Common Issues With Used ATV's For Sale | Hunt or Shred

Are you planning to buy a used ATV? It would help if you knew about the most common issues with used ATVs for sale to know what to look for when buying one.

Used ATVs usually present some issues that need fixing before you can start riding your newly-owned ATV, the most common being ATV failing to start. Other issues include spark plugs and carburetor problems, a dead battery, smoking with a burning smell upon starting the ATV, and worn-out tires.

Buying an ATV is surely a thrilling experience, but it can all go downhill pretty quick if you end up spending your money on an ATV that has got plenty of issues that affect its performance. Being familiar with the issues that are common with used ATVs would help you address them right away and fine-tune your ATV. If you have got no clue about what could be wrong with the ATV, you might not know where to look for problems. This is what this article is all about.

I have seen new ATV owners struggle due to the lack of knowledge about common issues with used ATVs, which is why I want to help you and make the pre and post-ATV buying experience thoroughly enjoyable and exciting.

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Most Common Issues that You’ll Find in Used ATVs

By buying a used ATV, you’re saving thousands of dollars – that is how much a new ATV costs. However, you should keep in mind that the used ATV that’s up for sale wouldn’t be as good as a brand new ATV. There will be some issues with it, but the good news is that these issues can be fixed. You, as a buyer, should be aware of common issues so that you don’t cut yourself out of a good deal simply because you identified an issue during the inspection or test drive. Being aware of common issues and knowing that they can be fixed will help you a great deal when buying a used ATV.

Let’s have a look at some of the commonly found issues that you’re highly likely to identify in used ATVs.

ATV Won’t Start

Imagine yourself visiting for a test drive of a used ATV that you’re planning to buy, but it won’t start. What would you do? Most people would simply excuse themselves without trying to figure out why it happened in the first place. Inability to start is common with used ATVs, and it’s completely alright. The primary reasons for the ATV not starting are insufficient fuel or low battery.

However, if there’s plenty of fuel in the tank and the battery is charged too, the chances that there might be an electrical issue or a problem with the spark plugs are pretty high. You can try cleaning and re-gapping the spark plugs. Simply hold the spark plug, ensuring that it’s grounded to the bike, turn on the engine to see if the plugs spark. This should not take more than 5 minutes. If the ATV still doesn’t start, that’s a sign that there’s a major problem that might be too costly to repair.

Loss of Power

Another of the many common issues with used ATVs for sale is loss of power. ATV would suddenly stop. It usually happens as a result of a slipping clutch. You might be able to detect the problem before the ATV loses power if you’re vigilant. You’ll feel a very noticeable lack of traction. It’s a sign that the clutch is slipping. If you continue to ride the ATV at a high pitch, the loss of power at this point will be inevitable.

Fuel Not Reaching the Cylinder

Old gas can create clogs over time. The older the ATV is, the higher are the chances of prevalent fuel clogs. One way to check a used ATV for this issue is by cranking the engine and then inspecting the spark plug. If the spark plugs are dry, it’s an indication that the fuel ducts are clogged with debris and fuel isn’t reaching the cylinder.

Smoke Smells of Gasoline

Smoking is very common when you start an ATV. It’s simply the condensation that’s burning off. However, smoking should subside after a while. If it doesn’t, there might be an underlying issue. Another thing that you must observe is the color of the smoke. White smoke is standard and not worrisome, but black-colored smoke that smells of gasoline is bad news.

Weak Battery

One of the reasons why the ATV wouldn’t start is a weak battery. Many users leave the lights on even after turning off the engine, resulting in the battery draining. This is not a major problem. You can remove the battery to charge it or jump-start the bike. However, if the battery doesn’t hold the charge for too long, the ATV might need a new battery.

Worn Out Tires

You can’t expect the tires of the used ATV to be as good as new. If the owner hasn’t replaced the tires even once, the tires of the used ATV for sale will be absolutely worn-out, and you’ll have to replace them the first thing after buying it. You should never go off-roading with worn-out tires as they can get punctured even at the slightest of impact.

What to Look for When Buying a Used ATV

Now that you’re very well aware of the common issues that are often found in used ATVs, it’s time we take you to the more important part – what to look for when buying a used ATV. You just can’t identify all the issues in the first visit. Some issues might present themselves with time. However, there are certain pointers that you must check when buying a used ATV.

Inspect the Tires

Tires are the easiest to inspect when buying a used ATV. If they appear cracked and worn out, keep in mind that you’ll have to get them replaced immediately. It can cost you approximately $450 to $500 with labor to have the tires of an ATV replaced.

Inspect Bearings and Ball Joints

Lift the ATV on a jack and roll the tire in and out. If you feel any sort of play, either the bearings are worn-out, the ball joints are weak, or it’s both of these issues. Driving an ATV with these issues is extremely unsafe as you won’t be able to control the steering as well, and there would be distinct instability when turning.

Inspect the Condition of the Shocks

If the shocks of the ATV are compromised, the tires will stay in the air for longer after every bounce, and that greatly affects the stability of the ATV. It can lead to severe personal injury. You can save yourself the risk by inspecting the shocks before buying a used ATV. If there are wet spots on the top of shocks, it’s a sign that oil is leaking, and the shocks will give way any time soon. Replacing shocks can cost you about $150 for each.

Look for Grease and Dirt on the CV Boots

ATVs are used for off-roading. It means they’re exposed to dirt and sand. If the sand and dirt get into the CV joints, it can damage them, and the only remedy is to replace them. New CV joints cost approximately $250 each. You can draw an idea about whether the CV joints are in good shape or not by looking for signs of grease on the outer and inner sides of the CV boots. CV boots are what keep the grease inside and protect the CV joints. If the CV boots get damaged, the sand and dirt can make their way into the CV joints.

Check the ATV for Oil Leaks

Wipe a clean rag over the head gaskets and valve cover. If it shows signs of oil, know that oil leakage can cost you $150 to $300.

Inspect Air Filters

If you see accumulated dirt on the air filter, consider it a sign of sheer poor maintenance. You can simply replace the air filters. However, if there are any signs that rodents were inside, immediately count yourself out of the deal.

Inspect the Braking System

Inspecting the brakes of a used ATV is extremely critical. Most people make the mistake of just inspecting the brake pads. The current owner may have replaced the brake pads only recently, giving you an idea that the brake system is in good shape. However, it’s highly possible that the braking plate may have worn out completely, or the friction material has completely delaminated from the braking plate. It’s critical to inspect the complete braking system to be sure that you aren’t making a purchase that would risk your safety.

Check Engine Oil

As simple as checking engine oil sounds, it can tell you a lot about the condition of the engine. If you see any metallic particles on the transmission and engine dipsticks after you pull them out, you should walk away without any second thoughts. It’s a sign that there’s widespread wear and tear inside the engine, and the ATV is in poor shape that won’t last very long – or may keep presenting expensive repairs.

Inspect the Chain for Sprocket Wear

Not all ATVs use a chain, but if you’re buying an older model, you must inspect the sprockets for signs of wear and tear. If they appear worn out, you’ll have to replace them. It’ll cost you approximately $300.

Is Buying a Used ATV Worth it?

You may want to know if buying a used ATV is worth it, considering there are so many things that could be wrong with it. However, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t consider buying a used ATV. Let’s dive deeper into whether or not buying a used ATV is worth it.

Saves You Money

A new ATV costs $10,000 on average. Depending on the number of features, the cost could be slightly lower or a lot higher. Going through the used route seems like the best option if you don’t want to spend so much money on a new ATV. Used ATVs can cost you anywhere near $5,000, or even lower if the model is quite old.

You can enjoy the thrill of driving a quad without having to exhaust all your savings. Buying a used ATV is absolutely worth it if the only reason you’re buying an ATV is to go off-roading on the weekends. However, buying a new ATV is a wiser choice for someone who wants to ride an ATV as a professional rider.

You Can Get Better Features

If you look at the cost of a new ATV with your desired features, the cost might blow your mind. The more the features, the higher the cost. However, this is where buying a used ATV can benefit you. Most ATV owners upgrade their ATVs from time to time and add numerous features of newer models. When you buy a used ATV, you get to enjoy the newer features at a much lower cost. No matter how many new features a used ATV has, it’s still used, and the owner can’t demand a price as high as a new one. This is one of the major reasons why we encourage ATV ride enthusiasts to invest in used ATVs.

You Can Custom-Build a Used ATV

If the ATV you purchased doesn’t have newer features, you can add whatever features you like. Buying a used ATV that has got only the basic features will cost you a fraction of what a new ATV will cost. This would give you a lot of room to buy the equipment you’ll need to upgrade your ATV. You can transform your ATV according to your preferences, which is one of the biggest reasons why you should consider buying a used ATV.

A Business Opportunity

You can buy a used ATV that’s in pretty bad shape at a low cost and then invest money into upgrading it. Once your ATV is in good shape, you can sell it at a higher price and make some profit.

Enjoy the Thrill

If you want to buy an ATV just because you want to enjoy the adrenaline rush of riding a quad, investing in a brand new ATV isn’t the wisest thing to do. If all you want the ATV for is to ride on the weekends and go off-roading when you can, a used ATV will serve the purpose just right.




I'm 30 years old. I am a software developer and I am a freelance writer on the side. I've been riding ATV's since I was 15. I personally own a Polaris Sportsman and a Can-Am Defender.

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