UTVs go by many names, ROV (recreational off-highway vehicle) MOHUV (Multipurpose Off-Highway Utility Vehicle), but regardless of what name you call them, side-by-sides are incredibly useful tools to the people that use them.
So why are UTVs called side-by-sides?
UTVs or Utility Task Vehicles are called side-by-sides (SxS) because they typically seat two to six in seats that sit side-by-side each other.
UTVs are versatile machines, used in many different walks of life. This article hopes to cover some of the intricacies of UTVs, and compare them against their cousins ATVs.
What exactly are UTVs?
There are two main styles of UTV, one for work and one for play.
Work UTVs prioritize effectiveness, usually having some sort of truck bed on the back, and sacrificing some speed and maneuverability, while recreational UTVs are primarily used for off-roading.
UTVs are a class of four wheel drive vehicle designed to handle off road conditions. They’re most often used by farmers to carry out various jobs on their land, mowing, tilling, plowing etc.
These functions are mostly performed by attaching something to the UTV, a drag-behind mower for example, could be hitched to the back of the UTV and dragged over the grass, or a snow plow attached to the front.
They have between two and six seats and are controlled like a car with a steering wheel and gas and brake pedals. Along with factory safety features such as a roll cage, and seatbelts.
They’re essentially suped-up golf carts that can handle almost any terrain.
As such UTVs are used in many different walks of life.
As mentioned above, farmers utilize them if they need a bit of extra horsepower to haul materials around or carry out various jobs on their land. But of course, there is a whole other world of UTVs.
While work UTVs often max out on speed at about 30-50 mph, the more powerful recreational UTVs can reach speeds of 80 mph.
They’re also very nimble for their size, often equipped with powerful shocks, they’re able to rock crawl with the monster trucks, and navigate the raw wilderness.
Hunters can use them to easily make their way into the woods to find the best roosting spot.
And UTVs even have their own class in the Dakar Rally, a race in which people from all over the world drive over Saudi Arabia’s sand dunes for a cash prize.
It’s a glorious sight to see these machines launching themselves into the air over a sand dune.
What’s the difference between ATV and UTV?
To begin, it’d be much easier to describe the things that ATVs and UTVs have in common, then discuss how they differ, since they only share a few attributes.
They’re both four wheel drive, and are used both functionally and recreationally.
Functionally they’re both used on farms and large areas of land.
It’s helpful to think of the quad bike as being a replacement for horses or a slightly safer alternative to a motorcycle; and side-by-sides as being a cheaper, smaller, more agile form of truck.
Recreationally, they’re both used for many different types of off-roading.
Whether you’re making your way deep into the woods to set up a hunting roost or a campsite or competing against other UTVs or ATVs, racing across the desert.
As for the differences, there are several distinctions between ATVs and UTVs. Chief amongst them is the shape.
ATVs, or quad bikes, look like motorcycles with four wheels, they’re small and nimble and great for when you’re off the beaten path.
UTVs on the other hand look like beefed up golf carts, their seats have backs, and most of them have a roof of some sort.
The most notable difference between ATVs and UTVs is the way they’re driven.
ATVs are driven just like a motorcycle with most of the controls, throttle, brake, horn, etc on the handlebars, and they’re steered by turning the handlebars to one side or the other.
While UTVs are set up more like a golf cart. Steered by a steering wheel in front of the driver’s seat, with a gas and a break pedal.
Most UTVs come equipped with some sort of structure overtop of the driver’s and passenger’s seats called an ROPS (Roll Over Protection System) or Roll Cage.
And the safety features don’t stop there. They also often come with seatbelts, windshields, and sometimes even doors.
While ATVs on the other hand don’t have nearly as many safety features. They’re meant to be ridden like a motorcycle, so they don’t have any protection against rolling over.
This makes features like seatbelts and doors more dangerous to have than to not have, and their safety features top out at an engine-kill safety lanyard, and orange safety flags.
These two machines are very different sizes, which of course means a difference in speed and power.
ATVs have a top speed of about 60 – 80 miles per hour, compared with UTV’s average top speeds, between 30 – 50 miles per hour, depending greatly on the size of the engine.
It’s probably these faster speeds that make ATVs a bit more popular with kids, hence the creation of kids sized ATVs.
While there are some racing UTVs that can break speeds of up to 80 mph, these are specialized vehicles and don’t reflect their average speeds.
UTVs in general may not be able to whizz by at such great speeds, but they take the cake when it comes to raw horsepower.
UTVs on average have a range of horsepower between 75 and 120 hp. Much more powerful than the average horsepower of an ATV, which maxes out at around 80 hp.
Why should you pick UTV over ATV?
A choice between an ATV and an UTV will depend largely on what you hope to use it for.
If for example you need a vehicle that can traverse your farm land so that you can get some jobs done, and you need to haul tools and materials back and forth, then an ATV would not be the best choice for you.
If, however, you’re more interested in zooming down the beach, or through the wilderness at breakneck speeds, you’re more likely to want an ATV.
Its small size and fast top speeds make it the perfect pick for an adrenaline junky.
Not to say that ATVs cannot be useful, they’re often used by farmers when the main objective is traveling great distances across their land.
While ATVs can drag behind them a trailer for all your hauling needs, it’s not as safe or practical as the solutions that UTVs provide.
An ATV’s trailer would be subject to all the bumps and holes of the land without the suspension system that a UTV would have. Meaning that all the contents in your trailer would be likely to be thrown out.
UTVs are far more customizable than their ATV cousins, which can be altered to be more powerful or shock absorbant, etc.
There is so much to be done if you would like to modify your UTV. Here are some, not all, of the possible modifications you might want to make:
- Full doors (Whereas most models have no door, or perhaps half doors.)
- Side view mirrors
- Rear view mirrors
- LED Headlights
- Mounted Light bar
- Hood rack (Allowing for extra storage on the front of the vehicle)
- A-arm guards (A-arms are a popular suspension method in use under many UTV models, A-arm guards, as the name suggests, protect the A-arms from damage inflicted by the environment.)
- Headache rack (A protective layer of metal that sits behind the driver/passenger seats, most often used on models with a truck bed. This device makes sure that your cargo stays in the back where it belongs, while maintaining your line of sight.)
- Bed lift (Essentially a set of hydraulic pumps that can lift or lower your UTV, making it capable of handling a more varied terrain.)
- Upgraded tires
- Four point racing harness
Not to mention added features like a radio and speakers.
When were side-by-sides invented?
Side-by-sides as a class of vehicle came about very gradually, almost evolving rather than being invented.
They were an amalgam of many different types of vehicles, from cars to motorcycles. All leading to today’s UTVs and their varied shapes and functions.
Are UTVs street legal?
From the factory, no. In order to make your UTV street legal, you must first live in the right state. More than half of the United States have laws allowing the street legalization of UTVs.
If your state does allow your UTV on the roads, it needs working headlights, tail lights, turn signals and an electric horn.
Not to mention ensuring the vehicle meets certain standards when it comes to noise, so adding a muffler if necessary.
Even then, legislation in most states dictates that they should not be driven on highways or interstates.
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