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ATVs (All-Terrain Vehicles) Beginners Guide

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As I try my best to fill this website with as much useful information as possible about every form of offroading I can, I look for ways to teach people about these motorsports. This article will hopefully help you get a better idea about ATVs and give you a better picture of what they are and what they are not so you can talk about them with confidence.

What Does ATV stand for?

ATV is short for All-Terrain Vehicle.

What are ATVs? What is a Quad?

ATV’s (also commonly referred to as 4-Wheelers or Quads) are defined as a motorized off-highway vehicle designed to travel on four low-pressure or non-pneumatic tires, having a seat designed to be straddled by the operator and handlebars for steering control.

ATVs or quads are small personal off-road vehicles that can have 3, 4, or 6 wheels and most commonly are powered by gasoline engines. The engines vary in size from as little as 50CCs to as much as 1000CCs!

Most four-wheelers have a combination of hand levers and foot controls for things like giving it gas, hitting the brakes, and clutching and shifting.

What is a Class 1 ATV? & What is a Class 2 ATV?

ATVs are divided into two classes by the manufacturers, Class 1 and Class 2, and it basically represents how many riders the ATV is designed to carry. Class 1 is designed for just one rider (the driver) and Class 2 is designed for two riders (the driver and a passenger).

What is an ATV Bike?

While this isn’t my favorite name variation for it, this is still referring to the same thing as a quad / 4-wheeler. I don’t personally think of a bike when I see a machine with more than two wheels, but quads definitely take all of their design elements from bikes. You straddle it, you have hand/foot controls… I guess it’s basically the same thing but with less emphasis on balance.

Is a Dirt Bike Considered an All-Terrain Vehicle?

No, because it only has two low-pressure tires where ATVs have three to six tires but some people do lump dirt bikes into the ATV category because they are designed to be used in an off-road scenario in which it can handle just about any terrain you want to ride in. But, for the majority of people using the acronym ATV, they are referring to a four-wheeler. ‘Dirt bike’ or ‘motorcycleare much more commonly used terms and avoid any confusion.

What is ATV Riding? or ATV Driving?

ATV riding or driving is operating a four-wheeler in many different types of terrain including sand, dirt, rock, trails and more. If someone is asking you if you want to go (ATV) riding, your question would be to ask where they are going off-roading. Their answer will give you an idea of the type of terrain they like to ride in and whether or not that is something you want to do and/or if you have an ATV that can handle it. PS, nobody says they’re going ‘ATV driving’. People just say they’re going riding but apparently people search for ATV driving so I thought I would clear that up in this beginner article.

What is a Utility ATV?

A Utility ATV is a four-wheeler that is designed more for a specific task or purpose than just for leisure and recreation. They generally will have less aggressive suspension in terms of overall travel and be more stiff to be able to handle larger loads of material.

Utility ATVs generally all have some form of a rack system and can have them in a horseshoe shape wrapping the back of the rider. Some also include a rack in front for even more storage.

These ATVs can be very appealing to hunters as they are not tuned for extreme performance and the extreme noise that usually comes with it. There are also many aftermarket accessories for utility ATVs and some of them are ways to mount your hunting rifle and other hunting specific add-ons.

They can also feature a receiver hitch so that you can pull small trailers for even more tasks specific capabilities.

ATV Manufacturers, Models, & Price List

(Current Offerings)

Make & Model [# of models] (MSRP) Sport/Utility
Honda TRX250X [1]($4,949)Sport
Honda Fourtrax (utility) [5]($5,499 – $9,399)Utility
Yamaha Raptor 700 [3]($8,099 – $9,299)Sport
Yamaha YFZ450R [2]($9,099 – $9,499)Sport
Polaris Scrambler 850 & XP1000S [2]($10,299 – $14,999)Sport
Polaris Sportsman XP1000S [1]($14,999)Sport
Polaris Sportsman High Lifter Ed. [2]($10,199 – $14,199)Sport (Mud)
Polaris Sportsman series [10]($6,249 – $14,999)Utility
Can-am Outlander [26]($6,199 – $16,349)Utility
Can-am Renegade [4]($8,349 – $15,149)Sport
Kawasaki Brute Force [4]($4,299 – $10,599)Utility
Suzuki Kingquad [18]($6,549 – $10,949)Utility

Youth ATV Models List

(Current Offerings)

Make & Model [# of models] (MSRP) Sport/Utility
Honda TRX90X [1]($3,099)Sport (Youth)
Yamaha YFZ50 [1]($2,199)Sport (Youth)
Yamaha Raptor 90 [1]($2,999)Sport (Youth)
Polaris Outlaw 50 & 110 [2]($2,199 – $3,399)Sport (Youth)
Polaris Phoenix 200 [1]($4,199)Sport (Youth)
Polaris Sportsman 110EFI [1]($3,399)Utility (Youth)
Can-am DS 70,90,90x,250 [4]($2,349 – $4,199)Sport (Youth)
Kawasaki KFX 50 & 90 [2]($1,999 – $2,599)Sport (Youth)
Suzuki Quadsport Z50 & Z90 [2]($2099 – $2999)Sport (Youth)

ATV Cost

Looking at the above data tables it looks like the prince range for a new ATV is between $4k to $16k and a Youth UTV is the $2k – $4k range.

If you like shopping used then you could pick up an old Banshee (Sport ATV) for around $2,500. For those of you that would rather have a utility ATV, you could pick up an older Polaris Sportsman for around $4000.

What Brand of ATV is the Best?

The debate over what is the best ATV brand is one of those age-old questions that involve two big players in an industry fighting to stay on top with a few stragglers always trying to play catch up.

For instance, in the US automobile industry, you’ve always had a Ford versus Chevy battle with a smaller percentage of Mopar enthusiasts. In the computer industry, it’s PC versus Mac and then a smaller percentage in that niche going to Unix / Linux.

The ATV market is the same way. For the sport models, you’ve got Yamaha and Honda duking it out for first with stragglers like Suzuki and Kawasaki. In the Utility ATV department, you’ve got Polaris versus Yamaha and Can-Am.

Just like the above non-off-road examples, it all comes down to what you’ve had experience with and what your personal preferences are. As for me, I love my Ford Mustang, I’m a die-hard PC guy, and if I was in the market right now for an ATV I’d build myself a Yamaha Banshee to tear up the dunes with. I don’t see myself needing a utility ATV but I do love Can-Am machines or at least the few that I’ve test-driven so far.

Luckily for us in all of these scenarios, there are two big players fighting to be first because then we all win as they try to make these toys the best they can be.

What Brand of ATV is the Most Reliable?

This question could be looked at similarly to the last one where you want to know which is more reliable: key player number one or key player number two. But when you’re dealing with big players that both want to be on top they’re going to both have extremely reliable machines.

When it comes to reliability, what you want to stay away from is the people in the back of the pack. The knock-off off-brand quads that you may have never even heard of until you find a smoking deal on craigslist and wonder if you should take a chance.

You may save hundreds or even thousands of dollars but then have to become a part-time mechanic just to keep your ATV running. Nobody wants to have to spray starting fluid down into the carb every single time they want to go for a ride. If you want reliability, stick with the big names in the industry like Yamaha, Honda, Polaris, and Can-Am.

What ATV is Right for Me?

For me personally, I would have to have a Sport ATV versus a Utility ATV. I really enjoy going to the sand dunes and that is a terrain that requires some serious power, traction, and suspension. I would love to find a deal on an older Banshee and fix it up to be crazy fast.

Going that direction I would miss out on some of the perks of a Utility ATV like being able to haul materials on the racks and/or towing small ATV trailers full of materials. Utility ATVs can also offer lower selectable gears and traction control options.

So if jobsite work, farming, or hunting is in your near future then I would get a Utility ATV. If you want to hit the track or the dunes then get a sport ATV. And if you’re into trail riding then you could really go either way.

What is a Banshee ATV?

The Banshee (Banshee 350 or YFZ350) was an ATV manufactured by Yahama and was in production from 1987 – 2006 here in the United States. In the late eighties, Yahama took their highly successful 2 stroke motorcycle engine that was already a fan favorite and created a four-wheeler that became iconic in the sand dune territory

Banshee’s popularity in the ATV world was similar to the Chevy 350’s popularity among car guys and for similar reasons. They were both performed very well, sold a ton, and therefore had a huge amount of aftermarket parts available to them.

What is a Honda ATV?

When I think of Honda ATVs I think of my first 4-wheeler, a mid ’90s Honda FourTrax 90. I thought I was so cool with my Fox sicker up front just under the headlight on my red and black quad.

But after having written the above section about the Banshee I can’t help but think of the late nineties and the Honda 400EX. The 400EX was Honda’s contender to the Yamaha Banshee but with one large difference, it was a 4 stroke motor as opposed to Yamaha’s 2-stroke. It also was equipped with a cast aluminum swingarm which was an industry first.

What is a Gator ATV?

Gator ATV is actually referring to a side-by-side or UTV made by John Deere and is in a totally different category of off-road vehicles, not ATVs. John Deere has an extremely large lineup of task-specific utility vehicles that range from mowers to harvesting equipment and skid steers to tractors.

So smashing the words gator and ATV together is a misnomer as they don’t actually offer a four-wheeler lineup. To learn more about the John Deere Gator click this link for more of our related articles.

What is a Grizzly ATV?

The Grizzly ATV is a utility quad made by Yamaha. Similar to the Polaris Sportsman it hosts utility-specific features like four-wheel drive with differential lock and utility purposed rack setups.

When the Yamaha Grizzly came out in the late ’90s it broke through the upper limits of engine sizes at that time and became the big boy with it’s 595cc engine.

For an amazing trip through time of all of Yamaha’s great machines, I highly recommend you check out this page https://www.yamahapart.com/yamahaatvhistoryOpens in a new tab.. It even features my very first ride, the 1984 Tri-Zinger.


Related Questions (ie. the weird stuff)

What is an ATV Car?

When I see ATV and Car smashed together like this my first thought is that someone is trying to describe a larger 4×4 vehicle but doesn’t know all of the most commonly used terms for off-road vehicles. It turns out, it’s almost always referring to those 12-volt power wheels small plastic vehicles designed for toddler-aged kids. ‘ATV Car’ is essentially marketing jargon for overseas kids’ toys.

What is an ATV Scooter?

This is another misnomer as companies using this language are suggesting that brands like TaoTao and Trailmaster are ATV scooters when they are just really a small moped. They are tiny scooters for putting around town at 30mph with and definitely cannot handle All of the Terrain out there. In my opinion, these are not ATVs.

It would be cool if an ATV Scooter was more like the one in this video:

What is a KYMCO ATV?

KYMCO is a Taiwanese-based motorsports company that has their own line of scooters, motorcycles, and ATVs. KYMCO originally created parts for Honda and then split off to create their own lineup of vehicles. While they do offer off-road vehicles, their main bread and butter are their scooters.

What is a Coolster ATV?

The Coolster ATV is essentially a Chinese knockoff that you can purchase on Amazon.

What is a Razor ATV?

This question can lead to some muddy territory as the person asking could either be talking about a side-by-side created by the company Polaris or a high-end toy at Walmart designed for toddler-aged children.

Polaris brought the side-by-side or UTV vehicle category to where it is today by introducing the RZR back in 2007. People commonly refer to the RZR as a ‘razor’ and that can create all sorts of confusion as there is a company called Razor that is famous for the foldable two-wheeled scooter.

In addition to their famous kick scooter, razor also offers products like the hoverboard, the RipStik, and the Dirt Quad which is essentially an electric ATV for young riders. It would be found near the other power wheels at Walmart but it is definitely a step up from those plastic toys as it features knobby tires, disc brakes, and actual suspension.

Levi Bath

I'm the co-creator of OffRoad Lifestyles. I live in Loveland, Colorado with my wife and 3 kids. My wife and I have spent a lot of time out on the sand dunes near Walden, CO and we both love offroading and camping.

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