Best ATVs for beginners
Quad riding in an ideal hobby for people who like motocross but don’t want to balance their bodyweight on a dirtbike. maybe that’s why I have embraced ATVs over the past few years. you know, I used to be quite pudgy several years ago. riding normal bikes and hiking weren’t exactly my cup of tea, obviously because I used to weight over 250 pounds (at 5 feet 10). all of this changed when I met somebody who had an ATV and decided to let me ride it for a while. anyways, the quad didn’t care that I looked like a competitive eater. quite the opposite, it felt like the ATV was specifically made for me! everything was so easier and so much fun. anyways, I decided to buy an ATV magazine to inform myself on what to buy and so I made my choice: a 2005 TRX250!
Now I really made a good choice on a beginners quad. those little babies are really good for people that are learning how to ride because they are rather simple to use and won’t overwhelm you. nothing was complicated in that quad, so I was able to quickly learn the basics and then I was able to move on to bigger, faster, more complex quads. I eventually stopped using that quad and gave to my elder son.
So I made a wise ATV purchase, but not everybody makes a good choice though. and that’s why I made this list. I was recently checking out the main beginner quads for sale today and reviewed some of them. most of the models I see on a weekly basis, so I was able to talk to owners to know how they feel about their quads. after that, I rode some of these quads and figured out which ones are the best for beginners.
1. Honda TRX250 – The Best
The Honda TRX250 is the best beginner quad available today. it was also the best beginner quad 10-15 years ago. it has always been one of the best choices in the market, both new and used. why? because it’s a simple, tried and true design that is very easy to use, because it provides decent power from a 229cc engine, because it’s very reliable, and it’s also a very visceral feeling quad. the TRX250 might be a newbie choice, but it’s enjoyed by everyone that rides it, no matter if it’s a greenie or a veteran. in short, it’s really fun to drive.
One of the other benefits of this quad is the pricing. you can get this baby at under 4500 dollars new. one of the biggest hurdles of people buying ATVs for the first time is their pricing. this at under 5 grand makes it one of the most affordable options on the market!
Like other quads, this has some disadvantages that I need to talk about. I didn’t really care about this when I first bought this quad more than 10 years ago, but the quad is quite noisier than most! not sure why it’s noisier but it can certainly get annoying after riding for a while. this is especially apparent when revving up the quad to its limits. some people might find this a deal breaker or not. I would recommend that you ride this a few times so that you know what you are getting into.
Another feature that many people complain about is a stiff suspension. now some people who ride exclusively on trails love the stiffness but that’s going to be a small part of TRX owners. this quads suspension is considerably rougher than most other quads on this list. this means that if you want to something that is softer for your back and body, in general, it might be wise to check something else on this list! the quads stiffness can be alleviated by getting another suspension setting but that means spending more money on aftermarket mods and most of you might not like that right away after you get a new quad!
The last thing that I don’t like about this quad is the lack of utility the ATV offers. now like you might know, ATVs are also widely used as farm vehicles, at least in the USA. many people ride on these because of the opportunity to carry things across the farm quicker than on foot. but if you get this model, forget about it! this is strictly a sports quad, made for trails and motocross. the quad is also quite small, not fitting for 2 people. the 2019 model has no racks and that reduces the versatility a bit. so if you are looking to do some utility work with your quad or even get a relative to hop on the back for a fun leisure ride, this is not the quad for you! check the other choices on the list.
2. Polaris Sportsman 450 – Comfortable Cruiser
If you are looking for a quad with more features than a normal Honda TRX but are also looking for something that won’t break the bank, then this is your model! always a popular and revered model, the sportsman line has a lot of quads with different engine sizes, and this is the entry-level model. consider this a pimped Honda, it has more power than the Honda, the suspension is more compliant, it’s a more polished product in general. unlike the Honda, this quad has a 500cc engine that produces 33 horsepower, quite faster than the Honda. it’s also much more comfortable in several aspects, like the suspension setup and the transmission.
Now since this is a top entry-level ATV list, you might be thinking about the pricing. and I’m happy to say that this baby starts at 5,999$ MSRP, which is a little bit higher than the Honda, but this quad gives you a few goodies that the TRX won’t.
This quad also has an automatic transmission. this makes the quad much easier to maneuver and ride. forget about gear shifts, the quad will do it for you! ideal for motocross trail riding, this quad is a great choice for somebody who wants to ride fast but is still in the process of learning how to ride the quad. now some people do not the automatic transmission. they say that it simplifies everything and doing the shifts yourself is more fun. if this is the case for you, then you should choose something else!
Now some of the bad things is that this quad is not exactly the nimblest of the bunch. this model is more suited for more leisure rides and moderate speeds. anything fast and you might notice the deficient handling. now, its nothing crazy! if you are new to ATVs then you might not notice the difference between quads. I recommend that you ride this ATV for a few hours to make sure that the handling is not an issue for you.
3. Yamaha Kodiak – The Swiss Army Knife
Another model with a long reputation. the Yamaha Kodiak differentiates itself from the competition by 1 thing: versatility. this is the ideal quad for somebody who quads to use their quad in all situations and terrains. one of the great things about this beauty is that it has 4WD. this equals a very capable offroader! especially when mentioning the more than 10 inches of ground clearance that it has! the Kodiak is one of the most balanced quads in this list: affordable pricing, available 4WD, and attractive, if a little-hushed style, makes this one of my top picks!
And it’s easy to know why it’s so good. if you are buying your first quad, it’s important to make sure that the quad can be usable in any terrain and condition. the Kodiak makes sure that this is the case: want to use it for spirited riding? go ahead. want to offroad with it? no problem! want to ride with somebody on the back? sure!
This makes this quad a great value. another proof this baby is the 4WD system, something that most quads in this list do not offer. the 4WD system will allow you to unstuck yourself from any situation and also it will increase the traction of the quad. this 4WD function combined with the ground clearance makes this one of the best choices for people looking for a capable entry-level offroader
Now, this model is a jack of all trades, master of none. it sure might be versatile, but it won’t excel in any specific department. this is especially apparent when riding at faster speeds. this quads engine is by no means underpowered, but it seems that it is lacking a bit of high-end punch. many of us rarely rev the quad that high that often, but when you do, you will realize some of this quads weaknesses.
the suspension on the quad is unnecessarily squishy too. I generally prefer when the suspension setup is a bit firm so this might be a small pet peeve of mine but I sometimes felt like I was riding on a quad, something that I did not like. some people prefer that type of suspension because it’s softer on the spine and the body. so this is more of a personal thing so I recommend that you sit on this quad so that you can get a feel of it.
4. Can-Am Renegade – Offroading Powerhouse
Can-Am has been building excellent offroading quads for more than 30 years now. they have built a reputation over the years because of their stylish quads and offroading pedigree. however one of the problems with this brand is the pricing of them. they have always been a bit more expensive than other brands. however, with the pricing of the Renegade, it is a great choice for a first-time buyer looking for something inexpensive but with that offroading DNA Can-Am has always been known for. another great choice for newbies!
One of the great benefits that this bad boy has is the available 4WD system. the quad also features an automatic front locking differential which greatly assists in climbing hills and rocks. the standard tires are pretty sticky, and the ground clearance in this quad is excellent.
The steering is responsive but light. often, its way too light and I don’t always know what the front tires are doing because of the lack of feedback to the handlebars. however, this is also a pro for people who prefer a softer, smoother experience. The base engine is a classic example of an engine tuned for offroading and torque. it’s not the best on a straight line, but the low-end torque that this motor provides the quad will be more than enough power for most situations. some people might say that it’s not enough power but you can’t really ask so much for under 6 grand.
The last Con that this model has is the bulk of it. it can be quite heavy at times and the suspension is a little bit higher than most quads in this list. this increases the ground clearance but comes at the cost of reduced performance while cornering and less balance in general.
I recommend this quad for people that are going to use this primarily for offroading since most of its strengths are in that area. not saying that this is a bad quad, it’s not, but if you are looking to ride as fast as you can or maybe ride on a dirtbike trail with it, I would go with other choices!
5. Suzuki KingQuad 400 – Wonderful Zappy Engine!
Suzuki quads have always been very speedy. this is again the case with their KingQuad 400. the first king quad really cemented Suzuki’s reputation as a quad with a powerful engine without breaking the bank and so they have been producing these little monsters for the last 30 years. the 400 is the model with the weakest engine but it still packs a punch. this utility/sports quad is ideal for people that are going to primarily use the quad for performance, but also want to take the quad out for offroading once in a while too.
Most of this quads value comes from its punchy 376cc engine providing more than 40 horsepower, and you get to choose an automatic transmission (ASi) or a manual transmission (FSi). the KingQuad accelerates firmly and steadily, with a smooth power delivery. some people say that the displacement is a little bit small when compared to competitors, but what most do not realize is that those competitors are usually hundreds of dollars more expensive than this model.
This quad is a great value because of the 4WD that it offers. I personally tried offroading with this quad and while it wasn’t anything crazy when it comes to comfort and suspension damping, the engine torque more than makes up for these faults. it doesn’t have as much offroading performance as the Can-Am Outlander or even the Polaris Sportsman for that matter but its no slouch either!
One of the things that I found disappointing with this quad is the suspension setup which was much firmer than what I was expecting. now, since this is considered a more balanced ATV, I think that the quad should have been a bit softer and more forgiving. this is what happens when you try to be good at everything: you become average. the harder suspension fits something like a Honda TRX or a Polaris Scrambler better.
In short, for somebody looking primarily for speed, then this can be your best choice. the engine has great performance for the price and the handling is okay. the suspension feels a bit disjointed though, which might be a dealbreaker for some.
6. Suzuki QuadSport Z90 – The KingQuad Twin
The second Suzuki quad on this list! consider this the younger brother of the KingQuad: less offroad-capable but more sporty. if you are looking for performance options, then you should check this one out! the quad sport is a spartan model with fewer amenities than other models in this list, but it more than makes up for it with 1 key feature: pricing! this is the cheapest quad on the list, which for some people under a strict budget will be really important.
This quad is pretty similar to the Honda because it’s very easy to use. this quad is actually made for teenagers and so it has some features like throttle limiter and easy to use controls. this can make a great first quad for somebody that is having issues operating a quad.
One of the other hallmarks of this quad is the nimbleness and maneuverability of this quad. the quad sport handling is very responsive and zippy, ideal for spirited solo rides. the engine is not the greatest thing in the world but this is not the quads focus anyways, especially when considering the price. the suspension is also firm but compliant. it can be a bit too firm, especially if the person riding is big ( like me!), but for most people, it shouldn’t be a complaint.
The sad thing about this baby is that since this quad is actually made for teenagers, some people might not fit in it at all. I’m 5 feet 10 inches tall and when I first hopped on the quad it felt a little bit overwhelmed. I wouldn’t recommend this quad for anybody over 200 lbs because the quad will lose performance which is one of the pros of the quadsport.
7. Honda Fourtrax Rancher – The Underachiever
Similar to the TRX at the top, the Honda Fourtrax is a great quad that should definitely be worth a look. this quad shares several features with its brother, like a very spartan, back-to-basics approach, while being a bit more tame than it’s relative. the Honda Fourtrax was developed as an alternative to the TRX for people unwilling to make the compromises of a full-on sports quad. the target public for this quad is somebody looking for a more balanced experience, all without breaking the bank and with the reputation normally associated with a Honda. so if you are looking for something like what I just said, then look no further!
Something I love about this quad is the comfort when seating and riding. I honestly didn’t ride this model much but I really enjoyed the small amount of time that I spent with it. the ride is plush without being mushy. this lends itself well to all types of terrains. the comfort was especially apparent when I decided to ride with my son on the back of the quad. it handled it really well at moderate speeds. the more I increased the speed the more wobbly the ride felt, but it was to be expected since I was riding with my elder son.
Another nice thing about this and most Honda quads is that they are very easy to use and very reliable. Honda is not an ATV brand that will lend itself to gimmicks. they prefer tried and true technology and that means a more purist ride with less to worry about. that makes this quad a good option if you are learning to ride quads and are on a budget. the price is pretty good and the reliability is top notch!
Now, something that I don’t like about this particular model is that the quad is that it can be bulkier than most. this can be good if you are a bigger type of person but what I have noticed is that the handling gets affected because of the mass of this particular quad! and since the quad is very old school, the power steering is usually not found in this quad unless you buy one of the higher trims. all of this means that handling becomes a chore!
The Honda Fourtrax is a good model but I think it has been outclassed by its brother the TRX. not saying that it’s bad, but the only thing that this model has that the TRX doesn’t is a bit more offroading capability (which can be debatable) and a more comfortable riding experience. if I were to choose between the two I would choose the TRX. I recommend that you ride both to see which one do you prefer.