Pros and Cons of Buying Used ATVs: An In-Depth Guide

The prospect of buying an ATV is as exciting as it is significant. Whether you're envisioning rugged trails beneath the expansive sky or a practical ride around your property, an all-terrain vehicle can enhance your outdoor experience immeasurably. While the allure of a brand new machine is undeniable, with its shiny parts and the latest features, there's a compelling case to be made for choosing a used machine. Not only can it be gentler on your wallet, but it also offers a practical entry into the world of all-terrain vehicles, especially for those new to this adventure.

In this post, we're diving into the world of pre-owned ATVs - uncovering the nuances between choosing between a new or used ATV. We'll explore the pros, cons, and everything in between to help you make an informed decision that suits your needs and budget.


Two ATVs side by sides sit next to eachother, one sporty and one utility

Understanding ATVs and Their Types

ATVs vs. UTVs: What's the Difference?

First off, let's clarify some terminology. ATVs, or All-Terrain Vehicles, are typically smaller, one-to-two-person vehicles ideal for maneuvering through narrow paths and varied terrains. They're built for agility and are often used for both recreation and light utility work. On the other hand, UTVs (Utility Terrain Vehicles), or side-by-sides, are larger and designed to haul heavier loads, often seating up to four people. These machines are suited for more intensive work tasks and can also serve as fun recreational vehicles for groups.

Choosing the Right ATV for Your Needs

When venturing into the world of ATVs, it's essential to select a vehicle that matches your intended use and lifestyle. Here are some key considerations and tips to help guide your decision:

Understanding Your Riding Environment

  • Terrain Navigation: Will you be traversing rocky paths or cruising on flat, open fields? Assessing the types of terrain you plan to explore is crucial.
  • Engine Size: A robust engine offers the strength needed for steep inclines and heavy-duty tasks. For off-road prowess, an engine with more power ensures you have the torque to overcome challenging landscapes.
  • Ground Clearance: High ground clearance is vital for off-roading, allowing you to pass over obstacles like rocks and logs effortlessly, minimizing the risk of undercarriage damage.

Selecting Based on Use

  • Recreational vs. Utility: Determine if the primary function of the ATV is for sport and fun or utility based tasks. Recreational ATVs are typically lighter and more agile, while utility ATVs, or UTVs, are designed for towing heavier loads.
  • Mudding vs. Trail Riding: Amongst the various factors involved with purchasing the perfect machine is the type of trail you intend to face. Mudding will require a rig with more power, proper tires and possibly even upgrades like snorkels and skid plates. Alternatively, trail riding may require simple, basic tires and many of these other components would also not be necessary. This can provide a lower price point if you are on a tight budget.
  • Single or Multi-Rider: Consider whether you'll often go solo or if a multi-rider ATV (UTV) fits better for group adventures or work scenarios.

Key Features to Consider

  • Towing & Utility Ability: Essential for those who need their ATV for work-related tasks or who enjoy camping adventures where hauling gear is necessary or for hunters focused on trail-riding versus heavy off-road mudding.
  • Transmission and Handling: Look for features like constant velocity (CV) joints and well-maintained transmission systems to ensure smooth handling and longevity.
  • Tire Types: The type of tire your machine has will have a major impact on both handling and smoothness. Large, bulky tires have many advantages for those looking for deep mud trips, but trail tires are more practical for daily use on groomed paths.
  • Suspension and Comfort: Check the suspension system, including shocks and ball joints, for wear and tear. A well-suspended ATV enhances comfort and handling in rough terrains.

Evaluating Used ATVs

  • Maintenance History: A well-documented maintenance record can be a goldmine of information. It reveals the ATV's care level and any recurring issues. Check engine and transmission dipsticks to see if the fluids are relatively clean. Low mileage may not be the best indicated of how hard the machine was used. Alternatively, high mileage machines may be seeing the end of their expected lifespan.
  • Visual Inspection: Examine the ATV for signs of wear such as deep gouges, visible damage to the frame, and severely worn ATV bearings, which could indicate heavy use or neglect.
  • Test Ride: If possible, take the ATV for a test run to check the engine's responsiveness, brake system integrity, and overall riding comfort. Listen for unusual noises that might indicate hidden problems.

Ultimately, the right off-road machine comes down to your own personal preferences. In the next sections, we'll delve deeper into the benefits of buying used, what to watch out for, and how to ensure your chosen ATV is in good shape, ready to take on whatever path you choose next. Stay tuned as we gear up to make your ATV buying experience as smooth and enjoyable as the ride itself.


A man deals with another man on buying a used ATV at the sellers home

Advantages of Buying Used ATVs

As someone who's spent countless hours roaming trails and scaling dunes, I can tell you that diving into the world of ATVs can be an exhilarating decision. However, not everyone wants to - or can - invest in a brand new ATV straight off the lot. Here's why opting for a used ATV could be a smart and satisfying choice.

Cost-Effective Adventures

The most immediate benefit of buying a used ATV is the cost savings. Used ATVs often come with a significantly lower price tag compared to brand new ATVs. This lower cost also opens up room for negotiation—you'd be surprised at how much you can shave off the initial asking price with a bit of research and savvy bargaining. For those of us watching our budget, this means you can stretch your dollars further, possibly even affording a higher-end model than you initially thought possible.

Financing the Fun

While paying upfront for a used ATV is often more feasible, there are still plenty of financing options available. These options make it easier to manage payments without taking a huge hit all at once. Financing a used ATV can be a practical choice, especially for those just starting with off-road adventures, as it reduces the financial strain and makes the sport more accessible.

Wide Range of Choices

One of the great things about the used ATV market is the variety. From private sellers to online marketplaces, there are numerous channels through which you can find a deal. Each source offers a unique range of machines, from older models, more rugged utility machines to nearly new sport ATVs that have barely touched the dirt. This availability not only provides more options but also increases your chances of finding the perfect ATV that suits both your needs and your budget.


A man browses used ATVs on his laptop in his home office

Key Considerations When Choosing a Used ATV

Choosing the right used ATV involves more than just finding a great price; it’s about ensuring you won’t face constant repairs down the line. Here’s what to keep an eye on to make sure you get the best bang for your buck.

The Importance of a Thorough Visual Inspection

Never underestimate the power of a good look-over. This first step can tell you a lot about an ATV's past life. Look for signs of wear and check maintenance records if available. These records can be a testament to the previous owner's care (or lack thereof) and can indicate potential future problems.

Critical Areas to Examine

  • Engine and Transmission: Use dipsticks to check for metallic particles in the oil, which can indicate internal wear or damage. Clear, amber oil is a good sign, while dark or gritty oil might warn of issues.
  • Brake System: Examine the brake pads and the entire brake system for wear and functionality. Complete brake job costs can add up, so knowing the condition beforehand can save you money.
  • Wheel Bearings and Shocks: These are crucial for smooth and safe handling. Worn shocks or loose wheel bearings can compromise the ATV's stability and safety.
  • CV Boots and Ball Joints: These components should be intact with no visible cracks or leakage. Damaged CV boots can lead to more serious joint or axle issues.

Checking for Worn Parts

Deep gouges, severe wear on bearings, or any visible damage can be a deal-breaker. These signs usually indicate rough use or neglect, which could translate into costly repairs for you later on. Always take the time for a test run to listen for any unusual noises or handling issues.

By keeping these considerations in mind, you can better navigate the used off-road market and find a vehicle that won’t just meet your expectations but exceed them. In the next section, we’ll delve into potential drawbacks to be aware of, ensuring you’re fully informed before making your purchase.


A man looks down at a dirty puddle of oil by an ATV

Potential Drawbacks of Buying Used ATVs

Investing in a used ATV often feels like striking gold, especially when you snag a great deal. However, it's important to approach these buys with a balanced view, understanding some of the potential pitfalls that might not be immediately obvious.

More Maintenance, Less Warranty

The most glaring risk with used ATVs is the increased need for maintenance. Unlike a brand new ride that comes fresh with a warranty, used ATVs typically come "as is." This means any repairs needed post-purchase are on your dime. For example, the cost of a complete brake job or replacing worn shocks can add up quickly, impacting your budget more than you might expect. Regular checks for engine leaks, tire wear, and proper function of the brake system become your new routine to ensure your ATV remains a reliable rig. Note that if you finance your ATV through a powersports dealership, extended warranty plans may be available - even on pre-owned machines.

Missing Out on the Latest and Greatest Features

Another consideration is the technological gap. A used ATV might lack the latest features that new models boast—features designed to enhance comfort, safety, and performance. Whether it’s advanced traction control systems, better fuel efficiency, or ergonomic improvements, newer models hold the edge. The cost of upgrading a used rig with aftermarket parts to close this feature gap can also mount up, sometimes making a new ATV purchase seem more appealing in retrospect.


A side by side drives down an ATV trail

Practical Tips for Buying a Used ATV

When you decide to buy a used all-terrain vehicle, doing your homework can transform your experience from daunting to rewarding. Here are some practical tips to keep in mind when you start shopping different ATVs:

Conduct a Thorough Test Ride

A test drive is crucial when possible as it’s your firsthand experience of how the rig handles in real conditions. Pay attention to how the ATV starts and runs. Listen for any abnormal noises from the engine or signs of caliper leaks during braking. A responsive ride without any hitches or stutters is a good sign, but any hesitance or irregular performance might indicate underlying issues and nobody wants to be dealing with blown head gaskets on their new-to-them rig.

Check for Essential Maintenance

  • Brakes & Braking System: Ensure the brakes respond well and don’t exhibit any grinding noises which could indicate worn brake pads or deeper issues within the entire brake system.
  • Air Filter and Valve Covers: Check that the air filter is clean and the valve cover gaskets show no signs of leakage. These are often overlooked but critical for maintaining engine health and efficiency.
  • Look for Wear and Tear: Examine the unit inside and out for any signs of previous damage or severe wear on bearings—these could be costly to repair and indicate heavy previous use or poor maintenance.

Due Diligence is Key

Start your shopping experience armed with a clear understanding of the intended primary use of the ATV. This clarity helps in filtering options and focusing on finding an ATV that matches your specific needs. For instance, if towing and off-road capability are priorities, prioritize brands known for robust performance and reliability in handling heavy loads.

Always verify the ATV’s history; ask for maintenance records and previous owner details. Knowing the ATV’s past can help you gauge its future reliability and worth, ensuring you make an informed purchase that aligns with your adventurous spirit and budget constraints. Next, let's have a look at several factors to finalize the deal.


A man rides a quad in a brightly lit, foliage covered trail

Final Considerations Before Purchase

As we near the end of our journey into the world of used ATVs, it’s crucial to pause and reflect on a few final aspects before making your purchase.

Match the Machine to Your Experience

Choosing between an old ATV and a brand-new model isn't just about budget; it’s also about your comfort and safety. If you're new to riding, a used ATV might be more forgiving as you learn. However, experienced riders might prefer a new ATV with the latest features and technology that can handle their advanced skills. Remember, the right ATV should align with your riding experience and enhance your confidence on the trails.

Consider the Towing Capacity

Your next adventure might involve more than just a scenic trail. If you plan to haul gear, whether for camping, hunting, or other activities, understanding the towing ability of your ATV is essential. Make sure the machine you choose can handle the load you intend to carry. This consideration ensures that you don’t strain the machine beyond its limits, which can lead to maintenance issues down the road.

Licensing and Insurance

Before you hit the trail, make sure you have all the necessary paperwork in order. Proper licensing and insurance are not just legal requirements; they're also peace of mind. Insurance protects you against potential damages and losses, while the right licensing ensures you’re riding legally and responsibly.

Overall Cost Factors

Ultimately, being able to afford your machine is paramount. While going all-in on brand new ATVs may seem practical; it can come at high price points with massive depreciation. Alternatively, with some patience and through being careful - you can usually find a solid rig at a fair price point in the used market.


A man sits on an ATV giving a thumbs up on a forest path

Choosing the right ATV involves balancing many factors: cost, condition, capabilities, and comfort. It’s about finding a reliable machine that fits both your personal needs and budget. As you consider your options, remember to evaluate each aspect carefully to make an informed decision that will keep you satisfied and safe on your adventures.


Our Dealer Partner

Looking at buying an ATV but unsure if you want to foot the entire bill up-front? Revival Powersports can help streamline your purchase process with private sale ATV financing. With one simple application and access to Canada's top lenders, you can explore financing options for both new and used ATVs available throughout Canada. Whether you're buying your first ATV or upgrading to a newer model, Revival Powersports makes it easy to shop with confidence. Get started today and prepare to tackle new terrains with your dream ATV!


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