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What Is a 250cc ATV?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 17, 2024
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A 250cc ATV, or all-terrain vehicle, is an ATV equipped with a 250cc, or cubic centimeter, engine. Available in two- and four-wheel drive versions, the 250cc ATV is a valued vehicle among sportsmen and off-road enthusiasts alike. Unlike the earliest ATV designs, the modern 250cc ATV is typically equipped with a four-stroke engine that offers improved performance and fuel mileage with fewer exhaust emissions as compared to the early two-stroke engine designs. The ATV can be purchased with an automatic or manual shift transmission, and the engine can be started by kick-starting, pull-starting or by using an electric starter.

In the early production of the off-road utility vehicle, the 250cc ATV was often considered to be one of the top performers in any version of ATV, be it three- or four-wheel equipped. Most of the manufacturers gave the 250cc engine the most compression, horsepower and performance tuning to make the vehicle the top of the line as far as speed, power and torque were concerned. The highest output engines were commonly fitted into the lightest chassis, and the moniker 250 was followed by the letter R, which stood for racing. This meant the 250R version of an ATV was usually the hottest performer in the manufacturer's lineup of vehicles.

Modern ATVs are routinely fitted with engines as large as 800cc, making the 250cc ATV a relatively small and under-powered vehicle in a manufacturer's lineup. Some riders prefer the 250cc ATV for its lightweight and ease of loading into a pickup truck bed, however, the vehicle is usually out-powered when riding with others on a trail gathering. Some of the most common uses for the 250cc ATV are as a beginner's or novice vehicle and as a utility vehicle in the pit areas of race tracks. The 250cc engine provides enough power, in most cases, to push-start a race car and to pull a race car back to the pits after a race.

As the ATV has grown in both popularity and size, the engines have also grown by leaps and bounds. The once mighty 250cc ATV has been replaced by the 650cc and 800cc ATVs, with some of the larger two- and four-passenger styles relying on 1,000cc engines. In some vintage racing associations, the 250cc ATV is making a comeback as several of 250R vehicles are being restored and competing once again. This has caused a slight resurgence in the sales of the 250cc vehicles on online auction sites as collectors are once again beginning to seek the small vehicles out.

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