Quads vs. ATV (Specs, Top Speeds, Pros & Cons)

Searching for ATVs and seeing other terms used, like quads, 4-wheelers, and all-terrain vehicles, can be confusing. While quads fall under the umbrella of ATVs, not all ATVs classify as quads. 

The main difference between Quads and ATVs is the number of wheels. Quads typically have four wheels but occasionally have three, while ATVs can have anywhere between two and six wheels. 

In addition, quads are built for recreational use, while ATVs can handle rough terrain and are equipped to haul oversized cargo. Also, if you’re looking to race or off-road, you’ll want to pursue an ATV because quads aren’t ideal for those purposes. 

You aren’t alone if you are trying to figure out the difference between quads and ATVs, but keep reading to learn how to identify each and the most common uses for the bikes. 

What is an ATV? 

An ATV is an all-terrain vehicle capable of driving over various types of terrain, including snow, sand, mud, and rocks. Generally, ATV refers to any vehicle that can drive over rough terrains, like Quads or Four-Wheelers. 

ATVs are lightweight with a small footprint and provide excellent maneuverability. You likely want an ATV if you plan off-roading, racing, trail riding, or going up and down mountainsides. 

ATVs are single-passenger vehicles with no cab enclosure, although some models allow it as an add-on. In addition, ATVs are similar to motorcycles, with riders using handlebars to steer and a twist throttle to accelerate and decelerate. 

Finally, you’ll find four types of ATVs: sport, utility, side-by-side, and youth. Each type of ATV provides various needs and features depending on what you want. 

Features of the ATV

The most significant feature of an ATV is it holds one passenger and is not enclosed like other all-terrain vehicles. However, being all-terrain means, it can handle rough and tough paths that quads and other four-wheelers can’t. 

If you are looking for an off-roading vehicle with the capability to race, you’ll be happy to bring an ATV home. Here’s a sampling of the features you’ll find in ATVs. 

  • Single rider capability
  • Low-pressure tires
  • Some models come with electric steering
  • Cargo rack and storage compartments
  • Rides well on all types of terrain, including snow, sand, mud, and rocks
  • Gasoline engines
  • Handlebar steering 
  • Above ground clearance 
  • Jeeps and tanks can also be ATVs 

Common Uses for an ATV

There are many common uses for an ATV, but it’s good to make yourself aware of its purposes. An ATV is a great vehicle to have around a farm or if you plan on racing or trail riding. In addition, it’s an excellent bike to take on camping trips or for towing small cargo. 

Here’s a glance at some of the common uses for an ATV to help you better decide if it’s the right bike. 

  • Farming and gardening
  • Land mowing and snow plowing
  • Small cargo towing
  • Patrolling property 
  • Racing and trail riding 
  • Land mowing
  • Camping 
  • Snowplowing
  • Hunting
  • Off-roading 

Top Speed of an ATV

Most ATVs can reach up to 85 mph, but the top speed will vary based on the model’s engine. However, you can find ATVs that can go up to 90 mph, while others max out at 50 mph. 

Since ATVs don’t have safety features, you should ensure you purchase necessary equipment like goggles, helmets, and pads. Also, you’ll notice balance and stability are necessary when riding an ATV, so ensure you travel at safe speeds. 

Benefits of ATVs

There is no shortage of benefits when it comes to ATVs, and there’s a reason why they are a hot item for consumers. While searching for the ATV for you, you’ll appreciate the light and fast vehicle that can handle turns well. 

Here’s a snapshot of the top benefits of ATVs. Features and specs can vary by make, model, and year, but you’ll likely get most of these features with an ATV off the showroom floor. 

  • Small footprint
  • Easy maneuvering 
  • Priced well 
  • Can handle sharp turns 
  • Don’t take too much space in the garage or storage area 
  • Light and fast vehicles 
  • Tows easily
  • Does well over rough terrain 

Downsides of ATVs

All good things usually come with some downsides, and ATVs are no different. While ATVs have a lot going for them, there are a few cons you should know. However, despite these being downsides to one person, they might not make you take your money elsewhere. 

  • Cannot hold passengers other than the driver 
  • Safety features not included, like a roll cage 
  • Not made for street use 
  • Not easy for beginners to drive 
  • Difficult steering control 
  • Not ideal for transporting products due to low pulling power 

What is a Quad? 

A quad is a term used for a four-wheeler automobile, or an ATV, with the word first invented by Suzuki in 1982. You may also hear quads being referred to as “fun” ATVs since they are mainly used for recreational purposes. 

While quad and ATV are sometimes used interchangeably, there are differences between the two, and if you are in the market for one, it’s wise to understand where they go their separate ways. 

For example, a quad became the norm when ATVs with three wheels lost popularity due to their instability and poor handling. After Suzuki, Kawasaki and Honda were the next to unveil quads with upgraded safety options. 

While a quad is anything with four wheels, enthusiasts will agree that a four-wheeler is an all-terrain vehicle with four wheels and a 4×4 drive. However, not all quads have four-wheel drive, so differentiating between them can get complicated. 

Finally, the term quad is mostly a thing of the past, so if you find a listing, the vehicle is likely 10-15 years old. So, you probably won’t find much by searching the term quad, except for some college campus activities. 

Features of the Quad

To help separate quads from ATVs, it helps to look at the top features of a quad and compare them with an ATV. While they are different, you will notice some overlapping qualities, but it’s still essential to understand the top features of the quad. 

  • Four wheels 
  • One-wheel or four-wheel drive 
  • Bench seating 
  • Built for recreational purposes 
  • Extra safety features 
  • Holds additional passengers
  • Carrying features 

Common Uses for a Quad

You will find quads more for leisure activities, while ATVs are used for various tasks like farming, towing, and going over rough terrain. To help further distinguish between quads and ATVs, let’s look at the common uses for a quad. 

  • Recreational off-road use 
  • Leisure activities 
  • Trail riding 
  • Camping 
  • Storing large capacities 
  • Carrying additional people 

Top Speed of a Quad

Quads are not made for racing like ATVs, but they can reach speeds of 80 mph. Since quads are made for recreational purposes, going at fast speeds can become reckless regardless of safety features. 

It’s good to know that quads and ATVs aren’t always built for speed, as it offers helpful features like towing and hauling supplies. 

Benefits of Quad

There are several reasons why it’s great to have a quad, and you should consider the benefits when deciding what to purchase. While they aren’t ideal for racing, they provide purposes regarding recreation uses

Here’s a rundown of the top benefits of quads that will help you make your decision.  

  • Equipped with safety features like roll cages and seat belts 
  • Holds extra passengers
  • Large storage capacity 
  • Hauling feature 
  • Easy to control steering 

Downside of Quads

As with all vehicles, there are downsides to quads. In addition, you should always check your state laws and regulations on where you can and can’t ride a quad. 

For example, some states prohibit it altogether, while others allow it if you register the vehicle and obtain a title and insurance. 

  • Pricier due to premium specs and features 
  • Large and requires extra storage 
  • Difficult to transport due to weight 
  • While it has safety features, it’s not ideal for inexperienced drivers 
  • Larger turning radius 
  • Weighed down easily 
  • Not as agile as ATVs 
  • Not for racing purposes 
  • Not ideal for all terrains 


It’s easy to confuse the terms quad and ATV and where the differences lie. To recap, not every ATV is a quad, and not all quads are four-wheelers. ATVs are ideal for carrying cargo or off-roading, while quads are considered “fun” ATVs, and you should use them for recreational use. 

Searching for information about quads can be challenging because the results will likely tell you about college dorm rooms. Hopefully, this article has helped you learn the differences between quads and ATVs and have you making the right choice for you. 

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