ATVs vs UTVs - What's the Difference?

Mar 1st 2020

Regardless if you’re an avid rider who hits the trails every weekend or you’ve never set foot in a powersports dealership, chances are you’ve heard the two acronyms, ATV and UTV, at some point or another. Each type of unit share similarities that commonly group the two as alike, or even the same. Many manufacturers have both ATV and UTV lineups available to customers. And perhaps most obvious, each of them has four wheels. 

But what exactly makes these machines different from each other?

There are a slew of unique characteristics that give each machine its individuality, along with varying functionalities that serve various types of riders. Whether you’re looking for something catered to work or play, here are a few characteristics of ATVs and UTVs that set each of them apart and make them the ideal unit for specific functionalities. 


ATVs, or all-terrain vehicles, are an ideal unit for someone looking to do some solo riding. They are smaller than UTVs, and as such are great for getting through small spaces and navigating thinner trails that a UTV wouldn’t typically be able to squeeze through. These machines are built for making quick turns and darting down the trails. They are typically built to hold one rider, though some are constructed to hold a passenger behind the driver. These units are built for a fun afternoon on the trails- they are built to smoothly navigate rocky terrain while keeping the rider safe and comfortable. 

Riding an ATV is a bit more physically demanding than operating a UTV, with riders having to straddle the seat like the saddle of a horse rather than sitting in a conventional seat. The handlebar system makes driving an ATV a bit more like riding a bike than driving a car (though the ATVs have a bit more horsepower than a bike). While farmers typically use UTVs for heavy duty work, ATVs can be used to help farmers move around the farm quickly and accomplish a wide variety of tasks.


UTVs, or utility task vehicles, are commonly used by ranchers, farmers and hunters for outdoor tasks that involve hauling, navigating rough terrain or anything else that might require a little extra kick. Most UTVs can seat between 2-4 people, while some are even equipped to seat six so the whole family can come along and enjoy the ride. Driving a UTV is much like driving a car, with a steering wheel and foot pedals that drive the machine forward. 

While most ATVs are built for a fun weekend ride on the trails, UTVs boast a hardy build that make them the perfect unit to use on the farm on a day-to-day basis. These units are designed for heavy-duty work that makes hauling equipment or other abundant materials a breeze. The large storage space in the bed makes it possible to transport anything from point A to point B quickly and efficiently.  

So, which machine is better? Ultimately, the choice is yours. If you’re looking for a solo ride down some rocky trails that need some maneuvering, an ATV might be your best bet. If you want to load up the family for a day of riding, or if you are looking for a machine with some serious horsepower, then a UTV might be the way to go.

Whether you’re a farmer looking for a work-horse related machine for hauling or an ATV enthusiast looking for your next wild ride, both ATVs and UTVs have plenty of offerings that will make your next big adventure, or your next day of work, one to remember.