2 Ways to Load an ATV without a Ramp


My wife would claim I am the most forgetful person there is, and this has included the unfortunate forgetting of ATV ramps.  While it can be a bit panic-inducing to realize you have made it somewhere and don’t have ramps to unload and reload your ATV into your truck, it really isn’t a big deal in most situations.  I had someone teach me an easy way to load an ATV and thought it was worth passing on, along with another easy way I have used when available that is easier than ramps.

How do you load an ATV without ramps? If you have an elevated surface you can just back the truck into it and drive the ATV in.  If you do not have such a surface, you can pop up the front of the ATV and roll the front wheels onto the tailgate before lifting the back end.

These methods sound pretty easy, and they are, but you are dealing with a heavy piece of equipment and there are some things that go wrong.  We want to make sure you get your ATV to the trail for an awesome day of riding with no damage to your truck, your ATV or your body, so we detail out the processes step-by-step below.  You may also want to check out our guide for nearly every truck bed to see how well your ATV will fit.


Lifting the ATV End by End


This method requires you to do a fair amount of heavy lifting.  How heavy depends on the weight of your ATV.  If you are getting up around 500cc or higher with a utility ATV like the Polaris Sportsman (pretty consistently the heaviest model in its cc class I could find).  If you have a lighter sports model, even something like a 700cc Yamaha Raptor, and this should work great for you.  Even a 300-400 pound quad may sound heavy, but it isn’t bad since you only lift one side at a time.

To lift your quad into a truck bed, just follow these detailed steps exactly to keep your ATV, truck and body safe.

  • Make sure your truck is in park with the tailgate down.
  • Put your ATV in first gear so it doesn’t roll away from you as you lift the front end.
  • Turn off the gas and the key of your ATV.
  • Lift, with your legs, the front end of your quad until the quad is vertical, standing on its rear tires.  This is a lot easier if your quad has a front bumper to lift and even better if you have someone to push down on the back of the ATV and keep it stable.
  • Once you have the ATV standing up, put it in neutral so you can move it to the truck.
  • From the vertical position, grab the handlebars and move the quad to the tailgate of the truck.  You will want to use your foot to balance the back end.
  • Once you reach the truck, put the front wheels onto the tailgate.
  • With the front wheels resting on the tailgate, make sure the wheels are lined up straight into the truck bed before you push it in so you don’t get the ATV stuck on a wheelbase.  
  • With the wheels resting on the tailgate and pointed straight, lift up the back end until the ATV is horizontal again.  Make sure you lift with your legs and keep your back straight.
  • Once the ATV is straight, simply walk toward the truck, rolling the quad into the truck bed.
  • Once the quad is where you want it, put the emergency brake on.
  • With the emergency brake activated, leave the ATV in neutral.  You don’t want to put it in gear as the rocking and bouncing of the truck can cause damage to your ATV if it is in gear.
  • Now that your ATV is in the truck bed, strap it down good.  Do the best you can to keep as much weight off the tailgate as possible.

That may have seemed like a lot of steps, but it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to easily get your ATV in your truck bed, if it isn’t too heavy, without the use of any ramps.

Use an elevated surface

This may not be an option for everyone, but it makes it really simple to load an ATV into a truck bed if you have some kind of elevated surface to back your truck into.  This could be a hill, a slanted driveway, a loading dock or many other things. My house as a kid had a nice irrigation ditch in the front that worked well as we could drive an ATV from the yard right into the bed of a truck that had been backed into the ditch.  To use this method, just follow these easy steps.

  • Back your truck into the elevated surface as close as you can get where there is still enough room to lower your tailgate.
  • Drive your quad from the elevated surface into the truck bed.
  • Put the ATV in neutral and set the parking brake.
  • Strap the quad down so it doesn’t move.

Something to keep in mind, if you have an elevated surface that doesn’t reach high enough for you to drive the ATV into the truck bed, is that you can use the method above to lift your ATV into the truck bed from an elevated position and it will make it a whole lot easier on your knees, arms and back.

How to Unload without Ramps

Unloading an ATV without a ramp is a little scary the first time you try it, but it is really easy and fast.  Once again, the lighter your ATV, the easier this is going to be. Just pull it from the back grab bar. Pull it straight back, holding up the back end until the front tires reach the end of the truck bed.  Then give it a little jerk so the front end clears the tailgate. Prepare yourself for a little bounce backward when the tires hit the ground.

Should you still Invest in Ramps?

Yes, you still should have ramps and use them whenever possible.  Ramps are going to be the safest and easiest way to load an unload an ATV, and should be useable in any conditions.

Picking the right ATV ramps is not an easy task as it is going to depend a bit on your personal preferences and your hauling vehicle.  Some people swear by a single piece ramp (as opposed to two tracks). These tend to be a bit safer and easier to use and are great for beginners.  I personally don’t love them because they tend to be a little steeper and bulkier. Here is an example of a great tri-fold single piece ramp as an example.

I personally prefer the ramps in our recommended gear because they are a bit cheaper, very sturdy and have arches so it easy to drive the ATV into the truck bed without accidently gassing it into the rear window of the truck.

Some considerations to keep in mind as you are buying and using ramps are below.

  • Always strap down the ramps.  If they aren’t strapped down to tight, there is a huge risk of the ramps slipping or falling in the middle of loading  Youtube is full of people getting in serious accidents loading ATVs where this happens. Just take the extra 3 minutes and secure the ramps.
  • You want to get longer ramps to decrease the loading angle of the ATV.  This lowers the risk of potential injury to you and your ATV. I also prefer arched ramps so you are entering the truck bed at a flatter angle.  This gives you more control as you are getting into the truck bed.
  • Serrated or open rungs are better for loading an ATV in any conditions where added traction will be helpful, such as rain or mud.
  • Make sure you have adequate capacity for your ATV.  Check out our article on ATV weight.  While steel ramps work fine, aluminum ramps are lighter, easier to handle and wont rust.  Just don’t try to use wood planks.
  • Make sure the ramp width is at least a little wider than the width of your ATV tires.
  • Don’t gas your quad too much as you are entering the truck bed.  So many people are worried about getting up the ramps they gas it too hard and end up ramming into the back of the truck cab, busting out the window.

That’s it.  There really isn’t much to loading an ATV, but it probably leads to nearly as many accidents as actually riding.  Get some ramps and follow these tips, but don’t despair if you don’t have ramps. You can easily load the ATV even without ramps.  Just make sure to do so safely.

Brent Huntley

Brent Huntley is the owner of ATV Man and is responsible for almost all the material on the website. He also runs photographyandtravel.com and loves to travel and ride ATVs with his family. When he isn't playing, his day job consists of owning Huntley Law.

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