HOW-TO: 10 Tips on Buying a Used UTV

— What to look for when shopping for a good deal —

As the UTV market expands, there are a lot of enthusiasts purchasing new machines and putting their old ones on the market. Those used machines can be where a smart buyer stakes their claim on a handsome deal for a (new to them) UTV. With sites like Craigslist and atvtrader, there are many options to view the available herd of UTVs, and begin the process of narrowing down the quality values and weeding out the not-so-promising SxSs. Research is key when it comes to finding the right machine at the right price, however that’s only the first step to picking up your new toy. The important parts comes with the inspection when you get to see the machine! So we have a guide to help you pick up your new ride after a proper go-over of the machine.




We like to start our inspection with what we call the 7 Ss.

Starting: When you turn the key on and crank the engine over, it should burst immediately to life. If it takes its time starting, doesn’t start at all or the battery is completely dead, you should start to worry.

Smoke: Once the engine is running, if you see a lot of smoke come from the exhaust, that’s always a bad sign and that you might have costly repairs in your future.

Slippage: On your test ride of the machine, if the CVT belt feels like it is slipping, that generally means you need a new belt, which can be relatively cheap, however there could be clutching issues. On an automatic transmission if the clutch feels like its slipping you will need to get your wallet out for that major repair.

Speed: If the UTV doesn’t feel like it isn’t giving the power the engine should have out of it, well maybe you should look for a different vehicle.

Stability: If the SxS doesn’t feel tight and ride straight and in control, that could mean big issues in the suspension or steering

Stopping: Brakes are extremely important! However they aren’t terribly expensive to fix, make sure the pedal feels strong and if not that could mean repairs.



You are in control of this transaction and the seller should let you inspect the vehicle and ask as many questions as needed. Don’t be afraid to ask about the UTV’s service history, what they mainly used it for, the amount of time it’s been out and always check the odometer or hour meter on the machine.

Some sellers will try and cover up what they used the machine for and how hard they drove it. It’s your job to discretely gain this information by asking questions that could cause the seller to slip and tell you things that might steer you away from the sale.




Always check the oil on the machine. No matter if it’s practically brand new. Take out the oil dip stick and give it a sniff. If the oil looks fresh but smells bad, that could mean major engine issues and you should walk away. If it’s a little dirty but doesn’t smell bad then everything could be fine. Check to see if the oil filter looks new or if it’s old. That could give you a hint on how well the machine is maintained.




If the machine’s coolant is any other color than green or orange, there could be an issue. If it looks very diluted, then that is also another warning sign. Tap water is not good to run as coolant in aluminum engines, and will cause corrosion in the engine!




This step is usually simple. If give the gas tank a quick sniff and the gasoline smells rancid then you will be looking at either carburetor overhauls or the same thing with the fuel injection system. At that point you can request the seller to lower his price or know you will need to do some maintenance.




UTV’s are usually 4×4’s which means they have axles and CV boots. Check the CV boots coming out of the front and rear differentials as well as the boots on all four spindles. If they are torn or cracked, that means the vehicle has been driven hard and those axles will need to be rebuilt or replaced. If the machine has been lifted, and stock axles are used, you might as well get new ones right away that are meant to take the further bend the lift puts on them. You never want to hear grinding noises from the drive lines on a test drive.




It is very important to check out the frame on any machine. If you see cracks or awkward bends in the frame that shouldn’t be there, then walk away, and quickly! Big crashes can be covered up with fresh plastics and body panels but a frame will tell the true tale. Check shock mounting points. If there is rust around them, then they have been overstressed. Another sign the machine has been driven hard.



If you look over a machine and see parts on it that are jerry rigged, or not how they should be, that can tell you a lot about a seller’s maintenance of their vehicle. Same thing goes with aftermarket parts: Some upgrades are just that, an upgrade of a weaker stock part, however some add-ons take value away from machines. If a UTV is highly customized either it was made that way just to go slow and look pretty, or ridden hard and pushed to its limits in hard trail riding or racing. Don’t let a showy machine that is clean, and has a lot of parts blind you to other problems. Educate yourself so you know what prices are in your area, price common mods, and especially those that are desirable to you. For instance, it you know you absolutely want doors and harnesses, look for cars that have those. Know the price of new tires, and what works for your area. If you are a rock runner, sand tires add zero value to you.



If you don’t have a strong technical background, pay a shop mechanic or experienced friend to accompany you. The small expense can save a great deal of money down the road.

STEP 10)


Especially if you are mechanical, bring tools with you. It is easy to carry a jack to lift the machine to check for slop in the drive components and suspension. A battery or jump box will allow you to start machines that have dead batteries. Showing that you are technically savvy will make the owner self conscious, and that may help you get a better price. If they think you will catch hidden problems, they may admit to them. The owner was too lazy to properly store the machine, so he may just want to get the machine out of his garage. That can provide a negotiating point.

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