Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 February 2018

ATV or UTV - that is the question

Manufacturers have started a debate with customers about the merits of ATV versus UTV options

The UTV has advantages in terms of safety and comfort, but costs a little more.
The UTV has advantages in terms of safety and comfort, but costs a little more.
The classic ATV offers great accessibility and towing capacity.
Derek Casey

Derek Casey

Would your farm be better served by an ATV or a side by side Utility Vehicle? Are you looking for a fast, efficient off-roader to get around the land, tow a trailer and carry some equipment?

Or do you want to carry passengers, larger loads and have the benefit of all-weather protection?

It may seem unusual for a manufacturer to start a debate about the virtues of its own side by side utility vehicle versus the ubiquitous quad bike or ride-on ATV.

And yet Polaris have done just that on the grounds of 'horses for courses' and, they point out, if you're in the market for a new UTV the price gap with an equivalent powered ATV is closing all the time.

The classic ride-on ATV had agricultural beginnings, offering an eager, go anywhere vehicle purpose built to serve the needs of the farmer.

Subsequently the quad became the vehicle of choice as well for groundsmen, landscapers, foresters and anyone needing to go places off road where their 4x4 pick up would damage the ground and come to a halt.

For hauling small amounts of equipment, towing trailers or herding livestock, the quad offers nimble handling, tight turning circles and plenty of ground clearance.

It also has the power to haul you and your kit into otherwise inaccessible areas.

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When used properly today's ATV is a sophisticated and no less capable mode of 4x4 transport, performing its daily tasks to the satisfaction of the millions whose work calls for its off-road capabilities.

Then along came the side by side or UTV, a utility vehicle to facilitate carrying passengers in relative comfort while offering similar off-road capabilities to its ATV cousins.

In the case of Polaris, its Ranger UTV features independent rear suspension coupled with better ride and handling capabilities with plenty of suspension travel and pulling power.

And there doesn't tend to be a whole lot of difference on price these days, either.

For example the Polaris Ranger UTV comes with a starting price of around €10,500 plus VAT.

This wouldn't be all that far off many of the equivalent sized ATVs on the market in terms of cost and power, as well as class leading towing and payload capacities.

On the Ranger a 31hp engine with electronic fuel injection provides fuel economy with 680kg towing capacity.

It has a 454kg payload capacity and a rear box with gas-assisted dumping that carries up to 227kg of materials or equipment.

This makes it ideal for a two person team to get about the park or estate with everything they need on board.

There are the safety and comfort advantages to be considered when looking at a UTV as well.

A rollover protection system for safety protection is a key difference, while the ability to fit a cab to a UTV provides a degree of comfort simply not available with an ATV.

It is still true that the UTV costs more to buy than most ATVs, and farmers no doubt like the compact size and easy get-on-and-off nature of a quad bike for performing many of their daily duties.

But on a productivity basis, the UTV takes some beating. For one thing, these vehicles can take at least one passenger in addition to the driver, while also providing a more secure perch for the dog.

At the same time, driver and passenger can take along the materials they need to complete tasks from feeding stock to fencing paddocks.

Established machines like the Polaris Ranger or the John Deere Gator (pictured) have been joined by a host of alternatives from some familiar names and some less well-known manufacturers in farming circles.

10 step plan for ATV safety

The number of All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) related injuries taking place on Irish farms in recent years has increased in tandem with the surge of ATV ownership in this country.

These injuries can often be fatal, because when these vehicles roll over there is nothing to protect the driver’s head or neck, as is the case with a tractor.

 It is estimated that there are now around 10,000 ATV’s in use on farms around the country. ATVs are falling in price and so are becoming more accessible. While there is no doubting the usefulness of an ATV for jobs such as getting cows from the field for milking, for example, it remains imperative that users familiarise themselves with safe driving practices and prevent children (under 16 years of age) from driving the ATV at all.

Recent media exposure has shed light on the disturbing trend of ATV-related injuries to children. In response, doctors working in various A & E departments across the country have called for legislation banning the recreational use of quad bikes by children under 16 years of age. There can be no denying that children lack the physical size and strength, cognitive abilities, motor skills and perception to safely operate ATVs.

It is estimated that there is one death for every 10,000 ATVs in use. Have a look at the following ten point plan can help to make sure the fatality doesn’t come from you family.

1 Accidents

Non-fatal accidents are not well reported but the underlying causes are usually one or more of the following:

Lack of structured training and/or experience;

Excessive speed;

Carrying a passenger or an unbalanced load;

Tipping on a bank, ditch, rut or bump;

A steep slope combined with other factors, e.g. ground or load conditions;

Towing excessive loads with unbraked equipment.

2 Training

Training is vital and is literally a matter of life and death. ATVs should only ridden by users over the age of 16 and who have received appropriate training in their safe use, including the use of any towed equipment or attachments.

3 Protective clothing

More than half of all ATV riders have been thrown off at some time. There is no roll bar on an ATV, so your only protection is what you wear. Head protection is vital. At present a motorcycle helmet is recommended. Wear clothing which is strong and covers your arms and legs. Gloves are useful for protection and to keep hands warm in cold weather for good control of the ATV. Wear wellingtons which are strong and have good grips.

4 Passengers

Never carry a passenger on an ATV. The long seat is for operators to shift their body weight backwards and forwards for different slope conditions, not for carrying passengers. You should not carry a passenger in a trailer behind an ATV, as any movement will make the machine unstable.

5 Maintenance

Off-road riding is hard on an ATV so it is essential to carry out maintenance according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Tyre pressures should be checked often as only a one-psi difference in pressure can cause vehicle control problems. Check that the brakes give a safe, straight stop and that the throttle operates smoothly in all steering positions.

6 Safe driving methods

When cornering, weight should be transferred to the inside of the turn. When riding across a slope, keep your weight on the uphill side of the ATV. When going downhill, slide your weight backwards and select a low gear, reducing the need to use the brakes.  When going uphill, move your weight forwards and maintain a steady speed. Avoid sudden increases in speed, as this is a common cause of rearward overturning accidents, even from a standing start on flat ground where there is good grip.

7 Route Planning

Over rough terrain get to know your own ground and stick to planned routes where possible. Walk new routes if necessary to check for hidden obstructions. When selecting routes allow for changes to the surface and weather conditions and for any loads and attachments.

8 Loads

Ensure all riders know the manufacturers recommended towing capacity and drawbar loading limit. Remember that your ability to control the ATV by your body movements will be considerably reduced when carrying a load or towing a trailer.

9 Using sprayers

You are more likely to be exposed to spray drift on an ATV than on a tractor, so a tractor should be used whenever possible. Where an ATV is used, then attention to safety features is especially important when buying a sprayer and when spraying, particularly with mounted sprayers where the boom is close to you and contamination more likely. When buying a sprayer look for a low centre of gravity and internal baffles to reduce liquid surge which will improve stability when turning on slopes.

10 Road use

Manufacturers of certain ATVs may indicate that their ATVs are not suitable for use on the public roadway. You should therefore establish that your ATV is suitable for road use before taking it out onto the public road. Should an ATV go onto a public roadway, it will be deemed to be a non-agricultural tractor and subject to road tax.

Indo Farming