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ATVs vs. Side-by-Sides: What's the Difference?

ATVs vs. Side-by-Sides: What's the Difference?

Author: Eric Brandt

Table of Contents

Should you buy an ATV or UTV?

You have a lot of options when it comes to having fun or just getting around in the great outdoors. Recreational off-roaders can provide what you need to get the job done, whether that job is hauling a small trailer through the woods or just playing in the mud. But how do you decide which one is right for you? It starts with figuring out whether an ATV or a side-by-side is the right tool for the job.

What is an ATV?

ATV stands for "all-terrain vehicle." ATVs are also commonly known as "4-wheelers" or "quads." It's an off-road vehicle with four wheels that uses motorcycle-like controls. You sit on a saddle-like seat and control the ATV with handlebars.

What is a UTV?

A side-by-side, however, is controlled very differently. Typically known as a UTV (utility task vehicle), it's designed more like a golf cart. Unlike an ATV, a side-by-side has car-like controls with pedals, a steering wheel and either a bench seat or a more technical seat that resembles a seat you'd find in a car. They're called side-by-sides because they usually have two seats beside each other, sometimes with the addition of back seats. Some smaller UTVs only have one seat, but they're still technically classified as side-by-sides.

ATV vs. UTV: Which One is Better?

It depends on what you need it for. If you just want something for getting around on your land, either one works fine, and it's simply a matter of preference. Keep in mind that ATVs are generally more affordable than side-by-sides. If you're on the more recreational side of off-roading and want to have some fun off the beaten path, then an ATV is generally better suited for your needs. There are certainly UTVs that are a blast to drive and extremely capable off-road, but ATVs are typically more recreational.

UTVs, on the other hand, are more utilitarian. If you need a truck bed for hauling lumber or more towing capacity for pulling a small trailer, then a side-by-side is what you need. Maybe you're just more comfortable in a seated driving position with car-like controls. If that's the case, then a UTV would make more sense for you than an ATV. If you're planning on hauling passengers often, a UTV can comfortably seat up to four people, while an ATV is best suited for one rider.

ATV Price: How Much Do They Cost?

The price of an ATV can vary greatly depending on the age, model, and its condition.

A new ATV can cost upwards of $15,000 to $20,000 while at the low end of the new price range, they can be as cheap as $1,500 to $3,000. Looking at actual new ATV listings on our site, most new ATVs have an asking price of $10,000 or less with between $5,000 and $7,500 being the sweet spot. If we were buying a new ATV, we’d set our budget there.

Inventory shortages on the new ATV side have driven the prices of a used ATVs upwards. A used ATV can cost as high as $11,000 to $18,000 while at the low end of the used price range, they can be as cheap as $1,300 to $2,500. Looking at actual used ATV listings on our site, most used ATVs have an asking price of between $2,500 and $5,000 so if we were in the market for a used model, we’d set our budget there.

UTV Price: How Much Do They Cost?

The price of a UTV side by side can vary greatly depending on the age, model, and its condition.

A new UTV can cost between $35,000 and $50,000 at the top end of the price range but there are some new models starting as low as $6,000. The widest selection for a new UTV, meaning the average cost of a UTV, generally is between $25,000 to $35,000.

Used UTVs are less expensive but not by much. Driven by inventory shortages, prices of used side by sides have not depreciated too much and if anything, they’re commanding a premium. Yes, you can find plenty of choices under $15k but the widest selection for a used UTV will be in the $20,000 to $30,000 price range.

ATV for Sale – Most Popular

Based on site traffic from 2021 - 2022, here are the most popular ATV models and searches on our site. Keep in mind that ATV dealers continue to experience shortages of inventory due to supply chain issues.

UTV for Sale – Most Popular

Based on site traffic from 2021 - 2022, here are the most popular UTV side by side models and searches on our site. Keep in mind that UTV dealers continue to experience shortages of inventory due to supply chain issues.

Find an ATV for Sale
Find a UTV for Sale

If you're still not sure which you'd rather have, do some shopping around on Motorcycles on Autotrader to find the perfect off-roader for you.


Published May 18th, 2022

Frequently Asked Questions About ATVs and UTVs

  • How much is a new ATV?

    A new ATV can cost upwards of $15,000 to $20,000 while at the low end of the new price range, they can be as cheap as $1,500 to $3,000. Looking at actual new ATV listings on our site, most new ATVs have an asking price of $10,000 or less with between $5,000 and $7,500 being the sweet spot.
  • How much is a used ATV?

    A used ATV can cost as high as $11,000 to $18,000 while at the low end of the used price range, they can be as cheap as $1,300 to $2,500. Looking at actual used ATV listings on our site, most used ATVs have an asking price of between $2,500 and $5,000.
  • What are the most popular ATVs?

    Based on our site’s traffic from 2021-2022, the Yamaha Grizzly 700, Raptor 700 and Raptor 90, Honda FourTrax Rancher, Foreman and Foreman Rubicon as well as the Polaris Sportsman 570 are among the most popular individual ATV models on our site.
  • What does ATV stand for?

    All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV). An ATV is a motorized four-wheel off-road vehicle and generally are either for a single driver or a driver and a passenger. ATV manufacturers also make youth models that are smaller, don’t weigh as much as their full-size, adult counterparts and aren’t as fast. Having the correct size ATV depending on whether you are an adult, or a child is critical.
  • Does an ATV have a title?

    In most states, yes, an ATV is a titled vehicle. Starting in 1997, new ATVS came with their own title. Before that, the title rules and regulations for ATVs was inconsistent so it isn’t unusual to find an older ATV that doesn’t have a title. Since ATVs are not allowed on paved roads, some stated do not legally require a title for an ATV. Check with your state’s DMV to confirm ATV vehicle laws where you live.
  • How much is a new UTV?

    New UTVs usually cost between $15,000 to as high as $40,000 but there are some new models starting as low as $6,000 and the widest selection for a new UTV will be between $25,000 to $35,000.
  • How much is a used UTV?

    Used UTVs are less expensive than new UTVs but not by much. Driven by recent inventory shortages, prices of used side by sides have not depreciated too much and if anything, they’re commanding a premium. Yes, you can find plenty of choices under $15k but the widest selection for a used UTV will be in the $20,000 to $30,000 price range.
  • What are the most popular UTVs?

    Based on our site’s traffic from 2021-2022, the Polaris RZR 1000, RZR 170, Ranger XP 900, Ranger Crew XP 1000, Honda Pioneer 1000 and 700 and the Honda Pioneer 1000 are among the most popular UTVs on our site.
  • What is a UTV?

    Unlike an ATV, a UTV has car-like controls with pedals, a steering wheel and either a bench seat or a more technical seat that resembles a seat you'd find in a car. They're called side-by-sides because they usually have two seats beside each other, sometimes with the addition of back seats. Some smaller UTVs only have one seat, but they're still technically classified as side-by-sides.
  • Are UTV’s street legal?

    Most, but not all, states prohibit a UTV to be driven on a DOT public street but of course, there are some exceptions. For example, some of those exceptions allow for a UTV to be driven on a public road if the road is a dirt road, if the UTV is used for agricultural purposes or if the UTV is owned and operated by a local government. As you can see, it is rare that you can use a UTV for transportation on a public street in most cases. However, check with your state’s DMV for the local rules and regulations which apply to where you live.
  • Does a UTV have a title?

    In most states, yes, a UTV is a titled vehicle although some states do not require UTVs to have one. Like ATVs, UTVs started to come with a title in the late 1990s so it is possible to buy an older UTV that doesn’t have a title. If a UTV doesn’t have a title, you should be able to go to your state’s DMV and get a title issued for it. If you’re not sure whether your need to title your UTV, check with your state’s DMV to confirm all applicable UTV vehicle laws where you live.

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