According to a recent search of prices the average cost of a new ATV is just under $10,000.
Keep in mind that's average as you can certainly buy a new one for much less and one with all the bells and whistles for nearly the price of a luxury car. Regardless of your budget, buying a new ATV is going to drain your bank account a bit.
Many would-be first time owners go the used ATV route as do long-time owners looking for an upgrade to their existing 4-wheeler who don't want to shell out the bucks. Buying a used ATV is not only smart but if you look long enough a working gem is not all that hard to find. However, you can also end up with a real lemon that costs you more than the price paid for over the long-term. Knowing where to look and how to buy is half the battle.
The good news is our tips to buying a used ATV probably sound familiar to those who have experience buying a used car. Much of the same rules apply!
Where to Buy a Used ATV
The most risk-free place to buy a used ATV is a dealer...sort of. Many dealers sell as many used ATVs as they do new ones. Buying a used or new ATV at a dealer is, you guessed it, like buying a car. You'll probably get wheeled-and-dealed but it's the warranty you're after. If you buy a junker from a private party, good luck getting your money back. Do your homework as to the style, brand and engine size you want and when you buy through a dealer make sure to get a warranty - if the ATV conks out on the first lap you've got recourse.
ATV.com provides an excellent Dealer Locator which includes reviews. If you go the dealership route, check out ATV.com for potential places to shop. Don't buy the first ATV you fall in love with. Shop around and see what's available as well as what incentives individual dealers offer.
If you're a racer or a member of an ATV riding club then we'd suggest first tapping into your local track or asking club members. If you ride an ATV then you're already considered a member of this exclusive club. Finding a used 4-wheeler shouldn't be hard. You might have to settle for a well-used hand-me-down as these members likely won't be giving up their primary ride anytime soon. As with any private party transaction you're relying on the seller being truthful about accidents, mechanical issues and maintenance. But you'll probably get an honest deal especially if you know other riders well. If you're new to ATV riding look for advertisements placed in the pit area or where you sign up and pay riding fees.
Your final stop is Craigslist. You'll get a wide inventory of product but you've got no idea who you're buying from. Hopefully you'll find a seller who got into the ATV craze at some point and because of time or other constraints decided 4-wheeling wasn't for them. Finding a barely used ATV that a seller simply wants to get out of the garage is exactly what you want.
Whatever ATV you're looking at purchasing, the advertisement - be it dealer website, paper advertisement at a track, or Craigslist - should include photos and general specifications like the model and model year, brand, engine size and type. ATVs also come with a VIN which you can have checked through the DMV for $25. Check out How to Read and Check Your Motorcycle or ATV VIN for more information and where to find the VIN if the owner doesn't know. Finding the ATV VIN can be a bit more complicated than a dirt bike or motorcycle.
Test Ride and Mechanic
A visual inspection of a used 4-wheeler can tell you a lot but not everything. The test ride at a dealer is more about comfort and whether the ATV fits you, the rider. Reputable dealers have their own mechanic check things out and any issues get taken care of before the ATV is posted for sale. Still it doesn't hurt to start the machine and if the dealer is set up for it, taking a short cruise in the parking lot is a good idea.
If you go the private party route whether it's through the friendly confines of your local track or ATV club, or entering the unknown of Craigslist, take the ATV for a test ride and get a mechanic to check it out unless you are well-versed around 2-stroke or 4-stroke engines. Veteran riders often replace a lot of parts on their quad whether bought used or new, except for the engine, so you might be planning this anyway. However, replacing the axle, engine or transmission isn't cheap or easy so you want to be sure the major drive components are intact.
Ask the seller questions. Do the answers sound legit? Do you sense a hint of deception? How forthcoming do they seem? If you're more the basic maintenance type of ATV owner, bring a knowledgeable friend to help you with inspection. If you don't know anyone and want to protect yourself ask about taking the quad to a mechanic. Most sellers should be fine with a mechanic's visit but don't expect to haul the ATV to your local shop. The seller doesn't know who you are either so they'll probably want to set up a meet and arrive with the ATV at whatever shop you've chosen.
Finalizing the Purchase
Buying a used ATV is just like buying a used car. Don't expect to hand over some cash or a check, load your new purchase and wave goodbye. In fact, you should want a paper trail. Make sure you get a Bill of Sale or some type of receipt that explains the purchase, lists the VIN and "Paid in Full" is clearly marked. This protects you and the seller. Once the ATV is legally in your hands the previous owner is no longer liable plus you have proof of who the rightful owner is if by chance you've dealt with a con artist who might claim he's the rightful owner of the ATV. Expect to pay cash too. No one takes checks these days and even cashier's checks aren't what they used to be.
Finally, find out if your state requires ATV registration. This is also known as Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) registration. Many states require it and if yours does, you'll need to get the title from the seller for your new ride too. A simple way to check? Visit your local DMV and ask what paperwork is needed to buy a used ATV.
Remember, when buying a used quad do your homework and check around. If you're new to the sport, don't pick up the first one you see. Check out our Choosing the Best ATV for Beginners guide for more information. The ATV community is a tight one and the people tend to take care of each other. Give yourself time to ensure the best possible buying experience so you can enjoy your new, but used, ATV for years to come.