If you’re an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) enthusiast on a budget, buying a used ATV may be your best option. But you should do your due diligence before you make a purchase. Here are seven tips to consider as you begin your search for a used ATV:
“Do a lot of research online, especially on manufacturers’ websites,” says Bill Kresnak, an editor at the American Motorcyclist Association. “There are so many different machines for different purposes. It may make it a whole lot easier to purchase if you narrow down what you want to two or three choices.”
Available in multiple sizes, engine horsepower and body styles, ATVs are typically used for trail riding and outdoor work-related purposes, according to MotoSport.com.
Before heading out to purchase, make a checklist of what you want to inspect and follow it. “Bring along a buddy to help you inspect the machine,” Kresnak says.
Look carefully at the machine to see if you can spot any hidden problems, ATV.com recommends. Also, engage the seller in conversation, as they might reveal a potential maintenance issue. ATV.com suggests you ask these questions:
Also, take a look around the garage. Is it neat and tidy, or dirty and grimy? The state of the garage might also give you an indication of whether the seller kept up with the ATV’s maintenance, notes ATV.com.
Oil collects dirt, debris and metal bits from engine wear that may do harm to the ATV, according to Kresnak. Use the dipstick to check the oil. If the oil is opaque black, instead of amber colored and translucent, it’s dirty. Or it might look milky if water has gotten into it, Kresnak says. “The owner may have cleaned the outside of the ATV to make it look pretty to sell, but dirty oil indicates the oil hasn’t been changed for a while, which could also indicate the owner hasn’t kept up routine maintenance,” he says. On the other hand, it may also be a bad sign if the ATV is dirty but the oil is clean, Kresnak says. That’s because a dirty ATV would likely have dirt in the oil, as well. So the owner may have added fresh oil to make it seem better maintained than it is.
If the ATV has an oil filter, check to see if it’s new or has been cleaned — and ask how often it was cleaned or changed. Also take a look at the air filter. Driving around with a dirty air filter can ruin a machine, according to Outdoor Life.
Coolant should be a consistent orange or green color unless an aftermarket coolant has been added, according to ATV.com. An oily look or particles in the coolant could indicate potential engine problems.
Kresnak adds that the engine is likely OK if the coolant looks clean and the radiator hoses don’t have bulges. “ATV engines are pretty bulletproof,” he explains.
Look for bent steel, especially around the shocks, as well as rust on welds and cracks in factory paint, suggests ATV.com. An easy check for a bent frame is to make sure the machine doesn’t lean to one side on a flat surface.
“If it leans to one side, check the air pressure in the tires to be sure a tire doesn’t need air,” Kresnak adds. “Then check the shocks to be sure they’re adjusted properly. If those are OK, then it could indicate a bent frame from a bad rollover.”
Some things added or changed on the ATV may affect its power, according to Outdoor Life. An updated body kit or mag wheels, which are lightweight, made from magnesium alloy and often have holes or spokes, may look cool but could change your ride.
Make sure you’re happy with the look and that the modifications won’t put you in danger. For example, an ATV may have been outfitted with a new exhaust, but the carburetor or fuel-injection system weren’t properly modified to accommodate the added horsepower. This could cause the ATV’s engine to run hotter than normal, which may lead to engine failure.
Kresnak also recommends checking out the accessories. Racing machines are likely to have upgraded shocks, and utility ATVs used on a farm may have lights or a basket. “See if the accessories were made for the machine,” Kresnak says. “Something homemade could pose a danger with sharp edges or it may have been welded onto something it shouldn’t have been welded to.”
While there may be great ATVs being sold by fellow riders, you may want to also visit a reputable dealer that sells used ATVs, Kresnak suggests.
“You may pay more at a dealer, but they also will have fixed any issues and be up front about them,” he explains. “If you do find something wrong later, you have someone to go back to.”
These seven tips may help define your search and provide the proper baseline for questions when preparing to buy a used ATV.