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What is UTV & Why UTV is Called Side-By-Side ATV?

UTV is the acronym for Utility Terrain Vehicle, but others also call it Utility Task Vehicle or Utility Vehicle. They are also referred to as side-by-side ATVs (All-Terrain Vehicle) or SxS without the hyphen.

Whatever the name may be, these vehicles are a great help to people who use them. Read on to find out why!

offroad UTV is speeding

What is UTV? And why are they called side by side?

UTVs are motorized off-road vehicles with a steering wheel, four non-highway tires, four-wheel drive, a powerful motor, and an engine displacement of 1,000cc or less and other helpful accessories.

They are very agile for their size and usually have potent shocks. It’s the combination of these features that make it perfect for navigating the raw wilderness.

In fact, it’s also found a place in the Dakar Rally, where people worldwide drive UTVs over Saudi Arabia’s dunes for a cash prize.

If you wonder why it gets this name, it’s because they usually have two to six seats that are set side by side. In other words, the passenger and driver are seated side-by-side.

red utv is crossing sand

How many types of UTVs are there?

UTVs are broadly classified into three types:

Work or utility UTVs

The work or utility UTVs are helpful in outdoor industries like agriculture and ranching. With a maximum speed of 30-50 mph, they are not famous for speed but are designed more for effectiveness.

Farmers most often use them for performing tasks like mowing, plowing, and tilling after attaching a mower or snowplow to it as required.

Sports or recreational UTVs

The recreational or sports UTVs, with a maximum speed of 80mph, are famous for fun, off-roading, hunting, sports, and recreational activities. They enjoy using these off-road vehicles to explore the rugged terrain, riding through small streams, and hauling trailers through woods.

Sport-utility UTVs

The third type of the vehicle is the sport-utility UTV, which bridges the gap between the two types. They may not offer the right speed for racing but will prove useful in helping you out on the property or for hauling equipment or supplies.

ATV and UTV standing together

How are UTV and ATV different?

Many people wonder why UTVs and ATVs are different. While there are many similarities, there are also quite a few differences between the two.


The most distinctive difference is the design or shape. ATVs, which are also known as quad bikes, are small and handy to look at, but great for off-roading. They look more like motorcycles with four wheels.

UTVs, however, are like a cross between golf carts and ATVs because of the seats with backs and the roof.


The two also differ a lot in terms of control. ATVs are controlled like motorcycles with a throttle, horn, brake, etc. Similarly, turning the handlebar changes your direction.

UTVs are, however, run like golf carts and are controlled with a steering wheel and a gas and brake pedals.


ATVs don’t have many safety features because you ride them like a motorcycle. There is no protection against rolling over. The only safety features it has are an engine-kill safety lanyard and orange safety flags.

UTVs however, have more safety to offer with windshields and even doors in some of them. They have a structure overtop for the driver and passenger seats called Roll cage or ROPS (Roll Over Protection System).

UTVs also voluntarily follow necessary ANSI recreational off-highway safety standards like having hip, shoulder, foot, leg, arm, and hand barriers. They have a wider wheelbase and weigh between 500 to 1000 pounds more than ATVs. They also sit lower and are more stable than ATVs, thus reducing the chances of rolling over while making sharp turns at high speeds.


Thanks to the size, both vehicles have different power and speed. ATV’s maximum speed is about 60-80miles per hour. So it’s no wonder that you have the youth side by side ATV for kids and the youth to use.

Depending on the engine size, UTVs have an average top speed of 30-50 miles per hour. But it compensates with its raw horsepower of about 75 to 120 hp. that’s much higher than an ATV’s maximum horsepower of about 80hp.

guys posing on ATVs and UTVs

Which is better – UTV or ATV?

It’s impossible to state which is the better vehicle of the two because it all depends on your needs. If you are looking for something to use on your farmland to get more work done, you need a UTV and not an ATV. But if you want something for fun on the beach or to explore the forest at breakneck speeds, then it’s an ATV that you need.

UTVs are a better buy for customization because you can add so many accessories to it. Examples are full doors, side or rearview mirrors, upgraded tires, hood racks, winch, and a headache rack. You can also add features like radio, UTV ramp, speakers, and battery to it.

While farmers can use an ATV for traveling long distances, it’s not as safe as a UTV, especially while hauling a trailer behind. The trailer is subjected to the bumps. But without the suspension system of a UTV, everything in it ends up getting thrown out.

It depends on the state you live in because most US states consider it’s legal. Most states permit UTVs on the streets as long as it has working headlights, turn signals, taillights, and an electric horn. It should also meet some noise standards and may need a muffler.

While UTVs may be street legal in some states, most states dictate that they are not permitted on highways.

Except for Suzuki, most other major ATV manufacturers produce UTVs too. The list includes Polaris, Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Arctic Cat, CanAm, and John Deere.

If you wonder which brand is the best, it once again all boils down to your needs and which you like the best.

What about costs?

When it comes to cost, ATVs are generally less expensive. It’s no surprise that UTVs are more costly. They are bigger in size and design and come with so many more safety features. The cheapest side by side UTV may be about the same price as ATVs.

offroad UTV is crossing by

How many passengers do UTVs seat?

ATVs are perfect for single person use because most are designed only for one passenger, and not to carry an additional passenger.

If you want to take someone along with you, a UTV is always safer and better. UTVs offer a more comfortable seating capacity for as many as 4 to 6 people. You have different seat UTV models to choose from based on the number of people using it.  Examples are the seat UTV 4 and 6 seat UTV.

What is a side by side ATV 2?

They are ATVs produced by a few brands that offer 2-seat UTVs for a rider and passenger.

Do I need a helmet while riding a UTV?

Many people feel that there’s no need to wear a helmet because of the ROPS in UTVs.

However, this is a mistake because a helmet can save you from a severe injury if your UTV rolls over or suddenly stops or jumps.  You also have to wear the provided seat belt, which protects you during a violent visit or rollover.

In short, UTVs are a great investment for outdoor enthusiasts – for both work and play. Just make you make the right choice based on your requirements so that you don’t end up disappointed.

Jerry is a former motorcycle mechanic. He’s dedicated his life to nuts and bolts of two- and four-wheelers. Pottering around in the garage - that’s, Jerry claims, the best way to spend all evening long. Currently, Jerry Kidd is a consultant at CFMOTO dealer in Chicago, IL, that offers high-performance ATVs and UTVs. The company has been serving for more than 30 years to provide its customers of all ages with heavy-duty vehicles.

Kids ATV Sale