Last Updated on February 12, 2022

What's an ATV and How Does It Differ From a UTV?

Are you wondering “what's an ATV?” Perhaps you already have an idea of what an ATV is, but you don’t know the difference between these vehicles and UTVs. Many people struggle to tell the difference between these alternative vehicles. Our guide will help you learn more about these vehicles and help you find out more about the differences between them  

What's an ATV?

ATV stands for All Terrain Vehicle. These off-road motorized vehicles are more commonly known as four-wheelers or quads. Quads are usually designed to travel on four low-pressure or non-pneumatic wheels. The seat also has a saddle design. Quads usually have handlebars with a throttle and brake for steering control.  

Most four-wheelers are designed for single-operator use, although many people do carry a passenger in the rear position behind the driver.

ATVs are very popular because they have a very compact design that makes it easy to travel through brushes. Their tires are also designed with lots of traction which enables the driver to travel on rough terrains or over steep hills at slower speeds.  

Quads are not designed as one-size-fits-all vehicles. These vehicles usually have rider recommendations according to weight or age. Some adult bikes have a greater user capacity than others and might struggle to perform well if the user exceeds the weight limit. 

Youth models are usually designed with a smaller saddle seat and smaller handle bar that is more appropriate for kids. Youth bikes travel at much slower speeds for safety. 

Four-wheeler bikes are very easy to operate, but this is the exact feature that makes them so dangerous. It is very important to realize that these vehicles are not legal for on-road use. They can easily tip over if driven at high speeds around turns. or if they are used to climb hills that are too steep. 

Tipping over can result in horrifying personal injuries because quad bikes don't offer a lot of protection to the user should they get into an accident.  

Common Uses for ATVs

Quad bikes can be used for work and recreation.  They are often used in agriculture or forestry industries because the vehicles can handle rough terrains. They can transport you where no other vehicle can drive. Search and rescue teams, law enforcement, surveyors and other professionals often make use of these vehicles.

In recreation, these vehicles are often used for leisure drives, game driving, and trail riding.  A lot of people love to use these vehicles for racing on rough tracks, powersports, and some even use them as stunt vehicles.

What is a UTV?

UTV stands for Utility Terrain Vehicle. Unlike ATVs, these vehicles are designed for work purposes rather than recreation. UTVs are usually bigger, more powerful, and often a lot faster compared to ATVs. 

These vehicles also differ quite a lot in design. In these vehicles, a normal passenger seat is used. Passengers sit side by side with seat belts. There are some utility vehicles that provide more seating, but these models are usually custom designed by manufacturers. 

These vehicles usually have a lot of storage space because they are designed to haul a lot of equipment through rough off-road terrains that might be inaccessible by truck

UTVs have the same simple operating system as ATVs, but they usually have a steering wheel.  As with normal vehicles, these vehicles come with a standard wheelbase, though the wheels can be bigger to allow drivers to operate them on rougher terrains.  

As with ATVs, the tires on these vehicles have lots of traction and thick rubber linings.  This protects the vehicle from punctures when driving in open fields and enables the driver to drive through slippery, muddy regions or over steep slopes.

Utility vehicles are slower than your average vehicle. This is mostly because the engines on these light vehicles are smaller, and because the slower speed is safer for traveling on off-road terrains.

Common Uses for UTVs 

UTVs are a very popular choice in various work industries. They are often used in agricultural industries, or in wildlife conservation. These vehicles are ideal for transporting feed for animals all over properties.  Farmers also favor them as an agricultural vehicle because they can be used for fence inspections, or to transport tools to different destinations.

You may also find UTVs with some construction companies. They are often used at large parks, old age facilities, and amusement parks so workers can quickly travel around these sites.  

Some people do use utility vehicles for recreational purposes.  They are often used to replace a golf cart on golf courses or for game driving and sightseeing.  

The Top Differences Between ATVs and UTVs

The best way to figure out whether you should buy an ATV or UTV is by checking out the top differences between these vehicles.  Here is a quick look at the main differences between these vehicles.  


Utility vehicles tend to be safer compared to quad bikes because some of them do include a safety belt, turn signal lights, and most of these vehicles have a roll cage that protects your body in case the vehicle tips over.  

These vehicles also provide more sun protection because many of them are fitted with rooftops. It is very easy to create and install a canvas canopy over the roll cage. You can even add other safety gear like medical aid kits to your utility vehicle because they have significantly more storage space. 

The seating arrangement is also safer for a passenger since the chances of your passenger falling off if you accelerate too quickly is much lower. The roll bar makes a huge difference to the safety of your passenger. 


A lot of people find a utility vehicle much more comfortable to ride on long trips.  Unlike the saddled design of a quad bike, your legs are comfortably stretched out in front of you.  With quad bikes, your legs straddle the bike which can make your hips feel all crampy and cause numbness on longer rides. 

Modern UTV models even come out with cup holders and bucket seats so you can comfortably sip your drink while you drive.  With quad bikes, you can't really hold a drink and drive because the handlebar steering design isn't as easy to handle with just one hand.   

The handling is also a lot more comfortable since the foot pedals control the speed and braking instead of your thumb as with quad bikes.

Terrain Handling Ability 

Quad bikes tend to be a bit more flexible on rough ground and bumpy terrains. They are smaller, slimmer, and can get into tighter areas. The vehicles often have a higher design which makes them more suitable for bumpy terrains with lots of brushes.  

With UTVs, it can be hard to fit into certain rough fields with lots of brushes. Utility task vehicles also tend to be more top-heavy on steep terrains whereas recreational vehicles cling better to steep inclines.


All-purpose utility task vehicles usually have a much greater weight-bearing capacity because they are designed for work purposes or agricultural purposes.  Utility vehicles have lots of storage space in the passenger area, and they are often designed with a load bin that can be used to transport a wide variety of tools or accessories. The load bin is also designed for heavy loads.  

Some four-wheelers can be used for hauling. Some come with a carry rack that can be very effective for transporting tools and other accessories.  

With either of these vehicles you can pull a trailer. Adding a trailer to your vehicle will enable you to haul a lot more accessories with you when you travel.  

Road Safety

Neither of these vehicles are allowed on public roads. They are not considered transportation vehicles because they do not meet the minimum requirements to qualify for roadworthiness. They cannot be used as a road vehicle. These vehicles are only to be used on private property.  

Insurance Coverage

The insurance coverage on these vehicles are different in different countries, states, and for different insurance companies. Some insurance companies cover utility vehicles while others refuse to cover quad vehicles as well as any injuries associated with these motorized vehicles because quads tend to be riskier. 

The insurance cost of quads also tends to be much higher than for utility vehicles because of the difference in safety features.

Final Thoughts

Either of these vehicles can be a wonderful investment to help you get around easier.  In the end, it all comes down to functionality and personal need.  If you need a vehicle for work purposes, then utility terrain motorized vehicles are more suitable. But for leisure biking and work purposes, a quad could be a better option.

We do hope that this guide helped clear things up for you so you can make the right decision while you are shopping for the best off-road vehicle to buy.