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How To Buy a Used ATV
Peter B. Mathiesen
November 14, 2011
**** If the price of a new ATV is a stretch for you in this tight economy, there are thousands of used bikes out there waiting for new owners. However, before your used trek begins, here are a few tips on procuring the right used machine that won't break the bank and will stay out of the shop.
Wants and Needs
Before you search the vast listings of local or online ads, make the key decisions on what's the right bike for you. The big three features that will affect the cost are: • Power Steering • EFI • Engine size
After the features are determined, age and machine condition are important factors. Looking at the hours or odometer readings are just part of that equation. The following will provide mileposts on your ATV battle-testing journey.
Who is the primary user of the machine? Teenagers and riders in their twenties are typically much harder on machines than guys in their forties, fifties and sixties. Answers like, "My son hunts with it every fall and loves riding with his friends," are not ideal.
Lands Far Away
Do you ride on public land? Answers like, "We love to ride at such & such public area, it's really challenging," would not be as good as a land owner that keeps the bike garaged on 300 acres.
The Winch Factor
How well does the winch work? What you're trying to find out is how often this guy buries his bike. If he starts talking about how great the winch is, that's not as ideal as, "I guess it works well, but I've never used it." "Or it doesn't have a winch," may be an even better response.
Check the Roll Bar
If you're looking at a UTV, pay careful attention to the top of the roll bar by looking for small dents and scratches. If you find them, ask if it was from a rollover. If it seems suspicious, pass.
Ask for dealer receipts. If they don't use a dealer, ask in-depth questions about fluid changes, specific filters and what lubricants were used. If they can't answer the questions with absolute resolve, move on.
Shy away from heavily modified bikes with suspension changes, chips, fuel hot rodding and exhaust additions. It's better to make the mods tailored for your riding needs after the purchase has been made. This swamp machine from
is a little extreme and cool, but you get the idea.
Even with low mileage and a short hop to the mailbox, low or non-use can be worse than a heavily used, well-maintained bike.
Beware of the Uber-Clean Machine
If you go into a disheveled garage and the ATV for sale is waxed, Armoralled and showroom clean, be wary. On the other hand, if you visit a clean garage or barn with a slightly dirty bike that's owned by an engineer and he can tell you every day in the life of the machine including maintenance, that's your man.
The Test Drive
Make sure to engage every option from low gear to lockers, and even use the winch. Ride the bike at a number of different angles and speeds while listening for unusual rattles, knocks and squeals. Everything should feel tight and smooth.
Look for bikes that have been well maintained with fewer than 4,000 miles. Three thousand is ideal, but riding care and maintenance should be your greatest considerations.
How Long Should an ATV Last?
With regular fluid maintenance; including gas treatments, oil, trans-diff, coolant and brake fluid changes, bikes will last for years. In fact, the engines rarely give out. With consistent maintenance, bikes with well over 15,000 miles are common. However, what if the machine is jumped, sunk in mud holes every week, caked in gunk and the fluids aren't regularly changed? In two to three thousand miles, the bike may be trashed.
Check with a Dealer
Once you've found the right bike at the right price, put it on a trailer and take it over to a local dealer. Have them give it a passing or failing grade. It usually costs $50-$75, but the mechanic will let you know quickly if the machine will become a regular visitor to their establishment.
Dealers Can Deal Too
Your local dealer is always worth a quick call or look-see. Every once-in-a-while they are motivated to make great deals on demos or trade-ins. Always ask for the maintenance history and what warranty is included.
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