Guide to Buying a Side By Side (UTV & ATV)

Guide to Buying a Side By Side UTV ATV

When it comes to off-road adventure and utility, nothing quite matches the versatility and excitement of a side-by-side (SxS). Whether you call them UTVs (Utility Task Vehicles), side-by-sides, or even ATVs (All-Terrain Vehicles), these powerful machines offer a unique blend of fun and functionality. We’ve created a handy “Buying a Side-by-Side 101” guide aimed at helping you make an informed choice when you’re gearing up for exciting experiences off the beaten path.

What is a Side-By-Side?

A side-by-side (or SxS) is a four-wheeled vehicle that, as the name suggests, allows for side-by-side seating for two or more people. Unlike ATVs, side-by-sides offer more stability with a lower ground clearance and a wider stance, making them ideal for a variety of uses, from recreational riding to heavy-duty work. The market for these vehicles has seen substantial growth, catering to both adventure seekers and those needing a robust utility vehicle for work in rural or farm settings.

Side-by-Side vs. UTV vs. ATV: Understanding the Differences

When you’re new to the world of off-road vehicles, terms like side-by-side, UTV, and ATV can often be confusing. While they may seem similar at first glance, each type of vehicle has distinct characteristics that set them apart. Understanding these differences is key to selecting the right vehicle for your needs.

Side-by-Side (SxS)

  • Design: A side-by-side is a small, off-road vehicle that features side-by-side seating for two or more people. It usually has a steering wheel, foot pedals, and a roll cage.
  • Functionality: SxS vehicles are versatile, used for both recreational purposes like trail riding and utilitarian tasks like hauling and towing. They offer a balance between fun and functionality.
  • Comfort and Safety: Typically, they provide more comfort than ATVs, with features like more ergonomic seats and better suspension systems, and often come with safety features like seat belts and roll bars.

Utility Task Vehicle (UTV)

  • Overlap with SxS: Often, the terms UTV and side-by-side are used interchangeably. However, UTVs are generally more work-oriented.
  • Workhorse Nature: UTVs are built for tasks. They often have larger cargo capacities, more towing power, and are more rugged to handle tough jobs like farming, landscaping, or snow removal.
  • Customization: UTVs often come with options for customization and adding accessories, making them suitable for specific work requirements or adapting them for different terrains.

All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV)

  • Design and Seating: ATVs, or quads, are characterized by their straddle seating and handlebar steering. They are smaller than UTVs and SxSs and are usually designed for single riders.
  • Maneuverability: ATVs are nimble and can handle narrow trails, making them ideal for quick, sharp maneuvers. They are popular for trail riding, racing, and tasks that require ease of movement.
  • Less Equipped for Hauling: While ATVs can be equipped with storage racks or small trailers, they don’t match the hauling and towing capabilities of UTVs or side-by-sides.

Overall, if you’re looking for a vehicle that combines fun and functionality with the capacity for multiple riders, a side-by-side is an excellent choice. For more heavy-duty work and greater customization options, a UTV is preferable. And if agility and speed for solo riding are your top priorities, an ATV will suit your needs best.

Understanding these distinctions will help you choose the right vehicle for your adventures or work requirements.

Types of Side-By-Sides

Understanding the types of side-by-side is crucial in making an informed purchase. Here’s a quick rundown:

Utility Models:

  • Design for Durability: These models are engineered for resilience and functionality. They’re typically equipped with features like heavy-duty suspension systems to handle rough terrains.
  • Work-Ready Features: Often coming with substantial cargo space, towing capabilities, and winches, they are ideal for tasks like hauling farm supplies, landscaping, or snow plowing. Their rugged tires offer better grip and durability on uneven surfaces.
  • Comfort and Convenience: Despite being work-focused, modern utility models also offer comforts like enclosed cabs with heating for colder climates.

Recreational Models:

  • Focus on Enjoyment: Designed for leisure and adventure, these models offer a comfortable ride with features like enhanced suspension for smoother handling over bumpy trails.
  • Speed and Agility: With their lighter build and responsive handling, they are perfect for trail riding, exploring, and general outdoor enjoyment.
  • Family-Friendly: Many recreational models come with multiple seating options, making them suitable for family outings.

Sport Models:

  • High-Performance Machines: These are built for speed and agility, featuring powerful engines and advanced suspension systems for high-speed off-road racing and adventure.
  • Agility and Thrill: With a focus on acceleration and handling, sports models offer a thrilling ride experience. They are often lighter and more streamlined than their counterparts.
  • Racing-Ready: Ideal for those who enjoy the adrenaline rush of competitive off-road racing or high-speed exploration.

Multi-Purpose Models:

  • Versatile and Flexible: These models strike a balance between the utility and recreational categories. They are adaptable and able to handle both work tasks and leisure activities.
  • Adjustable Features: Many multi-purpose models come with adjustable suspension settings and configurable seating, allowing them to transform based on the task at hand.
  • All-Rounder: They’re the jack-of-all-trades in the side-by-side world, providing a solid middle ground for those who need a vehicle for varied use cases.

Tips for Choosing the Best Side-by-Side for You

Are you ready to start scoping out your options for side-by-side vehicles? Keep these useful tips in mind:

Assess Your Needs

First, consider what you primarily need the side-by-side for. If it’s for work on a farm or rugged terrain, a utility model might be best. For trail riding and exploration, a recreational or sports model would be more suitable.

Test Ride

Always take the side-by-side for a test ride. Pay attention to the “seven S’s”: stopping, starting, stability, smoke, speed, slippage, and sound. These factors give you a comprehensive understanding of the vehicle’s condition and performance.

Driveline Inspection

For a 4×4 UTV, check the CV boots and axles, as they are critical for off-road performance. Listen for any unusual noises and check for any visible damage or wear.

Seller Reputation

Be cautious of shady sellers or dealerships. Engage in thorough discussions, ask why they are selling the UTV, especially if it’s second-hand, and trust your instincts. Ultimately, it’s best to buy an SxS from a reputable dealership like Fay Myers, one with plenty of customer reviews and a trusted industry presence.

Oil and Coolant Check

Even with new UTVs, inspect the oil and coolant levels. Smell the oil dipstick for any foul odors indicating engine issues, and ensure the coolant is at the correct level and color.

Inspect the Tires and Frame

For used UTVs, check the condition of the tires. Inspect the frame for any cracks, bends, or rust, as this could indicate underlying issues or previous heavy usage.

Overall Appearance and Custom Parts

Consider the UTV’s appearance and the availability of custom parts. If you plan to modify your UTV, choose a model that is conducive to customization.

Browse Top-Rated Side-by-Sides for Sale in CO from Fay Myers Motorcycle World

At Fay Myers Motorcycle World, we understand that buying a side-by-side is a big investment. That’s why we offer a range of top-rated side-by-sides to suit various needs and budgets. From rugged utility models perfect for tough tasks to high-speed sports models for thrill-seekers, our collection is tailored to meet the diverse demands of our customers.

Our knowledgeable team is on hand to guide you through our extensive selection and can match you with an experienced UTV buying guide or ATV buying guide in our store. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned rider, we’re here to help you find the perfect side-by-side that matches your lifestyle and requirements.

Explore our selection of new and pre-owned side-by-sides in Colorado and experience the blend of excitement and functionality that these vehicles offer. Visit Fay Myers Motorcycle World today, and let us help you embark on your next off-road adventure with the perfect side-by-side companion.

Image Credit: Kevin Norris / Shutterstock