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The Complete Side-by-Side (SxS) & UTV Buyer’s Guide

The down-and-dirty on buying the off-road machine of your dreams

If you’ve been itching to see what the fuss about the side-by-side (SxS) is, there’s never been a better time. Their popularity has leaped with no surprise thanks to their toughness, versatility, and smile-inducing handling. They’re also useful tools that are at home in many applications. If you’re curious about the SxS phenomenon for work or play, this buyer’s guide will help you navigate the path to getting the model that makes the most sense for you.

There’s a load of things to consider when shopping for a SxS or UTV. Between models, options, purpose, pricing, and financing options, it can be easy to get stuck in the decision mud. Thankfully, this buyer’s guide will get you moving by helping you choose the right model for your lifestyle and needs, show you which options are right for you, and, most importantly, how to find the most affordable payment option for your budget. Let’s get you on the trail!

 

What is a Side-by-Side (SxS) or UTV?

A side-by-side (SxS) or utility task vehicle (UTV) is a four- to six-wheeled off-road vehicle with side-by-side bucket seats—hence their name—and a steering wheel much like you’d see in a car. They also pack many features you’ll see in a car like seatbelts, foot gas and brake pedals, and roll bars or cages. Their rough-and-tumble capabilities make them popular as recreational off-road vehicles, but they’ve become more and more useful as work vehicles to those living in rural areas or on farms, where hauling and towing are a daily job. Basically, with a variety of models and options, it’s possible to find a SxS that’ll do almost whatever you throw at it.

 

Why should I consider a SxS or UTV?

SxSs sit in a sweet spot between a traditional ATV and a full-sized vehicle like a truck. While being just as quick and nimble as an ATV, a SxS can carry more, have more power, and is far more durable than a conventional truck. They can handle tough days with no scratched paint, broken glass or dented panels to lose sleep over. With a lower centre of gravity, these vehicles have unrivalled manoeuvrability in challenging off-road settings.

 

Side-by-Side or ATV? What’s the difference?

An all-terrain vehicle (ATV), also known as four-wheeler or quad, is an off-road vehicle with straddle seating and handlebar steering much like a motorcycle. Many comfortable two-person ATV models are out there, but most work best for a single rider. On the other hand, SxSs or UTVs are designed to carry more people—at least two passengers and up to six—and are controlled by a steering wheel and gas and brake pedals as opposed to handlebars. SxSs have a bigger payload capacity than ATVs, meaning they can tow larger loads for those wanting to tow equipment around the ranch or farm.

 

What type of SxS or UTV is best for me?

The best place to start is to decide what your needs are. When deciding between an ATV, SxS or UTV, keep in mind that one isn’t necessarily better than the other, and when it comes to different riding conditions, activities and job-site requirements, each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

A SxS or UTV will be best for you if you’re a less experienced rider who will be more comfortable with familiar car-like operating controls, prefer a less physically demanding style of riding required by an ATV, want to carry passengers, or for whom safety is a top priority and would like seatbelts and a roll cage. Due to their design and lower centre of gravity, SxSs are also more stable and easier to control than a typical ATV.

 

What types of Side-by-Sides and UTVs are out there?

Most SxSs or UTVs can be divided into these main categories:

These are performance-first vehicles with power, suspension and handling designed to be quick. Their race-proven power makes them much speedier than their Utility cousins, and riders enjoy modifying them with endless accessory options.

Designed for farm work and commercial-related applications, these vehicles have amazing towing and hauling capability. They’re also a generally versatile vehicle for navigating large areas of rough land.

The all-purpose member of the SxS family, these are ready for adventurous trail-riding, mudding or hunting. They offer a great balance between work and play.

Sport Side-by-Sides

These are the fastest-growing category in the SxS market for good reason. With powerful engines for maximum horsepower, innovative suspension setups, and excellent traction systems, there are Can-Am models of Sport SxSs that are designed for any condition on your adventure menu.

Craving desert and dune riding? The Can-Am Maverick X3 MAX X rs Turbo RR has the most powerful side-by-side engine in the industry, and is ready to devour some sand. If mud is your thing, the Can-Am Maverick Sport X mr sports 64 in. wide high-clearance suspension, which is perfect for ruling muddy, challenging terrain. The Can-Am Maverick X3 rc Turbo RR is built for rock crawling and with up to 24 in. (61 cm) of suspension travel, it’s the ultimate factory rock-crawling side-by-side vehicle for leaving rivals at the bottom of the hill.

Utility Side-by-Sides/UTVs

With key features like great towing capacity, large cargo boxes for maximum storage space, and winches, this workhorse category is where it all started. These are designed to work hard with higher payload and towing capacities. Some feature 3-person wide bench seating in both the front and rear to carry up to six people and can often accommodate all sorts of additional equipment, from completely enclosed cabs with glass windows, heating and air conditioning, to snow plows.

They fit in the sweet spot; the Can-Am Defender is a prime example of an SxS that is not classed as a commercial UTV but it boasts an industry-leading 3,000 lb (1,360 kg) towing rating and is used by owners to work long days on their land, but functions as a recreational vehicle on days off.

Recreational Side-by-Sides

Primarily used for hunting, trail-riding and family activities. Ground clearance is vital in trail-riding, and recreational SxSs have it in spades, making handling deep mud or rocky uneven terrain a cinch.

The Can-Am Commander XT built with best-in-class power, a versatile dual-level cargo box, and rider-focused features perfect for the trails. Hunters love the Can-Am Defender MAX Limited for its payload and cargo arrangement for hauling gear, people, supplies, and whatever you might happen to bring back with you from the backcountry with a multifunction cargo box with sturdy tailgate and smart storage. The whole family can join the fun in the Can-Am Commander MAX Limited with its Rotax 1000R power, a versatile dual-level cargo box, and protection features such as one-piece full hard roof with skylight.

 

What about SxS packages?

Can-Am’s packaged options make it easy to choose the features that’ll suit your off-roading needs. It makes checking options off your list super easy and will ensure you end up sitting in the SxS of your dreams. Let’s take a look!

 

The workhorse. Designed with getting things done. Featuring an industry-leading 6 x 4.5 ft bed, a fully-enclosed cab, auto climate air conditioning, heating, and defrost, and more.

Indicates models with expanded seating for 4 to 6 people.

With Dynamic Power Steering, for easy, direct speed-sensitive steering assistance, with more power at lower speeds to reduce steering effort and less at higher speeds for maximum steering feel to the rider.

Fully sealed cabin for those who need less dust and more protection from the elements.

Additional accessories and upgrades. Can mean more exterior protection, upgraded bumpers, and winch.

Stands for cross-country. These features are designed for performance on trails.

Designed for mud riding with added snorkel, exterior protection, retuned suspension, and bog-ready wheels and tires.

Designed for Rock Crawling.

Designed for Desert/Trail Riding.

Designed for Desert/Dune Riding.

The HVAC package (Heating, Venting and Air Conditioning).

Farming/Ranching/Texas Edition.

For maximum traction in the most difficult conditions, the 6x6 adds two additional wheels to conquer anything you put in front of it.

How much can I expect to spend for a Side-by-Side/UTV?

As we’ve already seen, SxSs and UTVs vary widely in size, capabilities and features. Accordingly, the price varies with these as well with full-size SxSs generally costing anywhere between $10,000 and $32,000 (USD). The most significant factors that determine how much a SxS costs are its engine size, suspension, features and accessories.

Financing can be a great option to consider when purchasing a SxS. With manufacturers like Can-Am offering low interest rates and other incentives, you may find financing is a more affordable option to consider. Financing not only makes the ownership experience affordable to more people, it gives you the opportunity to upgrade to a more powerful SxS that’s decked out in lots of useful features. Can-Am has easy tools available to estimate monthly payments so you can find the best SxS for your budget.

 

 

As you’ve seen, there are about as many SxS and UTV options and configurations as there are trails to ride them. You won’t go wrong by doing your homework and beginning by carefully considering your needs. There’s a Can-Am SxS available that’ll check all your boxes and get the job done, whether it’s for trail riding, utility and hunting, or recreation and performance. But you’re an outdoors enthusiast, so we don’t need to tell you about preparation.

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