“Don’t die without embracing the great adventure that life was meant to be” - Steve Pavlina
Life was never supposed to be about the ad Infinitum of working, sleeping, and eating. Nobody was supposed to stare at the same four office walls day in and day out for fifty years and none of us was meant to watch our time on Earth slip away like the sands in an hourglass. We weren’t made to regret the things that we didn’t do while lamenting the things that we always promised ourselves that one day, we would get around to doing. Yet, here we are, trapped in an endless cycle of possible tomorrows while dreaming about the adventures that lie just out of our grasp, somewhere over the horizon. The life we’ve fashioned, and the system we’ve created, has convinced us that this is what existence is all about. Work now, play later. But that isn’t true. We were all made to do so much more.
The world is a wonderful, magical place that’s just yearning to be explored, and in order to enjoy it as we were meant to, we need to take risks and step outside of the boxes that we’ve all made for ourselves. We need to find and establish a healthy work-life balance that encourages us to try new things and reach beyond the pale limitations and expectations that we’ve somehow accepted as being normal. We need to rediscover our spirit of endeavor and adventure and learn how to demand more from our lives. The first step on that journey is an easy one to make. It involves walking outside of your door and experiencing life from a completely different perspective. And as you’re here, we’re willing to bet that the new outlook you’ve been searching for probably involves seeing what the world looks like from the saddle of an ATV.
Choosing which saddle you want to be sat on though, that’s a dilemma in itself. Just under a quarter of a million ATV’s are sold in North America every year, which means that there’s a lot of potential vehicles to choose from. In order to simplify, and speed up, the process of choosing your ATV and beginning to live your life the way it was meant to be lived, we’ve chosen five of the best ATV’s on the market so that all you have to do is say “I’ll have that one”. Then you can saddle up, get out there and start seeing the world the way it was meant to be seen. On the back of an ATV.
Top 5 Best ATV
OUR TOP PICK
The best place to start is always at the beginning, which is why our first choice of ATV is one that is widely regarded as being the best “first” ATV for newcomers or anyone interested in trying their hand at off-roading, the Arctic Cat Alterra 300. This monster from Minnesota was brought into being by the company that, in their own words, was “raised on gravel and snow and cut their teeth helping adventurers test their limits” which is exactly what you’d expect, and want, to hear from an ATV manufacturer.
Weighing in at around five hundred pounds, this small but powerful ATV might not have the largest engine in its class, but it packs the same punch and excitement that far larger ATV’s do. It’s lack of size isn’t a hindrance when it comes to sailing over those mountain trails either, as it’s formidable ground clearance and short wheelbase make it a real go-anywhere, four-wheel contender instead of being just another outdoor pretender.
Begrudgingly favored by more experienced riders as well as novices, the Alterra 300 has as astonishing fuel capacity and it’s four and half-gallon tank ensures that you’ll never run dry and always have enough gas to conquer and escape from, any tricky situation. It also comes ready to carry whatever you need it to on it’s front and rear racks and can pull and tow whatever you want it too. Like an ever-faithful hound dog, the Alterra 300 will always be there for you.
- While it’s primarily designed for the adult market, the Alterra 300’s compact size also makes it an ideal first ATV for teenagers and youngsters. And it’s smaller engine makes it easier to control than most of its competitors.
- Its reputation speaks for itself, and even though it’s an “entry-level” ATV, it’s also an ATV of choice for veteran riders. Built to last and made to keep on trucking for however long you want to ride it, the Alterra 300 will just keep on going for as long as you want to ride it.
- While it may not seem like it means much in the grand ATV scheme of things, that four and half-gallon capacity isn’t something you should dismiss out of hand. It’ll hold enough gas to keep you riding for days and give you the peace of mind that you’ll need while you’re out in the middle of nowhere. The Alterra 300 will always get you home.
- We’re not going to lie, it is a smaller ATV. There may well come a time when you’re going to want to trade it in for a larger, more powerful model as even though good things come in small packages, sometimes you just outgrow the things you love. The good news is, it’ll always hold its value, which means it’s a pretty good investment for an ATV.
- And speaking of investment, while it’s just about the best ATV in its class, it’s also the most expensive at around four and half thousand dollars. However, while there are cheaper models available, you get what you pay for. Which in this case is the Arctic Cat seal of approval and an ATV that outstrips and outshines just about every other ATV in a similar, price range.
A beloved among those who know about that sort of thing ATV manufacturer, Can-Am has a simple credo. They’ll proudly tell anyone that’ll listen that they’re “not cheap and that’s a good thing”. Can-Am wants their riders to live without compromise and they firmly believe that you should never have to be forced to make a choice between the best riding experience and the best value for money. Which is why they instill both in all of their ATV’s.
Their scene beating Outlander model comes with a nearly endless variety of specs including engine capacity, fuel tank size, suspension, body shape, and more. In fact, if you can think of something ATV related, there’s a good chance that there’s a Can-Am Outlander that includes it. That said, given the choice of all of the Outlanders available, the ATV Illuminati seem to favor the 450.
Resting toward the lower end of the Outlander price scale and retailing at around seven thousand dollars, the 450 has a staggering six-gallon fuel tank and comes with either a thirty-eight or forty-eight horsepower engine as standard. While that doesn’t sound like it’s packing a whole lot of ponies for a vehicle the size of the Outlander, pound for pound it’ll deliver the same sort of acceleration and torque as one of Detroit’s finest late sixties muscle mobiles. It’s an intermediary ATV beast that’ll serve your life of adventure well and take you to all of the places you never dared to dream that you’d visit.
- All Outlanders are built to a standard and not a price and that’s why Can-Am boasts that their ATVs keep their competitors up at night. That swagger and confidence, that’s something that you’ll want on your side while you’re blazing through forests and venturing into the great outdoors.
- With as many models to choose from as there are stars in the Milky Way (well, not quite, but there are a lot of them) and a nearly endless list of add on’s and extras to choose from, the Outlander is as individual as its riders. Uniformity isn’t a word that Can-Am, or the Outlander, believe in.
- But let’s forget about all of the other models for a minute and focus on the 450. With that size engine and that size fuel tank why on Earth would you ever want to ride or drive any other vehicle again? With all of that power, speed, range, and cool at your finger-tips, it’s difficult to imagine anyone ever want to stop for long enough to actually get off an Outlander.
- While variety is the spice of life, sometimes having too many options to choose from can be almost as bad as having none at all. And with the Outlander, there are lots of different models to choose from. So let’s keep this simple. If the Outlander has tickled your fancy, go for the 450. The engine and fuel capacity are just right, it handles like it’s on rails and the price is right at the sweet spot where it’s not exactly cheap but isn’t too expensive either. It’s just right.
How does that old saying go? It’s better to be a Jack of all trades than a master of none? Well, Polaris re-wrote the adage rulebook when they designed the Sportsman 450, as this ATV masters everything that it, and you, can, and will, turn your hand too. It’s the utilitarian ATV that’s equally at home on a ranch, smashing through forests or hurtling along mountain trails.
In automobile terms, its the ATV equivalent of the Ford F-150, which is why it’s one of America’s favorite ATVs. The Sportsman 450 is designed to be used by the everyman and made to ensure that you’ll fall in love with it as soon as you hit the trail on it. Famous for its versatility and smooth ride, the Polaris 450 deftly balances affordability and quality in a way that few other ATV’s do.
Starting at around six and a half thousand dollars, the Sportsman comes with a thirty-three horsepower engine, a five hundred pound weight load capacity and can tow up to fourteen hundred pounds. The Sportsman is an ATV workhorse that will happily take everything that you can throw at it and just keep on going. It doesn’t care if you’re puddle-jumping, rounding up horses or heading into the hills for a thrill-seeking weekend, whatever you ask of it, the Sportsman will happily do.
- With a starting price of around six and a half thousand dollars, the Sportsman is an ideal ATV to make your mark on the world with. It’s incredible towing and weight capacity makes it a perfect get-away-from-it-all vehicle. Just load it up, point it at the wilderness and embrace the spirit of adventure.
- We know, compared to the Can-Am, the thirty-three horsepower engine that powers the Sportsman doesn’t sound much, but it’s more than enough. It’s a torque heavy powerhouse that’ll do everything much punchier engines will and still have more than enough power to leave its rivals in the dust.
- Then there’s the accessories list, which is comprehensive, to say the least. You could probably keep adding things to your Sportsman until your bank account runs dry. But you won’t need to as the even the most basic model comes with everything you’ll need to put your foot down and be all that you can be.
- Popularity comes with its own set of problems, and the Sportsman, much like the F-150, doesn’t stand out from the pack in the same way that other ATVs do. If you’re looking for an ATV that’s an individual and unique as you are, the personality profile of the Sportsman won’t match yours. And so, in the long run, you’ll probably both be happier if you just swipe right and move on.
Another do-it-all and a whole lot more ATV that’s worked its way into the hearts and minds of the ATV faithful is the Yamaha Grizzly. Long time riders and newbies swear by it and while Yamaha is a go-to brand for keyboards and motorcycles, it isn’t the first name that springs to mind when you think about ATV’s. But all of the precision and technical excellence that Yamaha is famous for are pushed to their absolute limits in the Grizzly.
Fusing the best of the ATV utility and sports worlds in one incredible looking package, the Yamaha Grizzly is powered by a seven hundred cc engine that generates forty-seven horsepower which makes it zippy off the mark and lightning-fast on, and off, road. It can also happily haul up to three hundred pounds of cargo on it’s rear and front racks while towing an additional thirteen hundred pounds. As all-rounders go, the Yamaha 700 EPS is up there with the best of them.
The Grizzly 700 EPS does have one party trick that comes as a standard feature that most other ATV’s don’t have, and that’s power steering. Most of us take power steering for granted and have forgotten how tough it can be, especially over mountainous terrain or rough ground, to steer any vehicle, so the addition of power steering is a welcome bonus that you’ll thank Yamaha for when you hit every bump and pothole in the road.
- The Grizzly 700 EPS is a near-perfect combination of utility and sports ATV that’ll take off and go like a rocket, but at the same time is also capable of transporting and carrying whatever life puts in its path.
- Engineering is more than just a passion for Yamaha, it’s a way of life. Every nut and bolt on the 700 EPS has been tested to destruction and beyond more times than most of us have had hot meals. You can sleep well at night, content in the knowledge that this ATV will be one of the safest machines that you’ll ever ride.
- It comes with power steering as standard. We can’t stress how important this is and how much easier it’ll make your life when you’re bouncing around off-road.
- All of that power, speed, and power steering comes at a premium. The 700 EPS starts at around eight and a half thousand dollars and depending on the accessories you kit it out with, could end up costing you around ten grand. Which is an awful lot of cash to pay for a Yamaha badge.
Remember when your parents used to take you to the movies and tell you that they were saving the best for last and then you’d get a Wendy’s after the credits had rolled? Well, it’s the same with our list. We’ve saved the best for last, and here it is, the Can-Am Renegade. As we’ve already waxed lyrical about Can-Am and why they’re one of the most well respected, and with good reason, ATV manufacturers in the world, we’re going to skip that bit in case we repeat ourselves. So we’ll just get on with telling you why the Renegade is the ultimate sports ATV that your hard-earned dollars can buy.
Can-Am, with a mixture of pride and wonder, say that the Renegade picks up where the limit ends and that it’s the most powerful family of Sports ATV’s available anywhere on the planet, and having seen the Renegade’s specifications, we believe them. The Renegade comes with two different engines, and while the entry model produces a staggering fifty-nine horsepower, the top of the range Renegade X class generates a terrifying ninety-one horsepower. When we say terrifying, we mean it, as the thought of trying to navigate off-road courses at the sorts of speeds the Renegade is capable of is enough to make you wake up screaming in the middle of the night.
The Renegade’s manufacturer also states that, and we can’t help imagining that they did so with a grin, getting filthy shouldn’t be this much fun. And to reinforce their point, they’ve outfitted the Renegade with up-graded tires, an engine snorkel, Fox suspension, and underbody armor. That’s right, Can-Am armored the Renegade. That should tell you everything that you’ll ever need to know about this ATV’s target audience.
- The Renegade is literally the fastest, most powerful mass-produced ATV on the face of the planet. Ninety-one horsepower isn’t just mind-blowing, it’s more frightening than Jason Voorhees and Leatherface teaming up for a trip to Sunday school. We can’t even begin to wrap our brains around how fast this ATV is.
- Can-Am has pumped enough kit into the Renegade to ensure that it will turn heads and make jaws hit the floor everywhere it goes. And that it will out-perform just about any other ATV on the road and leave its rivals choking on its exhaust fumes.
- If all of the bloodcurdling upgrades haven’t already sent you running for cover, maybe the price will. If you’ve started fantasizing about riding the ultimate X version of the Renegade, to make that dream a reality you’re going to have to hand Can-Am around twelve thousand dollars. That’s an awful lot of green for an ATV, no matter how powerful it is.
Best ATV Buying Guide
Right about now, you’re probably feeling a little bit overwhelmed by all of the information that you’ve just consumed. That’s okay, take a minute or two to catch your breath and collect your thoughts. When you’re ready, we’ve still got a few things to talk about and you’re going to want to pay attention to them before you make a final decision about which ATV you want to take home.
We’ve talked about engine sizes, pulling power, torque, fuel capacity and how much cargo the ATV’s on our list can carry, but it’s also sort of essential to know a little about the three broad categories that all ATVs fall into.
The bad boys of the ATV world, these ATV’s are incredibly light, made to go faster than Vin Diesel in ‘The Fast and Furious’ and to perform all sorts of incredible, death-defying stunts and tricks.
While they’re not exactly a one-trick pony, they’re not made to carry the same sort of weight or have the equivalent puling power of the more down to earth, and commonplace, models. The muscle cars of the ATV world, they’re the kind of quads that Ken Block or Evel Knievel would favor and are all about gas and go.
The Renegade is a Sports ATV taken to the nth degree, so if the idea of speed, speed, and more speed and the odd jump or two makes your blood pump a little faster, then you’re almost certainly going to want to head to ATV Sportsville.
Utility ATVs are all about work, work, and even more work. They’re made to carry weight, tow trailers, and do whatever their rider needs them to do without falling at the first, or any other, step.
Designed primarily for agricultural work, Utility ATVs have come a long way since their humble origins. While they’re still made to fulfill their initial purpose, their strength and ability to carry more weight than Atlas has seen their fanbase grow exponentially as more and more people have discovered the simple pleasures of outdoor life.
The Polaris Sportsman is a perfect example of a Utility ATV whose appeal has reached far beyond the market it was made to satisfy. If you’re drawn to the outdoor life and camping, hiking, and using an ATV to get out and about and into the mountains, then you’d better get ready to lose yourself in the world of Utility ATVs.
Sports Utility ATVs
Like SUVs, Sports Utility ATVs are designed to bridge the gap between the Utility and Sports ATVs by incorporating and utilizing the best bits of both in their design. Equally, at home in urban and rural environments, Sports Utility ATVs aim to give their riders a taste of the wild and the extreme.
The Yamaha Grizzly 700 EPS is a stereotypical Sports Utility ATV and is probably the best example of an off-road vehicle that’ll let you sample everything that the ATV world has to offer.
Best ATV FAQ's
Which ATV Is Right For Me?
Before we even approach answering that question, we feel that it’s important to remind you that the MOST important thing you need to do before deciding to buy an ATV is to set your budget and stick to it like glue. With the sheer volume of accessories and options available to new, and first time, ATV buyers, it’s easy to get carried away and spend far more than you want to. So, for the benefit of those who came in late, set your budget and don’t, under any circumstances, deviate from it.
We’re pretty sure that you’ve already decided which ATV you’re going to purchase (it’s the Yamaha or the Renegade isn’t it?), but if you were to ask us which ATV we’d buy, we’d always go for the Alterra 300. In our opinion, ATVs don’t get much better than the Arctic Cat. But hey, you know what ATV you want. So saddle up, be safe, and have fun.