Sport vs Utility ATV: Which Is The Best Choice?

In ATV Setups by Kevin

Choosing between a sports or a utility ATV can be a hard decision to make. maybe you are looking for something that is nimble and agile, but they also want something more practical and comfortable. and while the best choice between a sports and a utility quad is something that will depend a lot on how you are going to be using the ATV, there are some general guidelines that you can follow to make sure that you find your match. Below I talk about the general characteristics of both sport and utility quad, and then I mention which is the best choice between both.

Pros And Cons Of Sport Quads

Sport ATVs

The Yamaha Raptor is an example of a Sports ATV

Sports quads are the trail rippers. they are perfect for those who love spirited riding on light offroading settings, on a trail, in a sand dune, or in a track. they are quite nimble and easy to handle, with power steering often available as an option. while their engines are generally (not always though) not as powerful and torquey as utility quads, they more than make up for it with considerably lighter weight. this makes sports quads an excellent candidate for those that are looking to do stunts and wheelies because of good power-weight ratio. they also feature a slightly lower ground clearance when compared to utility quads and their suspension is also stiffer for better handling. these ATVs are much less practical than utility quads, often feeling kind of cramped, and also generally featuring manual transmissions which are less beginner friendly and harder to operate. also, because of weight saving reasons, sports ATVs usually do not have any storage space.

Pros

  • Very fast, powerful quads, ideal for speed demons
  • Superior handling and suspension setups make this the best choice for recreational riding
  • These are generally the best looking quads
  • They tend to be cheaper than utility ATVs

Cons

  • Inferior ground clearance makes these a bad choice when riding more complex trails
  • These quads do not provide much utility
  • not as comfortable and kind of cramped
  • A manual transmission might be an issue for some

Pros And Cons Of Utility Quads

Utility ATVs

The Polaris Sportsman is the prototypical Utility ATV

Utility quads are best used as a work tool on a farm, as a hunting aid, or to plow snow. they are the right choice for those looking for a balanced ride in which you can do pretty much anything without a hassle. these quads are more forgiving than sports models, with a softer suspension with more give, and a higher, more comfortable seating position, ideal for plowing or hunting. they generally have more ground clearance than sports models, making these the best choice for those who primarily offroad. it’s pretty common to see an automatic transmission on these quads and that makes these really easy to use. these quads are also much bigger and practical than sports quads. it’s pretty easy to fit 2 in these quads and ride comfortably, which makes these the best choice for families and people who want to have a buddy riding with them. the bad thing about utility quads is that they are generally slower and bulkier than sports models. these are not the best choice for an experienced rider because they simply weight too much for agile handling. they are also a bit more expensive than sports models

Pros

  • The ideal choice for plowing, hunting, or farm work.
  • Much more comfortable than sports models.
  • Utility quads have better ground clearance than sports models
  • Easy to fit 2 in the back

Cons

  • More expensive than sports quads. 
  • Inferior performance. not as fast or agile as sports quads
  • Boxy styling is definitely not as aesthetic as the styling of sports models

 

So Which Is the best choice?

The best choice is going to different for everybody. if you are solely interested in riding in sand dunes and trails and do not think that you are going to be using the ATV anything else, then go ahead and get the sports quad. but if you are not as adept at riding quads and are looking for something more forgiving, comfortable and spacious, then, by all means, get the utility quad.

Sports models feel more “alive”

One of the reasons why I prefer sports models is because they simply feel more raw. I personally feel like they are more fun than utility quads. they provide much more feedback from the ground, you know exactly what the front tires are doing and you feel much more connected with the machine. sports models also tend to be louder and the engine revving combined with the wind on my face and the high speeds make riding them an exhilarating experience. most sports models have a manual transmission so that you have complete control of the machine. the same cannot be said for many utility models, which feature auto transmission for convenience but they are definitely not as playful as manual transmissions.

Utility quads are much more comfortable.

One of the most overlooked aspects of utility quads is that they are much more livable. they have more space for seating and the suspension is much softer unlike the stiff and painful suspension setup of some sports quads. if you are a bigger guy like me, then utility quads are your best bet. utility quads these days are using automatic transmissions more often than not, which simplifies the process and makes the quad easier to use. sure, it’s definitely not as engaging as a manual trans, but the ease of use that autos add to them is undeniable.

Riding a sports quad for any time over an hour means that I’m going to get cramps in my legs. I’m not sure if that is because of my weight, but I’m not the only one that has had that and other ergonomic problems with sports quads. they are not the best choice for bigger people unless it’s a sports quad in the upper engine classes.

Sports quads are cheaper

If you are on a budget, then it might be wise to only look at sports quads. while the price difference is not that big, it’s not exactly very small either. compare the prices between a Yamaha Raptor 700 and a Yamaha Grizzly. the Raptor is almost $1,500 cheaper than the Grizzly, simply because the Grizzly is a more utility/offroading oriented model. and the reason for the price difference, which is explained in more detail in this article, is because utility models are still used for farm work. just think about it, these quads are usually sold to wealthy farmers that need the machine to work and so dealership increase prices because of the demand. utility ATVs are usually the best sellers in a manufacturer’s lineup so that is another reason why the prices are a little bit higher than sports quads.

Utility quads are more useful

Pretty obvious. like their name says, if you want a well-rounded machine, then go right ahead and get a utility ATV. not only are they easier to live with and more comfortable, you simply can do more stuff with them. you can fit more people, you have more ground clearance, you have a quieter machine, and you have a little bit more storage space. you can plow with them, they are a good transportation method when hunting, and even towing is possible with these. not that you cannot do some of these things with sports quads, but it’s not as reasonable or practical. other than riding fast and doing well on corners, sport quads are kind of in a disadvantage.

Sports quads look so much better

Hands down, when it comes to styling, the definite winner are sports quads. while I wouldn’t buy a quad simply because of the way it looks, I would definitely think twice about getting a quad that looks boring or ugly. and boring isn’t exactly an adjective that I would use to describe sports quads styling. I love the way my Raptor looks. the fenders are kind of pointy and edgy, with a lot of colors accents thorough. in contrast, the boxy appearance of an utility quad isn’t really going to impress you much. utility quads usually have more subdued, “earthly” colors that do not really stand out and that is definitely a negative for many of us. the exception to all of this is Can-Am. those quads look sick! definitely the best looking utility ATVs in the market.

Utility quads are better for offroading

If riding on muddy, rocky landscapes are your thing, then a utility ATV is your best choice. first of all, utility quads usually have a higher ground clearance than sports models. ground clearance, for those who do not know, is how much space your quad has between the ground and the lower parts of the ATV. the higher the clearance, the greater your quads capacity for offroading. it’s also easier to get 4WD in a utility quad. it’s either standard or an option in most models, while in sports models it’s not available most of the time. something else that I didn’t mention is that utility quads have more extensive skid plate use at the bottom of the chassis to avoid damage to any of the internals when trying to move over rocks and mud.

Sports quads are easier to transport

Sport quads are both smaller and lighter than utility quads, so loading them on a truck bed is a more straightforward process. 99% of sports quads will fit in the truck bed of a Toyota Tacoma or a Chevy Colorado with room to spare. the same thing can’t be said for utility models. some of these might not even fit in a bigger pickup such as an F-150 or a Silverado. if this is the case, you are going to have to pay for an ATV trailer or loading ramp to move your quad.

Utility quads require less maintenance and upkeep

Since utility quads are ridden at lower speeds for working or offroading, they do not suffer as much abuse as sport models. they have less wear and tear and so utility quads generally last longer. you can get away with doing less maintenance on these quads. my son has a Honda Recon and he only does maintenance on it once every 6 months because he doesn’t really push the machine too hard. and when it’s time for the upkeep he only changes the oil and cleans the air filter. sport quads, on the other hand, are generally treated with less care and so people generally spend more money on stuff like engine oil, cleaning sprays, suspension parts, etc…

Verdict

After reading this article, you should have a good idea of what’s best for you. those who ride quads for recreation, fast riding, traveling on sand dunes, those who are going to ride with just 1 person on the ATV, those on a budget, should get a sports quad. but if you are looking for something to do work with, hunting, plowing snow, offroading on more complicated trails, or just want something bigger and more comfortable, then get the utility ATV. 

While I personally have both types of quads, I personally would steer towards sports quads. this is because I don’t really use them for utility purposes. it rarely snows where I live and I don’t hunt either or work on a farm. I only use utility quads when doing some serious offroading, or when riding casually, especially with my son on the back.