Quad vs ATV, what’s the difference, and which should you choose? While the names can be quite confusing, the main difference is simple. ATVs generally refer to four-wheel utility vehicles, used for work and carrying heavy loads. Quads, on the other hand, are used primarily for recreation and are also referred to as sport ATVs.
ATVs are the workhorses that you want on your property or farm to pull trailers, carry gear and tools, and plow snow. Of course, they can travel along trails as well, but not as fast and effectively as quads will.
There is a ton of overlap between quads and ATVs when it comes to off-roading. However, there are plenty of differences in the design and specs of each type of vehicle.
Keep reading to learn if quads or ATVs are right for you.
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Primary Use of a Quad vs ATV
The biggest difference between quads (or sport and recreation ATVs) and regular ATVs is their intended use case.
ATVs are primarily used for work. This can be personal work on your property, such as plowing snow, managing hunting plots, or pulling logs. But they are also widely used in commercial industries such as farming and wildlife management.
Since they are small and capable of driving on any type of terrain, they can get where trucks and trailers can’t. They are generally heavier and slower than sporty ATVs, but can carry a lot more weight, and are more stable and comfortable for long days in the saddle.
Quads, on the other hand, are built for fun. You can use them for speed and for conquering trail systems or racing tracks.
Towability with ATVs
ATVs are designed to get the job done, whatever job is in front of you. That means that most ATV models are capable of towing trailers or heavy loads. (See our article 5 ATVs With High Towing Capacity: And Tips When Hauling Heavy Load With an ATV)
Some ATV models can tow as much as 1,650 lbs (748 kg), such as the Can-Am Outlander. This rivals the weight that larger UTVs can tow. Most modern ATVs, however, can tow between 500 and 1,200 lbs (226 to 544 kg).
With the right ATV, you can pull a loaded trailer, a large bundle of hay, logs, or even a small boat. Quads aren’t designed to tow lots of weight, though some models may feature a towing package as a bonus.
Many ATV models come with a winch already installed, as well. That way, if you ever need to remove a tree or other heavy object from your path, your vehicle is already equipped to handle this, while recreational models won’t be able to.
And ATVs are easy to attach a snowplow to, making winter a breeze.
Storage and Racks
Recreational quads are designed for pleasure on the trail. That means being lightweight with less bulk, allowing off-roaders to maneuver with ease. However, that means that most recreational four-wheelers don’t have storage space or racks. You can’t carry very much gear with you.
This limits what you can use a sports model for, as camping, hunting, and other activities require tons of gear and supplies.
Utility ATVs, on the other hand, will usually have internal storage compartments for some of your gear, such as the Polaris Sportsman. They will also have integrated racks on the front and back of the vehicle, so you can mount additional gear. ATVs can carry a lot more weight than their sporty counterparts.
ATVs are Comfortable
Utility ATVs are built with the understanding that workdays can last a long time. That means many hours spent in the saddle.
Luckily, these models are much bigger, and therefore more comfortable. Larger, softer seats designed for sitting in a relaxed position are key. Plus, greater ground clearance and better suspension systems provide a smoother ride.
Recreational quads seek a more nimble design, cutting out some creature comforts, like wide seats, in favor of speed.
Want to Go Fast? Get a Quad
There are some advantages that recreational quads have over utility models, such as speed.
Sport-ATVs can go much faster than utility vehicles. This is due to its sleek design and lightweight build. That’s why these models are often used by racers.
If trail riding is all that you do, a sporty quad may be a better option. The lower weight, however, can mean less traction in difficult terrains like mud or snow.
Quads Offer Better Handling
Without a lot of the bulk that comes with a utility ATV, recreational quads and turns and handles with more ease. This makes them suited to offroad tracks and can even allow riders to handle jumps and tough obstacles. ATVs are much too heavy to be used on the track.
Size Differences Between ATVs and Quads
Utility ATVs are much bigger than quads. Their center of gravity is higher and the builds are wider, allowing for more storage space. While this is a good thing when getting work done, it also makes them harder to transport to other locations. They may also struggle on narrow trails, where trees, boulders, or other obstacles may not let wider ATVs through.
Quads, on the other hand, are smaller and lighter making them easy to haul anywhere that you want to explore. And being much smaller allows them to access the tightest trails, leaving utility ATVs behind.
Trail and Terrain for Different ATVs
Utility ATVs have higher ground clearance, better suspension, and four-wheel drive. This allows them to power through any type of terrain, 365 days a year.
Recreational quads are intended to be used on trails and may struggle with larger obstacles or tricky terrain, due to smaller ground clearance, lower weight, and less traction.
Cost of ATVs and Quads
Utility ATVs generally feature a lot more bells and whistles, as those are needed to perform tough jobs day in and day out. As a result, these vehicles are usually more expensive, often between $10,000 and $15,000 for the most powerful, functional models.
Recreational quads, such as the Can-Am Renegade, can cost a lot less, often between $5,000 and $10,000. If you are looking for used quads, you can get started for much less.
Which Four Wheeler is Right for You?
Quad vs ATV, what is the better option? They are both fun to drive and can explore local trail systems with each other.
ATVs are typically used for work, as they can haul gear, tow trailers, and handle gnarly terrain in any conditions. But recreational quads are used purely for sport, offering a lighter, faster vehicle built for the trails.
It comes down to what you intend to use the vehicle for, as well as your budget. Otherwise, you can consider a UTV if you need something larger, that can carry multiple riders. Check out our article here to compare the difference between ATVs and UTVs.