Questions To Ask Before Buying Any Used ATV | Hunt or Shred

Are you looking to buy a used ATV? Good for you! Before you do, though, here are some questions to ask before buying any used ATV.

To ensure you buy an ATV that will give you excellent performance, you need to ask the seller plenty of questions about the physical condition of the vehicle. You should ask about the age of the ATV, the number of owners it has had, the use of the ATV, and whether it has been in an accident.

Used ATVs are great for people who want compact but well-balanced and better control vehicles. You can learn a lot about an ATV by being a good judge of character. As the ATV itself may seem like the perfect ride, it is the seller you really should be inspecting. Though dealers can lose more than gain by selling you a worn-out vehicle, there are still some shady dealers and owners who will be looking to trick you into buying a faulty ATV.

Being an ATV enthusiast for the past decade, I have bought and sold a great deal of both new and used ATVs. After making some regretful decisions, I have learned what you should look out for when buying a used ATV. This article will tell you what questions you need to ask before buying a used ATV. I have also mentioned a list of tips you should know to assess whether an ATV is well-maintained.

Table of contents


Why Are You Buying a Used ATV?

First off, it is vital to figure out why you're buying a used ATV. You can already be an owner of an ATV who is now looking to upgrade but have a limited budget. On the other hand, you might also be a newcomer in the four-wheeler zone and want to experience it first before going all in.

Whether you are a seasoned rider or a beginner, it is essential to know why you want to buy an ATV and what you will use it for. There can be many different purposes for an ATV.

  • Farming
  • Hauling
  • Riding
  • Hunting
  • Lodging Firewood
  • Camping
  • Sport and racing
  • Casual (soft use)

The purpose of buying an ATV plays a heavy role in deciding which ATVs you need to look for. You don’t want to end up wasting your time and money on an ATV that will not meet your expectations.

Finding a Considerable Ride

After you have figured out why you want to buy a used ATV, it is time to start looking for the right ATV that will suit your needs.

There are ATVs of different sizes, horsepower, features, and more that you can look for, but not all of them will work with your budget. Therefore, you can start by compiling a list of ATVs by doing your research. Cut down your choices to three to four ATVs that check all the boxes, so you don't go around wasting your time looking at models that are not the best options.

Inspection Time

Some sellers out there are smarter and trickier than you think. Trust me. I’ve been there. Some dealers and brokers have been selling ATVs for years, and they have gotten good at hiding shady facts about a vehicle.

Regardless of the feeling that you have found yourself a good ATV, it is always better to inquire and inspect the vehicle as much as possible. The more details you have, the better your judgment will be. I find dividing the inspection part into three different categories is the best way to approach this.

Physical Inspection

Physically inspecting a vehicle will give you a lot of clarity. While the seller might not mention the flaw on their own, you can ask them about a particular thing you notice while doing your inspection. If you have sufficient knowledge, you can do this yourself or ask a skilled friend to tag along. If neither is available to you, you can request a local mechanic to inspect the four-wheeler for a small fee.

Asking Questions

A significant part of inspecting a used ATV is to ask important questions about the ATV. Mostly, these questions will let you know if you are dealing with an honest seller or not.

Things to Consider

This is the decision-making part of buying an ATV. However, it does not mean that you have to make your decision at that very moment. These concerns are rather about whether you should buy from a dealer or private owner, where you can find the best deals, and how to make sure that the ATV is not stolen. In a nutshell, looking into all these things will ensure that you find an ATV that’s right for you..

Questions to Ask Before Buying a Used ATV

These are the questions you need to ask the seller to inspect their intentions and the ATV’s condition.

How Long Have You Owned the ATV?

Ideally, it would help if you bought an ATV from someone who has owned it for all of their life. The longer the owner has had the ATV, the more familiar they are with the ATV's condition and its history.

How Many Owners Has the ATV Had?

The ATV might have had multiple owners over the years, which can be an alarming sign. While there can be different reasons every time the ATV was sold, one big red flag is if the ATV was sold urgently despite it being in "good condition."

Generally, when an ATV has had multiple owners, it may have been treated each time differently and used for various purposes. Hence, it is best to find an ATV that has a maximum of two owners previously.

Why Are You Selling the ATV?

As mentioned in the previous question, people sell their ATVs for varying reasons, and many of them can be legit.

People commonly say they want to switch to a better option or buy an ATV for a different purpose, and the size or horsepower isn't right for them. Sometimes, when ATVs have gotten too old, they start needing increased maintenance, and the owners decide to invest in a newer model rather than invest money in a leaking barrel.

If your budget is too restrained, you can buy an ATV for a short time that requires more time and money to maintain, just to get the hang of it. However, it's wasteful if the ATV is too worn out and you need to fix a major issue that has heavily depreciated the ATV's value.

When it comes to ATVs, there are a lot of enthusiasts who change their rides often to experience different rides after a while. Nothing may be wrong with their ATV, and they sell it just to experience a different thrill.

Some owners decide to sell their ATVs out of desperation as they might need some cash immediately. In situations like these, you will probably have the most negotiating power that you can use to strike a good deal. However, it depends on whether or not you want to use the seller's desperation to save yourself some money.

There is a 50/50 chance of not getting honest answers from owners who have neglected the maintenance of the ATV or if the ATV's value does not match the condition.

This question aims to strike up an informal conversation about their needs and how selling their ATVs helps them. Sometimes, when the owners see you taking interest or when they feel like being trapped in their lie, they can (intentionally or unintentionally) end up telling you the truth.

Has the ATV Been Involved In a Major Accident? 

You ideally want to know if the ATV has been involved in a major accident that caused significant damage to the ATV, potentially damaging the frame or undercarriage. A damaged frame can affect your riding experience heavily, which means that the ATV will be of no use to you. However, you can still consider the ATV if you are willing to work with the frame and get a hugely discounted price.

You can figure out a bent frame by inspecting the vehicle thoroughly. However, if you have relatively little experience, it is best to ask a local mechanic to help you out, as good repairs can be hard to notice.

Before confronting the seller about the significant damage you found on the ATV, give them a chance to reveal it themselves. That way, you will know if you need to be thorough in other areas as well.

When the concern does come to light, you should ask the seller to tell you about the accident’s severity and how they repaired it.

A severely damaged frame does not necessarily mean that you need to back off from the deal. You can always get the frame repaired, but this will be a significant expense, and you should make sure the seller knows this - so you can lower their asking price.

It is the after-effects of the accident that counts more. Make sure to check thoroughly for other common problems that arise as the result of an accident, so it does not ask for a lot of maintenance in the future.

Where Is the ATV Parked Mostly?

Even though I take care of my ATV (more than some people take care of their cars, even), sometimes, I leave it parked out in the sun, thinking I'll park it in the shade later. However, I tend to forget, and it stays out in the sun the whole day.

The sun breaks down the non-UV-resistant paint, resulting in faded color. Similarly, rain causes the metal to rust and damages essential parts.

Ideally, you should consider an ATV that is primarily parked in a garage, or at least under a water-proof, cool shade.

What Has Been the Main Use of the ATV?

Think about it; you're looking for an ATV to fulfill a certain role. Therefore, the person selling the ATV must also have used it for a specific purpose.

You don't want a worn-out ATV that was driven in extreme ways for heavy-duty work. ATVs riding out on the mud on full-throttle or riding through deep snow usually require high maintenance, which dramatically reduces the ATV's life.

Ideally, an ATV used for casual riding, camping, or even hunting is a vehicle that will be in good condition with less worn-out parts.

Who Is the Primary User of the ATV?

The first impression when buying from an individual owner is that they are the primary user of the ATV. That may not always be the case, and it can play a part in the ATV's condition.

Experienced riders usually know how much load their ATV can bear and how to keep it in optimum condition after a ride that may have tested the limits of their ATVs. Sometimes, the owner may seem mature, but their teenage kids are the primary riders, and they are usually harsh on the throttle.

This is not always correct as some young riders are knowledgeable about machines and know how to maintain their rides. However, it indicates that the dealer or the seller is not fully aware of the condition and history of the ATV, and you need to inquire further to assess the vehicle better.

How To Assess An ATV’s Maintenance

After you have gathered sufficient information about the ATV's history and seller, you need to cross-check a few things that are decisive factors that will help you know if an ATV is well-maintained.

Check the ATV’s Oil

The first thing a responsible owner keeps a check on is the engine oil. Usually, sellers service the ATV before you arrive to impress you with a tidy and shiny ride. However, it is the inside that matters more.

Ask the seller to show you the oil stick. If the oil levels are low or dirt or debris can be seen in the oil, this is a red flag. However, it doesn't have to be a deal-breaker. Ask the seller to explain the situation, and then you can inspect further.

Ask to Check the Coolant

ATVs are generally used to their maximum extent, and their engine needs coolant to maintain a healthy temperature. Just like the oil, a responsible owner will maintain the required levels of the coolant. The engine is in good shape if the coolant is clean and there are no rusty areas in and around the radiator.

Take It Out for a Test Drive

The test drive is the ultimate test you need to conduct even after hours of inspecting your soon-to-be new ride. Even if you are not knowledgeable about vehicles, a test drive will tell you whether the ride is smooth or has significant faults.

The engine should start smoothly, and there shouldn't be too much smoke coming out of the exhaust. Give it a good spin and make notes of the things that you notice. You can ask a friend or a mechanic about your concerns, and they should be able to clear any confusion you may have.

Make The Purchase

If you have successfully filtered out a good condition ATV and negotiated a reasonable deal, purchase it without wasting any time. The owner might be dealing with other potential buyers, and you will not want to lose a good ride and start all over again. Make sure to include as much documentation as possible and ask the seller to state any major accidents or insurance coverage on paper.




45 years old. I'm in business marketing. I write for Hunt or Shred on the side. I love hiking, camping, and everything outdoors with my family. I have 6 years of experience working at an ATV shop selling, fixing, and test driving all brands and models.

Read More About Gary