How To Choose The Right ATV Winch | Hunt or Shred

Choosing the right winch for your ATV is a big decision to make. It’s a handy accessory for your vehicle, and we’ll show you how to find one.

To choose the right ATV winch, consider the weight rating, cable type, mounting requirements, budget, and use case. These factors vary based on the rider and ATV, but they impact which winch works best. The other factor to think about is electric winches vs. hydraulic winches.

The best ATV winch will depend on your specific needs like size, weight capacity, and bolt pattern. We have tested various winches and winch types, so all of the information below is accurate to help you find the right ATV winch.

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How To Choose The Right ATV Winch

The ATV winch is a popular accessory for most ATVs. It can be used to pull heavy objects. It also helps in transporting materials from one place to another.

However, not all winches are created equal; some are more suitable for certain tasks than others. Therefore, knowing the types of winches is essential before buying one.

This includes the power source on the ATV, maximum weight capacity, and riding terrain. Everything matters when choosing the right ATV winch.

To make the decision easier, we have created a list of the most critical factors you should consider when choosing a winch. This includes winch size, weight rating, cable type, and more.

Weight Rating

The ATV winch size is the first consideration when choosing a vehicle's product. The size is typically defined by the weight and the weight capacity rating.

To figure this out, multiply the curb weight of the ATV by 1.5. The general rule is that this number is the vehicle's towing and hauling weight capacity.

The other way to find the ATV weight rating is by looking up the model number for the manufacturer's specifications. Either way, the weight rating of the winch should exceed that of the ATV to maximize performance.

Cable Type

You should also consider what type of rope or cable is best for your needs - synthetic or steel cable. Both cable types are strong and reliable, but they are much different.

Synthetic ropes are lighter and much easier to handle than steel cables. They are considered safer, too, because there is no kinetic energy hold, so the risk of whiplash from the winch breaking doesn't exist.

Don’t expect the same level of strength and durability from a steel cable. They wear out faster, and steel cables are unaffected by UV light and bad weather.

Mounting Requirements

The mounting requirements must be considered before deciding on the best winch. All ATVs are different, but the mounting requirements have generally been standardized to make this part easier.

Some winches require an installation of a winch mounting plate first to pull the tension during use. All winches will come with pre-spooled cable or rope, so there is nothing to worry about with the spool.

There is also the option to install a Fairlead to help keep the line running smoothly. The other thing available with many winches is installing a handlebar switch to run the winch. This requires some wiring.

All of these steps must be considered before buying a new ATV winch to ensure proper ATV compatibility.


You will need to consider your budget for an ATV winch too. There are products as low as $100 and some as high as $1,000 to choose from. It is important to get the right winch for your ATV because not all winches are compatible with all types of vehicles.

The good thing about spending more is better benefits like a warranty policy. They are also more durable and last longer with better weight support.

The sweet spot for a high-quality winch is between $250-$400 for most users. This gets you excellent weight capacity, a durable line, and a warranty.

Winch Type

The two primary ATV winch types are electric winches and hydraulic winches. The key difference is their strength and the way they get their power.

It’s recommended for most ATV riders to use an electric winch because the setup is easier, and they have enough weight support to do most tasks. We’ll explain the key differences between the two to help decide.

Winch Use Case

Lastly, consider why you want the winch and what you plan to use it for most. For example, regular work around the farm is a much different task than using the winch to rescue broken-down ATVs in the woods.

This will determine the ideal weight capacity. In general, a 2,000-pound winch can do most jobs, but if you plan to put extra stress on it, then an upgrade to 3,500 pounds should do the trick.

What Size ATV Winch Do I Need?

The size of an ATV is extremely important because it determines whether it will fit your ATV and the pulling weight capacity your ATV has. Follow these steps to determine the proper pulling power.

  • Find The ATV Weight - First, find the ATV in the owner’s manual or by visiting the technical sheets online about your ATV model.
  • Multiple The ATV Weight By 1.5- Next, multiply the ATV weight by 1.5. This number is important because it determines the weight-pulling power of the ATV.

This chart outlines the ideal winch size based on the ATV engine size.

ATV Size Recommended Winch Size
350cc to 500cc 1,500 to 2,000 lb
500cc to 850cc 1,500 to 2,500 lb
850cc to 1000cc and UTVs 2,000 to 4,500 lb

Keep in mind that any smaller ATV under 350ccs should also use a 1,500-pound winch weight capacity.

Types Of ATV Winches

Choosing the right ATV winch for your needs can be daunting. This includes deciding on the type of winch that best suits the ATV.

There are two primary winch types: electric winches and hydraulic winches. We recommend an electric winch for most ATV riders, and we’ll explain why and what the differences are below.

Electric Winch

The electric winch runs much differently compared to a hydraulic one. It relies on the battery power of an ATV to run properly, so a strong battery is required when running an electric winch.

The primary downside to an electric winch is how quickly it can cause the battery to drain on some ATVs. Adding a secondary backup battery is the best way to avoid this.

Many ATV riders don’t need excessive pulling power, which is why the electric winch is the most recommended. But if extra power is necessary, the hydraulic winch is the obvious choice.

Hydraulic Winch

A hydraulic ATV winch can be used to tow or pull heavier objects. A hydraulic pump powers it and usually taps into the power-steering pump hydraulic system.

This hydraulic system power can almost double the expected weight capacity, and many hydraulic winches are much more powerful than an electric winch.

The setup is also more complex. The provided maximum weight capacities exceed what most ATVs can pull. This makes the added weight useless, and electric winches are the preferred choice for most ATV riders.

3 Best ATV Winches In 2022

The right ATV winch can be a lifesaver when you need to get out of a tough situation. Winches are not only used to pull heavy loads, but they can also help you get unstuck from mud or sand.

We have found the best ATV winches to consider, including the best electric winch, hydraulic winch, and budget winch.

Rough Country ATV Electric Winch - Best Electric ATV Winch

The Rough Country ATV electric winch is powerful and compact, so it can easily be installed on any ATV. It has many features which make it stand out from other winches.

It has a 1.4 HP series-wound motor and a 3.8ft per minute line speed. The synthetic rope provides an excellent strength-to-weight ratio too.

The easy bolt-on installation allows users to get this hooked up quickly on their vehicle. This includes a hawse fairlead to help the cable run smoothly without tangling.

This is also a high-strength and heavy-duty winch with 4500 Lbs. rated line pull and a 166:1 gear reduction ratio. The line is loaded with a 50-foot synthetic rope and clevis hook too.

This is a powerful, dependable, and affordable electric winch that can be used on any type of terrain. It is an affordable solution for off-road enthusiasts who want to get the most out of their ATVs.

Smittybilt XRC4 Comp ATV Winch - Best Hydraulic ATV Winch

The Smittybilt XRC4 Comp ATV Winch is a top-quality product with many features. It has a low-profile design that allows it to fit under any ATV.

It also comes with an integrated hook and loop strap to secure the load while you are pulling it in or out. There is also a built-in safety switch to prevent the winch from being operated without being secured to something solid, like the ground or another vehicle.

This winch provides a heavy-duty line pull for up to 4,000 pounds. This includes a 4.19 HP motor with a remote switch and 12-foot lead.

It comes equipped with 30 feet of synthetic DSK-75 rope and a hawse fairlead. This winch can handle all types of pulling and hauling tasks.

X-BULL 12V Electric ATV - Best Budget ATV Winch

The X-Bull 12V Electric ATV Winch is a budget-friendly winch that can be used to help you get out of difficult situations. It has many features that make it worth the price and easy to install.

This is the perfect budget ATV winch for most people. It has a 12-volt motor and a 1.3 horsepower motor. This is enough to pull you out of tough spots when you are stuck in mud or sand.

This is an electric winch with 3,000 pounds of pulling power. It also includes a universal mounting plate with your purchase.

Do All ATV Winches Mount The Same?

The mounting system for ATV winches is standardized to make it easier for them to mount on the vehicle. This makes it easier for users to install their winch and start using it.

Most of these winches mount on the front or back of the vehicle, and all use a standardized mounting system to mount on the vehicle similarly. This helps ensure that they are installed properly and securely on the vehicles.

However, this isn’t true for all vehicles, so looking for compatible products is a requirement. There are plenty of winches that won’t work with some vehicles.

For example, the standard winch mount bolt pattern is 10.00" X 4.50". While most ATVs use this pattern, some have a different bolt pattern, meaning a custom mount or different winch is needed.

Is An ATV Winch Worth Buying?

There is common confusion about what an ATV winch does and whether they are worth buying. The purpose of a winch is to pull objects towards the vehicle.

This is used most when other vehicles get stuck off-road. The ATV can hook up the winch to pull another ATV out of a hole or one that gets stuck in the mud. But this is only one use case, and they can do much more.

Winches are used by ATV riders in work circumstances to pull down trees, pull game, transport materials, plow snow, and much more. They are incredibly versatile, and we think all ATV riders should have a winch.

They are worth buying because the price tag isn't too steep, and the budget options are even more affordable.

Key Takeaways

  • Choosing an ATV means all factors, like weight rating, cable type, mounting requirements, budget, winch-type, and winch use case, must be considered.
  • An electric winch is best for ATV riders on a budget or those with less demanding tasks. However, it drains the battery, and the hydraulic winch has better power and weight capacity.
  • The three best ATV winches worth buying are the Rough Country ATV Electric Winch, Smittybilt XRC4 Comp ATV Winch, and X-BULL 12V Electric ATV.




41 years old. I'm a freelance writer that specializes in informational blog posts. All my articles are detail oriented and well researched. I'm a huge Arizona Cardinals fan!

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