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What Is the Difference between an ATV and a UTV?

Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari
Updated May 17, 2024
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While an ATV and a UTV will share many similarities, they are distinctly different vehicles intended for very different uses. An ATV, or all terrain vehicle, is an off-road, single-rider vehicle intended for use as a recreational vehicle, racer, or transport over rough terrain. A UTV, or utility task vehicle, is also intended for use over rough terrain, though this vehicle is sometimes known as a side-by-side because two people can sit in the cab next to each other. Both can be used to haul items, but a UTV features a truck-like bed specifically for this purpose.

Both vehicles typically feature a combustion engine — some models do feature electric engines instead, but these are intended for light duty use only — and both feature significant suspension and aggressive tires. They also generally feature a low center of gravity for added stability over rough terrain. The differences between an ATV and a UTV become clear with a simple glance at the rider positions: an ATV rider will straddle the vehicle on a saddle, while UTV riders can sit on side by side on bench seats or bucket seats.

The steering differs between the two as well. On an ATV, a rider will steer using a handlebar system, while UTV drivers will steer using a steering wheel similar to that in a car or truck. The configuration of a UTV allows for more passengers to ride along, which is useful in maintenance settings or construction sites. People and materials can both be hauled easily, making UTVs are popular among golf course maintenance personnel, parks and recreation departments, and any other users who need to travel over uneven terrain with people and materials.

Both types of vehicles can be designed to be street-legal, though UTVs are more likely to come from the factory with accessories or features that will make them street legal with little or no modifications necessary. In some regions, all ATVs are illegal on roadways, though UTVs may be allowed.

Accessories that are often used on ATVs can also be used on UTVs. A winch, for example, is a useful addition to either, as are storage bins and racks. UTVs tend to come stock with roll cages, and some even feature windshields; ATVs will usually not have such features.

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Discussion Comments

By anon937769 — On Mar 06, 2014

If you know a cross-country or dirt road route to the bar and back, then you don't have to get on the pavement to go home. This way you don't risk getting a DUI.

By anon328625 — On Apr 04, 2013

Who would buy a UTV just to go to the bar?

By disciples — On Jan 09, 2013

I have been considering getting an off road vehicle so that I can ride the trails that people have been building off in the woods for the last decade or so. I hear it is a lot of fun and I am eager to try it myself.

So what would be the better buy, an ATV or a UTV? I doubt that I will be using it much for work, or for hauling stuff. It is just a recreational thing for me. So which is more fun to drive?

By profess — On Jan 08, 2013
So let me get this straight -- a UTV is like a souped up golf cart, right?

I have seen a few of them around my neighborhood. People buy them mostly to get from their home out to the bar.

By Belted — On Jan 07, 2013

I used to have an ATV, but when it came time to get a new one I decided to upgrade to a UTV. I can haul more, tow stuff, plus there is room for a passenger. Sometimes when I am doing work far away from the house I need to carry more gear and help than the ATV could accommodate.

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