Buying An Used UTV/ATV:10 Things To Consider

Buying An Used UTV/ATV:10 Things To Consider

UTVs are also known as side by sides and have been very popular for quite a few years now.

So if you’re looking to join this side by side craze, there are a few things you should know about them before making an investment. This is especially since UTVs are a pricey investment and do cost a small fortune.

Buying a used UTV can save you thousands compared to buying a brand-new one. However, the low price is only worth it if the UTV is in good running order, and everything works as it should. In this case, you are getting value for money.

So before rushing off to buy a used UTV, here are a few things to consider.

10 Things You Must Know Before Buying a Used UTV

10 Things You Must Know Before Buying A Used UTV

1. Observe the tires and look for cracks

You want to start by shining a flashlight on each side of the tires and around both sidewalls to look for signs of cracks or missing chunks of rubber. UTV tires crack and age just like car tires do.

Once cracks develop, they are dangerous to ride on. So if one tire is cracked and the others have the same wear, you should replace the complete set. That can easily set you back approximately $480 with mounting labor.

2. Bearings and ball joints

Rock the tire in and out and jack one side up and check the tire, holding it at the 12:00 and 5:00 positions. Thereafter rock the tire in and out and if you feel any play, you’re looking at a bad ball joint or wheel bearing.

Severely worn UTV beaRings tend to separate in use, and this causes serious personal injury.

However, before this happens, you’ll start to notice instability while turning around corners, and if this is the case, chances are the other side is worn too. Ball joints will set you back around $140, and wheel bearings cost about the same.

3. Inspect the shocks

For signs of leakage and look for moist areas around the top of the shock. If you find signs of wet spots, run your finger over the area, and if it’s oily, then the shocks are worn.

Worn shocks don’t dampen spring oscillations, and this tends to make your tires spend more time in the air after each bounce. Ultimately this reduces the stability of the machine and leakage is a sure sign of wear. Shocks cost about $150 each.

4. Check CV boots


In this step, you need to check the CV boots, also known as constant velocity, which contains grease inside the rotating joint.

If it tears open or wears between the band clamps or pleats, then the grease lets in water and sand and ultimately destroys the joint. New boots can set you back $150 each, and if you find that the joint is damaged, it must be replaced.

All eight joints need to be assessed. Start by removing the splash guards and looking for signs of grease on the inner and outer constant velocity boots on each axle.

Next, you need to separate the pleats and check for signs of small tears and cracks and check the surrounding area for signs of grease that could have leaked from the clamps.

5. Checking for engine leaks

Oil leaks on head gaskets and valve cover can cost you a lot of money. Check for signs of this before you purchase Wipe a clean rag around the head gaskets and valve cover, and if it is showing signs of fresh oil, the gaskets need replacing.

6. Pull air cleaner cover

It doesn’t cost much to replace an air filter. A large build-up of dirt when removing the cover is a sign of poor maintenance by the previous owner.

If you find mice or other rodents, you should immediately walk away from that purchase as these are all signs of poor maintenance.

7. Checking the brakes

You should always check the condition of brakes. The rotor should also be inspected for deep gouges, while looking for caliper leaks. The thickness of the brakes can be checked with an inspection mirror.

However, your UTV pads are generally thin, and it hard to see signs of wear. Ultimately you want to avoid metal to metal contact which could be costly.

Even if the pad is thick, it could be that the friction material is delaminating or cracked from the backing plate.

So ultimately you want to jack each side up and remove the pads, caliper and wheels to inspect the entire brake system. Ultimately a complete brake job will cost $275.

8. Checking the fluids

You’ll want to check for metallic particles in the oil. Start by pulling the engine and transmission dipsticks and checking for the proper level and appearance. If you find any metallic particles, then you should not buy the machine.

9. Sprocket and chain

If the UTV uses a chain, check for sprocket wear. If there are signs of wear, the chain and sprocket set will set you back approximately $300, including parts and labor.

10. Test the ride

Another very important part of the inspection is actually to test the ride. When you turn the key on and crank the engine over, there should be an immediate burst of life.

If the engine is taking its time to start, doesn’t start at all, or the battery is completely dead, then this is a sure sign that you need to worry.

How to check used UTV before buying

How To Check Used UTV Before Buying

When thinking of buying a used UTV or ATV, you should start with an inspection that includes the 7 S’s.

Starting: When you turn the key or crank the engine, it should come immediately to life. If it takes its own time starting up, the battery is dead, or it doesn’t start at all, then you should worry.

Smoke: If you see a lot of smoke coming out of the exhaust once the engine is up and running, then it’s always a bad sign, and if you decide to buy the UTV, irrespective, then you may have some repairs around the corner.

Slippage: While test driving the machine if the CVT belt feels like it’s slipping, then that usually means it needs to be replaced, which is not a big problem because belts are relatively cheap; however, there could also be issues with the clutch.

On an automatic transmission, if the clutch feels like it’s slipping, then you may need to get your wallet out for some major repairs.

Speed: If you find that the UTV is not giving the power to the engine that it should, then you probably should look for a different vehicle.

Stability: If the side-by-side does not feel tight and the ride straight and in control, then this could mean you have big issues with regards to the suspension and steering.

Stopping: Brakes are probably the most important thing on your UTV for obvious reasons. They are, however, terribly expensive to repair, so make sure the pedal feels strong, and if it doesn’t, then repairs are definitely in order.

Deceptive seller


If you truly are in control of this transaction, then the seller should let you inspect the vehicle and allow you to ask as many questions as you feel necessary.

You should never be afraid to ask about the UTVs history, what it was used for, and the amount of time it’s been used. You should always also check the hour or odometer on the machine.

Some sellers try to cover up what the UTV was used for and how hard they drove it.

However, ultimately, it’s your job to discreetly gain this information by asking the right questions that could cause the seller to slip up and tell you things that they ordinarily would try to keep from you.

Oil check

The oil in the machine should always be checked. Even if the UTV looks mostly brand-new, this step should never be avoided. Take out the oil dipstick and smell it.

In some cases, the oil may look fresh, but smell bad, and if this is the case, it could mean major engine issues, and you should walk away from this purchase. If it’s a little dirty but doesn’t smell bad, then everything could still be fine.

Check to see if the oil filter looks new or old, and that will probably give you some direction on how well the machine is maintained.

Checking the coolant

The coolant on the machine should either be orange or green and if it’s any other color, then there’s definitely an issue. If the coolant looks very diluted, then this is also another warning sign.

When it comes to aluminum engines, tap water should never be used as ultimately it will lead to corrosion in the engine.

Good or bad gas

This is usually a simple step. If the gas tank smells bad, then should then you are either looking at a carburetor overhaul or fuel injection system issue.

If you do come across this issue, then you are well within your right to request the seller to lower his price as you definitely will need to do some maintenance.

Checking for the solidness of the drive lines

Most UTVs are 4 x 4’s, and this means they have CV boots and axles. So the CV boots that are coming out of the front-end should be checked, and so should the differentials and the boards on all four spindles.

If you find that they are cracked or torn, this means the vehicle has been driven hard, and those axles will need to be replaced or rebuilt.

If the machine has been lifted and stock axles were used, you might as well get new ones that are meant to take the further bend the lift puts on them. If you ever hear grinding noises from the drive lines on a test drive, then this is really a bad sign.

Inspecting the frame

On any machine, checking out the flame is compulsory. If you find that there are awkward bends in the frame that shouldn’t be there, then walk away from the purchase immediately.

In some cases, smashes can be covered up with fresh plastics and body panels, but the frame will tell you the true story.

Shock mounting points should also be checked, and if you find rust around them, then this means they have been overstressed and is another sign that the machine has been driven hard.

Custom parts


If you find parts on the UTV that are jerry-rigged or not how they should ordinarily be, then this says a lot about the sellers’ maintenance or lack of it on the vehicle. The same applies to aftermarket parts.

Some upgrades are just that, an upgradable weaker stock part; however, there are some add-ons that take away from the value of the machine.

So UTVs that are highly customized are either made that way to go slow and look pretty or driven hard and pushed to its limits in racing.

So ultimately, don’t ever let a showy machine that looks clean and has a lot of parts blind you from the true problems you could potentially experience.

It’s important to educate yourself so that you know what price is in your area, the price of mods, and especially those that are desirable to you. For example, if you know that you absolutely want harnesses and doors, look for cars that have those.

Know the price of new tires and what works for your area. If you are a rock runner, sand tires add absolutely no value to you.

Purchase help

If you don’t have a strong technical background, higher shop mechanic, or take an experienced friend along. The small expense will save you a great deal of money along the line.

Knowing your stuff

If you are mechanical, take your tools along with you. It’s easy to carry a jack to lift the machine to check for slop in the drive components and suspension. A jump box or battery will assist you in starting machines that have dead batteries.

Also, the fact that you are technically savvy will make the owner self-conscious, and this could help you get a better price.

Ultimately if they know that you are technically inclined and will probably find hidden problems, this will likely cause them to admit the issues before you come across the problems yourself.

On what to pay additional attention?

When buying a used UTV, safety is of the utmost importance. UTVs can be dangerous and especially if you don’t have a lot of experience using them.

Due to this, you may want to invest in some kind of training to help you better understand and use a UTV.

You also want to ensure that you invest in all of the appropriate safety equipment, although this can seem to be a tedious task, it’s money well spent in the event that anything goes wrong.

The next point to remember is that you shouldn’t rush into things. While buying a UTV can be exciting, you need to make sure that you’re making the right choice.

So just because you come across a great deal, doesn’t mean there won’t be others. By remaining patient and remembering to conduct due diligence when making a purchase, you will find a UTV that is right for you.

On the other hand, failure to do so and rushing into things means you could end up buying a scrap piece of metal.

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