Are you on a hunt for the perfect all-purpose vehicle to liven up your off-roading experience? If you are still learning the nitty-gritty of the world of off-roading, you might still be a little unfamiliar with the differences between an ATV and UTV and what pros and cons should be considered before you decide to invest in one. Luckily, this article will clear those doubts for you by providing an in-depth comparison between these two vehicles. By understanding the capabilities and limitations of an ATV and UTV, you will be able to decide which one is more suited to your needs. Below is the list of topics we will be going through: 

  • ATV vs. UTV: The Differences
  • When to Use an ATV
  • When to use a UTV
  • Price comparison

ATV vs. UTV: The Differences

Let us start at the very beginning. ATV is short for “All-Terrain Vehicle” and the name given to a four-wheeled off-road vehicle that uses a motorcycle-like approach to seating and steering. Think of it as a bike with four wheels. ATVs, also known as quad bikes, or quads, were first produced in the 1980s as a vehicle used for recreational activities.

Today, ATVs are an essential addition to vehicle fleets in multiple sectors, including border patrol, search and rescue operations, military operations, law enforcement, and many others. Performance-based ATVs are extremely popular, with many racing and other competition-based events being held annually across the world.

The idea behind a UTV is a little different. Just like traditional quad bikes, UTVs are small, lightweight vehicles built for off-roading. The only difference here is that you will see a few more standard features of a four-wheeled vehicle, such as a steering wheel, foot pedals for acceleration and braking, bucket or bench-style seating, and usually a roll cage.

The popularity of UTVs - also called a Side-by-Side or SXS - is increasing. This growing popularity is primarily due to their ability to carry additional passengers, storage capabilities, and overall safety. Some UTVs come fitted with six wheels and windscreens that give a more enclosed feel, perfect for those looking for a slightly safer and more comfortable experience, with the advantage of carrying additional passengers.

When To Use An ATV

Consider your lifestyle choices and the characteristics of your hobby. Keep in mind that transporting these vehicles can be challenging if you don’t have the necessary equipment. Overall, ATVs are certainly the easier of the two to transport, as they will fit in the bed of most pickup trucks or standard tow trailers.


If you are planning to traverse rugged terrain that has small pathways, tight corners, and dense vegetation hovering inches above your head, an ATV might be more suited for the job. The lightweight design and maneuverability of an ATV make it easier to squeeze through narrow trails. Besides, some trails are only open to dirt bikes and ATVs, so you might want to double-check on that before starting. 

For Onsite Work and Farming

ATVs are incredibly famous amongst farmers as their compact size allows farmers to ride and maneuver through fields easily. But while UTVs have better hauling and storage capacity, most ATVs give riders the option to tow smaller trailers easily and install cargo racks.


If it’s speed on your mind, look no further. ATVs come in different build styles and engine capacities. However, there is a vast selection of race-built ATVs on the market designed specifically to reach high speeds while being super lightweight and nimble. There is no doubt that ATVs are the quicker of the two.

When To Use A UTV

UTVs have a long list of capabilities themselves. Some of the major reasons people lean towards UTVs are their safety features, storage capacity, and the ability to carry multiple passengers on board. These are some areas where the UTV shines: it is also the more familiar option for those who prefer the control layout of a traditional vehicle with four wheels.

For Hauling

UTVs are often equipped with larger engines that have a bigger payload and are perfect for hauling heavy objects during heavy-duty operations. UTV manufacturers emphasize this, with most work-oriented UTVs coming factory-fitted with cargo boxes, winches, and front loaders. Plus, these vehicles have the capability of carrying multiple passengers, making them ideal for work crews.

For Hunting/Fishing

UTVs are famous amongst hunters and the fishing community, as they provide the perfect off-roading solution. They are small and compact but still can carry all the necessary equipment to get the job done. The option of comfortably taking a passenger is an added advantage.

Price Comparison

While it is safe to assume that ATVs are a little lighter on the wallet than most UTVs, you might want to consider exactly why you are buying one. Once again, this will depend mostly on your intended purpose of use. As mentioned before, UTVs are far more practical. They can carry more people and cargo, which might be a much cheaper option than fitting extra equipment to an ATV or using multiple vehicles.