What is a UTV, Who Should Buy One, and how much they Cost

For us long-time ATV enthusiasts, UTVs or side-by-sides are a relatively new phenomenon.  They are becoming more and more popular and new types are becoming more common.  With that in mind, I figured I should nail down what exactly classifies as a UTV.

What is a UTV? UTV stands for Utility Terrain Vehicle.  Some also call it a Utility Task Vehicle.  More frequently, UTVs are being referred to as side-by-sides since the passenger sits on the side of the driver, rather than behind.  UTVs are typically larger than ATVs, are operated by a steering wheel rather than handlebars, and have gas and brake pedals. Most UTVs also come equipped with a roll bar or cage.

What are the differences between an ATV and UTV?

ATVs are very similar-that’s why we dedicated this site to both ATVs and UTVs.  That being said, there are some pretty significant differences that differentiate a UTV or side by side from an ATV.  We are just going to hit them below in bullet points for convenience.

  • UTVs are typically designed to carry more passengers.  While some larger ATVs can carry a passenger, most models are designed for a single person.  On the other hand, almost every UTV is designed to carry at least two people, and many models have rear seats to carry four people total.
  • UTVs typically offer more carrying space.  Many UTVs have a dedicated bed in the back to haul things, but other UTVs typically have at least some dedicated hauling space as opposed to an ATV which usually has little more than a small rack, unless you add rear cargo.
  • UTVs are generally much more customizable than ATVs.  Add on wheels, suspensions, lights and so much more allow you to dump lots of moneys in customizing a UTV.  While you can customize an ATV, your options are pretty limited.
  • UTVs are controlled by a steering wheel as opposed to handlebars.  Because of this, they tend to be much easier to drive and don’t differ too much from driving a car or truck.
  • UTVs have gas and brake pedals much like a car rather than the brake lever and throttle used by most quads.  This is another things that makes them easier to drive for a new user familiar with driving a car.
  • UTVs are almost always equipped with a roll bar or cage to protect the inhabitants if the UTV rolls over.
  • Most UTVs have seat belts whereas ATVs don’t really have a possibility to make that an option.
  • UTVs usually have a bigger payload capacity than ATVs, meaning they can tow more for those wanting to tow equipment around the ranch or farm.  Most ATVs can carry 125 to 400 lbs. of cargo in addition to the operator’s weight, whereas UTV payloads usually run from 800 to 1350 lbs.

Who should buy a UTV instead of an ATV?

There is a reason the popularity of side-by-sides is rapidly increasing.  For a lot of people, they simply make more sense. People for whom a UTV is going to be preferable to an ATV include the following:

  • Inexperienced riders who will be more comfortable with familiar operating controls like a steering wheel and gas/brake pedals.
  • Those not capable of the more physically-demanding style of riding required by an ATV.  Riding quads can give your body a beating. They take more strength and balance to control, and are also going to be a little more jarring on your body going over bumps.  For those that need a little softer ride, a side-by-side is an excellent option.
  • Those that need a more utilitarian work vehicle.  UTVs tend to be, surprise, more utilitarian than ATVs.  In addition to higher payload capacities, UTVs usually have more storage room to haul around whatever equipment you may need.  Additionally, the more comfortable ride of a UTV can be helpful during a long day of work.
  • Those that want to carry passengers will have a greater capability with a UTV.  This is really exciting for families with younger children. In addition to kids not being able to keep up safely on rough trails if they are riding ATVs, buying four or five ATVs can get awfully expensive, whereas you can find a UTV to fit the whole family.
  • Riders that want to customize their ride will have many more options with a UTV.  UTV’s are a lot more customizable than ATVs. You can add lift kits, new suspensions, lighting systems, cabin heaters, stereo systems and much more.
  • Those more concerned about safety will likely be more comfortable in a UTV.  Due to their design, UTVs are more stable and easier to control. They also have additional safety measures not found on ATVs, such as seat belts and roll cages.

What are the Popular UTV models?

UTVs can typically be separated into two categories: the traditional utilitarian side by sides; and the newer high-performance models.

Utilitarian UTVs

  • Honda Pioneer.  This is the ultimate in entry-level utility.  It is small at just 50 inches wide and only has a 475 cc engine.  It also doesn’t sport a ton of cargo space. What it is good for, besides just hauling two passengers around, is towing.  Despite its small size and small engine, the Pioneer can tow 1,000 pounds.
  • Kawasaki Mule.  As the name would suggest, this is a hauling machine–passengers, cargo or towing load.  This thing can tow 2,000 pounds or carry up to six people.
  • Textron Stampede.  A powerful engine in a utilitarian body.  Lots of cargo space and towing capability at a decent price.
  • Can Am Defender. The Defender is the utility model from Can Am and nobody will confuse it for the Maverick.  The Defender is loaded with storage space, making it popular for hunters.
  • John Deere Gator.  The John Deere Gator is probably the most well known utility side-by-side.  There are a bunch of different Gators, most of which would look out of place off the farm or ranch, but they have added some sportier models with the XUV series.
  • Polaris Ranger.  The Ranger is the no-frills pure utility offering from Polaris.  With lots of storage, four wheel drive, durability and a dumping cargo box, the Ranger is going to going to handle all your work for a budget price.
  • Textron Prowler.  Arctic Cat built a strong line of utilitarion side-by-sides with the popular Prowler line before Arctic Cat became Textron.

UTV, side by side, sxs

High-Performance UTVs

  • Polaris RZR.  The RZR UTVs are almost synonymous with high-performance UTVs.  If you have been around a while, you have probably heard people refer to riding RZRs in reference to riding side-by-sides.  The RZR played a big role in the early transition of UTVs away from pure utilitarianism to high performance, and their place in the market hasn’t changed.
  • Can Am Maverick.  The Maverick is one of the most popular and versatile lines of UTVs on the market.  They range from affordable entry-line models to very souped-up models. They keep a little utility on most models, but the focus is performance on these side-by-sides.
  • Yamaha Wolverine.  The Wolverine looks more utilitarian with its boxy shape and high roll cage, but it has no real storage area on the four-person model and is designed for the carry of passengers instead, plus it packs a pretty impressive engine.  This isn’t going to be a racing machine, but is great for carrying passengers in the four-person model, while the two-person model is a little sportier while incorporating some storage behind the passengers.
  • Yamaha YXZ. This is a personal favorite of mine as it can really fly and has great performance.  It is built for speed, not utility. I’ve gotten my brother’s over 80 mph.
  • Kawasaki Teryx.  The Teryx is your classic trail riding side-by-side.  If you want something for the family to take on trail rides, it would be tough to go wrong with the Teryx4.
  • Polaris General.  The Polaris General is probably the closest thing to a hybrid utilitarian-performance side-by-side.  It has an impressive 1000cc engine and is good on the trails, but retains the classic utilitarian style with two seats in the front and a small bed in the back.  
  • Polaris Ace.  The Ace is a single-rider UTV so I guess it can’t be called a side-by-side.  Other than though, it fits the description.
  • Textron Wildcat.  Formally known as Wildcat, Textron has a long history of high-performance with its Wildcat line.

How much does a UTV Cost?

The price range for a new UTV is fairly wide.  Utilitarian models are going to be cheaper, with base models ranging from $8,000-$15,000.  High-performance UTVS are a bit more expensive, with base models on new machines ranging from $10,000-$30,000.  With add-ons and special features, UTVs can get much more expensive.

Utilitarian UTVs

  • The base model of the 2018 Honda Pioneer 500 is listed at $8,999.
  • The base model of the 2018 Honda Pioneer 1000 is listed at $14,499.
  • The base model of the 2018 Kawasaki Mule Pro FXT is listed at $13,099.
  • The base model of the 2018 Textron Stampede EPS is listed at $14,799.
  • The base model of the 2018 Can Am Defender HD10 is listed at $14,000.
  • The base model of the 2018 John Deere Gator XUV590i is listed at $12,199.
  • The base model of the 2018 Polaris Ranger 500 is listed as $8,999.
  • The base model of the Textron Prowler 500 is listed at $8,499.

High-Performance UTVs

  • The base model of the 2018 Polaris RZR XP 1000 is listed at $17,999.
  • The base model of the 2018 POLARIS RZR XP TURBO DYNAMIX is listed at 25,999.
  • The base model of the 2018 Can Am Maverick Trail is listed at $10,999.
  • The base model of the 2018 Can Am Maverick X3 Turbo is listed at $19,999.
  • The base model of the 2018 Yamaha Wolverine X4 is listed at $15,999.
  • The base model of the 2018 Yamaha Wolverine is listed at $10,999.
  • The base model of the 2018 Yamaha YXZ1000R is listed at $18,999.
  • The base model of the 2018 Kawasaki Teryx4 is $15,799.
  • The base model of the 2018 Polaris General 1000 EPS is listed at $16,299.
  • The base model of the Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec is listed as $13,199.
  • The base model of the 2018 CAN-AM MAVERICK X3 X RC TURBO/X3 X RC TURBO R is listed at $23,999.
  • The base model of the Polaris Ace 500 is listed at $6,999.
  • The base model of the Textron Wildcat X is listed at $16,999,

Related Questions:

What gear do you need to buy with your new UTV?  The bare essentials include a helmet, goggles (or windshield), tool kit, tire repair kit, battery charger and spare gas tank.  We discuss these and dozens more items you should consider in this article.

What tires should you get for your UTV?  This depends completely on what kind of riding you do.  For maximum durability, we prefer an all-terrain tire that is street legal, such as the Konati Mongrel.  Check out our extensive guide to picking tires to help with your choice.

Are UTVs street legal?  Whether a UTV is street legal depends on the state you live in and what your UTV is equipped with.  In most states where you can get a street legal UTV, you will need to get it registered, get insurance and add the following: headlights, brake lights, turn signals, horn, speedometer, tires, mirrors,windshield and lighted license plate holder.  Check out our guide to getting street legal for more details.


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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