It’s an age-old question: Should you buy an ATV or a UTV?

It can be difficult to decide which all-purpose vehicle is the perfect choice for you; both have four wheels – or six in some cases – both have off-road capabilities, and both can be used for recreational or utility purposes, but each type of off-road vehicle has specific benefits it can offer.

To help you decide what is most suited to you and your needs, we’ve outlined the main differences and individual benefits below.

What’s the difference between an ATV and a UTV?

ATV stands for all-terrain vehicle – also known as a quad or four-wheeler – which is an off-road vehicle with handlebar steering, straddle seating and usually built for just one rider, although some allow for a passenger too behind the operator. Polaris ATVs typically come with a thumb throttle to control acceleration more precisely when making turns. ATVs can be used as a quick means of transportation over rough ground and varied terrain, for utility use such as towing or carrying heavy loads, and some are used for recreational use like racing or trail riding.

A UTV is a utility task vehicle, and can also be known as a side-by-side or SXS in reference to its seating arrangement where passengers sit side by side. Usually seating up to two, four or six passengers with bench or bucket-style seats, a UTV drives more like a car with a steering wheel and foot pedals, and comes standard with a roll cage for added protection. Like ATVs, side-by-sides can either be used for recreational or utility purposes – with model variances to suit both. For Polaris, this would be the difference between the sport performance Polaris RZR model and the utility Polaris Ranger model. UTVs, as the name suggests, are built and used specifically for utility use rather than recreation, and usually feature lots of storage space and a rear cargo bed to enable them to haul supplies like agricultural feed and hay, equipment like sprayers, as well as heavy tools.

Choosing between the two is completely dependent on the rider and the requirements they are looking for in their vehicle.

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Advantages of a quad

1 – Size

ATVs are typically much smaller in size than a UTV, meaning they are easier to transport (they’ll fit in most standard utility trailers), and, being narrower, they can fit through tight spaces like gates around a farm, narrow trailers and dense forest areas. ATVs don’t take up much space when being stored in a garage or barn either, and they tend to use little fuel, making them an ideal option for use in any situation – from farming to estate management, contracting work and forestry.

2 – Maneuverability

When considering an ATV for a specific area or environment, it’s worth noting that it is much more maneuverable than most other utility 4x4s or UTVs. It’s small size and nimble handling means it can navigate tight turns and avoid obstacles easily, whilst the off-road capabilities mean that every corner can be reached with ease, no matter the terrain.

3 – Budget

Compared with UTVs, an ATV generally costs less than the standard UTV, so is a more budget friendly option – but this doesn’t restrict what they are capable of. Whilst a UTV may be a more obvious option for hauling equipment and tools, ATVs have a myriad of attachments that can enhance their capabilities – like front and rear cargo racks, winches and ploughs. With its excellent towing capabilities, there’s always an option to tow a trailer to make up for the lack of a utility bed if you need the extra storage space.

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Advantages of a UTV

1 – Hauling capabilities and customisation

A UTV usually offers more payload and towing capacity, making it the ideal choice when you’re regularly hauling heavy loads. They are usually available with handy features like winches and gas strut-assisted box lift to help with tipper functionality. Polaris vehicles feature an innovative Lock & Ride system for ultimate storage customisation, allowing you to fit and remove accessories in seconds via the various mounting locations across the cargo bed. There are compatible storage options available such as tool racks, storage bed extenders, front and rear racks, bed enclosure systems, storage boxes and tyre mounts, in addition to specific accessories depending on your hobby or work, such as gun mounts, dog kennels and sprayers and drive-up ploughs systems for easy attachment, so you’re certain to have everything you need for the job at hand.

2 – Weather protection

Both UTVs and ATVs come with a host of accessory options to make it suitable for specific jobs and environments, but UTVs can provide the benefit of extra weather protection with the addition of accessories like doors, windshield, roof and rear panels. Not only will these keep the elements out, having a fully enclosed and sealed cab can make it warmer during winter months, as well as shielding you from the hot sun in summer months – plus the inside of your UTV will be much cleaner without mud, dust and dirt making its way inside when you’re out on a ride. Polaris engineer components that are designed and tested specifically for the Polaris Ranger lineup, offering a tight-sealing cab and easy-on, easy-off application.

3 – Protection & comfort

With seatbelts and a roll cage usually included as standard on UTVs, along with the option to add an enclosed cab system, UTVs tend to have more safety features than your typical ATV. It is important to note though, that on both types of vehicles it is essential that riders wear a helmet at all times and full protective clothing including gloves and boots.

UTVs tend to have bench-style seating for all-day comfort, and they are generally less physically intensive to operate over an ATV, so if you’re out all day on the trails or around your property/workplace, a UTV will tend to be more comfortable.

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What’s right for me?

You can’t go wrong in the decision between an ATV or a UTV, as it’s largely dependent on personal preference. Each has their own specific advantages and disadvantages in different environments, but with both having excellent off-road capabilities and durability, you’ll be able to get the job done no matter what.

To help you decide, take a look at Polaris’ range of ATVs and UTVs to get a feel for what would suit your needs. With everything from 570cc Ranger UTVs and Sportsman ATVs for unbeatable performance and value, to larger 1000cc Sportsman and Ranger vehicles (including a Ranger Diesel model), Polaris has an extensive range of vehicles to provide the perfect choice for you.