ATV Vs. UTV Comparison: What's The Difference? | Hunt or Shred

If you are planning your next adventure, you are likely stuck with deciding between an ATV or UTV as your preferred vehicle to go exploring.

These vehicles offer many similar features, but overall they are much different. An ATV is specifically designed for one or two riders to handle off-road with more customization options. The UTV design includes traditional steering, a bigger wheelbase, and more safety features for riders.

ATVs and UTVs often get confused with each other, which is understandable. They both share the same trail and trail-riding experience, and they also function similarly. However, there are some key differences between the two and in this guide, you will learn all about these differences.

Depending on your riding experience, you will notice major differences when riding each of these vehicles. They are intended for different uses and the unique design of each is extremely reliable with long-lasting features.

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ATV vs. UTV: What's the Difference?

An ATV is defined as an all-terrain vehicle while a UTV is a utility task vehicle. ATVs are smaller and designed for off-road terrain, while UTVs are larger and designed with more advanced on-road features.

ATVs are made for off-road excursions and offer a wider range of uses. They can be used anywhere from the beach to the mountains. UTVs are better for handling higher speeds on paved surfaces such as trails, off-road courses, and other public roads.

The design of an ATV is usually constructed with a less powerful engine and a shorter wheelbase. They are typically used for recreational purposes, such as hunting, fishing, and exploring rough terrain.

UTVs are designed for more serious purposes with more standard features like traditional steering. In general, they have a more powerful engine and a longer wheelbase to make them capable of carrying heavier loads over rough terrain.

The primary difference between ATVs and UTVs is size. A UTV is a much larger and more expensive vehicle that can typically seat multiple people side-by-side. They even have a capacity of up to six people, but an ATV is a superior option for single riders looking for a compact and affordable machine.

What’s an ATV?

An ATV, or All-Terrain Vehicle, is a vehicle designed to travel off-road. There are type I and type II ATVs and it is listed by the specific manufacturer to indicate the number of passengers an ATV can safely handle.

The primary features in every ATV is a straddle seat, a handlebar steering system, and off-road driving capabilities. This design is consistent across all ATV designs and it separates them from a UTV.

This type of vehicle typically features a high body that is supported by four large tires and has a design that enables it to be driven on both land and wet surfaces. ATVs were originally designed for forestry operations and agriculture but are now used for recreation as well.

The purpose of an ATV is to provide a rugged and flexible transportation platform that can traverse any terrain at speeds that are not quite as fast as those achievable by a four-wheeler.

To accomplish this, ATVs often have long suspension travel and larger tires, but they are also highly customizable. There are plenty of accessories and tire types that can adjust the way your ATV rides.

Best Time To Use an ATV

An ATV is a good choice for those who need a sturdy, stable vehicle without the weight. It’s not as fast as a motorcycle, but it has more seating space and can be used off-road or on rough terrain.

ATVs are best for off-road use. They have wide tires with deep tread that work well on rough terrain and offer more stability than motorcycles. Their seats are designed to be comfortable for long periods so they can be used for work or recreation purposes.

They can go almost anywhere that a car can go which includes off-road, on the beach, or over difficult terrain. They are also very adept at transporting cargo with four-wheel drive for even tougher terrains.

The customizations available make it a perfect option in nearly all conditions, even in the snow. You can get chains for the tires to maintain traction and enjoy your ATV.

What’s a UTV?

A UTV is a utility task vehicle. They are usually made from a high-quality, lightweight material that can be used for a range of different purposes. They also come in different vehicle sizes with the capacity to hold multiple passengers.

UTVs are more powerful than an ATV too along with tons of cargo space. They are best if you are looking to haul heavier loads of up to 1,300 pounds where a traditional vehicle or truck would not be suitable to use.

They are also known as side by sides, meaning they have sets of seats next to each other. The versatility of these vehicles makes them a good option when looking for a new vehicle to purchase.

This vehicle has similar steering and handling to a car but with more flexibility. The terrain that this type of vehicle is designed to be used on varies from smooth, paved surfaces to rough and muddy fields.

UTVs also come with a roll bar or cage on the exterior that can protect all passengers in the event of an accident. These increased safety features make them more friendly for on-road driving too.

Best Time To Use a UTV

When the snow starts to fall, many UTV owners start to think of buying a cover for their vehicle. You can buy one for your UTV that is both warm and waterproof. Plus, it has handles that make it easy for you to put on and take off of your UTV.

You can expect strong performance on traditional pavement, rugged terrain, and during the winter. But we recommend that you do not drive during the winter without a cover on your UTV. The temperatures can get cold and it is not as safe for driving.

UTVs are perfect for all-year usage, but because they are known to best drive on sand and in the dunes, you may want to avoid the high heat in the middle of summer. But that is up to the driver’s preference.

How To Choose Between an ATV and a UTV?

ATVs are often the choice for those looking for a more rugged vehicle. These can traverse steep slopes and other tough terrains, making them perfect for those who want to explore.

UTVs are a popular choice among those who want something a little more versatile than an ATV. UTVs offer similar rugged terrain capabilities as ATVs but also have a variety of features that make them well-suited for other purposes such as highway driving.

Ultimately, you have to make a decision. We believe you should consider these factors first before settling on an ATV or UTV for your next purchase.

Driving Experience

ATVs are better for experienced drivers because they have a handlebar steering mechanism that might be uncomfortable for a beginner. UTVs are better for inexperienced drivers because they have steering that is similar to what you would find on a car.

A person should be an experienced driver before they start driving an ATV on rough terrains because they are more dangerous. Some people prefer to start with a UTV or side-by-side because these are less difficult to operate and pose less risk of injury.

The UTVs are more accessible to drivers with less experience. They are easier to learn how to drive compared to ATVs.

Driving Style

There is also a personal preference that comes into play when deciding whether to buy an ATV or UTV. While some people prefer the thrill of driving something with more accurate steering, others find the riding experience of an ATV more appealing.

UTVs will give plenty of grip on the road and they resemble a traditional vehicle more. They also offer more load capacity and cargo space which may come in handy depending on your needs.

We recommend considering what you are trying to accomplish on your vehicle. For example, an ATV is not the best choice to carry extremely heavy loads but it is perfect if you want to explore off-road as a single rider.  

Customization Preferences

In general, ATVs have a much wider range of customizations available than UTVs do. They can be altered in many ways by the style of tires, lift kits, upgraded suspensions, and much more.

For example, larger tires and suspension systems allow ATVs to handle terrain more easily. While some of these options are also available with UTVs, the impact on your driving style is much larger with an ATV because of its size.

UTVs can offer more interior customizations like stereo systems, but overall you cannot change the performance of a UTV as significantly as you can with a UTV.

Safety Concerns

The design of a UTV is safer than an ATV because the driver sits in a high seat position, unlike ATVs where the driver is closer to the ground with no protective bars. The steering and braking system also differ because a UTV has a steering wheel to control direction while an ATV has handlebars.

UTVs are larger than ATVs, which makes them safer to drive too. The interior design of a UTV makes it easier for people to see the ground and the steering wheel is at a good height for safety.

However, you cannot match the adventurous feel that an ATV provides and the personal preference of the rider should determine the decision.




23 years old. I work at a motocross store where we specialize in gear, parts, and apparel for ATV and UTV riders.

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