5 ATV Types: Picking The Right One (Pros, Cons & Specs)

Understanding the features of various types of ATVs is essential to ensure you choose the best for you.

There are five main types of ATVs: Sport ATVs, Utility ATVs, Side-by-Side ATVs, Three-Wheeled ATVs, and Youth ATVs. Each offers various features needed in an all-terrain vehicle and comes with a range of price tags. 

When deciding which ATV is best for you, consider your budget, needs, and the top features that are important to you. 

Keep reading to learn more about each type of ATV and find out which one might be the best fit for you! 

What are ATVs? 

ATVs are all-terrain vehicles with various colors, shapes, sizes, styles, and motors. ATVs are considered off-highway vehicles that travel on non-pneumatic or low-pressure tires. 

In addition, the driver straddles the seat and utilizes handlebars for steering. Generally, ATVs are divided into two categories by the manufacturer, Type I and Type II.

Type I ATVs are for single use and cannot handle a passenger, while Type II ATVs hold the driver and a passenger. In Type II ATVs, the passenger seat is typically behind the driver. 

It’s recommended to drive an ATV appropriate for your size and age, as similar to clothes, one size doesn’t fit all. So, for example, youth models are suited for younger children who move slower. 

You’ll want to read the manufacturer’s label to ensure the driver is at the appropriate age for the vehicle. While safety gear is highly recommended, so is following the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

What are the Different Types of ATVs?

As mentioned, one size does not fit all regarding ATVs, and you must find the one right for you. When searching for ATVs, you’ll come across five different types:

  • Sport
  • Utility 
  • Side-by-Side
  • Three-Wheeled
  • Youth 

Each type of ATV has a specialty or distinct feature, so learning more about each type is essential when deciding which suits you. Next, you’ll learn more about each ATV type, including its top features, pros, and cons. 

Hopefully, this information will lead you in the best direction when shopping for your next ATV. 

Sport ATVs are built with a light frame and are primarily used for recreational purposes. Equipped with solid suspensions and robust engines, sport ATVs can handle rough, uneven terrains like forests, swamps, and dunes. 

1. Sport ATVs 

In addition, Sport ATVs rank as the second most popular type of ATV, with sizes ranging from 250cc up to 700cc. You can also add enhancements and accessories to sports ATVs to further customize them. 

If you want a faster ride, you’ll want to choose the sport ATV over a utility one. Generally, sports ATVs rank high due to their suspense and speed. 


  • The size of the drivetrain is more significant than most ATVs
  • Sport ATVs are smaller than most ATVs
  • Customizable 
  • High top speeds 
  • Powerful engine and superior suspension 


  • Sport model ATVs are faster than most others 
  • You can make modifications to sports models to increase performance
  • Sport models handle better than other ATVs
  • Priced well compared to other ATV models


  • You must practice learning how to ride a sports model properly
  • Most sport ATVs don’t come with power steering
  • Not ideal for hunting as it makes more noise than other ATVs 
  • Sport ATVs focus on performance, not comfort 

2. Utility ATVs 

Utility ATVs are ideal for recreational and utility purposes, and you’ll appreciate their ability to haul cargo. While utility ATVs aren’t as powerful as Sport ATVs, you can navigate through rough terrain. 

In addition, utility ATVs aren’t built for speed and instead offer power and agility. Utility ATVs are an excellent choice if you need a vehicle for fishing in the woods or traveling to a camping or hunting cabin.

Typically, utility ATVs provide a strong motor for someone who farms or hauls large equipment. 


  • You can add hitches and other accessories to make utility ATVs more useful 
  • Ideal for hauling cargo
  • Electric utility ATVs are ideal for hunters who don’t want to make additional noise. 
  • Utility ATVs come equipped with four-wheel drive 


  • Users can utilize utility ATVs for various purposes, including play and heavy-duty work. 
  • Four-wheel drive allows utility ATVs to reach more places 
  • Utility ATVs are excellent for towing, and most models come with a hitch 
  • Provide more comfort than sport ATVs 


  • Utility ATVs are bigger and bulkier than comparable vehicles 
  • Utility ATVs come with higher price tags, mainly due to the upgraded features 
  • Handling is not ideal, especially when making turns at fast speeds 

3. Side-by-side ATVs 

A side-by-side ATV is built with the driver’s seat in front of the passenger seat. You’ll also hear them referred to as Rhino’s or SxS, but the essential information is the same. 

Side-by-side ATVs provide stellar suspension, a short wheelbase, and a lightweight ATV option. In addition, side-by-side ATVs have gained popularity in small, rural communities, where on-highway use is occasionally permitted. 

Military and rescue workers often use side-by-side ATVs to provide mobility and transportation. 


  • Side-by-side seating
  • Excellent suspension capabilities 
  • Bench or bucket seats 
  • Extra safety and security features not found on other ATV models 
  • Ideal for hauling cargo for camping, hunting, or fishing 
  • Can travel easily over mud, trails, or dunes 
  • Can pull a small trailer 
  • Steering wheel 
  • Foot controls for braking or throttle 
  • Four wheels 


  • Multi-passenger use
  • Extra cargo space 
  • Safety features like seatbelts and roll cage 
  • Handles tough terrain well 


  • More expensive than other types of ATVs 
  • Large footprint and more challenging to store in a garage 
  • Less comfortable than other models

4. Three-wheeled ATVs

Three-wheeled ATVs were introduced in the 70s when they were THE bike to own. Honda was the first to make three-wheelers, termed All-Terrain Cycle (ATC); the idea behind the three-wheelers was to have a bike to sell during the winter when motorcycle sales were down. 

Despite their popularity in the 70s and 80s, things started to go downhill when children became interested in the three-wheelers, mainly due to marketing targeting them. In 1988, new sales of three-wheelers were banned in the United States due to the high occurrence of injury, mostly in children. 

While the appearance of three-wheelers seemed harmless, riders were forced to shift their weight at each turn to prevent the ATV from tipping over due to a poor center of gravity.

However, it is not illegal to own a three-wheeler, so they haven’t completely disappeared. 


  • Three-wheeled ATVs offer three wheels instead of the standard four 
  • Some models have top speeds varying between 55-70 mph
  • The lightweight design allows for a smooth ride 
  • Similar handling to driving a motorcycle 
  • Single seat with one tire in the front and two in the back 


  • Three-wheeled ATVs offer a neat and different look 
  • Smaller footprint and lightweight 
  • Lower seating position 


  • A flawed center of gravity in three-wheeled vehicles is more likely to cause accidents. 
  • Some models cause damage to the terrain they ride on
  • Unstable with poor suspension

5. Youth ATVs

Youth ATVs are smaller than regular ATVs and have little power compared to standard vehicles. In addition, weight limits can vary between 100 and 150 pounds, which offers the chance for some young adults to ride the youth ATV. 

Before you purchase a youth ATV for your child, ensure they are emotionally and developmentally mature for the vehicle. For example, there should be three inches between the seat of your child’s pants and the ATV seat. 

In addition, the child should be aware of the rules and guidelines of riding an ATV and follow directions. You should also check state laws on the minimum age requirements to drive an ATV. 


  • Youth ATVs have smaller engines and operate at lower speeds 
  • Automatic suspension and little to no suspension 
  • Single-speed ATVs for best for children 
  • Throttle limiters prevent the ATV from reaching higher speeds 
  • Remote shut-off switches allow the adult to turn off the engine with a tethered control 
  • Youth ATVs either have rear brakes only or front and rear brakes. 


  • If supervised, youth ATVs are ideal for older children and smaller adults. 
  • Can help a child learn the basics of riding an ATV 
  • Customizable for child’s experience level 


  • Youth ATV parts can be hard to find, but it varies by brand
  • Carrier racks should be avoided as they reduce stability 
  • Not ideal for young, mature children who can’t easily follow directions 

The Importance of Researching Your Next ATV Purchase. What Should You Look For?

When looking for your next ATV purchase, there are several aspects to look for, including the price and your need for an ATV. Here’s a rundown of the top things you should remember when researching ATVs. 

  • Budget – Ensure you create a price bracket and stick to your budget. 
  • Needs – Do you need to haul cargo or use the ATV for farming or other work needs?
  • Environment – Will the ATV be used on bumpy or smooth terrain?
  • Work or Play – Are you looking for an ATV for recreational or work purposes?
  • Speed – Do you want an ATV that can reach fast speeds or make it from one place to another?
  • Upgrades – Some ATVs have upgrades available, so you must look at what you want and don’t need in an ATV. 


Understanding the different types of ATVs and their features will help you decide which is best for you. You also should consider your budget and what you will use the ATV for, as they offer varying purposes.

If you are looking for something rugged and excellent for hauling, consider the Utility ATV. But, on the other hand, if you want something sleek and fast, the Sport ATV is a better choice.

Knowing one size does not fit all regarding ATVs will help you make an educated decision when shopping.

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