Used UTV Buying Checklist

Utility Terrain Vehicles or UTV, as we know them, are hardened work vehicles. Drawing inspiration from the original Willys Jeep, the design has been influenced further by dune buggies and ATVs to create a four-wheel vehicle capable of hauling equipment, tools, and supplies in a rural setting.

While ATVs are primarily used for recreational purposes, UTVs are utilized by farmers, loggers, and field workers to access remote locations conveniently. Recreational models have become increasingly more popular, trading off the utility in favor of off-road capability. 

Regardless of the intended purpose, purchasing a used UTV is not an easy task. The harsh terrain they are used on naturally speeds up component wear, so the inspection must be meticulous. Let us go through the key points and create a checklist for buying a used UTV. 

Body Panels 

A UTV’s overall look can paint an accurate picture of how the vehicle was used. Traveling on gravel or dirt roads shouldn’t affect the appearance, while field use is characterized by the subtle paint scrapes on body panels.

Dents, cracks, or missing body panels indicate off-road use, neglect, or abuse. It is normal for a UTV to show signs of wear, but you will have to judge how much is tolerable. 

Frame

While body panels can show some signs of wear, the same cannot be said for the frame. From underneath, you can see if the UTV has any significant damage caused by Stradling or landing on rocks or other hard surfaces.

The roll cage is merged with the chassis, acting as your primary source of protection in case of a rollover. Try to spot bends, asymmetry, or misalignment of the shape from all directions. Run your fingers over the pipes and look for signs of welding or straightening. 

Use History

The first two points naturally lead to inquiring about the use history of the UTV. Both utility and recreational use have their pros and cons. Work UTVs have an easier time but cross a significant number of miles. Recreational use is far less frequent but puts more stress and risks of malfunction on the vehicle.

A well-kept service book is a sign of a responsible owner. It includes dates that a UTV was serviced, maintenance intervals, and if any parts were replaced. If you end up liking the UTV, make sure that the person acting as the seller is its legitimate owner.

Engine

For the most accurate inspection of the engine, tell the seller not to run the UTV before you arrive. A warm engine has an easier time starting and running. By testing the engine while it is cold, you can monitor the difficulties with starting and keeping the idle revs stable. After running for a few minutes, the oil will be ready for inspection. 

Oil

Depending on the layout, accessing the dipstick to determine the oil level can be complicated. Some UTVs have clear access, while others require stripping the seats and engine shield. Whatever the case, oil should be inspected before a test drive. 

Oil level below the specified minimum is a definite cause for concern. The engine may operate smoothly, but a prolonged lack of oil can cause increased wear of the internal components. If oil has a brown tint, signs of water, or a muddy texture, the damage has already been done. 

The importance of oil in an internal combustion engine cannot be overstated, which is why you should strongly consider not buying a UTV that does not satisfy this checklist item. 

Coolant

Like oil, the level and quality of coolant give valuable insight into the maintenance and condition of a UTV. Missing coolant could be indicative of a leak, which is a manageable problem. However, dirty coolant isn’t acceptable, as it results from poor maintenance or engine issues.

Test Drive

The next step in determining the functionality of a used UTV is the test drive. Start the test on asphalt or flat dirt road before moving to off-road conditions, and test out the following: 

  • Brakes
  • Handling
  • Acceleration and Power
  • Suspension and Comfort
  • Electrical Components

Brakes

Braking should gradually increase as you push the pedal, without scraping or high pitch noise. Bring the UTV to speed and press hard on the brake pedal. Brakes should decelerate the vehicle evenly while keeping it straight. 

Handling

UTVs have excellent handling, with fast and responsive steering. Check if there is any dead space in the steering wheel, and listen to grating or crackling noise as you turn into corners. Those symptoms are indicative of worn-out wheel bearing, which fortunately isn’t an expensive problem to fix.

Acceleration and Power

The engine’s comparative power to the light body generates fast acceleration and gives the UTV the ability to handle challenging off-road situations. Step on the gas and look for signs of choking due to loss of power. Keep an eye out for a lot of smoke coming from the exhaust, as well. A healthy engine should have no problems accelerating. 

Suspension and Comfort

To properly test out the suspension, head off-road. Excessive bouncing or complete failure to absorb the uneven road are telltale signs of suspension problems. It is essential that you feel comfortable during the ride. Otherwise, you might not enjoy the UTV after purchasing it.

Electrical Components

UTVs come with varying electrical components, with lights and a speedometer being the bare essentials. Try out every button, the horn, brake, high and low beam lights, as well as anything else you might find. 

The electrical components are often overlooked, with problems discovered days or weeks after the purchase. Before you inspect a UTV in person, it is not a bad idea to look up its feature list online and test everything based on this information.