast, yet easy to handle. They are typically rear-wheel drive vehicles, and may come with a two-stroke or four-stroke engine. Robust suspension systems help absorb the shock of hard landings on the trail or track.

Utility ATV

Utility ATVs may come in either two-wheel or four-wheel drive. They can tow relatively heavy loads and often come with racks and other accessories for carrying equipment. Utility ATVs may also have large fenders that can help protect riders from debris or mud flying up as they ride. They are able to traverse through mud and other uneven terrain that would stymie a sport ATV.

Side-by-sides or UTVs

Side-by-sides, or UTVs, are well-suited for heavy-duty work. They’re called side-by-sides because a passenger can sit alongside the driver. If you think that you might be riding or working with a passenger, a side-by-side is probably the vehicle for you.
Side-by-sides are primarily used for utility purposes, rather than racing or other sport-related activities. Since side-by-sides tend to be heavier-duty than ATVs, they’re more expensive. And not justslightly - the difference is usually a couple thousand dollars. UTVs are also highly customizable. Many owners add special lighting, headers or stereo systems to make their ride one of a kind. One accessory that most side-by-sides come with are roll cages. The protective guards prevent the driver and passenger in case of a rollover.

Making a decision

If you know what you need, the decision is easy. Still not sure? Here is a quick reference guide for you:

  • Planning to do a lot of racing and trail riding? A sport ATV is likely your best bet
  • Have a lot of light work or hunting to do? Choose a utility ATV
  • Have heavy-duty work and hauling to do? A side-by-side can help you get the job done

Financing your ATV or UTV

When you know what kind of powersport vehicle you want, the next step is finding financing.
ATV loans and UTV loans can be more difficult to obtain than car loans. Lenders consider powersport vehicles luxury items. If you have trouble getting a loan to buy your ATV or side-by-side, consider offering a larger down payment. This lowers the amount of money you’re borrowing and shows lenders you’re invested in the purchase.


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