ATV Motorcycles

ATV vs. Quad vs. Four-Wheeler: Differences and Benefits

ATV vs. Quad vs. Four-Wheeler: Differences and Benefits

Many motorcyclists and adventure riders may not know the difference between an ATV, a quad, and a four-wheeler. It is fine if you have trouble telling the difference between them since they are often referred to interchangeably. Also, they cannot be technically categorized as motorcycles due to having only three or four wheels. Despite looking similar, ATVs, quads, and four-wheelers do differ when it comes to their purposes and performances. Read this article to learn about the difference between and benefits of ATVs, quads, and four-wheelers.

1. ATV


ATV is the commonly used term for vehicles capable of maneuvering on different terrain regardless of the number of tires. The acronym ATV is an abbreviation for “all-terrain vehicle.” It is a broader term that includes most vehicles with all-terrain capability, including most four-wheelers, three-wheelers, and six-wheelers. ATVs can also include military vehicles, utility terrain vehicles (UTVs), and adventure jeeps for surveillance, transport, and recreational purposes. These vehicles come with large, fat, knobby tires and high ground clearance to ensure better maneuverability over tough terrain without damaging the vehicle’s belly and engine.

Honda manufactured the first three-wheeled ATV. Honda kept adding upgrades over time, including better suspensions and off-road tires. This ATV became popular after riders found it suited as a utility bike for wilderness trips and hunting.

2. Quads


Despite becoming popular, the three-wheeled ATVs had several handling and maneuverability issues. To fix these issues and ensure a better off-roading experience, ATVs were installed with four wheels to expand their capabilities. Quads became common during the 1980s as the popularity of three-wheeled ATVs slowly died due to poor performance on dirt trails. For off-road rides and wilderness trips, riders found quad bikes as the most useful and fun vehicles. Due to high demand, several manufacturers started upgrading quad bikes with improved quality and features.

In 1985, Yamaha built one of the most popular quad bikes, the Banshee. The Banshee was capable of traveling on sand, which helped it gain the title of “The King of Dunes.” Yamaha stopped producing the Banshee in 2006 due to failing to meet emission standards.

3. Four-Wheelers


Photo Credit: Dirt Wheels Mag

Both four-wheelers and quads have four wheels; however, four-wheelers differ from quads due to having a four-wheel drive system. The engine drives more power into all four wheels for exceptional off-road performance. This allows you to get tires out of a pothole, mud, or debris more easily due to increased traction.

If you got stuck on any other vehicle, you would need to get off and push or pull the vehicle to get it tire free. However, you do not need to do any of this with a four-wheeler if it gets stuck due to the all-wheel drive system and better traction. Four-wheelers have replaced many ATVs due to their superior traction and off-roading capability. These types of vehicles can be used to navigate on top of ice, snow, and mud.


4. The Most Popular Types of ATVs

4.1 Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs)

Utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) are the most versatile off-roaders with four wheels. They have changed a lot over the years, with the latest models being powerful and versatile. They are designed to provide a comfortable off-road experience. You can also carry luggage on a UTV due to having several luggage racks installed. Several ATV manufacturers are producing UTVs capable of comfortable two–up riding. Utility vehicles come with several features and parts that make them ideal for adventure and wilderness trips. However, there are not designed for extreme off-roading and challenging terrains due to being heavy.

4.2 Sport Quad

A sport quad is a dirt bike with four wheels, a good option if you want to travel on an ATV at high speeds. This lightweight vehicle is used for wilderness trips and adventure rides on challenging terrains. If you become stuck on a dirt trail because of mud or a pothole, you can simply push or pull it to get it unstuck. There are also not many features and aftermarket parts installed on a sports quad, making it extremely lightweight and durable for better off-road capability.

4.3 Sport Utility Machines

Sport utility machines are hybrid four-wheel vehicles with characteristics from both sport quad and utility terrain vehicles. Sport utility machines are sport touring vehicles, ideal for comfortable and fast performance due to their dual nature. However, if you cannot handle the extra weight, a sport quad is a better option than a sport utility machine.

4.4 Youth ATVs

Youth ATVs are four-wheelers with good balance and stability. To provide young riders with a vehicle so they can enjoy off-road rides, several ATV manufacturers have built youth ATVs. These ATVs are smaller in size, have small-displacement engines, and are extremely lightweight. If your teenage kids want to join you on an off-road adventure ride, a youth ATV is the best and safest first vehicle.

The Most Popular Types of ATVs
Sport Quad Utility Terrain Vehicles Sport Utility Machines Youth ATVs
Fast and robust Versatile Dual nature Small size
Lightweight Powerful and torquey Have characteristics of both sports and utility vehicles Low power
Good for adventure and wilderness trips More comfortable Fast and comfortable Designed for younger riders
Can be easily unstuck by applying a little force Can carry extra luggage Heavier than sports quads Smaller engines
Durable Comes with stock luggage racks   Simple and easy to ride
Fewer parts Good for two-up riding    
Simple Not designed for extreme off-roading    

5. Things to Consider Before Buying an ATV

  • What is your purpose in buying an ATV?
  • Do you want an ATV capable of high-speed performance or improved maneuverability?
  • Do you want to use it for extreme dirt trail riding and maneuvering on challenging terrains?
  • Do you want an ATV for riding around the corner?
  • Do you want an ATV for riding by yourself or with a passenger?
  • What budget have you set aside for an ATV?

6. Pros and Cons of ATVs

Pros of ATVs Cons of ATVs
  • ATVs are built with simple designs, which makes repairs easier. Any ATV part can be easily replaced or fixed if you possess basic knowledge of motorcycle maintenance.
  • Can travel on different terrain.
  • The most common type of all-terrain vehicle is used for off-roading, exploration, military operations, and spying.
  • ATVs can be stored in tiny spaces since they are light and compact.
  • Not suited for carrying a passenger due to having little space. ATVs frequently have only solo seats.
  • ATV parts are expensive.
  • Since many of the parts used in ATVs are substantial and huge, these vehicles.
  • ATVs consume more fuel due to being heavy.


7. Pros and Cons of Four-Wheelers

Pros of four-Wheelers Cons of four-Wheelers
  • Due to having a four-wheel drive system, four-wheelers are excellent for off-roading.
  • They have good maneuverability on difficult terrain.
  • Because of its four-wheel drive system, they have higher traction.
  • They typically do not become stuck, especially on difficult terrain.
  • Four-wheel drive means that four-wheelers have complicated builds and parts.
  • They are challenging to maintain and repair.


8. Pros and Cons of Quads

Pros of Quads Cons of Quads
  • Quads are more stable and controllable due to having four wheels.
  • Accessible to the majority of riders.
  • Kid-friendly due to being secure and easy to use.
  • Quads are good alternative off-road vehicles due to being faster than ATVs.
  • Frequently used as recreational vehicles for outdoor activities because of their speed.
  • Despite being expensive, they are easy and cheap to repair and maintain.
  • More dangerous and unsafe than other ATVs
  • Have greater risks of accidents and injuries
  • Not designed for all terrains
  • They are loud, causing noise pollution
  • Expensive
  • Expensive and difficult to maintain

9. Bottom Line

If you are not good at riding a motorcycle, especially a dirt or adventure bike, but want to go on off-road adventures, an all-terrain vehicle is a good option. There are many ATVs you can pick from, depending on the type, purpose, expertise, budget, and how much speed and power you require. Quads are ATVs that are fun, quick, and robust. However, you must have training in how to operate a quad. Meanwhile, a UTV is comfortable and suited for adventure touring due to being able to carry extra luggage. ATVs are multi-purpose vehicles suited for recreational activities if you love spending time in the wilderness. However, you should figure out your needs and requirements before picking an ATV, quad, or four-wheeler.

If you do not own an ATV, you can still enjoy wilderness trips and off-road rides on your dirt bike and enduro. However, to make them more suitable for long trips, Viking Bags offers several good-quality luggage options to carry useful stuff on wilderness trips. These include saddlebags, tank bags, backpacks, fender bags, and handlebar bags. You can also find a bottle holster bag to carry and mount your water bottle in a more accessible position. Viking Bags also manufactures tank-top saddlebags for ATVs.

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