What to Look for When Buying a UTV

Knowing the ins and outs before walking into a dealer can help maximize your investment.

  • A winch is not only useful for pulling materials toward you, it can pull you out of a mess as well.
    Photo courtesy Yanmar
  • Don’t underestimate the bed of the UTV, as hauling loads will be one of the most often used functions of your machine.
    Photo courtesy Kubota
  • Dump beds today can be manual dump or automatic powered. Some folks see the UTV as every bit as essential to today’s farm as the tractor.
    Photo courtesy Textron Off Road

They are one-third the size and cost of your pickup, yet around the farm, they can be far more valuable because of their versatility and functionality. That’s why multi-passenger all-terrain vehicles, more commonly known as “side-by-sides” or “UTVs,” are becoming as common a sight in rural America as compact tractors, maybe even more so. Although the blindingly fast sport-model side-by-sides feed the need for speed, it’s the slower, work-oriented UTVs and sport-utility models that rule the day if you are a land-owning country dweller.

UTVs can typically tow more than half a ton, carry 500 or more pounds in their manual-tilt beds, and be easily outfitted with a host of accessories including front and rear blades, three-point hitches, enclosed cabs, heaters, cargo racks, winches, and lights. They are akin to driving a miniature Jeep, and many come equipped with electric power steering, tilt-steering wheels, all-wheel-drive, and disc brakes.

These compact, agile, fuel-efficient, go-anywhere machines can be accessorized to handle any number of work-related tasks landowners face from plowing roads to herding cattle, hauling firewood to cultivating crops, towing trailers to winching. And when the work is done, they provide a safe, fun, comfortable means for family and friends to explore the great outdoors, be that hunting, fishing, camping, or off-roading.

The biggest challenge facing first-time UTV buyers is sorting out which model is going to be the best fit. Buying a UTV is just like buying a pickup — let your needs dictate the size and style. To that end, there’re a few areas to pay special attention to when side-by-side shopping:

Bed: The bed on UTVs is often overlooked at purchase, yet it quickly becomes the most used item once the machine reaches the homestead. Is it big enough to handle a load of cut-to-length firewood stacked tight and tidy, or hold a couple bales of hay within the bedsides? Is the bed designed to accept side racks and accessories so you can quickly and easily change it up to do some other tasks? How easily does it tilt with a heavy load such as sand, gravel, or dirt? How much weight can be placed on the tailgate in case something heavy is set on it?

Seats: The second most overlooked item many first-time buyers dont pay enough attention to is the seats. But after spending a couple hours driving, seat comfort and support play a big role in driver fatigue. Is the driver’s seat slide-adjustable, so the taller driver can get comfortable? Does the seatback tilt? Are the seats comfortable in both width and padding? When the seat is adjusted, does it feel like you are driving a tractor or your pickup? The latter is what you want if you’re going to be using a side-by-side for more than just a few daily trips to the barn and back to the house.

12/20/2018 12:22:11 PM

Are you sure ALL UTV's are belt driven? What about the Honda Pioneer models? The fact they are NOT belt driven and have a transmission like a car is what sets them apart from all others!!

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