How to Choose a Side-by-Side UTV

Choosing a Gator UTV

posted on Thursday, October 14, 2021 in QE Network

UTVs, or utility task vehicles, are versatile machines that offer an equally impressive number of choices, which can make purchasing your first side-by-side a tough endeavor. This reference guide is designed to offer an easy framework to help simplify finding the best utility vehicle for your needs.

Understand Your Primary Use

Of all the factors, this one is easily the most important driver to prioritize when deciding on a UTV. Utility vehicles are designed for a number of activities and operations that span from recreational riding like hunting and trail exploration to practical day-to-day use like jobsite applications and farming sidekicks. The major benefit of a side-by-side is being able to traverse terrain and negotiate obstacles in areas where a truck or tractor are either too big or too heavy to get into. How you plan on using your equipment is going to dictate the amount of horsepower, build, model and types of compatible attachments and accessories you’ll need to consider. Knowing how many riders you need to accommodate regularly will also be a good indicator of the type of UTV you need.

Energy Source and Drive Systems

Understanding how you want your energy to be sourced is another meaningful factor to consider. You’ll find UTVs that are gas, diesel or electrically powered. This element ties very closely to your intended use for the equipment. Say, for example, if you plan to use your side-by-side for recreational purposes almost exclusively, an electric power source may not be a good fit if you’re heading out for a camping or hunting adventure and aren’t quite sure what you might encounter or how long you’ll be away. However, it might be a good choice for those who use it to get around a single property. Of course, electric power has the benefit of being more environmentally friendly. Diesel vs. gas is another consideration worth exploring. For instance, diesel can power up tougher engines that support tougher equipment while gas is a little more accessible and can transport heavy cargo easily. Then there’s the drive system. 2WD, 6x4 and 4WD are options you’ll encounter. 2WD is great on the green but won’t be well-suited to trail riding or adventuring. You’ll find the same is true for 6x4s, which are a reliable choice if you’re on the jobsite or involved in construction type management.

Cargo Boxes and Carrying Capacities

Pay close attention to your cargo box and max capacities, giving great weight to the types of items you’ll be hauling around and their dimensional size. The two cargo classes we encounter at Quality Equipment are those that fall either into the 500 lb. group or the 1000 lb. group. Overall, you can be confident in choosing a 500 lb. capacity cargo box if you’re engaging in hunting, camping, or transporting smaller items like hay and plants on a smaller scale. The 1000 lb. capacity group is better suited to those who need to move large and heavy material like rocks, large scale pallets or loose material like mulch to distribute elsewhere. Also consider whether or not you need flatbed capabilities to manage oddly shaped items as well.

Occupant Protection Systems, Cabs vs. Open Station

There are a handful of configurations to consider that will be heavily guided by your use. UTVs can be completely open with no covering or protective system (OPS), have a cab with an OPS, or have a factory installed cab with or without HVAC. If you’ll be relying on your UTV to manage a property, you may find that an occupant protection system is unnecessary for your day-to-day use but want a cab with HVAC to protect against weather and to offer a climate-controlled space. In that case, you may also find you prefer to have no overhead covering whatsoever. Conversely, if you’re ripping through trails and scaling steep inclines, forgoing a cab and some form of OPS would be ill-advised when considering low hanging branches and other elements that could cause injury or create a dangerous situation for the driver and passengers.

Want to test drive a side-by-side or have questions about how to approach picking your first UTV? Connect with us at your local Quality Equipment dealership, we’re always here to help. You can also explore our selection of Gator utility vehicles from John Deere here.