ATV Buy­ers’ Guide

Read this be­fore you buy!

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

Since we put to­gether the last ATV buy­ers’ guide, things got com­pli­cated. As if there weren’t enough mod­els to choose from, now there are more. There are 2x4, 4x4 and 6x6 mod­els. There are diesel and petrol en­gines from 24 to 100hp. There are one-, two-, three-, four-, five- and six-seater mod­els across the ATV and UTV ranges.

There’s more of ev­ery­thing, al­though a few brands – like Arc­tic Cat – have come and gone. All in all, sales are up and ev­ery­one’s happy. Ac­cord­ing to the Fed­eral Cham­ber of Au­to­mo­tive In­dus­tries, mo­tor­cy­cle and ATV sales went up 5.5 per cent be­tween Jan­uary and Septem­ber this year.

The strong­est growth was in ATVs and UTVs (util­ity task ve­hi­cles, or side-by-sides). So far, the deal­ers have shifted nine per cent more in 2016 than they did in the same pe­riod last year. No won­der they’re happy.

The peck­ing order is in­ter­est­ing, too, or it would be if the num­ber nerds could de­cide who’s peck­ing who. One re­port says Po­laris is sell­ing more ATVs than any­one else, while an­other says Honda.

There’s not much in it, though: 26 per cent ver­sus 25 per cent mar­ket share, ap­par­ently. WHAT MAKES ‘EM DIF­FER­ENT? Back at the coal­face, un­less you know what you’re do­ing or have im­mutable brand loy­alty, you’re faced with de­cid­ing which ATV to buy – or, more per­ti­nently, which type of ATV to buy. So we’ll lay this thing out for you.

Most 4x4 quads look the same and, on the face of it, fea­ture sim­i­lar equip­ment. They have sim­i­lar body styles, in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion, front and rear racks, tow hitches, off-road wheels

and tyres, and, these days, au­to­matic trans­mis­sions. That’s what makes them the same.

What makes them dif­fer­ent is build qual­ity, longevity, parts sup­ply and dealer sup­port. The fan­ci­est quad in the world ain’t worth six­pence if you can’t get parts for it.

On the other side of that six­pence, even the best brands have prob­lems.

On an­other Bauer mag­a­zine we came close to giv­ing a 4x4 ATV our Quad of the Year gong a while back be­fore dis­cov­er­ing it suf­fered di­a­bol­i­cal elec­tri­cal prob­lems. So there’s no such thing as a per­fect ma­chine.

Don’t buy a brand you’ve never heard of, and don’t buy it from a guy whose dealer net­work is a gar­den shed next to a wreck­ing yard. Get your quad from a trusted dealer.

And don’t be a scrooge. Grant the man the right to earn a de­cent liv­ing by pay­ing him what he’s worth, and in re­turn re­ceive pro­fes­sional ser­vice for the life of the ma­chine – and the next one you buy from him.


Sports riders like quads with 800 and 1000cc en­gines that make it easy to slide and wheelie. Farm­ers don’t. They want a de­pend­able en­gine that is easy to ser­vice, and can pull loads and carry sup­plies all day in a quad that pro­vides a com­fort­able ride.

Here’s proof that size doesn’t mat­ter: Suzuki’s most pop­u­lar work­ing ATV is not the 750, but the King Quad AXi 500 4x4 with power steer­ing. Po­laris’s most pop­u­lar ATV is the Sports­man 570 HD (Po­laris’s most pop­u­lar side-by-side used to be the diesel 1000HD – it’s now the Ranger 570HD petrol). Yamaha’s most pop­u­lar work­ing ATV is the WFM450FAP: a 450cc, 4x4 unit with power steer­ing.

You don’t need heaps of power to get the job done. Torque does all the work. Pow­er­ful ma­chines with sporty en­gines might feel good but they have touchy throt­tles and light up quickly. That makes them dif­fi­cult to man­age in slow go­ing across rough ter­rain where ac­cel­er­a­tion is ir­rel­e­vant and throttle con­trol is ev­ery­thing.

Quads are won­der­ful things, but they’re not won­der­ful when they frighten you. En­gine-wise, buy a ma­chine that you and other users can han­dle, and by that I mean it has power that comes on grad­u­ally in a ma­chine that doesn’t feel too big or too heavy.

Rely on your dealer to ad­vise you. They know how to match a novice rider with the ap­pro­pri­ate ATV, and you’ll be happy to know it’s in their in­ter­ests to get it right.

“The fan­ci­est quad in the world ain’t worth six­pence if you can’t get parts for it”


Four-wheel drive is not an in­di­ca­tion of your viril­ity or man­hood. If your prop­erty is small and largely flat, you’ll get by with a two-wheel drive ma­chine – un­less some of that prop­erty is flood prone. You’d be sur­prised where a skilled rider can take a 2x4 ma­chine. Two-wheel drive isn’t much use, and can ac­tu­ally be dan­ger­ous on steep hills where an even­tual lack of trac­tion will pre­vent a 2x4 from climb­ing any fur­ther – at which point you must turn around and ride back down.

Four-wheel drive is su­pe­rior if you tow a lot. A 4x4 quad is heav­ier than a 2x4, so it’s less likely to be pushed around by the ob­ject you’re tow­ing, and all-wheel drive will make the ma­chine more sure-footed in slip­pery con­di­tions.

Peo­ple who need four-wheel drive gen­er­ally have larger prop­er­ties with greater va­ri­ety in the ter­rain. Prop­er­ties with steep coun­try, creeks or any kind of deep and/or flow­ing wa­ter need the added trac­tion pro­vided by all-wheel drive.


Good ques­tion. And here’s a good an­swer: Yes!

Elec­tronic power steer­ing (EPS) was in­tro­duced by Yamaha and now ev­ery man­u­fac­turer has it. Power steer­ing makes a big quad eas­ier to man­age and less phys­i­cally tir­ing to ride. Power steer­ing is a bless­ing for peo­ple with less up­per body strength and is very good at soak­ing up shocks that would nor­mally be trans­ferred to the rider through the steer­ing.

Power steer­ing has be­come so pop­u­lar that some man­u­fac­tur­ers have dropped mod­els with­out it, or re­sponded to a mea­sure­able pref­er­ence for as­sisted steer­ing among their cus­tomers. Suzuki sells two ver­sions of the ad­mirable King Quad 500 AXi, one with and one with­out EPS. In 2015 it sold nearly twice as many with EPS.


You can still buy quads with man­ual trans­mis­sions, but most work­ing ATVs these days are belt-driven au­tos. And they’re very good. The mod­ern auto trans­mis­sion can make all the de­ci­sions for you about which gear to be in, and how many drive wheels need to be en­gaged to ex­tract you from the sludge pit in which you’ve parked.

Again, we sug­gest you con­sult your dealer about which ATV to buy. Ru­ral deal­ers know their cus­tomers well. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have a suc­cess­ful busi­ness. They also know which quad will get the job done in ter­rain typ­i­cal of their re­gion. In short, whether you live on a large prop­erty or have a bou­tique ad­dress, they know what you’ll need.


With­out doubt. It could save your life. The ma­jor­ity of ATV-re­lated ac­ci­dents are not caused by the ma­chine it­self but by rider error, ig­no­rance or mis­judge­ment.

ATVs are not like mo­tor­cy­cles. If you fall off a dirt bike, there’s ev­ery chance you’ll fall away from the bike and not be hit by it. Quads are dif­fer­ent. When you fall off a quad, you nor­mally ‘high­side’ or fall in the di­rec­tion in which the quad is lean­ing. For ex­am­ple, if you come into a cor­ner too fast and lose con­trol, the quad will roll to­wards the out­side of the cor­ner, and so will you.

Don’t take risks with your life, or the lives of oth­ers. Learn how to bal­ance a quad in turns, how to ride safely up and down hills and across slopes, how to cal­cu­late the best path through an ob­sta­cle, and how to recog­nise at which point in a dif­fi­cult ma­noeu­vre your op­ti­mism is likely to ex­ceed your tal­ent. Se­ri­ously folks, learn how to ride be­fore you ride any­where.

The Kub­ota diesel is a highly ca­pa­ble UTV and, with a roof, wind­screen and winch, more or less typ­i­cal of the breed. A UTV won’t cope with tight ac­cess as well an ATV but is far more prac­ti­cal when you’re in the sad­dle all day

1: Po­laris’s ACE has a roll­bar, seat belts and a steer­ing wheel, and makes an ex­cel­lent farm ve­hi­cle if you need to cover long dis­tances with some ex­pec­ta­tion of com­fort

2: This is the Can-Am six-wheel drive. It has a clever mod­u­lar tray at the rear, and is very well de­signed, but we found 6x6 to have lit­tle prac­ti­cal value in a farm­ing sit­u­a­tion

3: This is what you’ll see at the rear end of most mod­ern ATVs: dou­ble A-arm in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion, off-road tyres, and coil-over shocks with preload ad­just­ment only 3



CFMoto is a Tai­wanese man­u­fac­turer build­ing one of the bet­ter-known Asian ATVs. The re­tail price of these ma­chines is lower than the RRP for Amer­i­can and Ja­panese brands. Nonethe­less, CFM man­ages to pro­vide a mod­ern spec with good value for money

4: Ev­ery ATV has un­der­belly pro­tec­tion but ex­actly how much varies with brands and mod­els.

This Can-Am is gen­er­ally well pro­tected, though there’s not much ar­mour around the rear CV joints

5: The mod­ern 4x4 ATV is a mas­ter­piece of er­gonomic en­gi­neer­ing. Al­though tech­ni­cally com­plex, it’s easy to op­er­ate, com­fort­able, re­li­able, and ca­pa­ble of travers­ing var­ied ter­rain, even in aw­ful con­di­tions

6: In the form of shelves, glove­boxes and cup hold­ers, UTVs have use­ful stor­age space in the cab. They re­quire lit­tle driver skill to op­er­ate in flat coun­try, but in rough ter­rain need the same com­mon sense you’d em­ploy on an ATV




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