ATV vs. UTV vs. Side-By-Side Vehicles

Getting outside is great. However, do you have the right toys to make it the experience it has the potential to be?

In this article, we’ll talk about ATVs vs. UTVs vs. Side-By-Side vehicles. You’ll learn what they are and what their difference is. 

Summary

ATVs are all-terrain vehicles since they can be driven on almost any kind of ground. They hand pedals, a straddled seat, and no cage protection. A Utility Task Vehicle is for more rigorous work and hence it has foot pedals and cage protection to protect the driver. It is also larger than ATVs.

A Side-by-Side is much like a UTV except it features an extra bucket seat on the side for another rider.

The most common differences between an ATV, UTV and Side by Side are the protection measures. An ATV will not have any cages to protect the riders while UTVs and Side-by-sides do. An ATV is also typically smaller than UTVs and Side-by-Sides.

Table of Contents

ATV vs. UTV vs. Side-By-Side Vehicles

Even though ATV, UTV, and Side-by-side vehicles are similar in that they are all mainly 4-wheelers made for off-roading, some differences should be mentioned, as they can heavily impact your choice when picking your perfect vehicle.

Even the subtlest differences make these machine types better at some jobs and worse at others, so it’s important to know them. The first major differences are the technical ones mentioned above: where the steering is located, how the pedals are controlled, and typical sizes and shapes.

UTV

On the same note, it’s worth noting that ATVs don’t feature any protection measures such as cages, unlike the utility terrain vehicles and Side by Sides that have a metal bar cage and wind protection.

Moving on to the less obvious differences, ones that derive from the technical ones- primarily, the size of these vehicles plays a big part in their usability and diversity. Not only are ATVs typically smaller than the UTVs and side-by-sides, but they also come in different sizes and are fitted to various specific tasks.

The bigger, sturdier UTVs will prove to be better when you’re transporting heavy stuff, but they’ll lose points in speed and flexibility. ATVs will surprise you with how agile and quick they are, but you won’t be able to carry as much with them reliably.

When it comes to overall safety, utility terrain vehicles take the high ground.

With less speed, extra safety measures, and bigger sturdiness, they will be your go-to if you prioritize your or your baggage’s safety. If, on the other hand, we’re talking about adaptiveness and ease of use- you’d much rather prefer to drive an ATV. Quads take off-roading to a new level with how slick, fast and capable they are.

There is one last important distinction- the expensiveness of each variation. As you might expect, the heavier, bigger cars will cost more. That’s why all-terrain vehicles are much more wallet-friendly than their counterpart and should be your pick if you’re on a tight budget.

What is an ATV?

ATV

ATV is an acronym for All-Terrain Vehicle. As the name suggests, it’s a type of vehicle that’s suited to be able to conquer every type of terrain.

That said, it’s usually used for rougher rides rather than your typical trip to the shopping center. They can also be called “quads” or “four-wheelers,” as they’re typically built with four wheels. These vehicles have other known characteristics: a straddle seat and handlebars instead of a steering wheel. They feature hand pedals instead of the foot ones.

Polaris sportsman ATV

Their usual “workplace” consists of rough bumps, mud, steep inclines, and similar terrain difficulties. They are designed to breeze through these challenges even when carrying a heavy load, being on low tire pressure, all at a decent, stable speed.

These 4-wheelers can take care of many heavy work-related tasks, from farm activities to forest expeditions, and can even be used purely for fun if you’re a fan of rougher adventures outside the town.

They come in all shapes and sizes- you have the smaller versions, made mostly for maneuverability and agility. There are special ones for beginners too. They are both very useful in off-roading for fun, and the bigger options with amazing durability and sturdiness, perfect for carrying heavy weights. 

Types of ATVs

TypeUseDetail
Sport Roaming Trails, Climbing mountainsidesDesigned for rugged terrain
Youth For children riding Customized to children and young adults size and comfort
Utility VehicleHauling CargoNot built for speed, but agility

What is a UTV?

Polaris UTV

A UTV or a utility task vehicle is a pretty similar category of vehicles. Like the ATV, these machines are made to be used on tough terrain types. As you could guess from their name, their technical purpose is to deal with utility tasks.

They possess a few unique characteristics that, counterintuitively, make them much different from all-terrain vehicles. For one, they can be made with either four or six wheels.

Additionally, unlike ATVs, their steering is done via a wheel, and they feature foot pedals instead of hand ones. Another one of their well-known features is the outer cage made out of metal bars that protect the driver from potential harm and creates a closed figure to minimize wind-related problems.

Typically, they come in bigger models than the 4-wheeler ATVs as they’re made for more heavy-duty types of work and prioritize durability over dexterity. Nowadays, electric UTVs are also quite the rage.

Popular UTV Brands
Honda
CanAm
Polaris
Kawasaki
Yamaha

What is a side-by-side?

Side-By-Side on grass

A side-by-side is yet another related type of vehicle. The name “side by side” is similar to a UTV and can be used interchangeably in most instances. Their name comes from their distinctive side-by-side design of bucket seats that ensures safety and control even when driving on tracks with significant bumps or inclines.

Like UTVs, they are steered with a steering wheel, and their pedals are controlled by feet. They feature the same shielding exterior and wind protection.

These vehicles shine mainly when using them for recreational purposes, and they are most often seen in off-road rallies such as the Dakar Rally, as their design allows two people to be inside. However, it has been proven that they’re just as good, if not better, at accomplishing work objectives.

Side-By-Side

It’s where their name’s interchangeability with UTVs comes from. Nowadays, they’re widely used by farmers, hunters, and all the other professions that need a big, durable means of transport to help them carry heavy loads. 

Pros and cons of each

Considering their differences, it’s easy to notice that both ATVs and UTVs can be very useful at completely different things. Even though having either of them should prove to be just fine, picking the right one can mean lots of saved time or money. Here are the pros and cons of these types of vehicles:

ATVs

Pros:

  • Small, compact sized: Because these vehicles are so small, it’s extremely easy to bring them anywhere without any preparation. They’re perfect for quick, spontaneous trips.
  • Maneuverable: Another plus deriving from a small frame and strong motor. ATVs are childishly easy to turn with and overcome tight paths and dense forests. But we all need some basic training before we begin.
  • Very light: Quads are incredibly light, which means they won’t destroy the surface you’re riding on, nor will they suffer heavy damage when riding through shaky terrain.
  • Cheap: As said before, these are the machines you’d want to purchase when you’re low on cash, as they’re significantly less pricey than UTVs.
  • Convenient: All-terrain vehicles have the convenience of a bike. Anytime you want, you can hop off them, allowing you to take breaks whenever you need without wasting time.

Cons:

  • Only one person is allowed: The design makes it so that only one person can comfortably ride this machine, which makes it impossible for you to bring your friend on a road trip.
  • Not as durable: This variation can carry much less weight than the other and is much less suited for heavy-duty work.
  • Not as safe: They don’t offer any safety modifications, which can be dangerous combined with the machine’s primary purpose- riding through rough, unknown terrain.
  • Not as comfortable: They resemble bikes in this category as well. They require much more expertise and balance to be driven than the UTVs.

UTVs

Pros:

  • Able to carry a lot: This variation can carry much more weight than ATVs due to its sturdy and durable design. They’re perfect for transporting loads through unusual roads.
  • Allows multiple people: Unlike all-terrain vehicles, UTVs have two seats instead of one, which allows you to bring your friend along for a ride and have someone to help you navigate.
  • Able to tow: Due to the stronger engine and bigger build, these vehicles can transport weight on them and loads towed to them- something that’s not available in ATVs.
  • Customizable: Quads come in set looks and are supposed to be kept that way. Utility terrain vehicles, however, are not only possible to be modified. In most cases, it’s highly encouraged by their companies. Many customization tools and parts exist that you can use to make your four-wheeler much more personal and to your liking.
  • Secure: With the addition of a metal cage ensuring a closed form, these machines offer much more safety. Even when conquering the hardest of terrains, utility terrain vehicles will keep you safe in your seat.
  • Comfortable: Wind protection and more stable seat positioning make these vehicles comfortable and much less skill-requiring to drive. This is great, especially when you’re not such a big fan of hardcore rides.

Cons:

  • Less maneuverable: Their bigger frame and weight makes them much harder to be turned with, and they’re not fit for tight tracks.
  • Pricey: Costing much more than ATVs, these machines will most likely require some saving up and are not a spontaneous purchase. If you want to buy a UTV, better plan it out and be 100% sure.
  • Less convenient: Operating a vehicle like this requires lots of setup and preparation. You’ll need to plan out your breaks and trip fundamentals. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting much time, not even driving.

Factors to consider

Now that you’re aware of all the differences and weak and strong points of each option, it’s time to put that knowledge to practical use. To properly choose an off-roading vehicle, you’ll primarily need to figure out what kind of job you’ll need it for. Here are some of the typical tasks these machines are used for, with comments on which one to buy in each case:

  • Farm work: both options will prove sufficient when working on a farm. However, if you’re moving heavy loads through your farm, a UTV will be a much better option. On the other hand, ATV will be your bet for lighter-duty work, being much faster.
  • Hunting: again, both of the vehicle types are great. If you’re going on a more spontaneous, chase-type hunt, an all-terrain vehicle should be your pick. If it’s going to be a planned trip with more equipment, maybe even with friends, utility terrain vehicles will do a great job.
  • Family trips: For these kinds of adventures, you’re looking for comfort, safety, and space- all three of the attributes every UTV has. It should prove fantastic on every family trip you’d want to do.
  • Snow plowing and winter rides: Once again, both machines allow you to enjoy much more snowy weather. That said, picking an all-terrain vehicle will mean much more interaction with the cold. UTVs will keep you more closed and safe from the freezing temperatures. It’s all a matter of your cold tolerance.
  • Dune riding and rock climbing: These activities require a strong car with a capable engine. That’s why you’d generally prefer UTVs in this case. Not only will they easily conquer steep inclines, but they’ll also protect you better from the sand and rocks that might come your way.
  • Trail riding: an ATV will be much better for these kinds of trips if we’re talking about narrow paths with hard turns. Additionally, their design will keep a decent speed, providing a much more enjoyable experience.

Why you can trust us and how we picked?

We tested all three products – ATV’s, UTV’s and Side-by-side’s to give you the best recommendations. The strengths and weaknesses of each product are thus laid out in front of you for your choosing.

How much do they cost?

Side-by-sides have a large cost range – $4000 for a basic option to $20000 for the most premium one. ATV’s are less expensive than the other two options but also have a large price range. They can range from $1000 to $25000. However, UTV’s don’t start off cheap. A basic model will cost you around $7000. However, the top-shelf ones will go upwards of $25000.

Of course, you can also go for the used ATV or UTV options which are often low cost.

FAQ

If you’re an outdoor person, we have a bunch of other articles as well. Maybe you’re a person who likes to go out and hunt. If so, we’ve got an article on green tip ammo. We have written extensively on campers, including small travel trailers and small campers with bathrooms.

Pack up your favorite underwear, and you’ll be on the road in no time.

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