What Is a UTV?

If you’re new to power sports and in the market for a small recreational vehicle, you’ve probably come across the term UTV. This is an abbreviation for “utility terrain vehicle,” and though these recreational vehicles might not look like it at first, they’re distinct from the ATV (all-terrain vehicle). Chances are, if you’re shopping for a UTV, you’ve noticed that they look a lot like ATVs. Many power sports brands make both types of vehicles, and most retailers that sell one will also carry the other. 

As indicated by their names, a UTV is more suited for different types of work than an ATV, and has better performance capabilities. In general, UTVs have more powerful engines with higher horsepower and torque specifications. A UTV may also feature, or be available with, performance suspension systems and more rugged four-wheel-drive systems to make full use of the engine power for towing and hauling capability. Such uses include carrying cargo, hunting, or towing farm equipment.

2020 Honda Talon family of UTVs / American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Although that’s the main difference between the two, it’s hardly the only factor that could make one of these types of vehicles or the other a better choice for any particular customer. A UTV seats the operator and a passenger side-by-side in a single row, which is why they’re sometimes referred to as side-by-sides, or SxS. This is distinct from an ATV, which accommodates the rider on a single seat in the middle and may have room for a single passenger seated behind the rider. UTVs may offer seating for multiple passengers, but they generally maintain the side-by-side arrangement. UTVs also feature a roll-over protection system – basically, the bars that support the roof provide structural integrity to protect you if the vehicle flips.

If you’re considering one of these types of vehicles, depending on your needs, you may also be considering the other. Whether you’ve already chosen a UTV for your next vehicle, or you’re weighing the merits of UTVs against other options, this guide will help you decide if a UTV is right for you. To learn more about ATVs, check out our guide here.

UTV Brands

The most popular UTV brands have earned their reputations by offering a variety of power sports and recreational vehicles, such as motorcycles and ATVs. Popular brands include Honda, Can-Am, Polaris, Kawasaki, and Yamaha. These five brands don’t represent the entire makeup of the UTV segment, but they offer some of the most broad lineups – including a variety of models at different price points and with different ranges of power specs and features. You can also find models appropriate for younger riders. For more information, see our guides to each major power sports and UTV brand.

UTV History

The origins of the modern-day UTV can be traced back to vehicles like the Willys Jeeps of the 1940s and the Meyers Manx dune buggies of the 1960s. The introduction of ATVs in the 1960s helped make the idea of an off-road recreational vehicle more commonplace. In the 1980s, the first vehicles recognizable as UTVs were designed by adding features to the basic form of the ATV.

However, there were a few precursors to those 1980s models, including the short-lived 1970 Lockley Wrangler. This was an amphibious power sports vehicle that distinguished itself from ATVs thanks to its side-by-side seating arrangement. From 1976 to 1986, Honda marketed an early single-seat UTV called the Odyssey (and later reused the name for a minivan that’s still on the market today). In 1988, the Kawasaki Mule became one of the first UTVs specifically designed and marketed for farm and other commercial use. In 1989 and 1990, Honda came out with another single-seat UTV with yet another name it would later reuse: the Pilot (now a midsize family-friendly crossover SUV). It was around this time that UTVs began to gain popularity and become recognizable as a type of vehicle distinct from ATVs. 

In 2004, Yamaha released the Rhino, which became well-known for its versatility, and the Polaris RZR soon followed. These vehicles offered impressive work capability along with performance suited for both recreation and utility. In fact, UTVs are so resilient that the segment has even enjoyed increased sales in times when both motorcycles and ATVs suffered sales setbacks due to poor economic conditions. Today, UTVs are an important part of off-roading culture as well as ubiquitous in agricultural and commercial settings.

Should I Buy a UTV?

Before shopping for a UTV, you should consider other types of power sports vehicles – primarily the ATV. You may start shopping and find that a UTV’s attributes and features aren’t really right for you. That’s just fine – as long as you figure that out before you actually make a purchase. The following factors will help you figure out if a UTV is the right call.

If you plan to ride primarily with one or more passengers, a UTV is probably a better bet than an ATV. Some ATVs accommodate more than one rider, but most UTVs seat at least two, and models are available with seating for four or even six passengers. 

Since UTVs generally cost more than ATVs with comparable power, a UTV might not be the right call for you if budget is a big concern. There’s a lot of variation in terms of brands, models, specifications, and features. It’s not necessarily true that you’ll spend a lot more for a UTV, but you should plan to spend somewhat more than you would for other types of power sports vehicles. That said, UTVs tend to have more safety features – such as roll cages, seat belts, and doors – which contribute to the higher cost but also makes a UTV a better choice for particularly safety-conscious buyers. It’s also easier to modify a UTV for work or performance, simply because there are more options for accessories and aftermarket support. Finally, if you plan to use your new vehicle for agriculture or commercial use, towing or hauling, snowplowing, or other demanding tasks, a UTV is probably better than an ATV.

UTV Pros and Cons

Let’s drill down some of the above points to pros and cons. Sometimes, that helps you see the case for or against a certain type of vehicle more clearly. If you’re considering buying a UTV, or cross-comparing UTVs with other power sports vehicles, the bullet points below will highlight the points you should consider.

Pros:

    • Wide variety of brands and models

    • Choices for youths and adults

    • Good for recreation and utility

    • Fun to drive

    • More features, including safety features, than ATVs

    • Lots of options for customization

    • Models available for two or more passengers

Cons:

    • Generally higher prices than ATVs

    • Lots of options can make it confusing to shop

UTV Prices

In general, expect to pay at least $7,000 for a new UTV. Most of the major brands have models in this price range. However, UTVs can get expensive quickly, with most models costing upwards of $10,000. If you’re looking for a performance- or work-specific model, or want a bigger model that can accommodate more passengers, expect to pay $15,000 or more. If you’re a new rider, or this will be your first UTV, you definitely don’t need to go all out.

Yamaha Motor Corporation

More expensive UTVs typically feature larger engines with higher horsepower ratings, allowing for better speed as well as higher payload and towing ratings for work duties. Higher-priced models may also feature specialized suspension and four-wheel-drive systems, cargo racks or winches for utility, and doors and upgraded seating for comfort. There are plenty of other features available if you want to spend more, such as specialized tires or high-end lighting.

Key UTV Specs

There’s a lot of variation across the UTV market, considering these types of vehicles tend to target recreation, work, or a combination of the two. As a result, most brands try to appeal to customers with a broad range of different needs. Not all UTVs will fit within these guidelines, but in general, most feature single- or two-cylinder engines, with displacement measured in cubic centimeters, or ccs. Displacement typically falls between 600 to 1000 cc, though again, there are plenty of outliers – from youth or beginner models on the low end, to high-powered work vehicles and performance-oriented adventure vehicles on the high end. Not all manufacturers provide horsepower ratings for their engines, so displacement is the most consistent way to compare different models. In general, transmissions are a variety of automatic types, including the traditional automatic, the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), and the dual-clutch automatic. 

Several manufacturers subdivide their UTV lineups to help shoppers sort out the recreational models from the work-focused models. Buyers of work-focused UTVs should pay particular attention to payload and towing capacities. These figures can vary widely, though in general, the bigger the engine, the more it can carry or haul. In terms of features, moderately priced UTVs should include half or full doors (though this is a personal preference), some type of cargo storage, full exterior lighting (with more expensive models getting LEDs or other high-end lighting components), and modern instrumentation. 

Keep reading to learn more about the top 10 UTVs currently on the market.

The Top 10 UTVs

Honda Pioneer 1000

The Honda Pioneer 1000 is designed for a combination of recreation and utility, with a starting price of $15,899. This UTV seats three passengers and comes powered by a liquid-cooled 999-cc engine with a dual-clutch automatic transmission. The Pioneer 1000 can be operated in two- or four-wheel drive with a turf mode and a differential lock. Paddle shifters provide normal, sport, and manual driving modes. The suspension is an independent double-wishbone, front and rear, and the brakes are dual 210mm hydraulic discs, front and rear. The Pioneer 1000 also features doors, a contoured bench seat, and an LCD display.

Honda Talon 1000R

The Honda Talon 1000 starts at $20,999. This relatively high price is due to the Talon 1000 R’s high performance. It’s designed specifically for aggressive off-roading – long and wide, with plenty of suspension travel. It’s powered by a liquid-cooled 999-cc engine paired with a dual-clutch automatic transmission, and features paddle shifters. The suspension is an independent double-wishbone front setup and 4+ link trailing arm rear setup. The brakes are dual 210mm hydraulic discs, front and rear. It also comes with a class-exclusive “launch mode” feature, for plenty of speed right off the line, and an adjustable driver’s seat for comfort.

Honda also offers the Talon 100R Fox Live Valve, which adds to the Talon with a launch mode and an upgraded suspension.

Honda Pioneer 700

With a starting price of $10,999, the Honda Pioneer 700 is a good choice for a mid-range well-rounded UTV. The Pioneer 700 has a liquid-cooled 675-cc single-cylinder engine and an automatic transmission with manual mode. It can be operated in two-, four-, or four-wheel drive with a differential lock. The suspension is independent double-wishbone, front and rear, and the brakes are dual front hydraulic discs and rear single hydraulic disc. Standard three-point seat belts keep occupants safer, and electric power steering is available on the Pioneer Deluxe model. The Deluxe model costs an extra $1,500.

Honda Pioneer 500

At a starting price of $9,199, the Honda Pioneer 500 is the most affordable of the Pioneer lineup. It’s also small enough to access tight trails and be transported in the bed of a pickup truck. It features a liquid-cooled 475-cc engine with an automatic transmission with manual mode and paddle shifters, and it’s operable in two- and four-wheel drive. The Pioneer 500’s suspension system is independent double-wishbone, in both the front and rear, and the brakes feature dual front hydraulic discs and a rear single hydraulic disc. 

Kawasaki Teryx

The Kawasaki Teryx is a rugged off-road UTV with a starting price of $13,199. It’s powered by a liquid-cooled 783-cc engine and a continuously variable transmission. It features selectable two- and four-wheel drive with a locking front differential, a double-wishbone suspension, and dual hydraulic front disc brakes with two-piston calipers and sealed, oil-bathed, multi-disc rear brakes. Other features include speed-sensitive electric power steering, a sealed cargo compartment, and a tilting bed. Kawasaki offers numerous accessories for the Teryx lineup.

The Teryx also features two upgradeable trims, the Teryx4 ($15,999) and the Teryx KRX 1000 ($20,499). 

Honda Pioneer 1000-5

The Honda Pioneer 1000-5 is a variant of the Honda Pioneer 1000 that appeared earlier on this list. Its base price of $17,299 is slightly higher than the Pioneer 1000, but that’s because this model seats five occupants instead of three. Additionally, when the rear row isn’t in use, it folds into extra bed space. Otherwise, the specs are familiar, but here’s a recap: a liquid-cooled 999-cc engine, a dual-clutch automatic transmission, two- or four-wheel-drive modes with a turf mode and a differential lock, paddle shifters, an independent double-wishbone suspension front and rear, and dual hydraulic disc brakes for both front and rear wheels. 

Polaris GENERAL 1000 Sport

The Polaris General 1000 Sport is an off-road UTV, though it also has plenty of work-ready features. It has a starting price of $15,999. This Polaris features 100 horsepower courtesy of a liquid-cooled 999-cc engine, an automatic transmission, and an on-demand true all-wheel/two-wheel-drive system with VersaTrac turf mode. 

The front suspension is dual A-arm with a stabilizer bar, and the rear is a dual arm IRS with a stabilizer bar. The General 1000 Sport’s braking system features four-wheel hydraulic discs with dual-bore front and rear calipers. Additional features include standard half doors, LCD instrumentation, and sport bucket seats.

Yamaha Viking

Starting at $11,999, the Yamaha Viking offers seating for three passengers, a liquid-cooled 686-cc engine, an Ultramatic V-belt transmission with all-wheel engine braking, and a three-way locking differential for two-, four-, and locked four-wheel drive. It also features an independent double-wishbone suspension and dual hydraulic disc brakes in both the front and rear. 

The Viking prioritizes comfort for all three occupants with individual bucket seats, padded headrests, and three-point seat belts. This Yamaha also features in-cabin storage for small items, steel skid plates for underbody protection, cup holders, and a digital instrument cluster.

Polaris Ranger 570

At a starting price of $10,199, the Polaris Ranger 570 is one of the more affordable top UTVs on the market. This UTV seats two occupants and is designed for a combination of off-road enjoyment and work utility. The liquid-cooled 567-cc engine is rated for 44 horsepower and is driven by an automatic transmission and on-demand true all-wheel/two-wheel drive with VersaTrac turf mode. The Ranger 570 has hydraulic disc brakes in the front and rear, and a front MacPherson strut suspension and rear dual A-arm IRS suspension. Other features include LCD instrumentation, tilt steering, and a range of available accessories.

Can-Am Maverick X3 DS Turbo

The Can-Am Maverick X3 DS Turbo starts at $18,999, making it one of the most expensive UTVs to be highlighted here. This model is designed more for off-road thrills than for work, with a 120-horsepower, liquid-cooled, turbocharged 900-cc engine. It has a CVT and a selectable two-/four-wheel drive system with a Visco-Lok+ auto-locking front differential. The front suspension is a double A-arm with sway bar, and the rear is a four-link torsional trailing-arm X (TTX) with sway bar. Brakes are dual ventilated discs with hydraulic twin-piston calipers, front and rear. Other features of the Can-Am Maverick X3 DS Turbo include digital gauges, LED front and rear exterior lighting, quarter doors, and a full skid plate.

Best UTVs for Beginners

If you’re a new rider, you’ll likely have different priorities buying your first UTV than you will as you gain more experience. However, you’ll likely be able to enjoy your first UTV for years to come if you shop carefully. A UTV is a good choice for a new rider because of its built-in safety features, such as a roll cage. However, shoppers should still be cautious about buying a UTV that’s too powerful for a beginner’s skill set – a common factor in crashes. You’ll also want to consider how you plan to use your UTV, and whether you’ll be using it primarily for work or primarily for recreation.

If you’re shopping for a UTV for a younger rider, keep in mind that most major brands offer models specifically for younger age groups. They’re sized more appropriately so they’re easier for smaller riders to handle safely, and their engines and powertrains are also easier to manage.

As you’re shopping, keep in mind that you’ll also need to budget for safety gear, including a helmet, gloves, and protective clothing and footwear. 

Now, here are some of the best UTV models for new adult riders.

Kawasaki Mule SX

The Kawasaki Mule SX is a compact – but still adult-friendly – UTV. Its low price, just $6,799, and basic, air-cooled, 401-cc engine make it a good choice for beginners. It can fit in the bed of a pickup truck, which is helpful for buyers who will need to move it around without investing in a trailer. This means it’s easy to store, too. The Mule SX has a CVT and two-wheel drive with a dual mode locking differential.

Yamaha Wolverine X2 R-Spec 850

Yamaha’s Wolverine lineup is extensive, but the Wolverine X2 R-Spec 850 is the most affordable of the bunch and a great choice for a new UTV owner. Yamaha markets the Wolverine line as being focused on recreation, as opposed to pure sport- and utility-centric models. In other words, this lineup is well-rounded, making these UTVs a smart choice for someone just getting acquainted with the segment. 

The Wolverine X2 R-Spec 850 features a liquid-cooled 847-cc engine, an Ultramatic V-belt transmission with all-wheel engine braking, and a three-way locking differential for two-, four-, and full diff-lock four-wheel drive. Other features include doors and LED lighting. The Wolverine X2 R-Spec 850 starts at $14,499 with the Armor Gray paint job and $14,999 for the Fall Beige with Realtree Edge paint job. 

Arctic Cat Wildcat Trail

This Arctic Cat is a good way for a beginner to gain experience with trail riding, though it’s also a solid choice for all-around capability. It’s deft and narrow, easy to control, has a rugged suspension system, and features a 700-cc engine and electronic locking differential for two- or four-wheel drive. Tilt steering enhances comfort and full doors increase safety. The Arctic Cat Wildcat Trail starts at $10,199.