1. A UTV IS NOT A CAR.
This phrase may seem unnecessary, but I assure you that someone needs to say it. For one thing, financing is COMPLETELY different. If you plan to finance a UTV, you need to have good credit. Because UTVs are recreational, there are not as many lenders willing to extend credit.
Many people believe that UTVs are a great way to save on fuel, which is true if they are street legal. As ODES UTV dealers, we are often asked if the UTVs we sell are street legal. That’s a hard question to answer. It depends less on the make and model of UTV and more on the area where you live or ride. You should always check with your local DMV to be sure.
My favorite reason for pointing out that a UTV is not a car is the charging system. Many people believe that the charging system in a UTV is the same as in a car. In our experience working with new UTV owners, a good 90% will contact us about battery trouble. Out of that 90%, 100% of the issues are NOT with the battery. Check out our post on your UTV charging system for more details.
2. UTVS ARE NOT INDESTRUCTIBLE.
You wouldn’t think anyone would ever need to point this out either, but I stand by including it on the list.
We see plenty of vehicles in the shop for overheating. It’s not uncommon to find the radiator covered in mud. We’ve also diagnosed plenty of UTVs for “being jerky.” (Lunging forward during take off). Common causes are belt slippage due to water or debris. And my all time favorite: the broken drive shaft that occurred as a result of winching the UTV up a hill while in park.
The bottom line is that a UTV can be a rugged off-road machine – but that doesn’t mean it can defy the laws of physics.
3. YOU NEED TO BUDGET AHEAD FOR MAINTENANCE.
In case the point above didn’t make it obvious enough, things will break. Sometimes it’s your fault, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and it will be a warranty issue – most of the time it won’t.
There are things that are easy to budget for and you should take into consideration right off the bat. Plan on changing the engine oil once to twice per year (three times if you buy a brand new unit). You’ll also want to change the transmission and differential fluids at least once a year as well.
Common wear items are likely to need replaced in the first one to two years. These include items like drive belts, brake pads, and wheel bearings. Although there are ways to extend the life of some of these items. Don’t continue to drive on loose wheel bearings. To extend the life of your drive belt, stay in low whenever possible.
And sometimes things will break just because that’s what happens. Whenever you look at any UTV, check out the angle of the CV shafts. The steeper the angle, the softer the ride, the more likely you will need to replace it. If the CV shaft is parallel to the ground (or near it) it will last longer but may not provide as comfortable a ride. (This is not the only factor in ride quality, just an example of maintenance costs.)
4. USED IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST BUY.
What do you think is a better buy? A used UTV off Craigslist for $5000-$7000 or a new UTV with a factory warranty for $10,000? Don’t worry, there’s no right answer.
If you’re buying used, you should at least double what you budgeted for maintenance in the first year. And yes, that’s even if the unit is in great shape. Even if the previous owner was a little old lady who only used it for gardening. Especially if you’re best friends with the person who is selling it.
As a service center, we have seen many “great deals” ring up hundreds of dollars in parts and labor. In the worst case we’ve seen, it was a couple thousand. If you’re going to buy used, know what to look for ahead of time. And make sure you know what you’re getting into.
5. YOUR UTV WILL NEVER LOOK BRAND NEW AGAIN.
Somewhere between the day you take a UTV home and it’s first service, a weird thing happens. There’s a strange phenomenon where people tend to forget that most UTVs are plastic. It’s not just that UTVs are plastic, it’s like they forget the physical properties of plastic as well.
We’ve all been there, but if you’re a first time UTV owner, let me save you some heartache by reminding you now. Plastic fades over time. It is also prone to cracking when exposed to extreme temperature shifts. Decals installed on plastic will fade and may peel. And hydro-dipping (which is SUPER popular right now) tends to show scratches.
An example of hydro-dipped plastics.
I know, it sucks. And to top it off, replacement plastic is EXPENSIVE! (In large part due to shipping costs since the pieces are so big). So what can you do? Not much.
Parking out of the sun helps avoid fading. You could also avoid trails where you’ll be close to trees or branches. Make sure that you also avoid rock crawling and hill climbing as well. Oh, and stay off gravel roads too – you wouldn’t want rocks to scratch or break your plastic either. By following these simple rules your plastic will be pristine forever. Yup, just park inside and don’t go anywhere. Ever.
6. YOU NEED TO TAKE OTHER EXPENSES INTO CONSIDERATION.
You need a trailer. Not a little 4×8 trailer. Most full-size UTVs are at least 60 inches wide. You need a bigger trailer. Yes, you do. Stop fighting it.
You may even need a garage or storage shed. When we decided we didn’t have enough room at the house for our toys, we took some money out of savings to buy a shed. Then we used that money to start a business and now we still can’t park in the garage. True story.