The basics of buying a side-by-side UTV

By ,
Ask a Lender
October 19, 2017 | Updated October 23, 2017

Editorial Credit nuwatphoto/

Key Points

What are side-by-side UTVs and how do you finance them?

  • About two-thirds of UTV purchases are for commercial or business purposes; the rest are recreational users.
  • With a used UTV, complete a test drive and conduct a thorough inspection.
  • Powersport dealerships and specialty lenders offer financing UTVs, and may allow accessories in the loan amount.

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) have been around since the 1960s, but a newer product with similar capabilities has become a bigger money-maker for powersport dealerships.

The U.S. sales market for utility task vehicles, or utility terrain vehicles (UTVs), was about 400,000 in 2015, roughly double the number of ATVs sold. It’s often difficult to gauge the characteristics of a UTV, as they can look and perform similarly to products like recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs) and recreational utility vehicles (RUVs). Generally speaking, however, a UTV is a vehicle with at least four wheels and non-straddle seating that is capable of handling off-road terrain, is less than 65 inches wide and weighs less than 2,000 pounds.

Side-by-side UTVs, named for their front-seat configurations, are some of the most popular products in the powersport industry. About two-thirds of side-by-side sales serve as commercial equipment, serving industries like farming, ranching and landscaping, while recreational models account for the remaining percentage. Regardless of what you want to do with a side-by-side UTV, here are some things to know when you shop at a dealership, consider a private sale or search for financing with a powersport loan.

Purchase details

Within the UTV universe, there are several different products to fit a variety of consumer needs. Pure-sport UTVs tend to be wider, heavier and more powerful, with price points between $16,000 and $25,000 on new models. There are also 60-inch sport UTVs that may have some of the same hauling capabilities as their 64-inch cousins, but typically cost less, around $13,000 to $18,000. Recreational utility models have similar prices to 60-inch models, but are built for towing and hauling, with a larger bed capacity and a built-in hitching feature. There are also four-seat sport models and 50-inch trail UTVs with price points between $8,000 and $22,000.

Buying a used UTV

If you’re looking to save money, buying a used UTV is an option. Because manufacturers have expanded the market in recent years with a variety of high-quality products, powersport enthusiasts tend to sell their UTVs more quickly to purchase new ones.

Before you buy a used UTV, especially through a private sale, have it inspected and complete a test drive. The engine should start quickly and easily, otherwise the engine or battery could be a problem. Watch for excessive smoke coming from the exhaust pipe. Pay attention to how the vehicle handles bumps and turns — too much slippage could indicate the need for a replacement belt or more costly steering or suspension issues. The brakes should be quiet and responsive. Ask the seller for the UTV’s service history and check the mileage on the odometer. Also check the oil and filter, coolant and gas tank. Diluted coolant or bad smells coming from the gas tank are red flags. Finally, check the axles, boots and frame for cracks.

UTVs for work

If you’re purchasing a side-by-side for work purposes, hauling may be a decisive factor in the model you choose. Cargo boxes are typically made of steel, but some are dent- and rust-resistant plastic. UTVs built for commercial uses are slower and less agile. If main travel over flat ground, a side-by-side with two-wheel drive may suffice. Steeper hills, snow, mud and other difficult terrain may require four-wheel drive, a substantially more expensive feature. Also, know the local regulations as vehicles more than 50 inches wide may not be allowed in certain locations, particularly on U.S. Forest Service roads.

Financing details

Powersport dealerships often have their own financing products, but a specialty lender may offer loan preapproval or prequalification to give you bargaining power. Powersport loans often include fixed interest rates, terms up to 84 months and no applications. Use a loan calculator to determine your budget. For example, a $10,000 loan with 5.5 percent interest over five years equates to a monthly payment of $191. A $15,000 loan with 6 percent interest and a seven-year term would cost $219 per month.

Some powersport lenders will finance new or used side-by-side UTVs on dealer and private-party sales up to $35,000, and may offer online applications. Dealerships are usually familiar with financing as customers may utilize it on the majority of purchases. Dealers have some of the best offers, such as a low interest rates. They may include extended warranties or free accessories with financing. And they may allow you to include parts, accessories or apparel in the loan amount. Still, it’s wise to compare lenders for the best deals that covers the life of the loan.

Compare Powersport Lenders