These days, we truly live in a golden age for motorcycles, ATV’s, Side-by-Sides (SxS’s, or UTV’s), watercraft, and all the rest, a field collectively known as Powersports. Products are multiplying and evolving at rates never before seen. Manufacturers are paying close attention to their customers and how they ultimately use their products and are using what they learn in current and future production. Focusing on the off-road segment, and having already covered ATV’s, I will address their bigger brothers here, known as either UTVs or Side-by-Sides.
A UTV is also referred to as a side-by-side. Although not a necessity for many, the market for side-by-side vehicles is expanding. While many use the UTV only for recreational purposes, others have found it to be a useful aid in their daily life. This includes those living in rural areas or farms, where hauling of farm equipment and goods is necessary.
Be it a need or a want, and it’s also worth noting that buying a UTV isn’t going to be cheap. Whether used or brand new, it’s going to cost you a lot of hard-earned cash. Because of increasing demand, also, manufacturers have expanded their capacity to keep providing more and more to the UTV market.
While a wide range of options may be a good thing, it can also come in negatively, such as only confusing you even more as to which choice might be the best buy for you. To help ease the shopping process for you, here are some tips to keep in mind, when buying side-by-side vehicles.
UTVs, also known as Side-By-Sides, have been the rage for several years now, with dealerships all over the country reporting record sales. And if you are one of those who is looking to join the side by side craze, then there are a few things that you really should know about them, so that you can know what to expect!
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What is Side-by-Side vs. UTV?
The term Side-by-Side (SxS) refers to the seating arrangement that is common to all such machines, regardless of origin or purpose, that being the single most distinguishing feature. No matter who made it, or what it is made for, the seats are all side by side, even with the addition of back seats. For this reason, that is the term I will continue to use here.
The SxS/UTV Market Today
Today’s market in 2019 offers more than ever before, and all signs point to an even more robust 2020 as well. Currently, there are 145 SxS’s to choose from made by six different manufactures, with an average Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $16,387. As with anything else, the trick is finding the right one for you.
Speaking of what they are made for, SxS’s ultimately serve at least one of three major functions:
- Utility, which is primarily farming and commercial related
- Recreation which is primarily hunting and family related
The trick is knowing which one you want, and more so, how much of it you want to do or to what magnitude. Know yourself and what your intentions are. Generally speaking, while you want to get as close to the mark as possible, it is better to overestimate slightly than to underestimate to any degree.
Many people believe that UTVs are a great way to save on fuel, which is true if they are street legal. As ODES UTV dealers, we are often asked if the UTVs we sell are street legal. That’s a hard question to answer. It depends less on the make and model of UTV and more on the area where you live or ride. You should always check with your local DMV to be sure.
My favourite reason for pointing out that a UTV is not a car is the charging system. Many people believe that the charging system in a UTV is the same as in a car. In our experience working with new UTV owners, a good 90% will contact us about battery trouble. Out of that 90%, 100% of the issues are NOT with the battery.
UTVs Are Fantastic For Families
The first things to know if you are interested in getting a side-by-side is the fact that they are great for families. There are many Side-By-Sides on the market with seating for 3, 4, and even six passengers, making this the ideal outdoor activity for anybody looking to spend quality time with their loved ones. I love to ride with my wife and kids on the back!
Anyways, if you are looking for something that the whole family can do together, then UTVs are going to be your cup of tea. I talked a little bit more about the best UTVs for families in this article, but to keep things short, The most popular models on the market for families include the Polaris RZR S4 1000, Yamaha Wolverine X4, and Can-Am Maverick, and they all feature four bucket seats so that you and your family can ride comfortably.
And if you are thinking of riding with four full-size adults, then let me tell you that the backseat area isn’t a cramped space reserved for kids. Most UTVs these days will give you a lot of legroom and cabin space, especially on the back seats, which is something that bigger UTV riders like myself will appreciate.
Anyways, If you have a sizable family, or you just want to go on an offroading adventure with all your friends on board, then you definitely will not regret getting a side-by-side!
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They Are Super Loud!
This is one of the downsides of UTVs and something that I particularly hate: why exactly are they so damn Loud?? I mean, when you compare UTVs to cars, they have much bigger engines, and they generate more power, but they do not make near as much noise as the typical UTV engine.
So, if you are going to be buying a side-by-side, you need to tolerate the fact that they are very noisy, no matter if you are just idling or are revving the engine. This can also be seen with ATVs. Because of the noise that they make, they might not be a good idea for the hunter that needs silence to avoid scaring away his prey.
Thankfully, there are several easy ways to quiet down a side-by-side. I made a more comprehensive article on how to do so, but to keep things short, the best way to silence a UTV is by using an exhaust silencer. Companies like The Silent Rider has been providing quality mufflers for those riders who want something more subdued.
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You Have A True Offroading Beast
Out of all the ways that you can cross through a trail, I think that the best way to do so is with side by side. The first reason is because of ground clearance. Everybody knows that the average UTV frame is high up in the air, something that improves ground clearance and makes offroading a breeze. There are even some manufacturers that sell offroad oriented versions of their UTVs that feature even MORE ground clearance than normal.
One of the other reasons UTVs are so great as an offroader is the combination of comfort, capability, and an open-air cabin. Riding a trail in an SUV might be comfortable and easily done, but it’s simply not the same as riding in a UTV. I feel over-assisted and way too disconnected from the trail itself when doing so. And when it comes to ATVs, they might be just as capable as side by sides offroading wise, but they are much rougher than UTVs. While I started with and still ride ATVs to this day, they are not for people with bad backs!
UTVs combines the comfort and size of an SUV with the visceral feel and capability of an ATV. Combine this with affordable pricing, and it’s obvious why UTVs is the ride to get if you are an offroading aficionado.
Types of UTVs
There are now three distinct types of SxS’s out there today, as previously mentioned, Utility, Recreation, and Performance. While some may be able to dabble in the other areas, they remain distinguishable when compared to the others.
The originals are the utility models, and these are where it all started and grew from. These are work focused on higher payload and towing capacities. Some distinguishing features are 3-person wide bench seating in both the front and, if equipped, the rear as well, typically larger cargo boxes, and multiple storage locations throughout the cabin area.
Utility SxS’s can often accommodate all sorts of additional equipment, from completely enclosed cabs with glass windows and even heating and air conditioning to snowploughs. Often, proprietary attachment points allow for racks designed to hold long hand tools like shovels and pickaxes, fluid tanks for sprayer systems, and the like. The far reaches of the utility SxS market and aftermarket can share a fence line with the agricultural industry. On the far side of that fence is where the John as mentioned earlier Deere, Kubota and Ingersoll-Rand products still reside. Those machines still possess tractor genes, and the latter has a hydraulic system and frontal attachment points for fork or bucket loader attachments. The machines here in our pasture are more workhorses than full-on oxen.
The next logical step is recreation, which shares several traits with utility models but is a better balance between work and play. On these, the 3-wide bench seating is more often replaced with bucket seating that is more supportive at higher speeds or steeper angles. Rear seating in recreational models can either be fixed or more recently, convertible which folds away into the floor of the cargo box when not in use. The Rollover Protection Systems (ROPS) will cover all seating areas. Half doors are common OEM equipment on these models. While still capable of moving respectable payloads, slight concessions are made in that department for more comfortable rides or the ability to conquer more technical terrain. Recreational SxS’s are a great example of being a “Jack of all trades & master of none.” For most buyers of recreational models, they are just right, not as brutish as utility models and not as bonkers as performance models.
That brings us to the newest and most aggressively growing segment of the SxS market, the performance models. These are the most purpose-focused of them all. There are a few models within this ever-expanding segment that are even aimed squarely at specific types of terrain, almost to the point of making them unpleasant outside of their natural habitat. Mud focused models are a prime example. Most, however, just go for the biggest possible specs so they can devour the roughest possible terrain.
These models usually have no trailer hitch and very little in the way of cargo boxes. The glorified shelves at the rear of most performance machines usually lack a tailgate and the little space available is usually half-full of a radiator or air intake components. If one must have cargo on board a performance model, then OEM accessories or the aftermarket will become inevitable.
Performance models are easily the most obvious to distinguish from the others; they have huge suspension, making them wider, allowing for larger tires. Of course, to go with those are larger engines, many of which are turbocharged nowadays. Power numbers for these models are commonly over 100 HP. The suspension travel numbers are almost measured in feet, the only things that consistently have more suspension travel than performance SxS’s any more are Baja racers, and they may well lose their edge in a few short years.
Now that we’ve covered the current market and the types and uses of SxS’, let’s begin to hone in on our ultimate question here: what are the best SxS’s of 2019? We’re covering seven major SxS manufacturers: Arctic Cat, Can-Am, Honda, Kawasaki, Polaris, Suzuki, and Yamaha.
What Is The Best Time To Buy an ATV or UTV?
The best time to buy an ATV is right before or during the release of the next year models. This would mean the best time of year to buy an ATV is around May or June.
The best time to buy a Side by Side (UTV) is the same, right before or during the release of new models.
When the manufacturer releases the next year models, they also give out the best rebates and warranty offers of the year. These great offers are so the dealership sells out of there previous year models, so they order more of the next year models.
Then oddly enough, I have seen some significant rebates and warranties during the middle of the season for ATV’s. There might be one model that is not doing well over the season, and the manufacturer will release rebates on it.
Can You Negotiate with ATV Dealers?
To get the best deal possible you want to avoid going to the dealership unless you want to sit on the ATV, test ride it, or you’re buying it.
To get the honest and best price, you will need to email 3 to 5 of the closest dealers to you when you get everyone’s price email the two best prices and tell them that they’re fighting for your business and see what they can do for you.
Don’t forget that the lowest price is always excellent, but what dealership offers you the best value is better. I’ve seen dealerships give a low cost but charge a lot for installs and I’ve seen dealerships charge a high price for the ATV but do installs for free. It’s a give and takes and whatever dealership can GIVE the most is the winner, and it’s not always about who has the lowest price.
Keep in mind I have seen some dealerships say one thing in an email but do another. This is why it’s important to use good judgment and price shop all the closest dealers to you. If one dealership is way too low, then something is not right, and that dealership likes to play games, and I would avoid them. The same goes for way too much. If it doesn’t feel right then, it’s not right.
ATV/UTV buying guide: General buying tips
- Do your research.
- Look for manufacture and dealer offers or incentives.
- Check monthly finance rates from dealers and lenders.
- Find the vehicle you want and get a price before you head to the dealership. The Progressive Outdoor Vehicle Buying Program is a great place to get started.
- Don’t forget insurance.
- If it’s used, do an inspection, so you know what you’re buying.
- Make sure you have the proper licensing.
Well, that covers what you need to know about buying ATVs and UTVs. Regardless of whether you’re looking for an ATV for fun, solo riding on the trails or a UTV for specialized work around the farm, remember to do your research and look for manufacturer incentives, insurance, and financing so that you can feel great about your purchase. Ride safe and have fun!
If you’re a UTV enthusiast or even one that needs it in your life, the day that you’re finally going to buy another UTV certainly is going to feel like one of the best days of your life. But, before you get to enjoy all the highs of having a new UTV, you also must go through the rigorous process first of selecting through the options available in the market. That way, you’re better assured that the UTV you’re taking home is indeed one that suits your needs and preferences. Else, you might end up with a purchase that won’t even sit well with you. Slow down, consider the purchase, and follow these tips. Then, you’ll be headed to the right side-by-side vehicle.