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How to Choose an ATV

Jun 6, 2008
With so many ATVs out there designed for different purposes deciding which one is right for you can be tough. This guide will help you determine what type of ATV will be most suitable. It then goes on to explore what to look for in a used ATV to help you make the right buying decision.

It never ceases to surprise me how many ATV owners do little research before visiting a dealer or buying an ATV for sale online. Are they mad? A little research will ensure you don't make the same mistake and enable you to get the machine that best fits your needs, abilities and budget. The more research undertaken the happier you will be with your purchase. More times than I care to remmember I have made a purchase only to find a couple of weeks later a product that would have suited my needs much better. You simply can't afford to let that happen with an expensive product like an ATV or Four Wheeler.

The first thing to consider is your budget. How much can you afford to spend on your ATV? If you haven't previously owned one don't forget to make an allowance for the ancillary equipment that you'll need e.g. helmet, boots and gloves etc and a proper training course. Your budget will determine whether you should buy new or used although my preference would always be a used ATV as there are plenty of great deals available ATVs available and you don't take such a hit on vehicle depreciation.

The next most important consideration is the intended use of the ATV. You are unlikely to want a 4 stroke 4x4 if you are looking for a machine that is suitable for racing. Likewise you won't want a 2 stroke lightweight racing machine for towing things around the farm. This might sound obvious and it is obvious but I've lost count of the number of times I've seen machines bought that did not meet the owners requirements (especially online purchases).

So for towing and farm work check out 4x4 machines. These are the most expensive new so a used atv can save a couple of thousand dollars but remember to use the checklist below to make sure everything is in order before you buy. In my opinion Arctic Cat make some of the best 4x4 machines.

If its a speed machine that your looking for you'll want to be looking at Yamaha and Kawasaki who produce some awesome models that balance power and speed with good handling.

There is also a need to take account of your local riding conditions. Where do you intend to ride your ATV? If you don't know check out the local trails and see what sort of machines your fellow riders are using. Get their opinions. An interesting all round machine that suits quite a few different environments is the Polaris 400 4x4 which has a 2 stroke engine (very unusual in a 4x4). A great all round ATV for most trail blazers. It's biggest limitation is push and pull where a 4 stroke engine definitely has an edge due to it's greater torque.

What riding experience do you have? Make sure that the machine you buy matches your experience. If you've never ridden an ATV before please book yourself on a proper and extensive training course. It's a great investment and will help you get the most from yourself and your machine.

As I have expressed a preference for used ATV I thought it would be helpful to put together a check list of things to look out for and check with the owner before you buy.

Start by checking there is a full service history. Don't even go near a machine without a service history - you've been warned.

Electrics - check or ask if they all work and make sure there are no shorts, removed or damaged accessories.

Wheels - Check/Ask about the condition of rims - damaged rims are a sign that the bike has taken it's share of knocks and bumps.

Bodywork - Check/Ask about damage to bodywork and check things like flaps, instruments and levers.

Rear Axle - Check/Ask if there are leaking seals and the level and condition of the oil. Watery or muddy looking oil is a sign that there is a problem with seals.

Front Axle - Here you want to check/ask if there are loose steering joints, excessive bearing wear or suspension link movement.

Engine - Surprisingly ATV engines don't cause that many problems but watch out for, or ask about, smoking exhausts (sign of worn valves). Clattery noises heard whilst revving can point towards a worn camshaft or drive. Again notice the condition of the oil. If it is dark and thick it has not been changed with sufficient regularity.

Who owns it? ATVs are stolen all the time so always examine the engine and chassis number and check that no financing is in place by doing an online check. This can uncover if a used atv is stolen, accident damaged, had a registration transfer or has outstanding finance.

Follow these simple guidelines and you will greatly reduce the risks of choosing the wrong used ATV for you needs and avoid buying a pup.
About the Author
For a great selection of used ATV at rock bottom prices check out our range of cheap used atvs for sale. We also offer an extensive selection of quality used ATV 4 Wheelers. Check them out for yourself today.
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