BushLife - ATV Quad Bikes

ATV: How To Choose The Right One

Are you ready to take your off-roading adventure to the next level? Purchasing the right ATV can be a daunting task, but with the right information and guidance, you can make the right decision that meets your needs. In this blog post, you will learn the different elements and factors to consider when choosing the perfect ATV for you. 

Discloure: Posts may contain affiliate links. Purchases made through our links result in a small commission to us at no charge to you. We only recommend products that meet our brand standards based on testing and first hand use by our authors.

So What is an ATV Really?

Man riding ATV vehicle on off road trail
Man riding ATV vehicle on off road trail

Do you have a thirst for adrenaline-pumping, off-road adventure? Then an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) may be the perfect addition to your collection of vehicles. With 4×4 on-demand, an ATV is capable of powering through snow, rivers, mud, fields, and even roads so icy that you can barely walk on them. Not to mention, most ATVs have diff-locked rear-wheel drive, making them perfect for traversing the off-road and not so great for pavement. 

But an ATV isn’t just a vehicle to get you from point A to point B; it’s a community of people that care about each other’s safety and enjoyment. When you cruise past a 2 wheel drive ATV that’s stuck, don’t be afraid to stop and help out – you’ll get a friendly wave from the driver and an opportunity to expand your network of fellow ATV enthusiasts!

ATV Basics – What to Consider

Potential ATV riders should consider a few important factors before making their purchase. The intent for the machine should be determined first: are you planning on racing, using it for work, or going on an outdoor adventure? If you plan on taking passengers, make sure to get a 2-up seat to be legal. Different machines may have different wheelbases, so this is something to take into account before making a purchase. 

Engine size is another factor to consider. Options generally range from 500cc to 1000cc. My ATV is 500cc and has more than enough power for general riding, though a bit more is nice when towing the boat. Side-by-sides are typically 850cc and can handle the increased weight. Insurance premiums may be higher for anything over 500cc, so check with your insurer first. Fuel-wise, larger engines won’t be an issue, as the cost of fuel for a 3-4 hour trip in the bush is only around $8 – a worthwhile entertainment expense.

What Brands to Look for When Buying an ATV

Ready to hit the trails but uncertain which brand of ATV to choose? Look no further than the market-dominating Can-Am, Yamaha, Honda, Polaris, Arctic Cat, Kawasaki, and Suzuki. My own Can-Am Outlander XT and Yamaha Wolverine X4 have both been dependable rides, and choosing between these popular brands largely boils down to preference and availability.

Plus, if you choose a brand, make sure you have access to local dealerships, parts, and a community of fellow ATV riders for advice and support when you need it. From decades of quality machines to easy-to-find parts, these reliable ATV makers have earned their spot at the top.

Different Types of ATVs

Teen riding ATV in sand dunes making a turn in the sand
Cross-country quad bike race, extreme sports

If you’re looking to get into ATV riding, you’ll discover there are three main types of ATV’s to choose from: Sport, Utility, and Sport Utility

Sport models feature robust suspension, handling, and performance power, making them ideal for racing, jumping, and all-around fun. But don’t expect storage compartments, gun racks or often even a flat area to strap something down.

Utility models are versatile, working hard on the job and playing hard on the trails. They’re perfect for hunting, mudding, and more. 

Sport utility models offer a limited version of the two previous categories. 

Yamaha Raptor Youth ATV
Yamaha Raptor 90cc Youth ATV

For the younger riders, there are even youth ATV models with capped speeds and power, the perfect introduction to take on the terrains and eventually grow into the more beastly models.

Preparing for Your Adventure

That’s us crossing an old wooden bridge. While nerve racking, the view was well worth it!

Now that you know the purpose of your ATV, look for features that will make your ride comfortable, versatile and packed with power. If you chose a sport ATV, consider its handling, suspension, speed and acceleration, and stance. Four-wheel drive ATVs are designed for serious trail performance, while rear-wheel models offer a more aggressive racing experience.

Tip: Unless you are racing or towing, speed and raw power isn’t always what you want! One of the most amazing models we tried was a Honda Pioneer 1000 cc. It was incredibly fast and snarly, so much so it was exhilarating. But that’s not what you want if you will be climbing or descending rocks, or maneuvering over super rough terrain. The Wolverine we ended up with sits in that perfect torque band for demanding trails – those moments when the right amount of power and control is what you seek. It offers so much engine braking, you can often descend some of the nastiest and roughest hills without even touching the brakes! In fact, it does it more gracefully and safely than braking. Don’t listen to your heart when buying, always consider your use first!!!

For utility ATVs, focus on ground clearance, independent rear suspension for a smoother ride, integrated hitches for towing, and racks and storage. Lastly, don’t forget to look at tires. Most models come with standard all-around performance tires – but pick more specialized tires if that fits your needs better. Tires come in various sizes, tread patterns, and depths for different conditions, such as all-terrain, sand, mud/water, rock climbing, snow/ice, hard packed and soft trails.

Essential Accessories

Whether you’re a seasoned ATV rider or just getting started, investing in the right accessories can mean the difference between loving and hating your ride. Comfort, convenience, and even safety can be improved by splurging on a few extras. Here’s a list of accessories to consider, each one tailored to help you get the most out of your ATV experience:

Cold Weather Features

From the ATV to the SxS, stay warm when the weather turns cold with hand and thumb warmers and a flip-up windshield. So invest a few bucks’ worth of warmth and comfort features to take your ride to the next level – and extend your season. For those who already have a used machine, don’t worry, you can always add the features later and a quick work around are some heated gloves. With the right gear, cold weather and rain won’t slow you down.


Whether you’re driving solo or with a group, it’s important to be able to keep track of what’s going on around you while riding an ATV or SxS. Mirrors offer the perfect solution. Both machines come equipped with a mirror: While there are many ways to get side mirrors, ours by example has a pole with a small circular mirror on the left handle. Just be sure to avoid mirrors that have too much protrusion, as they can be easily damaged in brushy areas. SxS drivers can mount a centre rearview mirror.

Mirrors come in especially handy when you’re out on the trails. Without having to turn your head, you can check on the rest of your group and make sure everyone is safe. Plus, if you notice a faster-moving group behind you, you can quickly signal them to pass or adjust your route to keep the ride enjoyable for everyone. It really comes in handy when you’re halfway through an off-the-beaten-path ride, and you look in the mirror to find out you’re not alone.


This is a must! Any ATV rider knows that having a winch is essential for tackling the toughest trails. When you encounter unexpected obstacles such as deep water or overgrown trails, having a winch can give you the confidence to take them on and keep riding. For those unfamiliar with winches, opt for a synthetic line — it’s a much easier fix in the field and no harder to use than a basic knot. I have personal experience with winching in the craziest places, such as going uphill with half the machine off the ground. And I even learned to winch backwards! You can even winch when there is nothing around to attach to. Trust me, a winch can make all the difference when you’re out on an ATV adventure.

Get a Hitch

If you’re looking for a way to transport or move just about anything by ATV, you guessed it – get a hitch! Not only is it a great anchor point for rescue situations, but a 3-in-1 hitch can be used to tow regular and riding lawnmower trailers – perfect if you’ve got heavier items such as tractor carts that need to be moved. Not to mention, the 3-in-1 hitch is multi-use, giving you the most bang for your buck!

Other items to consider would be racks, extenders, storage, bumpers and brush guards, plows, lighting, audio and speakers, track kits and hunting accessories.

Tips for After the Purchase

Investing in an ATV can be an exciting experience—but it’s important to ensure you’re following all legal requirements. To start, you must have a helmet: the ZOX Journey is a great option for its flip up visor and mouth area that allows for sipping on coffee or water without removing it. Additionally, insurance is mandatory when you leave your own property. And don’t forget about trail passes, which are necessary for many trails. Be sure to check the pass requirements before you ride, and never trespass on private property without permission from the landowner – trespassing and insurance violations can be serious.

If venturing off onto the trails having a grappling hook, tree savers, plenty of rope and a saw is essential to getting you out of most situations you may find yourself in.

Buy Smart – Tips for Making the Right ATV Purchase

Hunting ATV in Snow
Hunting ATV in Snow

Investing in a quality ATV can be a great way to expand your outdoor pursuits, from recreational riding to farming and other land management activities. However, making sure you’re getting the right ATV for your needs is key to a successful purchase. Here are a few tips to help you buy smart and find the perfect ATV for your needs without blowing your budget: 

First, think about how you plan on using your ATV, as some models may be built for specific activities or conditions. Consider the terrain you’ll be operating on, the size and weight of the vehicle, and the size of engine that will fit your needs. 

Next, research the types of ATVs available, their benefits and features, and the manufacturers that produce them. Read up on customer reviews and ratings to get an idea of which models consistently deliver a quality ride.

Finally, be sure to shop around for the best prices and financing options. Taking the time to compare prices and find the best deal for your needs can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Choosing the Right ATV

Finding the right ATV isn’t always easy, but with the information provided in this blog post and doing the necessary research, you can make an informed decision and find the perfect ATV that fits all your off-road needs. If you go used, there’s also some great techniques to putting the machine into service.

Let us know what you think about selecting the right ATV. Are there any other tips or advice you would suggest to someone looking to buy an ATV?

Purchase the Items in this Post

Share This Post
Stelios Lazos
Stelios Lazos

Stelios comes from the corporate world where he was a highly successful executive. Inspired by his love for the outdoors he has re-located with his family to live to the BushLife where he blogs about his adventures. Finding inspiration in the never-ending questions from aspiring outdoors people, Stelios aims to share his knowledge, one post at a time.

Articles: 54