ATVs Vs. Side-by-Sides: What's The Difference?

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

Author: Eric Brandt

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's the Difference?

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.

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.

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.

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 Apr 5th, 2018