Choosing The Right Winter Vehicle: UTV-ATV

choosing-the-right-winter-vehicle-atv-utv

If you have a property and a road that you want to use all seasons, I would suggest that you should look into getting an ATV or UTV. ATVs and UTVs are both priced not much more than a big dirt bike. These are vehicles are initially built for access through rain, mud, and small amounts of snow.

If you want to use this type of vehicles during the whole winter season, you should consider getting tracks for them.

In some counties in the US, at least, you can legally drive these vehicles along the back roads if it is insured and registered.

Some differences between an ATV and a UTV

ATV is an abbreviation for all-terrain-vehicle. The ATV is also known as a “quad“, “quad bike“, “three-wheeler“, and “four-wheeler“. UTV stands for utility-task-vehicle, or utility-terrain-vehicle. Another definition of the UTV is a “side-by-side“.

Some of the differences between an ATV and a UTV are:

  • An ATV usually is a one-person vehicle, while a UTV is for two people (side-by-side) or more.
  • A UTV often is built stronger, and can have more carry-load.
  • A UTV most often have “roll-over-protection”.

For the purpose of this post, I am only going to think about the UTV / ATV as a snow vehicle, and as a “work-horse”. As mentioned in the previous post in this series, if a vehicle cannot be used for real work…and only play…it will never be purchased by our family.

Ok, let’s look at some of the things you might want to think about before purchasing an ATV / UTV.

For fun – our type of ATV

Our Polaris MV7 with TracksMy wife and I own a 2005 Polaris MV7. MV stands for Military Vehicle. After my understanding, these vehicles were built for the US Army and even dropped out of air planes in parachutes.

They are similar to the Polaris Sportsman 700, but the MV7 has a front and a rear gas tank. It is built much more solid, and has some more weight.

Our MV7 has done a LOT of work on our property…poor thing. It is almost always full of dirt and load. A perfect vehicle to transport diesel to our excavator.

Things to consider before purchasing an ATV / UTV

Below I am looking at the AT and UTV as a four-season vehicle, so I will speak about things for all four seasons.

  • Where to buy? You most likely know many of the places already, but in case you don’t, here are a few hints/ideas:
    • Dealer: If you want to make sure you get good quality, and have get good warranties, you might want to consider buying through a dealer. Just know that the price will be pretty high…
    • eBay: You can find many good deals on used ATVs and UTVs on eBay.
    • Auto Sites and Equipment Sites: On the Internet, many auto web sites also have ATVs and UTVs for sales. The same is for equipment and machine web sites.
    • Classified Ads. As for the snowmobiles, you can as well find many good deals on ATVs and UTVs.
    • Contractors: Since many contractors use these types of vehicle in their work, you could also contact some of your local landscaping companies, people that make roads, fencing companies, etc. The only thing then is that you might get a vehicle that has been pushed hard, since many workers does not care about their company’s vehicle as they would have if the vehicle had been their own.
    • Rental or touring places: There might be some rental companies out there that sell used vehicles like these.
  • Speed: Just like with snowmobiles, you will be able to find many types of ATVs and UTVs. Personally I have never tried one of those “raptors”… To me they are just a whole lot of noise, and the people driving them usually go for high speed so they can tear up the roads as much as possible when they “drift” through the curves. But, if you want a “normal” vehicle, for your daily-day use, you will have no problem finding these types of vehicles doing 40-50 mph. That should be plenty enough.
  • Reverse: I do not know of any newer type of ATV or UTV that does NOT have a reverse. One thing to consider when you think about this type of vehicle, is that when you back with a heavy trailer, the ATV / UTV might be a little bit light, so it will not always be like when you back with a car. It often can start spinning if you are trying to back with i.e a trailer.
  • Fuel / Fuel Consumption This is of course based on if you are pulling something, have a lot of load on, etc. But, I would suggest for you to investigate this part yourself on the Internet. Also, maybe you should consider getting an ATV / UTV with EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection).
  • Towing /pulling / loading: In this area I have a LOT of experience, with our Polaris MV7. I have used it for a LOT of hauling. One time I had eight 6″x6″ treated posts that were 22′ long on it. I put four on each side, and strapped them down. I, myself, was kneeling on the seat, trying to drive. It went fine, although the weight was quite a bit more than it should have, but “a man has got to do what a man has got to do”. As mentioned earlier, backing with a heavier trailer load can be an issue due to the weight of the vehicle itself. One important thing is to distribute your weight as much as possible, and…don’t put too much load on the hitch… Something will break after a while. Been there. If you are thinking about getting an ATV or UTV for your property, I think you should invest in a lightweight trailer. What I did was to get a cheap 4×8 trailer at Harbor Freight. I put it together, left the light system off, and got a 4×8 “mesh” to put at the top. Since I have a lighter trailer, I can put more load on the trailer to get to the max load. I think usually ATV and UTVs can take a pull-behind load of 1500-2000 lbs. Just remember to place your weight over the trailer axle as much as you can. One tip when you pull a trailer is to put some weight on the front (especially with an ATV). This way there will be much more distributed weight on all wheels.
  • Accessories: For ATVs and UTVs, you will be able to find many types of accessories, like snow plows, scraper blades, grader boxes, trailers, carry-on tanks for weed spraying, rifle holders, etc, etc. There are a LOT of accessories to find on the Internet. This is definitely a thing I would suggest that you check out before you purchase any ATV or UTV. Also, there might be better types of equipments for a UTV.
  • Tracks: As you might have seen on the picture above, we have tracks on our Polaris MV7. They have been great to have. With our tracks, the ATV is lifted up from the ground a few inches, and that makes it easier to drive in deep snow. With our tracks, I have almost never been stuck, unless I do stupid things, which I have done some times…like trying to drive up somewhere really steep, and you start spinning, etc. But, all-in-all, our tracks have been awesome. During this last winter, I used the tracks on my ATV and a 6′ State Plow to plow snow. It worked AWESOME on my self-made dirt road. There are many types of tracks out there, both for ATVs and UTVs. They come in different sizes based on your type of vehicle. Often, the tracks for the UTVs are built a bit more solid. The tracks we have are Tatou 4S (four season), which means they are awesome even when there is just a mix between mud and snow in spring. You can read about them and/or a newer model of them here: Camoplast ATV/UTV Tracks. According to my studies, these are the best tracks out there. There are a couple of things that you need to understand when it comes to tracks on an ATV / UTV:
    • The tracks are often geared in a way that even if it says that your doing 30 mph, your true speed might be closer to 20mph.
    • Bring enough fuel for the weekend! With track on our ATV, i sometimes look under the machine to see if I have a gas leak. It is a BIG difference from having wheels on.
  • Turning Radius: The turning radius will definitely vary based on if you have tracks on your vehicle or not. Although it is fairly easy to turn with tracks when you have some speed, it might be pretty hard some times to do a sharp turn, also based on what type and how much snow you are driving in. One issue we have had is that we have a few sharp switchbacks on our property, and you sometimes have to use a lot of strength to turn properly. This have a drawback as well, since the steering system on an ATV (i.e.) is not made
  • Season Usage: After my opinion, if you have an ATV or UTV with tracks, you are in perfectly good shape all year long. The tracks might be a bit hard to put on by yourself the first time, but you will get the hang of it.
  • Maintenance / Repairs: If you treat your vehicle well, you should have a vehicle for many years. Even if we have used our Polaris MV7 like a “tractor”, it still works pretty well. I have driven over trees, in deep mud, in all kinds of snow, on asphalt, etc. If you are not mechanically inclined, I would suggest that you find a good and honest shop where they can take care of your “baby” for you.
  • Seating: An ATV is usually a one-person vehicle, but I have had 4-5 on driving on our property. The UTV is a much better choice if you are wanting to transport personnel. You can many times have three people in the front seat, and some times you can get an extra seat to put in the cargo area on the back. You can also get 6x6s with seating for a whole bunch of people.
  • Weather Protection: The only thing I would like to have on our ATV some times during the winter, is a heated cab.. :-). It has been a bit cold sometimes, since you don’t “work” so much driving an ATV or UTV, as you would on a snowmobile. THis since a snowmobile is steered better using your weight distribution.

A few tips at the end, if you are planning on getting an ATV or UTV with tracks

  • When you want to make sharp turns, it helps a lot to turn off 4WD. You will notice that the steering will be a lot smoother.
  • If possible, when you drive with your tracks, try to cover a wide area as possible. What I mean is to not always drive in the same tracks all the time. This will help you to keep your tracks longer, AND when spring comes…it will not be so soft edges.
  • Tracks need a little bit love and care. After each trip, use a stick to clean out the snow and ice between the track wheels, etc. I did NOT do this the first season, when it was very cold. I got several track wheels that were “flat”, meaning that they are not spinning like they should, and the rubber is warn off on ONE side. I had to replace multiple small track wheels.

Alrighty then, that was the ATV and UTV. The next snow vehicle we are going to look into is the bv-206. My favorite!

About TJ

A Senior Software Engineer - a software developer for almost 30 years. Supporter of use of sound logic, both in work and life situations. Eager to learn new things, and is not afraid of jumping into an excavator for the first time starting the work of making a three miles steep mountain road. Loves nature, and has his favorite times (when not with his wonderful wifie) in the shade during the summer listening to our Creator's nature-musicians - the song birds.
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