Understanding UTVs: A Comprehensive Guide to Utility Task Vehicles

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Understanding UTVs: A Comprehensive Guide to Utility Task Vehicles


With the rise in popularity of all-terrain vehicles, off-roading, and space-saving motor vehicles, you may have come across the term UTV. What is a UTV, exactly, and what makes them special? Can anyone ride them, and what are UTVs most commonly used for?

UTVs are small, rugged little vehicles that are increasingly popular on farms, ranches, and even among racers. Keep reading to learn more about these versatile machines, and to learn if a UTV may be right for your needs.

What is a UTV? What Does UTV Stand For?

UTV stands for “Utility Task Vehicle”. They’re tough-built, off-road motorized rides with four or more wheels that handle a bit more like a car than would an ATV. They typically seat a driver plus a passenger side-by-side. Some have simple golf-cart-like roofs, whereas others are fully enclosed.

UTVs are increasingly popular as hauling vehicles on farms and ranches, and often feature a small bed in the back; a bit like a rugged golf cart crossed with a small pick-up truck. This enables riders to bring along items like bales of hay or bags of feed, and UTVs can also be used for light plowing and surveying property.

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What is a UTV Used For?

UTVs are great for hauling feed, hauling hay, giving rides around your property, patrolling, and just plain old fun. You can even hook up attachments for snow plowing or farming, and some riders enjoy casual racing with UTVs.

They’re well-built, versatile machines that can haul people as well as wares, and do just as well as a fun weekend hobby and a Monday through Friday workhorse. They’re a great way to get around off-road, whether you’re hunting, camping, or fishing.

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How Do UTVs Work?

UTVs work in very much the same way that a car does. As a result, they tend to have a car-like rather than bike-like ride quality. UTVs are powered by a gas engine (though some can take diesel) and typically feature automatic transmission and drivetrain.

UTV suspension systems feature shocks and arms to help absorb the impact of jolts and bumps, but they aren’t the smoothest ride. UTVs are built more for work than for comfort but do great on uneven terrain. The wheels are large, chunky, and deeply grooved, making maneuvering on sand, dirt, and mud a lot less difficult.

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Are UTVs Street Legal?

Whether or not you can drive a UTV on a public street depends upon local and state laws. Generally speaking, in most places you can ride an ATV, you can ride a UTV, as well.

Some states allow UTVs to use two-lane public roads under certain circumstances, whereas other states prohibit UTVs from sharing a road with cars. This really just boils down to what your state allows. Be sure to familiarize yourself with all laws and regulations wherever you plan on using your UTV.

There may be certain times of the year, such as deer-hunting season, when the legal use of UTVs on wooded trails is restricted or prohibited. Other states may require a UTV to have headlights and taillights, may restrict certain sizes or weights of vehicles, or may disallow certain aftermarket modifications to UTVs.

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Can You Drive a UTV Without a License?

Whether or not you need a license for the UTV depends upon the state you live in. Age restrictions also vary by state. Make sure you understand what is required of you before you ride, as rules can differ greatly from state to state.

For example, Colorado requires a special off-road permit to operate a UTV, and an unaccompanied rider must be at least 16 years old. In Iowa, your UTV must be registered, and riders on public roadways must be at least 18 and hold a valid driver's license.

Failure to comply with state regulations can lead to tickets, expensive fines, or even arrest if you allow a minor to illegally ride a UTV. Never allow a minor to ride where it is illegal for them to do so, and supervise young people even in states where under-18 UTV operation is legal.

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How to Ride a UTV

UTVs drive a lot like cars, and they’re not too hard to get the hang of. Always wear a helmet and long sleeves when riding, wear a safety belt if your UTV is equipped with one, and follow all speed limits and rules of the road, whether on trails or a paved surface.

Be careful when turning your UTV. They tend to be top-heavy and can flip over if you turn too rapidly, or at higher speeds. Slow down as gradually as you can, and get off to a slow start, too.

When climbing a hill, shift into low gear, keep your weight forward as much as possible, and make a u-turn down the hill if you can’t scale it. Failure to do so could cause you to flip, and get seriously hurt. Keep in mind that vehicle weight and cargo will increase stopping distance, and make sure at least one friend or family member knows where you’ll be going wherever you ride.

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How Fast Do UTVs Go?

UTVs are relatively speedy, and most top brands can reach at least 25 miles per hour. Some examples of UTV top speeds are

  • The Kubota RTV-X1140 : 25 miles per hour
  • The John Deere Gator XUV 825 S4 : 40 miles per hour
  • The Arctic Cat Prowler Pro : 50 miles per hour
  • The Can-Am Maverick X3 : 80 miles per hour

Speed is impacted by terrain, road material, driver skill level, weather, incline, how much weight you’re towing, and how many riders you have along.

Always, always obey posted speed limits when riding, wear a helmet even if not required by law, be aware of your surroundings, and ride as though you plan to meet other drivers.

While you have every right to enjoy your UTV, it’s dangerous to speed. UTVs can roll over, and cause serious injury or death if ridden improperly. This is true whether you’re on a paved road, or riding through dirt trails. Stay safe, and keep speeds reasonable for conditions.

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How Much Does a UTV Cost?

Now that you’ve become familiar with the basic features and benefits of a UTV, how much will a new one cost you? This depends greatly on what you buy and what it can do, but a new UTV can start at around $12,000 or more. Some UTVs run cheaper, but well-built, durable rides are going to take more out of your wallet. The most expensive special edition of the Polaris Ranger will set you back over $34,000.

The price of a new UTV can be affected by the seating capacity, tow capacity, hauling capacity, added features, materials used, top speed, brand, and model. Used UTVs can cost anywhere from $5,000 - $15,000 or more depending on the brand, vehicle age, and wear.

Don’t forget to factor in the cost of maintenance and insurance. Insurance will be a recurring expense, and maintenance will depend largely on how carefully you ride your UTV, and where you store it when not in use.

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Do UTVs Have Titles?

Yes, all new UTVs have titles. The title is an official document, initially obtained from and through the UTV dealership, establishing your legal ownership of the vehicle, and includes information such as the UTV’s VIN, its make and model, and the new owner’s address.

Ideally, the title is passed from a previous owner to the new owner should you ever sell your UTV, just as one would with the private sale of a car or a truck.

If you have lost your original title, you can generally apply for a replacement from the manufacturer via formal State-level paperwork. Alternatively, a bill of sale can be used as proof of ownership transfer, and a formal application for a new title can be submitted, as well.

If you have purchased a UTV with no title, the first thing you’ll want to do is check the vehicle’s VIN to make sure that the UTV is not listed as stolen. The VIN can also help you track down the original owner, and you may be able to acquire the original title through him or her.

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How to Register a UTV Without Registration

Registering your UTV will differ in each state, though a general rule of thumb is to have your title on hand to begin the process.

To obtain a new copy of a lost title, one can often be applied for officially at a state level. This process may be handled by your state’s department of motor vehicles, or department of natural resources, depending.

You may also be able to obtain the original title by contacting a vehicle’s previous owner. In some states, a bill of sale signed by both the buyer and the seller may be used in place of a title, if both parties are present.

Failing to register your UTV may restrict your riding to gravel roads, trails, or your own property. What’s more, failure to register can lead to legal issues, so it’s best to get your UTV legal.

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Does a UTV need Insurance?

Just like other vehicles, you need insurance for your UTV to protect yourself financially in case of an accident or other unexpected event. The cost of insurance for your UTV will likely depend on the make and model, safety features, as well as age, driving history, and residence of the owner. The insurance price will also depend on the plan you opt for.

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What Does UTV Insurance Cover?

  • Bodily injury liability insurance covers the cost accrued due to other parties being injured or killed by or while riding your UTV.
  • Property damage liability insurance covers damage to other’s property caused by your UTV, or by you while riding it.
  • Collision insurance covers damage done to other vehicles by your UTV, damage done to your UTV by others, or damage sustained in a rollover.
  • Comprehensive insurance helps protect you from theft, vandalism, and weather-related damage.

These plans range from about $80 a month to over $1,000 a month, depending on the level of coverage, and the make and model of your UTV. UTV insurance can be a bit higher than ATV insurance, due to the more significant expense of the vehicles, as well as their capacity to reach higher speeds and growing popularity.


UTVs or Utility Task Vehicles are useful little gas-powered rides with at least four wheels and are often used for farm work, backwoods transport, and ranch work. They look a bit like a cross between a golf cart and a tiny truck, and a new one will likely cost you at least $12,000.

While some UTVs can reach speeds of over 60 miles per hour, it’s important to drive carefully, not speed, and always wear a helmet and a seat belt if your ride is so equipped.

UTVs are truly wonderful, fun, and hard-working machines. They can serve you well on trails and can just as soon plow your snowy drive as haul your kids around the orchard. Consider one for your home, ranch, farm, or business. They’re easy to learn how to use, and truly enjoyable to operate, too.