Quad Buyers Guide: The Ultimate Guide to Picking the Right ATV


Buying an ATV can be as thrilling as it is practical, whether you're gearing up for rugged adventures or heavy-duty tasks on your property. Imagine the wind in your face as you tackle a trail or the satisfaction of towing large loads with ease. However, it's crucial to consider what you'll actually use your ATV for and the features that match your needs.

In this ATV buyers guide, we'll help align your desires with the perfect all-terrain vehicle. Whether you're choosing a sporty four-wheeler or a robust off-road machine, understanding various ATV models and their functionalities ensures your off-road experiences are both enjoyable and safe.

A man and a woman thinking, two ATVs are on a dirt path in an Albertan field

Understanding Your Needs: Choosing the Right ATV

The first step in our ATV buyer's guide is to pinpoint exactly why you need one. This isn't just about having fun—though, let's be honest, that's a big part of it. It's about recognizing whether you need a sport ATV for that adrenaline-pumping trail performance, a utility ATV for work around a big property, or maybe a smaller, safety-focused model for younger riders who are just starting out.

Let's break it down with some key questions that should guide your decision-making process:

  • What is your primary use? Are you dreaming of adventurous trail riding, or do you need a workhorse for tasks like towing and carrying heavy loads? The answer will help you decide between models focused on speed and agility versus those with more power and durability, including finding the most affordable ATVs that fit your needs.
  • Who will be riding the ATV? If it’s for your kids, you’ll want to consider youth ATVs with safety features designed for those just starting out, like automatic transmissions and controlled speed settings. For adults, think about the type of riding you plan to do. Do you crave the same trail thrills on a pure race type ATV, or do you need something that can handle thick mud and rough terrain with ease?

Choosing the right ATV is about more than just picking the fastest or the toughest—it's about matching the machine to your lifestyle to maximize both fun and functionality. Remember, the perfect off-road vehicle for you is the one that meets your specific needs, whether that's racing across motocross tracks or hauling gear across your farm among other popular off-road vehicles.

As we move forward in this guide, we'll dive into the specifics of different ATV categories and engine sizes, exploring a variety of ATV models and the features that can make or break your off-road experience. Stick around to find out how to navigate the world of ATVs with confidence and make a purchase you'll be proud of for years to come.

2-panel picture, left showing a sport ATV jumping off of an edge, right showing a hunting ATV in a forest

Types of ATVs: Find Your Perfect Match

Sport ATVs: Built for the Thrill

Sport ATVs are the speed demons of the ATV world, designed for those who live for the adrenaline rush. These are built lightweight, with features that support high speeds and agility, making them perfect for motocross tracks and extreme trail riding. The Yamaha Raptor 700R, for instance, is a prime example with its race-proven power and ability to handle rough obstacles with ease. Imagine darting through trails with the kind of zest that leaves your heart thumping loud enough to drown out the engine's roar—that’s what sport ATVs offer!

Utility ATVs: The Hardworking Companions

When you need a reliable partner for the tough jobs, utility ATVs stand ready. Equipped with features like towing capacity, high ground clearance, and a robust engine, these ATVs are ideal for tasks such as farming, hunting, or any heavy-duty work. The Honda Rubicon serves as a perfect vehicle model, boasting a sturdy build and the muscle to pull through deep mud and rugged landscapes. They aren’t just workhorses, though; after a long day’s work, these capable utility ATVs can still provide an exhilarating ride down a scenic path.

Youth ATVs: Safety First for Young Riders

Youth ATVs prioritize safety and manageability, perfect for introducing new riders to the joys of four-wheeling. With features like automatic transmissions, limited speed, and essential safety features, these models ensure that young enthusiasts can experience off-road fun without unnecessary risks. The Polaris Outlaw 70, for instance, is designed to give younger riders a taste of adventure while keeping parents at ease, thanks to its controlled power and sturdy build.

All-Purpose ATVs: Versatility at Its Best

For those who refuse to choose between work and play, all-purpose ATVs are the jack-of-all-trades. These ATVs balance the robustness of utility models with the fun elements of sport quads, making them ideal for both trail riding and moderate work tasks. The Polaris Sportsman exemplifies this category with its independent rear suspension and manual shift transmissions, ensuring a smooth ride whether you're hauling gear or chasing the sunset on a rougher route.

Deciding on Engine Size and Performance: More Than Just Numbers

When it comes to ATVs, bigger isn’t always better. Choosing the right size of engine is crucial as it impacts both the usability and your enjoyment. Let’s debunk some common myths and guide you through choosing the ideal engine for your needs:

  • Under 70cc: Ideal for children under 12, these ATVs are built with safety in mind, allowing new riders to learn the ropes securely.
  • 90cc to 125cc: Best for teenagers, providing a bit of an increase in power for those ready to explore a bit more aggressively, yet safely.
  • 200cc to 300cc: Suitable for experienced teenage riders who are comfortable with handling more power and tackling tougher terrains.
  • 400cc to 500cc: These are great entry-level options for adults. They provide enough power for light work tasks and leisurely trail rides, making them a staple for those new to the ATV market.
  • 550cc to 700cc: A sweet spot for both work and play, these engines offer a balance of power and manageability, perfect for towing independent rear suspension or racing through the woods.
  • 800cc to 1000cc+: For the ultimate performance, these high-powered beasts are designed to conquer the most challenging landscapes and the heaviest loads. Ideal for seasoned riders seeking maximum thrill and utility.

Understanding engine sizes and matching them to your riding style isn’t just about technicalities—it’s about enhancing your overall experience. Whether you're cruising on a well-beaten path or forging your way through new terrains, the right ATV can make all the difference. So, take your time, and make sure you pick the one that truly fits your adventure spirit and practical needs, from pure race type ATVs to four-wheelers designed for hunting or recreational use. This part of the ATV buyer's guide is essential for finding the perfect ATV category for your needs.

An ATV dealership in Canada with an array of different quads and side-by-sides

Exploring Makes and Models: Choosing the Right Brand

When it comes to ATVs, the brand matters just as much as the specs. Each manufacturer brings something unique to the table, from rugged utility models to high-speed thrill machines. Let's continue this ATV buying guide with a deep dive into some of the key players in the ATV market and what makes each stand out.

Can-Am: A Spectrum of Choices

Can-Am is known for its wide range of models that cater to nearly every possible need in the ATV industry. From the adrenaline-pumping XMR series, perfect for plowing through thick mud, to the utility-focused PRO series, Can-Am doesn’t hold back on options. The DPS models feature dynamic power steering, making handling a breeze, while the XT models come with added features like upgraded bumpers and winches. If you’re into two-up riding, the MAX models are designed just for that. Let’s not forget the Hunting Edition—every hunter’s dream with enhancements tailored for the wilderness.

Polaris: Reliable and Diverse

Polaris stands out for its reliability, offering a range of ATVs that excel both on trails and in utility tasks. The Sportsman XP models, with the High Lifter Edition, are tailored for those who face rugged obstacles and require high clearance and enhanced suspension. Polaris's XP and XPS trims come with extras like beefed-up tires and winches, making them ready for almost anything you throw at them. Polaris is also a go-to for many riders because of its straightforward approach to power and performance.

Yamaha: Synonymous with Performance

Yamaha has been a staple in the ATV market, known for its reliable machines that don’t skimp on performance. Models like the Grizzly come with Electronic Power Steering (EPS) and Special Edition (SE) versions that include factory-installed luxuries such as winches and enhanced aesthetics. Yamaha’s ATVs are revered for their throttle response and durable engine builds, making them a top pick for both beginners and seasoned trail veterans.

Honda: The Workhorse Legend

Honda’s reputation for building durable, reliable ATVs is well-earned. Their Rancher, Foreman, and Rubicon lines are the epitome of work-ready ATVs, equipped with features that help carry heavy loads, tow large amounts, and push through tough work days without a hitch. Known for their longevity and minimal maintenance, Honda ATVs are a favorite among those who need a dependable machine that’s also comfortable to ride over rough ground.

Suzuki & Kawasaki: Consistent and Quality Driven

Suzuki’s Kingquad and Kawasaki’s Brute Force models are stalwarts in the ATV market. Known for their robust engines and durable builds, these brands offer something for everyone—from the lightweight, agile rides suitable for young ATVers to heavy-duty machines capable of conquering severe terrains and tasks. Suzuki and Kawasaki have focused on refining their models to offer better comfort, control, and power in every iteration.

Arctic Cat: Back and Better

After some ups and downs, Arctic Cat is back, focusing on quality and innovation. Their latest models, like the Alterra series, offer modern features such as improved suspension systems and electronic power steering. Arctic Cat’s commitment to offering a reliable product line shows in their renewed focus on durability and rider experience.

CFMoto: Affordability Meets Innovation

CFMoto has carved a niche for itself by offering budget-friendly ATVs without compromising on performance. With models that include extended warranties and features typically seen on pricier machines, CFMoto is an excellent choice for those entering the ATV market. They're proving that you don’t have to break the bank to get a solid ATV that can handle both recreational trails and some serious mudding.

Choosing the right ATV brand means considering what each can offer in terms of features, price, and overall quality. Whether you’re looking for a vehicle that can endure the wear and tear of a work site or one that can race through the wilderness with power and agility, there’s an ATV brand that matches your needs. Remember, the best way to decide is often a test ride—so don't hesitate to try out a few four-wheel drive models before making your final decision.

A futuristed looking quad loaded with way too many add-ons in a humorous way

Key Features and Accessories: Enhance Your Ride

When picking your perfect ATV, it's not just about the model or the engine size—think about the key features and optional accessories that can tailor your ride to exactly what you need.

Essential Features for Every Rider

  • Towing Capacity: Whether you're hauling equipment on the farm or pulling a stuck friend out of the mud, a high towing capacity can transform your ATV into a powerhouse.
  • Ground Clearance: High ground clearance is crucial for navigating rugged terrain without the belly of your beast taking a beating. This feature is especially important for off-road adventures where rocks, logs, and uneven surfaces are the norms.
  • Safety Features: Especially vital for young ATVers and beginners, features like automatic transmissions, speed governors, and sturdy safety gear can make all the difference. Ensuring your ATV has essential safety gear like robust brake systems and good-quality atv brake pads can prevent accidents before they happen.

Optional Accessories for Functionality

  • Winches: A winch can be a game-changer for rescuing other riders or moving heavy objects. It’s like having a strong buddy always ready to pull you out of trouble.
  • Racks and Plows: For the utility riders, adding racks or a plow can turn your ATV into a multi-tool. From snow plowing to carrying gear for a long hunting trip, these accessories make it all possible.
  • Ergonomic Upgrades: Comfortable seating, adjustable handle positioning, and easily accessible controls are not just about comfort—they can greatly enhance rider endurance and control on long or challenging rides.
Two ATVs sit next to eachother, Canadian flags in the background. One is clearly used, the other brand new.

Buying Tips: New vs. Used ATVs

New ATVs: Pros and Cons

Buying a new ATV is an exciting prospect. You get the latest vehicle model year with all the newest features and no wear—a perfect four-wheeler in showroom condition. Plus, new ATVs come with warranties that provide peace of mind. However, this comes at a premium price, and just like cars, new ATVs depreciate the moment they roll off the lot.

Used ATVs: Smart Shopping

Opting for a used ATV can be the more affordable choice, allowing access to higher-end models that might have been out of budget when new. The used market is full of opportunities, but it requires careful consideration:

  • Inspect for Wear: Check for engine leaks, worn shocks, old wheel bearings, ball joints, tires and the condition of the brake pads and brake system. Also be sure to remove the air cleaner cover and check the condition of the air filter as well as inspecting the valve cover gaskets and head gaskets for leaks. Pay attention to signs of caliper leaks and check if the rotating joint needs servicing. Check the engine and transmission dipsticks to snure the fluids are at least semi-fresh.

A severely worn ATV could end up costing more in repairs than you save. Research things like new tires or how much a complete brake job costs local to you so that you can account for this in your purchase.

  • Test Ride: Always take a test ride to check how the ATV handles. Listen for unusual noises and pay attention to the engine's smoothness and the responsiveness of the controls.
  • Negotiation: Armed with knowledge of any potential issues, you can negotiate the price. If you’re not mechanically inclined, consider taking a knowledgeable friend or a mechanic with you when you check out a potential buy from private sellers.

Check for Warranties and Guarantees

Even if buying used, some ATVs might still have part of their original warranty valid, or a dealer may offer a limited guarantee. Always avalvsk about this—it could save you from future headaches.

By considering both essential features and optional accessories, and carefully weighing the pros and cons of new versus used ATVs, you can ensure that you choose the best vehicle for your needs and budget. Either way, ATV costs can ramp up quickly with maintenance issues. Remember, whether it’s for fun, work, or a bit of both, the right ATV is out there waiting for you to take it on an adventure.

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Making the Purchase: Financing vs. Cash

When it comes time to seal the deal on your new or used ATV, you’ll face the big question: finance or pay with cash? ATV Financing can ease the burden on your wallet upfront, especially with many dealers offering competitive rates. In addition, financing may allow you to roll in some ATV accessories to get the exact four-wheeler that you're looking for. That being said, paying in cash eliminates future interest and can sometimes leverage a better deal from the seller. Before you commit, there are a few crucial steps to ensure you're making a wise purchase:

  • Inspect Thoroughly: As mentioned previously - with used ATVs, a thorough inspection is crucial. Check for any signs of wear such as engine leaks, worn shocks, or severely worn ATV bearings. Be sure to examine all four-wheeler accessories to ensure they are in good condition and properly fitted.
  • Read Reviews: What are other riders saying? Look up reviews to gauge the reliability and satisfaction levels of the ATV model you’re considering.
  • Check Dealer Reputation: A reputable dealer can make all the difference. Read up on their service, support, and what other customers have to say about their experiences.

Buying an ATV should be fun, not stressful! Take your time to explore your options, ask questions, and find the perfect match for your adventurous needs. Whether you're hitting the trails or using your ATV for work on rugged terrain, making an informed choice will enhance your overall experience.

A man and a woman on an ATV up a forested mountain trail, a side by side can be seen in the background

Owning an ATV combines the thrill of adventure with substantial practical benefits, catering to both your wild side and work needs. Whether you choose recreational ATVs for the trail or rugged four-wheelers for mudding, remember, the best ATV is the one that suits your lifestyle and fulfills your expectations, ensuring every ride is a new adventure. Happy riding!

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