What is a UTV
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What is a UTV? [side by side]

UTV stands for Utility Terrain Vehicle. Also known as a Side-by-Side (SxS). Utility Terrain Vehicles are built to traverse the wilderness on non-paved ground. They have side-by-side seating and a steering wheel. UTV’s suspension and large engines give you the ability to go very fast on rough off-road terrain.

UTVs have taken the automotive outdoor recreational industry by storm in recent years and become wildly popular. In 2019, North American UTV/ATV sales were almost $6 billion USD.

Side by Side UTV
Side by Side UTV

What Does UTV Stand For?

UTV is an acronym or type of abbreviation for a Utility Terrain Vehicle.

Who Made the First UTV?

You could say the first UTV was the “MULE” made by Kawasaki in late 1980s. The MULE was basically an enhanced ATV with the capability to haul much more equipment.

It looked more like a golf cart with a utility bed on the back than an ATV. It was designed for people who used an ATV for work purposes and became very popular.

Who Made the First UTV
Who Made the First UTV?Hanie E. Cole III, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


You have probably heard about ATVs in the past and may have been wondering exactly what a UTV is. Here is your answer!

Unlike a traditional ATV where you sit on top of it and are more like riding a motorcycle but with four wheels, a UTV is much like your car. You sit inside it with the ability to carry multiple passengers with side-by-side seating.

If you are a driver, there isn’t really a learning curve. You jump in, strap yourself to the seat and drive away using the steering wheel, foot gas pedal, and foot brake just like your car or truck has.

This easy learning curve with a “get in and go” approach is one of the reasons Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTV) are so popular.

There are lots of different UTVs available on the market, from different manufacturers, with different kits and equipment. A lot goes into finding the right UTV for you. You have the benefit of this article and using the internet to find all sorts of information concerning the advantages of each model available. Also, utilize your local dealer to learn more.


Pros and Cons of ATV vs UTV

Ok, you might be one of those people who says, “Still, aren’t UTVs just an ATV with extra seats and bigger?”

Well, it is not even close. UTVs offer a completely different experience to your standard ATV. Many UTV features truly set them apart from an ATV. From how they’re built, to what they’re capable of are very different. So let’s take a closer look at what separates a UTV from an ATV.

UTV Size

UTVs are considerably larger than ATVs. They are closer in size to small passenger vehicles. 

UTVs have roll cages, dashboards with gauges, full seats with shoulder harnesses, they can have a windshield, a roof, and lots of room to put gear and supplies.

What is a Side by Side?

Often referred to as Side-by-Sides, UTVs are designed with multiple riders in mind. The ability to have two riders sitting “side by side” is where the name comes from.  By the way, the acronym for ‘side by side’ is SxS.

What is a Side by Side
What is a Side by Side

UTV Rider Capacity

A standard ATV typically only offers seating for one. Maybe there is room for a second passenger squeezed in behind you like on a motorcycle if you’re lucky.

All UTVs or Side by Sides offering seating for at least two people. Many UTVs offer to seat up to four people.

3 row side by side

Some versions even have three rows of seats with room for up to six passengers! 

As far as seating goes, UTVs are less about ‘personal’ experience and more about creating an experience the whole family can enjoy together.

UTV Hauling Capability

When it comes to carrying weight, the UTV beats the ATV by a landslide. Whether you’re hauling materials across your farm, or you’re towing a broken-down tractor, the UTV is a heavyweight when it comes to carrying weight. 

While the ATV is still great for carrying, and tight maneuvering, the UTV just does more and is considered the better option if you are concerned about hauling ability. 

UTV Towing Capability

UTVs generally can tow about 2000 pounds but it does vary by vehicle. Make sure you check towing capacity before you purchase if you plan on pulling a trailer of any significance.

UTV Safety

UTV Safety
UTV Safety

Safety is always your first priority when riding or driving any type of motorized vehicle. Especially, powerful machines like UTVs and ATVs.

If you’ve always wanted to get on the trails, but have thought ATVs are scary then you should consider a UTV. With their structural integrity, I think UTVs offer significantly more safety and protection to their occupants.

With the UTV, you’re protected by a full roll cage that comes on most units. Coupled with full seats and shoulder harnesses you are much more protected than sitting on an “open” ATV.

If for some reason you do crash, you’re protected by that roll cage around you. You don’t have that on an ATV.

Are UTVs Safer than ATVs?

I personally think they are. But do the research and come to your own conclusion.

To me, a UTV offers significantly more safety features than an ATV. Remember though that you should always wear protective gear including a helmet, goggles, gloves, boots, and other gear no matter what you ride.

UTV Cost

When you compare brand new models, UTVs cost considerably more on average than ATVs do. When you consider how much more of a vehicle you’re getting, coupled with available features, overall power, and capability it makes sense.

UTVs can also be modified to better suit their driver’s needs, more so than an ATV. UTV parts and accessories typically come with a much higher price tag. The cost of service, parts, and accessories is something to consider before buying a UTV.

Types of UTVs

There are several types of UTVs but I am going to focus on what I feel are the three main types that you should be aware of.

  • Sport
  • Utility
  • Sport-Utility

Sport UTVs

Sport UTVs
Sport UTVs

Sport UTVs are known for their fast, sleek designs, and are typically built for fun rather than utility. You can usually find these UTVs blasting through sand dunes, or jumping over small ravines in the woods at top speed.

While sport UTVs have some utility to them by nature, typically they’re built with the recreation enthusiast in mind. If you’re looking for a UTV you can use on the weekends, either at the track or ripping through the woods, chances are a sport type is the right one for you. 

Utility UTVs

While it may seem redundant to refer to a UTV as a ‘Utility’ type Terrain vehicle, they offer a significantly different experience than their sport-type counterparts.

With a focus on getting things done, utility-focused UTVs are great if you spend a lot of time working outdoors. Farmers and Ranchers love utility UTVs.

Some of the areas where they are used most:

  • Hauling, or transporting around the farm
  • Large property snow removal
  • Towing
  • Clean up duties
  • Laying seeds and fertilizer
  • Hunting
  • Exploring wooded property
  • Managing fence line

Typically, utility-type UTVs offer features that are more beneficial to work-based projects such as being able to carry larger payloads and having higher ground clearances.

utility UTVs
Utility UTVs

Sport-Utility UTV

Now take those two categories, and blend them together to get the sport-utility UTV. These typically offer the best of both worlds when it comes to available features, so you can enjoy the backyard canyon blasts while also using it to haul your loads around the farm.

Not to be confused with the SUV, Sport-Utility UTVs offer the perfect amount of functionality to your fun-fueled weekend adventurer. These UTVs typically offer more seating capacity in comparison to your traditional sport styles, which means more fun for the whole family.

Best UTV Brands

There are a large number of UTV/Side by Side manufacturers. If you’re new to the world of UTVs, start by researching the different brands. It is tough to say which brand may be the best. They are all good. Find the one that best fits what you are looking for.

UTV Manufacturers

These companies are known as the best in the business. They’ve been leaders in recreational off-road vehicles for decades and produce products that are both fun and functional.

Each manufacturer has a wide variety of options when it comes to available UTV models.

Look at all the makes and models before buying one. Determine what you want to do with the UTV first and then compare features and prices.

UTV Dealer

Also, an important aspect of a large purchase like this is your local dealer. You need to buy from a dealer you like and trust as they will play an important role in your future happiness with the machine.

UTV Dealer
UTV Dealer is Your Best Friend

Should I Buy a UTV?

Now that you know what a UTV is, what it does, and what it looks like, you might be wondering if you should buy one! Be assured, there is a UTV that will fit your needs.

Finding the right UTV will take some time and effort but it is worth doing to make sure you buy the right one.

Buying a UTV

There are a few steps you should follow once you have decided to buy a UTV.

  1. Decide what UTV best suits your needs and budget. Use the internet to research!
  2. Talk to people you know that own UTVs. Ask their opinion.
  3. Go talk to all your local dealers for each brand.
  4. Sit in and take a test ride in the models you like the most.

UTVs for Inexperienced and Older Riders

If you’re someone who loves driving through the wilderness, but doesn’t have the needed experience to jump on an ATV comfortably, you should seriously consider a UTV. 

UTVs are also a great option for individuals who aren’t capable of dealing with the physically demanding rideability of some ATVs. 

UTVs take much less balance and overall strength to operate and are considerably more comfortable when it comes to hitting the trails. Enjoy all the fun of ripping up the woods without paying for it with aches and pains later. 

Older riders will appreciate a UTV compared to an ATV for many reasons.

With age, comes the cage!

UTV Saying

UTVs Meet Your Utilitarian Needs

If you own a farm, or you find yourself in constant need of a capable, automotive workhorse that’s a tad smaller than your work truck, a UTV might be the perfect fit. 

With their ability to haul large loads, tow heavy weights, and offer a comfortable ride, they’re the perfect tool for you. UTVs are used in a wide variety of workforces, due to their ability to become a mobile workstation. 

You can get them with small truck beds, which offer the perfect area to store your work or adventure gear while on the move.

UTV Passenger and Gear Requirements

If you find yourself in constant need of space for both your friends and your gear, then a UTV might make life that much more enjoyable. 

With multiple different outfits and options, you can get a UTV that meets your passenger and gear requirements perfectly, and share the experience with those closest to you.

You’re no longer limited to riding with people you know who have their own outdoor vehicles. With a UTV, you can just have them hop in and go on an adventure whenever you want. 

Pack up the UTV, and you can disappear for the whole weekend!

UTV Customization

When it comes to personalizing your recreational vehicle, nothing beats the UTV. There are a huge number of companies that make aftermarket accessories for UTVs. With so many options to choose from, you can really make your UTV something special. 

Whether you’re looking for something to take on hunting trips, or just something to speed down the trails, there are an insane amount of UTV customization options out there.

If you’re into speed, you can do performance upgrades to squeak out every ounce of power from the motor. Upgrade suspension so you can hit those jumps harder and get more air time. 

If you find yourself on the trails at night frequently, outfit it with some lightbars, to shed light on your surroundings wherever you are. With UTVs, the skies really are the limit.

The ability to customize you UTV never ends and is one of the reasons they are so popular.

Now You’re a UTV Expert!

There’s so much information out there when it comes to UTVs and other recreational vehicles, it can be a little overwhelming. If you’re new to the automotive sports, you may have originally thought that UTVs and ATVs were the same thing.

Now that you know what a UTV is, and how it differs from an ATV, you’re better informed about what options are out there to travel the wilderness in style. 

As technology gets more advanced, UTVs will only become more dominant, as their ability to outfit remains unrivaled. 

Whether you call it a UTV or a side-by-side, you’ll be able to tell anyone who asks what the benefits of a UTV are, and where they succeed best.

UTV Common Questions

Are UTVs better than ATVs?

This is a question I hear all the time! It truly depends on what you want to use it for and the type of riding you like best. So no simple answer. After you read this article you will be able to make an educated answer to that question.

Most Popular UTV?

According to the 2020 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI), Can-Am has been the top UTV for three years in a row. Followed by Honda, Polaris, Kawasaki, and John Deere.

UTV Sales

UTV Prices

UTVs cost between $8,000 and $30,000. There is a big difference in price based on engine size, suspension, and accessories. Don’t forget you will also need a trailer and a vehicle big enough to tow the whole rig. More money.

Fastest UTV

Most UTVs are VERY fast! Can-Am is famous for maybe having the fastest UTVs with several models sporting 195 HP. How fast do they go? Well, you won’t find that number on their website but there are people who test them and post results.

The consensus is that most high powered UTVs can run between 70 and 85 MPH.

Can You Drive a UTV on the Road?

The general answer is no, UTVs are not allowed on the highway or city streets. UTVs don’t comply with highway emission standards and don’t come with tires that are rated by the Department of Transportation as street legal.

BUT each state, county, and city often have its own laws regarding this question. Check with the local authorities to find out BEFORE you try it!

NOTE: There are some states and local areas that do allow UTVs/ATVs on the roads. Some will even issue a license plate.

Other areas grant exemptions to drive a short distance on the paved roads going back and forth to the trails.

If you are still not sure about which UTV you want and need some expert advice feel free to contact us.

off road adventures

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