Gear ATVs

A Buyer’s Guide to the Best UTVs

A review of 8 of the best UTVs you can buy

Outdoor Life Online Editor

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Table of Contents
1. Work or Play?
2. Where Can I Use It?
3. Passenger Capacity
4. 2×4 vs. 4×4
6. UTV Options

Work or Play
If you plan to use a UTV for work, consider the size and weight capacity of the cargo box, which ranges from 400 pounds to more than 1,000 pounds. Most cargo boxes are steel, but Polaris and Arctic Cat have composite plastic boxes that won’t dent or rust. Most boxes dump, but not all of the best UTVs come with a standard tilt assist for the box, although it might be an option. Other work-related factors to consider include towing capacity and how the equipment can handle accessory tools. You might want the capability to push a snowplow, for instance, which on many UTV models requires the installation of a winch and heavy-duty front suspension to support the weight.

For purely recreational use, speed and agility are usually more important than payload capacity. The Yamaha Rhino and Arctic Cat Prowler can reach speeds close to 50 mph-most work models are governed to 25 mph-and go almost anywhere you could ride an ATV. However, they don’t offer the box size or capacity of work-oriented models. If you’ve got a big piece of property, vehicle speed might be a time-saver, and it’s certainly fun.

Where Can I Use It
If your plan is to replace an ATV with a UTV, you might find yourself barred from public trails. Check your state’s regulations on registration for use on public land. Access to most public trail systems, including U.S. Forest Service trails, is limited to vehicles under 50 inches in width. Many states don’t even have a registration category for UTVs, which do not fit the legal definition of an ATV. Regulations in other states vary. Michigan, for example, offers an off-highway vehicle registration tag that can be applied to a UTV, which is then trail-legal in some places. Of course, private land is free to roam.

Passenger Capacity
The Kubota and Polaris Ranger models have a bench seat that can handle three adults in a pinch, which I think is an advantage over models with two bucket seats. The new Club Car XRT 1500 SE has two rows of seats for four people, and a full-size box for gear, but it’s also almost 4 feet longer than a typical UTV and thus much less maneuverable. The new Kawasaki Mule 3010 Trans4X4 seats four ahead of a shorter cargo box. If you need box space, the back seats fold down and the box expands forward, making the Trans4X4 a convertible among UTVs.

2×4 vs. 4×4
If your utv is going to spend most of its life on farm lanes, gravel roads, and flat ground, you can probably get along without four-wheel drive, which will save you about $1,000. If your UTV is going to see mud, off-trail use, or be used in the snow, however, four-wheel drive is the way to go.

Almost all UTVs have a roll-bar device, or ROPS (roll-over protection structure), to protect the occupants should the vehicle tip over. Those that are ROPS-certified meet a design standard developed by either OSHA or ANSI, and will display a certification sticker. Only about half the UTVs are ROPS-certified, so make an informed choice. I think it would be good idea to make ROPS certification an industry-wide standard.

UTV Options
You can customize a UTV with an endless array of accessories, from tool racks and plows to chrome wheels and custom body kits. My accessory list includes:

  • A Cab Roof in either lightweight aluminum or composite, to provide shade and rain protection. If you’ll be out in the cold a lot, fully enclosed cabs in canvas, steel and composite materials are available, as well as cab heaters.

  • A Windshield really helps cut the wind chill effect in cool weather or winter. Plastic windshields are lighter and less expensive than glass, but tend to have a static charge that attracts dust, and they can get scratched over time. A glass windshield solves both of those problems. Some windshields are designed to fold down, so you can enjoy the breeze in warm weather.

  • A 4,000-pound Capacity Winch-because when a UTV is stuck, it’s really stuck. Before you go charging through your back-40 bog, remember that a UTV weighs 300 to 700 pounds more than even the largest ATV.

  • A Gun Scabbard to transport your firearms safely and a roof rack to carry a duck boat or canoe. For about $400 you can upgrade to camo bodywork, but I doubt it will help you sneak up on anything. I’ll take a blaze-orange UTV during hunting season, thanks just the same.n protection. If you’ll be out in the cold a lot, fully enclosed cabs in canvas, steel and composite materials are available, as well as cab heaters.