An all-terrain vehicle (ATV), often called a quad, can be very useful around almost any piece of property, and is a heck of a lot of fun to play with too. But the cabin is perhaps the most perfect place for one of these machines. In one day you can switch from joyriding to completing chores with ease.
Your choice of a quad should be determined by how you plan to use it, so think about utility tasks like gathering firewood, landscaping and snow plowing. Then consider what you want from it in terms of recreational use. Will you use it to support hunting and fishing, or do you just want to go trail riding? And of course, a quality local dealer is a must.
Unless otherwise noted, all models recommended here have cargo racks, single-lever brake systems for easy operation, continuously variable transmissions (CVT), and independent front and rear suspensions with four-wheel drive for superior comfort and performance.
TWO-UP TRAIL RIDERS
Specifically built for safe recreational riding with two people, these ATVs provide extra conveniences for both riders.
Can-Am MAX 800R EFI ($10,099). The powerful 2010 MAX 800R has improved front suspension and is available with power steering. The rear seat can be replaced with a small storage box. The $13,449 LTD version includes an adjust-on-the-fly air suspension and integral GPS.
Arctic Cat TRV 700 H1 EFI Cruiser ($10,199). The Cruiser includes a protective fairing (a shell over the frame to reduce air drag and protect the riders from debris) with a windshield and rear view mirrors, lockable cargo trunk that will hold two helmets, heated handgrips for driver and passenger, plus much more. Power-hungry couples can opt for the TRV 1000 H2 EFI Cruiser for an extra $2,500.
If you’re looking to do some serious work, or just need heavy-duty hunting or ice fishing support, these are the machines that will out-carry and out-haul the rest.
Polaris Sportsman 550 X2 ($8,999). The Swiss Army Knife of ATVs, it can be quickly configured – without tools – from a two-person touring ATV into a one-seater with a substantial rear carry box with a tailgate. Storage inside the front rack holds more than 8 gallons. Combined front rack and rear box capacity is 520 pounds, and towing capacity is rated at an industry-leading 1,500 pounds. Arctic Cat TBX 700 H1 EFI ($8,799). This pickup truck concept ATV has a 300-pound capacity rear tilt box with tailgate and multiple tie-down points plus dual storage boxes in the rear wheel body panels. Its front rack incorporates Arctic Cat’s Speedrack system for securely attaching a variety of tool carriers, baskets, rack boxes and auxiliary lights. A winch and an automotive style 2-inch receiver hitch are standard equipment on this ATV.
No matter what ATV you choose, make sure you get proper operator training that’s available at no charge through your dealer. And always ride safe, sane and sober.
David Wells has been riding and writing about ATVs since the early 1970s and currently owns or has owned products from all the above manufacturers.
Note: Prices listed are manufacturers’ suggested retail prices.
Above the small, spartan entry-level models, these almost fully featured machines are great ATVs for mostly recreational use.
Polaris Sportsman 400 H.O. ($5,699). This smallish machine is nimble, comfortable and capable, if not ideal for bigger riders. However, that didn’t stop it from winning awards as an ideal low-cost ATV. Additionally, small racks with internal storage in the front compartment allow it to be a moderately useful workhorse/mule.
Suzuki King Quad 400 AS 4X4 ($5,799). Performance and comfort are very acceptable in this entry-level model. The multi-lever braking system requires more coordination, since there’s a different lever for both the front and rear brakes, but it does provide extra control. Realtree Hardwoods camouflage finish is an excellent extra-cost option for hunters. And, if you’re up for it, the manual shift 400 FS 4X4 is $300 less.
BANG FOR THE BUCK
With speed and handling that beginning riders won’t outgrow in one season, these are some of the best values in the sport because they are fun to ride but can still put in a day’s work when needed.
Can-Am Outlander 400 EFI ($6,799). Arguably the best performer for the buck of any ATV, this sporty ride offers the most power and best power-to-weight ratio in the class. Do you need to haul firewood or move your boat? The 300-pound rack capacity and 1,100-pound tow rating outdo many competitors with larger engines. Lastly, the Can-Am 3 year warranty far exceeds the industry norm.
Suzuki King Quad 450 AXi ($6,699). The middleweight King Quad is widely respected as an all-around good performer with no significant shortcomings. Features not found on many competitive machines include excellent acceleration thanks to its electronic fuel injection (EFI), a smooth ride with adjustable shocks all the way around, and two sizeable storage compartments.