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Learn the difference between an ATV and a Side-by-Side/UTV, the benefits one has over the other, what makes them unique, and more! Starting off with clear definitions of each vehicle is the best way to get things rolling.

What is an ATV?

“ATV” is short for all-terrain vehicle. Designed for going off-road, ATVs, also known as "quads" or "four wheelers", typically have four or six wheels, a straddle seating position and handlebars for steering. Rough paths, narrow trails, deep mud and steep inclines are usual terrain for many ATV riders.

These vehicles are built to handle it all with low-pressure tires, tough suspension, the ability to maneuver through tight turns and increase to high speeds. ATVs have proven very useful in both work and recreational environments. They are capable of towing big loads for heavy-duty farm work and provide all the thrills you might expect when you let loose with it in nature. These versatile vehicles are available in a variety of models and can be customized to your liking.

What is a Side-by-Side vehicle or UTV?

A side-by-side vehicle (SSV) is an off-road vehicle recognized by its 4-to-6 wheel design, its unique side-by-side bucket seat set-up (hence its name), and its steering-wheel and foot-pedal driving system. It often comes with similar features to a car like a roll bar or cage, and wind protection that creates an enclosed look. Designed with a sturdy protective exterior, these vehicles are a top choice for recreational adventuring outdoors; however, they have proven to be equally dependable when on the job. That’s why they’re also referred to as UTVs (utility task vehicles), which are technically designed for accomplishing work tasks.

Today, farmers and hunters make the most of a side-by-side’s ability to haul big loads and carry impressive amounts of cargo from one destination to the next. With models like the Maverick performance-first vehicle, the Traxter capable vehicle and the maverick Trail and Sport vehicle for work and play, as well as the many modifications available for them, finding a SSV that fits your lifestyle is a cinch.


What are the main benefits of an ATV?

ATVs and SSVs both offer incredible value. Here are the main benefits that an ATV may have compared to a side-by-side vehicle.

  • Awesome maneuverability: Compared to a SSV, an ATV is much more maneuverable due to its small size and ability to make nimble movements. With most of the models no bigger than 50 inches wide, they are the perfect vehicle to face narrow spaces and extremely tight turns often found on off-road trails. If you expect to adventure through dense forests, a quad is your best pick.
  • Wallet-friendly: When on a budget, an ATV is the right choice. At its most basic level, a SSV is more costly due to the safety features included in its design. Plus, when it comes to customizing the side-by-side vehicle, the variety of modifications possible—such as audio system and LED lighting—increases the price tag significantly.
  • Compact sizing: The beauty of an ATV is that it’s small enough to bring along with you, anywhere you go. No need for large trailers, here! You can effortlessly set it up in the bed of a pickup truck and store it away just as easily.
  • Light as a feather: In terms of weight, an ATV is lighter than a SSV. This makes all the difference when it comes to the type of turf you plan on riding on. If you’re riding on a strong turf, both vehicles run great. But when it comes to soft turf, you’ll maybe want to have a vehicle like an ATV, which has a little bit less of an impact on the terrain below it.
  • Convenient: An ATV’s size and design make it easy to hop on and off. This is super handy when it comes to doing tasks that require you to stop and go often. Compared to a SSV, where you need to set yourself up before rolling out, a four-wheeler takes no time to get on and get moving.

In short, if you want a ride that’s active and affordable, that can be enjoyed solo, and that is versatile enough for a variety of terrain and activities, an ATV is your answer.


What are the main benefits of a SSV?

Now let's bring out the main benefits of side-by-side vehicles.

  • Loading capacity: Cargo and storage space are a big advantage for side-by-side vehicles. Though an ATV can also carry its share of a load, SSVs are designed with compartments all over the vehicle, such as under the seats and in the cargo bed. That’s even before all of the modifications you can add to the vehicle to create extra storage space.
  • Room for friends and family: Compared to an ATV’s one-to-two seating capacity, SSVs are designed to have more people along for the ride. With its side-by-side seating, it allows for two to three passengers at the front, and depending on the model, a couple more in the back thanks to a second row of seats.
  • Hauling ability: Due to its large size and bigger engine, side-by-side vehicles have a heavier payload capacity, which allows these rides to carry not only more equipment, but bigger and heavier ones as well. Depending on your use of the vehicle, having a ride like the Can-Am Traxter that has a towing rating of 1136 kg can be a game changer.
  • Customization: If you plan on making modifications to your off-road vehicle, the side-by-side vehicle is the way to go. Not only does its design make it easy to add on more accessories, but there is much more of a selection of customizations available for this type of vehicle. Many SSV riders spend a great deal of cash on ways to personalize their ride and enhance its performance to their liking. Can-Am has an awesome accessory lineup for side-by-side vehicles, too! You can test out what a customized SSV looks like with accessories right away with our Customize Your Own tool.
  • Safety: If you have safety at the top of mind, then a SSV is what you want. Compared to an ATV’s open design, side-by-side vehicles are more closed with a barrier. SSVs are also commonly known to have features like a roll cage, seat belts and windscreen that protect riders and passengers from the elements. Plus, you can add on many more safety customizations that match your comfort level.
  • Comfort: A SSV’s car-like design and driving controls make it a comfortable choice that caters to all riders, no matter the skill set or body capability. Quads, on the other hand, are more physically demanding to drive and require a lot of balance to control the vehicle. If comfort is an issue for you, then it’s a side-by-side vehicle all the way.

Basically, if you’re looking to have a vehicle that you can personalize, with which you can explore the outdoors comfortably and safely, and that allows you to bring along as much equipment or passengers as you want, a SSV is made for you.


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