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Shopping for an ATV

Mar 15, 2008
If you're a first-time purchaser, you may be wondering what kind of All Terrain Vehicle to choose. These recreational vehicles, which are also often referred to as 'quads' or '4 wheelers,' are immensely popular. In fact, there are hundreds of groups in North America alone dedicated to the ATV hobbyist. Owners love them because they're fast, and they provide a sense of freedom, convenience, and also closeness to nature.

If you've ever purchased a car (new or used) then you should apply the same types of rules to buying a 4-wheeler as you would to purchasing a car. Some tips when looking for the right one:

* Look for safe handling. 4-wheelers are safer than their 3-wheeled predecessors, which became obsolete in the 80's due to their high rate of rollovers. However, ATV's are still prone to tipping over. Look for a vehicle which has its weight evenly distributed, as well as a good center of gravity, which will minimize this risk.

* Good tires are important. ATV riding is all about high speed and fast cornering. Therefore, quality tires with deep treads are crucial, both to safety and to performance. If you are sold on a particular brand, but not impressed with the tires, consider custom ordering better tires.

* Don't overlook performance. Like cars, 4-wheelers perform differently from model to model. Consider qualities like fuel efficiency, ease of maintenance, and how a specific model will handle under the conditions that you plan to drive it in. If you're concerned about your 'carbon footprint,' look for an all-terrain-vehicle with low emissions and other 'green' features.

* Size matters. It can be dangerous when someone operates a vehicle that is too big or small for them. Buy yours according to the size of the principle driver. Quads are made in various sizes for riders from child to adult. Make sure you always heed the advice of the manufacturer with regard to weight restrictions and distribution.

* Consider how you plan to use your vehicle. There are two types of quads. Sports models are manufactured with the racer and hobbyist in mind. They are built with lighter-weight components and good suspension, since they tend to be ridden heavily and fast. Utility models are bigger, heavier, and don't have the same capacity for speed as sport models. Utility models are designed for carrying small loads and even towing trailers. They are popular with farmers and industrial workers.

* Price doesn't necessarily reflect quality. Like regular vehicles, quads vary in price by brand and model. High price doesn't necessarily mean better quality. A low price doesn't necessarily mean poorer quality. Instead, evaluate a brand or model based on the qualities already listed. If a model seems to be pricier than other, similar models, don't be afraid to ask why. If the salesman seems to be blowing smoke rather than offering substantial facts, this should be a red flag.

* Examine the warranty. Make sure you know what type of warranty comes with your potential purchase. Many companies offer very similar warranties, but the subtle differences could end up being the deciding factor in your final choice.

One of the best ways to decide on a particular brand or model is to read a consumer report, if one is available. These can provide you valuable information based on tests that have been conducted in a controlled environment. Consumer reports rate products on several different points, including safety, performance, and efficiency. They are fairly non-partisan and can usually be relied upon to provide truthful and fairly comprehensive information on an ATV you might be interested in.
About the Author
Scott Sanders is a powersports enthusiast and staff member at Everything Powersports - the largest nationwide directory of atv rentals, boat rentals, houseboat rentals, jet ski rentals, moped rentals, motorcycle rentals, rhino rentals, snowmobile rentals, toy hauler rentals and more.
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