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


· Buyers Guide

So you're in the market for a quad and don't know where to start? Between shopping for different makes, models, price points, finance options, and styles - there is a lot of variation in the market that can leave you feeling overwhelmed. This guide is intended to set you in the right direction so that hopefully you can have a bit of anxiety relief and know what to look for as buying a 4-wheeler should be a fun experience all around. Let's get into it!

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What Are YOU Buying For?

The first thing to consider and most important of all is why are you buying an ATV. Answering this question will help steer your shopping as there are different styles for various needs. Here is a quick breakdown of the types of riding associated with the type of quad you may be looking for:

1. Sport & Performance

You'll likely want to look at a sport and performance quad if you're riding for the thrill. Looking to take on rough terrain, hard landings, higher speeds, and tighter turns? These rigs are designed lightweight with deep suspension and moderate to high power. Examples include the Can-Am Renegade, Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 S, and the Yamaha Raptor 700R.

2. Utility & Work

If you're buying a quad for work whether it be to push some snow, as a workhorse around your lot, or construction field work, you'll want to consider getting an option built with utility in mind. These are typically set up with a sturdier build style, a torque-forward motor, and features with the working person in mind. While its intention may be work, don't let that fool you. They still pack plenty of punch for play as well. Examples include the Honda Rubicon, Kawasaki Brute Force 4x4, and the Can-Am Outlander PRO.

3. All-Purpose & Balanced Use

If you want a happy median between the two styles, manufacturers have plenty of options that focus on balancing the build so. All-purpose ATVs come set up to compete with trails and mudding without giving up the features that you'll need to put in a solid day of work. Examples include the Can-Am Outlander, Polaris Sportsman, and Yamaha Grizzly.

4. Youth Size

Finally, if you're looking to buy a quad that is safe for younger operators, manufacturers have lower displacement options specifically suited for that need. They are lightweight, agile, and restrict speed while still allowing for the enjoyment of cruising on four wheels. Examples include the Can-Am DS, Polaris Outlaw 70, and the Yamaha Grizzly 90.

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What Engine Size Makes Sense?

The next thing to look at may be a bit more of a personal choice overall and many will automatically think "bigger is better". In this section, we look to debunk that (slightly) and give you an idea of the overall ranges so that you can make an educated decision.

Under 70cc Engine - If you're looking at a youth quad for new riders under the age of 12, this is where you'll want to start.

90cc to 125cc Engine - If you're looking at a youth quad for new riders under the age of 16, this is the range you'll likely want to check out.

200cc to 300cc Engine - This range is generally fit for teens that have some skill level already under them and are looking to jump up from the entry-level youth models.

400cc to 500cc Engine - This is the range where things start to get complicated. There are some fantastic HO (High-Output) machines that are solid workhorses. Don't let the lower CCs fool you, these machines move. This is a good area to shop if you're an adult new rider, entering at a lower price point, or are looking for acreage or a farm rig to get from point A to point B. Many of the newer models are well equipped to handle semi-rough terrain, and light mud, as well as push a fair bit of snow. Heavier riders or those handling excessive loads may feel that the machine bogs down in specific terrains, however, most riders will find this range to be more than sufficient to get the job done. Hunters may prefer the generally quieter engines in this range.

550cc to 700cc Engine - This is a solid range for both work and play. Engines in this range provide enough power for aggressive trail riding and mudding. As far as work goes, this range will handle nearly all tasks for the average person with gusto. These machines are typically set up to be accessorized to your heart's content as well. They also are a healthy balance of fuel usage when compared to the 800cc+ models.

800cc to 1000cc+ Engine - These machines are built to battle the toughest terrain and handle immense loads. Many come with features and accessories that complement their rugged power. Keep in mind that while these may be the most sought-after, there are some drawbacks to them. They are typically large and heavy which can make it a bit more of a struggle for the untrained or undersized rider. They also run at a higher heat than smaller engines and are relatively noisy in comparison. Finally, they come at a hefty margin cost-wise over smaller units. Still, this range is the most long-lasting as far as value and purpose. Year-to-year we do not usually see substantial upgrades meaning that past model years remain highly desirable.

Makes & Models Galore

Now that you have a general idea of what you may be looking for as far as style and engine size, let's have a look at the many different makes and models with a quick breakdown and our personal opinions of each.

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1. Can-Am

Can-Am is a household name for ATV enthusiasts since the 1970s. They have built quality machines that couple with generally favorable ATV service reviews for reliability. They offer the most diverse, albeit confusing, trim lineups of any manufacturer. Here is a quick legend of the acronyms that they use:

  • XT - Extra features including upgraded bumpers and winch.
  • XTP - All of the features of the XT with wider FOX Podium suspension and beadlock wheels.
  • XMR - The mudder model. Elevated radiator, snorkel kit, larger tires, and higher clearance.
  • XXC - Racing model. Upgraded front bumper, no rear bumper or winch. FOX RC2 Shocks, suspension, and underbody protection. Larger display & stitched seat.
  • DPS - Dynamic Power Steering model.
  • PRO - 650cc lineup built specifically as a workhorse.
  • MAX - Models built specifically for two-up riding.
  • Hunting Edition - Exactly what it sounds like, upgrades for hunting.

Their 2023 quad lineup has three distinct setups to choose from:

Can-Am Outlander - The Outlander is available in numerous models from 500cc to 1000cc with the specific trims noted above. Their full selection can be found on the Can-Am Website.

Can-Am Renegade - The Renegade comes in a few options with the main models being the 650cc available in XMR and XXC as well as a beefed-up 1000cc XMR mud machine.

Can-Am Renegade & DS Youth - 70cc to 250cc rigs specifically for youth as noted above.

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Polaris has been in the powersports industry for decades and offers a solid selection of machines for all purposes. While there are varying opinions, some have noted that Polaris ATVs may not have the same reliability as other makes out there. Others will swear by Polaris as the top make out there. My take is that it is solely based on personal experience as I have never had an issue with a Polaris rig beyond standard wear and tear or misuse. While their trim selection is still diverse, it is much easier to comprehend than Can-Am. Here is a quick legend of the acronyms that they use:

  • HO - High Output workhorse edition.
  • XP - Extra feature edition with winch, bumpers, and upgraded tires & wheels.
  • XPS - Everything the XP offers plus ProSteer for Control and Bumpersteer for Elimination
  • High Lifter Edition - The mudder rig. Upgraded mud tires, higher clearance, and rack-mounted rad.

Their 2023 quad lineup has a few distinct setups to choose from as from the Polaris Website:

Sportsman - The sports & utility hybrid Polaris Sportsman is available in numerous models from 450cc to 1000cc with the specific trims noted above.

Sportsman Touring - These machines are available from 570cc to 1000cc with the trims noted above. The touring models are designed for two-up riding.

Scrambler - This sport machine comes in an 850cc model as well as a pricier, meaner XP 1000 S model.

Youth Outlaw / Sportsman / Phoenix - These lower cc rigs are designed with youth in mind and range from 70cc to 200cc.

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Yamaha has been a household name for anything from guitars to appliances. Their entry to the ATV market in the 1980s came with generally favorable reviews and that continues to this day. Reviews throughout the web give a nod to their reliability, throttle response, and build style. The YFZ450R in specific has been well-documented as one of the top racing machines for years. Trim selection for their lineup is streamlined and easy to digest. Here is a quick legend of the acronyms that they use:

  • EPS - Electronic power steering equipped.
  • SE - Special edition model. Has upgrades such as a factory-installed winch, 4WD diff-lock, and aluminum wheels.

Their 2023 quad lineup is straightforward as well:

Kodiak - This model comes available in 450cc and 700cc engine sizes with the trims noted above. These are similar to the Grizzly in most aspects but come in at a lighter weight and leaner at the expense of stability which makes it a more-than-suitable trail rider.

Grizzly - These machines are available in powerful big bore 700cc engines in the trim models above. They are a heavier, wider, and higher quad which gives a bit more stability when compared to the Kodiak which is relatively similar otherwise.

YFZ- This machine comes in a 450cc model that is highly rated in the racing world. With its wider wheelbase and lightweight design, it feels like the more extreme version of the Raptor despite its displacement. It is a touchy machine to get used to overall, but extremely satisfying once you get the gears down. Keep in mind these are not reverse-equipped.

Raptor - This sport rig comes in a 700cc model that is both simple in design and fast off of the line. I've seen these keep up with 1000cc models from other makes most likely due to their dynamic design. It is equipped with a 5-speed transmission that has reverse gear.

Youth Grizzly / Raptor / YFZ50 - Ranging from 50 to 90cc this is a fairly slim lineup of reasonably priced youth quads.

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Honda has made a name for itself in the ATV world with its tremendous reliability. Known specifically for building workhorse quads, I know several businesses that will only use Honda quads as their fleet. Their 2023 lineup is split into three main branches - the Rancher, Foreman, and Rubicon. Here is a breakdown of their full lineup:

TRX420 Rancher - This 420cc machine packs far more punch than its displacement would imply. Most commonly used for acreage and farm work, it is a fantastic workhorse option.

TRX520 Foreman - This machine comes in both a 520cc standard model as well as an ES EPS which has an electronic shift and electronic power steering. A perfect upgrade from the capable Rancher for those that need a more powerful workhorse.

TRX520 Rubicon - With a 520cc engine this machine comes in three trim options. The IRS EPS is the standard model this year which features automatic internal decompression and electronic power steering. The next step up is the DCT IRS EPS which features an upgraded automatic transmission. Finally, the DCT Deluxe comes fully equipped with lightweight wheels and a sportier color scheme. When compared to the Foreman, the Rubicon has approximately 35% more tow capacity and 10% more weight capacity making it the superior machine.

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5. Suzuki

Suzuki entered the scene during the ATV boom in the 1980s bringing quality machines to its customers. Their staple machine, the Suzuki Kingquad, just celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. Their dedication to one single lineup makes it the easiest to navigate options to fit your needs. Their 2023 lineup includes variations from 450cc to 750cc of the notorious Suzuki Kingquad as well as a 50cc and 90cc Quadsport youth machine. Their website is to the point making it simple to see the upgrades you are paying for. I have heard nothing but good things about their machines from friends of mine who are adamant that when you buy a Kingquad, you are buying for life. Check out their website HERE.

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Another entrant in the 1980s ATV boom, Kawasaki has been manufacturing and improving on their lineup for decades. While I have never owned or ridden a Kawasaki ATV before, I have combed through dozens of reviews and blog posts online and they are consistently well-reviewed. A few standouts include an ATVIllustrated Long Term Review, a 2021 200 Mile Review by ATVRider.com, and a fantastic breakdown by Dirtwheelsmag.com of a 2020 Brute Force. Some common elements are tremendous reliability, snappy engine response, and a smooth transmission. Another simple lineup makes it easy to find exactly what you're looking for on their website. Their Brute Force lineup in 2023 comes in both 300cc and 750cc options with three distinct trims. Those include standard 4x4, 4x4 EPS (Electronic Power Steering), and 4x4 EPS in Camo. They also offer a youth lineup in 50cc and 90cc called KFX.

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Arctic Cat has gone through many transition periods with their ATV lineup over the years including a full transition to the "Textron" brand and back again. While there have been both reliability and build issues in the past with cheaper parts being used. While I can not yet recommend their machines as I take a "wait and see" approach, recent models seem to be back on track to retain their provenance in the industry. They have scaled back immensely with the 2023 models coming in 90cc, 300cc, and 600cc variants - the latter of which comes in the trim models outlined below.

  • EPS - Electronic power steering equipped.
  • XT - Premium bumper, 12" aluminum wheels, and special color scheme.
  • TRV - Two-Rider Vehicle. Factory 2up design.
  • LTD - Limited edition. Selectable front-locking diff. Upgraded tires and wheels. Extra ground clearance. Factory winch.
  • MUD PRO - Mudding edition. Elevated radiator and snorkeled intakes. 28" Maxxis Zilla mud tires on 14" aluminum wheels. Extra ground clearance.
  • BLACK HILLS EDITION - Extra ground clearance, enhanced suspension, front locking diff, and a transaxle with an extra-low gear set for rock climbing.
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8. CFMoto & other internationally made machines

Founded in 1989, CFMoto has recently broken into the industry in a big way. This is mainly due to supply issues with other brands, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic left a shortage. It, along with other primarily Chinese brands, continues to produce budget-friendly machines. It has been a mixed bag with reviews overall but I have heard good things as far as performance, and less positive things as far as reliability. CFMoto in specific does offer a five-year warranty. I wasn't able to find much information on people using the warranty. If you're interested in looking at less expensive options, you can find CFMoto on their website HERE.

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Enjoy Shopping and Take Your Time!

So far we've gone over some important factors to consider and give you an extensive look at current models available to help aid the shopping process. The final item to discuss is ensuring that you take your time in finding the best option. Don't simply jump at the first option or the first dealer that you visit. Wait for the vibe and use your instincts to ensure you are happy with your purchase.

If you are looking to finance a ATV, be sure to understand your payments fully and be comfortable with the numbers. Don't fall into traps such as "guaranteed ATV financing" schemes as they typically have strings attached. If you are purchase or financing a used private sale quad, you may want to get a mechanical inspection done. Many ATV mechanics will do an out-of-shop inspection during a viewing for a fee.

Finally, have fun with the shopping experience. This is an exciting purchase and you should be ready to go at it stress-free. We hope this post helps with that and wish you the best in finding the perfect fit!

Thank you for reading.b