What Is a Side by Side ATV?


You have probably heard of ATVs before, otherwise known as quads. 4 wheeled “bikes” that are meant to go offroad and can either be used for utility, fun, or sport. But there is another type of ATV that is quite different, known as a “side by side” ATV.

A side by side ATV is an offroad vehicle that features two seats and one steering wheel, much like a car. They are meant to be driven in all sorts of terrain, whether that be dirt or snow. Side by sides are more costly than quads but are a more familiar and shareable driving experience.

Side by sides are good fun, but you probably want to know even more about them and how they compare to quad ATVs. If you’d like to learn more, we encourage you to keep reading.

What Are Side by Sides and Why Are They Used?

An ATV can technically mean any vehicle that is meant to be driven over “all-terrain;” you could call a Jeep Wrangler an ATV and be correct because it is built to handle any terrain.

However, most people think of quads, essentially four-wheeled motorcycles with meaty suspension and off-road tires. If you want to mention another type of ATV, you’ll usually have to specify what you are talking about. 

Side by sides are the second most popular type of ATV, and they are an in-between from a Quad and a Jeep, but they lean more into the Jeep side.

  • Instead of a motorcycle-esque setup with a handlebar, throttle, and a seat that you sit on top of.
  • Side by side has car-like seating, pedals, and a steering wheel.
  • They aren’t street legal (by default, anyway), so they are strictly meant for off-roading, whether for utility or sport.

An easier way to talk about side by side is to use the other name that they go by – UTV (or you can simply call them SxS), which stands for utility terrain vehicle.

Despite the name, you can still call sport-centric side by side UTVs; it’s a simply easier way to differentiate quad ATVs and side by side ATVs.

A UTV can either have 2 or 4 seats, with four-seaters being more common in UTVs meant for more relaxed riding. If you are more into sporty off-roading, you’ll generally be seeing more two-seaters when browsing.

People use UTVs because they are a more familiar experience than an ATV, which requires practice and even physical ability if you are riding a sport ATV. UTVs, on the other hand, is immediately understandable for anyone who has driven a car or knows how a car works.

UTVs are also more comfortable than ATVs for long rides since you are lounging in a seat. Both the driver and passenger can enjoy a more relaxed experience overall, making for a more social experience that can be an all-day endeavor.

For utility purposes, a UTV can carry more things, plow snow better, and are better at towing since they are larger and heavier.

This all isn’t to say UTVs are better than ATVs, they are a completely different experience, but we are just explaining why you might buy/use one over an ATV.

What Are the Different Types of Side by Sides?

Like ATVs, UTVs can vary depending on what they are meant to be used for.

Utility

A utility UTV is meant to be used for practical purposes or to aid in another activity such as hunting. A UTV can be used to get around on a farm, tow, plow snow, or carry equipment. These are on the more affordable side of UTVs since they generally aren’t trying to be speed demons but rather practical and comfortable vehicles.

Sport-Utility

A sport-utility UTV is an all-around UTV that can be used for either recreational purposes or practical. The seats will usually be sporty “bucket” seats meant to hold both the driver and passenger in place when making hard turns, but they keep the practicality of a utility UTV. If you have to choose one UTV for all of your needs, this is the way to go.

Sport

Sport UTVs go all-in on the recreational side of things, and this is generally where you might sink the most money into a machine depending on just how powerful and advanced you want your UTV to be. They can also be the cheapest since bells and whistles such as cargo space and winches aren’t the focus.

These are smaller, sleeker machines with bucket seats, powerful engines, and “sportier” suspension to handle fast hard turns. They can come in 4 seater varieties, but you will mostly see two and even one seaters here since smaller size = less weight, which translates to better performance. 

How Much Do Side by Sides Cost?

UTVs cost more than quads due to the increased amount of material needed to make them, and if you want an especially powerful machine, you could be looking at spending as much money for an entry-level new car or a great used car.

You can expect to pay anywhere between $8000 – $30,000 for one. You can find cheaper models if you are looking for a “simple” model with fewer features and an engine that will “get the job done,” but most models you would likely want are priced higher.

Naturally, you’d expect a top-end UTV to be extremely powerful and have lots of features. The Can-Am Maverick X3 is a great example of what is possible in a UTV. There are models with a whopping 195-horsepower, which for a vehicle, this light is silly fast.

Whether or not spending new-car money on a UTV is worth it is entirely up to you, but you can find great UTVs for under $12,000, even more so if you shop used.

Should You Buy a Side by Side or a Quad?

If you are looking for a fun off-road vehicle that can be used all-year-round, getting a side by side is a great idea. They provide a comfortable ride, which makes hitting the trails more accessible than a quad and generally more practical overall. They are also familiar and don’t have a learning curve as steep as a quad.

But do note that since they are wider vehicles, they can’t go everywhere that a quad can, and they cost more money overall. If you value speed and features, you’ll be paying a pretty penny for a UTV, and you can oftentimes get a powerful ATV for the price of a “cheap” UTV.

Additionally, quads provide an entirely different experience from a car, which many people value when using an ATV for recreational purposes.

But if you are after a vehicle that is comfortable, fun, and can do any job, and if you have the money, has lots of horsepower, a side by side is an excellent choice.

If you’d like more insight on this topic since this is admittedly a very brief section, we recommend watching the video below.

Conclusion

Side by side is a form of all-terrain-vehicle that is closer to a Jeep-wrangler than they are to a motorcycle like a quad ATV. This gives the advantage of more room, comfortable seating, easy to understand the operation, and more potential horsepower. They are an excellent purchase for those who value these qualities.

Depending on what you are looking for, SxSs can get pretty pricey, as in Jeep Wrangler level pricey, but they are worth every penny if you want something fun and useful!

Just remember to wear a helmet such as the ones in our Helmet Gear Guide.

Rob

That's me sinking another ATV. I love to ride no matter what it is, snowmobiles, four wheelers, dirt bikes, and anything else off-roading. I've experienced my fair share of machines, and like to share that experience here.

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