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ATV vs UTV: What Are the Differences?

ATV vs UTV: What Are the Differences?

Dec 1st 2021

When making a decision, it's essential to be aware of all the available options, and adding a new vehicle to your collection of off-road vehicles is not an exception. One of the most common questions people have in their mind while choosing a new off-road vehicle is, "What's the difference between an ATV and a UTV?" ATVs and UTVs are different vehicles, and both have their benefits. They have different designs for varying purposes and needs.

What is an ATV?

ATV stands for an All-terrain vehicle. The ATV vehicles are mostly known as "4-wheelers" or "quads." It is an off-road vehicle with four wheels that uses controls like a motorcycle.


ATV is a motorized off-road vehicle designed to travel on four low-pressure tires, have a seat designed to be straddled by the operator and handlebars for steering control.


Most ATVs are designed for a single passenger use. However, there is also a subclass of ATV that allows for a driver and passenger. ATVs are designed to handle pretty much any obstacle, including deep ruts, large rocks, streams, snow, and any other natural element.


ATVs are valuable vehicles. An ATV is made for work, play, or both. This vehicle is capable of handling challenging terrains. ATVs are very popular among adventure lovers. If you love exploring uncharted places alone, go with an ATV.

Benefits of an ATV

  1. Great Maneuverability: ATVs are much more maneuverable because of their small size and ability to make nimble movements. Most ATV models are no bigger than 50 inches wide, and that makes them the perfect vehicle to face narrow spaces and high turns on off-roads.
  2. Budget-Friendly: ATV is a budget-friendly vehicle. At its most basic level, an ATV is less costly than a UTV because of their size and overall minimalistic design.
  3. Compact Sizing: The beauty of an ATV lies in its small and compact size that allows you to go anywhere. You can set it up and store it easily.
  4. Light as a Feather: An ATV is very light in weight. The lighter weight of a vehicle allows it to run smoothly on soft turf.

What is a UTV?

A UTV is not the same as an ATV. This vehicle is a large vehicle, generally designed for more than one passenger. UTVs are large in size, powerful and able to seat passengers side by side.


UTV stands for 'Utility terrain vehicle' or 'utility task vehicle', or simply 'utility vehicle.' Ultimately, all three are acceptable. So UTV has multiple meanings.


A UTV, also known as a side-by-side, is controlled very differently. It's designed more like a golf cart. UTVs have car-like controls with pedals, a steering wheel, and a technical seat that you'd find in a car. UTVs are called side-by-sides because they have two seats beside each other, sometimes with back seats. You'll find some smaller UTVs with a single-seat, but technically they're still classified as side-by-sides.


Mostly, UTVs serve as a utility purpose vehicle, but they can also be used recreationally. UTVs are best for farmers and other labor workers with lots of land and heavy transport materials like animal feed or bulky supplies.

Main Benefits of a UTV

  1. Loading Capacity: A UTV offers cargo and storage capacity. The side-by-side is designed with compartments all over the vehicle, like under the seats and in the cargo bed.
  2. Space for Friends and Family: UTVs offer a space for friends and family to have more people along for the ride.
  3. Hauling Ability: Because of the large size and big engine, UTVs have a heavier payload capacity.
  4. Customization: Side-by-side vehicles allow customization. It's easy to add accessories and a selection of customization on UTVs. Many UTV riders invest a substantial amount of money to customize their vehicle.
  5. Safety: If your concern is safety, then a UTV is what you need. UTVs have seat belts and windscreens that keep riders safe. Moreover, you can also add on more customized safety features.

UTV vs ATV Comparison Chart

Although ATVs and UTVs have some things in common, like you can ride them outdoors, they have four wheels, and have many of the same manufacturers, etc. But they also have a lot of differences. In the chart below, you can easily see the differences between ATVs and UTVs.

Definition ATVs are all-terrain vehicles. These vehicles are smaller than a UTV and are usually meant for a single rider and sometimes 2. UTVs are off-road vehicles that can seat between 2 and 4 people. UTVs are designed for rougher terrain.


The rider can drive the ATV by using handlebars.

UTV handles more like a car and is controlled via a steering wheel.

Wheels and Tires

ATVs have either three or four wheels.

UTVs have standard four-wheels, like a car.

Seating Capacity

ATVs are mainly made for a single rider, but some are made to carry the operator and one passenger.

Usually, between two and four passengers can ride in a UTV.

Safety Equipment

Generally, ATVs do not come with safety equipment. Some of them do have roll bars around the operator.

UTVs come with seatbelts, windshields, and roll bars. UTVs offer more safety features than ATVs.


ATVs offer a quick and nimble way of transportation over different terrain.

UTVs are faster and powerful than ATVs. UTVs max speed is between 25mph and 50 mph.


ATVs are generally smaller in size.

UTVs are quite bigger in size compared to ATVs.

Breaking and Acceleration

Most ATVs come with a thumb throttle.

UTVs have braking and acceleration systems controlled by foot pedals.


ATVs are a quick way of transportation over rough ground. ATVs are mainly used for recreation, like racing or trail riding.

UTVs are mainly used for hauling feed and supplies on farms. UTVs are also used to transport water jugs, sports equipment, and more.

Cabin Area

ATVs are open and do not have a cabin.

UTVs do have a cabin. It's similar to the roof on a golf cart.


Compared to UTVs, an ATV is much more cost-efficient.

UTVs are more expensive than ATVs.

Street Legal

ATVs can be difficult to make street legal.

UTVs are easier to make street legal. 

ATV or UTV - Which Is Better?

So, which is better? It depends on your needs. If you need something for just getting around on your land or farm, either works fine, and it's simply a matter of choice. If you are on the more recreational side of off-roading, an ATV is better suited for your needs. There are surely UTVs that are extremely capable off-road, but ATVs are typically more recreational.

If you need a truck bed or more towing capacity for transporting a small trailer, then UTV is what you need. A UTV gives you a more comfortable driving position with car-like controls. If you want to haul passengers often, a side-by-side can comfortably seat up to four people and are also better as a hunting vehicle.

Basically, if you like to ride alone, want a budget-friendly option, and enjoy riding a vehicle at high speed, then an ATV is the right option. If you want to have a vehicle with more functionality, the capacity to have more people, and if you dream of customizing your vehicle, then a UTV is a good option for you.

Both ATVs and UTVs are different, and both of them offer designated models for both recreational work and work related purposes. Budget, the purpose of use, and the number of passengers are all main concerns in the process of choosing.


In a few words, ATVs and UTVs are off-road vehicle siblings, but not twins. No matter which one you choose, you're going to have a blast riding the trails and perks of adventures in the outdoors. 

Further Read 

UTV Brands: A Complete List

UTV vs Side by Side: Is There A Difference?

Best Side by Side UTVs of 2021: A Buyers Guide