Buying a Used ATV – The Ultimate Guide

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You can save money by getting a used ATV in place of a brand new one. Do not anticipate similar discounts, however, like you were purchasing a new car. ATVs do not depreciate as much.


Buying a Used ATV

Some cheaper models go for under $1000, while those on the higher end range come with a price tag of more than $10,000. Buying a used ATV has its own risks, as you may end up with a machine that needs a lot of work and money.

Below is a guide to buying a used ATV:

Know What You Want

You will not just purchase an ATV as there are many types of them optimized for various uses. You can start by scouring through the websites of manufacturers.

The most popular ATVs are utility models with diverse functions. They are primarily recreational vehicles designed for rough terrains. Hunters in rural areas will particularly appreciate this ATVs as well as people with ranches and extensive farmlands. A utility ATV strikes a balance between play and work.

If you are in the market for speed, then sport ATVs are for you. These vehicles are ideal for racing tracks and motocross, and they will be a joy to ride. The models can, however, be challenging for a beginner to navigate.

Youth ATVs are perfect for young riders. They are scaled down and can be used by riders with minimal experience. The only drawback is that the young ones will outgrow the vehicles.

You should narrow down your selections to two or three options. Additionally, write a checklist before you begin looking for an ATV.

Where to Look for Used ATV?

Now that you have a good idea of what you intend to buy, you can proceed with looking for a model in places like:

– Local ATV Club

Organize a visit to the local ATV club as club members are probably aware of any ATVs being sold in the area. The members can also provide additional insight into the models you are interested in.

– Dealer

Most dealers stock as many new models as used ones. This large inventory will offer an excellent variety to evaluate in a range of prices. Buying from a dealer also presents less risk as you will get a warranty to protect your investment. A dealer can also provide financing options, and you may end up with a better model than you set out for.

– Local Classifieds

The classifieds of your locality can serve as a link to ATV sellers, and you can get good deals.

– Facebook Marketplace

The Facebook Marketplace can be accessed via a computer or phone. You can set up alerts by activating a search and toggling the switch to receive notifications once something similar to what you searched for gets posted.

It is easier than doing continuous searches. These alerts will make sure you are among the first people to know when an ATV is put up for sale. You can quickly see under-valued ATVs and contact the seller.

– Craigslist

Craigslist is one of the most common platforms to look for an ATV. This site is, however, full of spam, and you will likely not be the first person to view an ATV ad. You cannot filter searches like on Facebook, but you can source for apps like CPlus for Craigslist which offer additional and useful features.

– Websites

There are websites dedicated to exclusively deal with ATVs, including ATV Classifieds which links buyers and sellers. You can look for sellers only in your state. Other websites include eBay Motors and Atvtrader.

When searching for a model on online forums, you should not just rely on the keyword “ATV.” Some people call the machines different names like a four-wheeler or a quad.

You will miss out on some vehicles, however, even if you use these names because sellers mostly list the make and the model. For Honda, for example, use names model names like Rubicon, Foreman, Rancher, and TRX.

Inspecting the ATV

Do an external audit of the vehicle in question for cracked welds and rust. All external components are coated or treated to avoid rust, except the chain and the brake. If you spot rust, there is a high chance of damage.

Most frames are built from Aluminum, which does not rust. Finding cracks will, therefore, need close inspection. Here is a guide on ATV inspection:

Examine the Air Box

Take off the seat and the airbox cover. Retrieve the air filter and evaluate the air intake area. If you detect dirt, water, and debris, it has probably found its way to the motor as well. Large accumulations of dirt communicate poor maintenance.

A poorly-maintained ATV can even have rodents like mice in the air box. You should also look for any sigs of engine oil in the airbox because it can indicate a problem with the engine or they have flipped the vehicle and not fixed subsequent issues.

Oil Check

Inspect the oil in the ATV for any metallic particles. Ensure that the oil is not old by giving it a sniff. If it smells bad, it could indicate engine issues, and you should walk away. If it smells bad but is a little dirty, the engine is probably fine.

Really old oil commonly appears as solid black while new oil has a light brown hue. Basically, if the engine resembles a milkshake, it is bad because water probably found its way into the oil.

Coolant Check

You can inspect the coolant’s overfill area to ensure it is at the required level and also to examine its condition. The coolant should be orange or green in color, and you should look to see if it is overly-diluted. Tap water makes the aluminum engines corrode, and it can tell you if the owner has been properly maintaining the bike.

CV Boots

CV boots ensure that the grease stays inside the rotating joint. A worn-out boot has tears between the band clamps and the pleats. Grease gets out of the rotating joint while the boot lets in dirt, water, and sand.

The easiest way of determining the condition of the boots is checking for debris in the joint. Inspect all eight joints and look for indications of grease.

Check the Seat

If you are not looking for a mud-racing kind of ATV, then a seat check is necessary. Pull the seat off to determine if it is water-logged. A heavy seat that feels water-logged may mean that the ATV was caught up in a flood. If water has soaked in the seat, it has probably traveled to other places as well.


Aim your flashlight around every tread block as well as around both sidewalls for any cracks and missing lumps of rubber. Once ATV tires get cracks, the vehicles become risky to ride on.

You can, however, get more haggling power with worn-out tires and knocks several hundred dollars to buy new tires.

Look out for Customization

Examine the model for components that look jerry-rigged or ill-fitted parts. Aftermarket parts mostly function as an upgrade for a worn-out component, but they can reduce the value of a machine.

If an ATV comes highly-customized, it can either mean that it was pushed past its limits on the trail or that it was tailored to be aesthetically pleasing.

Do not let a pretty machine with many parts make you think that it is well-maintained. An ATV can, for example, feature a customized exhaust, but if the fuel-injection system was not also modified, it would trigger engine failure.

Test Run

Looking at a vehicle will only reveal so much. Put on a helmet, and take it for a trial run. Are you comfortable on it? Is it responsive? Can you control it? If the model pulls either to the right or the left, the alignment may be off.

Ensure parts like the brakes, taillights, and headlights work. The ATV should also deliver the power that you expect from the engine. In addition to alignment, the ATV should feel stable.

When buying a used ATV, you should be wary of deceptive sellers. The seller should be co-operative in letting you inspect the vehicle and in answering questions. How long have they owned the machine?

Can they provide service and maintenance records? Where do they ride and how frequently? Check the odometer or hour meter on the ATV. Some sellers will try and downgrade how hard they drove their vehicles and what they used it for.

You should try and make the seller slip this information by asking endless questions. If you are using online forums, aim for local sellers so that you can organize inspection sessions.

Stolen ATVs

Buying an ATV from a reliable dealer is one way to ensure that you get a legitimate vehicle. ATVs are relatively easy to steal as they can be hauled using a truck and trailer.

If you buy a stolen ATV, it will likely be confiscated, and you will lose money. Pay attention to the situation since it may indicate that the ATV has been stolen like:


The first red flag is a deal that is too good to be real. When the seller is ready to sell their vehicle for a substantially lower amount than what it is worth, it may be a sign of how impatient they are to get rid of the machine.

There are valid reasons to undervalue assets, like unemployment, but you will need to uncover more details to believe them.

Lack of a Title

The lack of a title can be a major red flag depending on your jurisdiction. Title requirement vary by state, so you might have to look into the regulations of the state where you are buying the vehicle.

In a state where the title is necessary, there should be one, and you should walk away if there is none. A crafty thief can get away with stealing the title and the bike, so you should look at the name on the title and ask for identifications documents from the seller.

The seller may have back-up stories on why the name does not match, and it may not be a good idea to risk hundreds of dollars. Insist to interact with the owner and have them authorize a bill of sale.

The Seller insists on meeting in Public

It is only expected for a seller to be wary of meeting an unknown person. It is a red flag, however, when a seller only wants to bring the bike to where you are, or they are very hesitant about letting you know where they live or work.

They can be hiding signs of poor maintenance in their garage or they would rather you are unable to track them after the sale.

Check the Vin

You should uncover the VIN from the ATV to ascertain it is not stolen. If a seller protests to you running the code, take it as a red sign. Call the police department and request them to run the VIN, depending on where you live. The department will also have additional information on any bike that has been reported stolen.

There are websites as well to run the code. The National Insurance Crime Bureau is one such database which provides a free service for running VIN on dirt bikes and ATVs. You can also uncover if the bike has been reported as savage by any of the website’s partnering insurance companies.

Extra Tips for Buying a Used ATV

Be equipped with ready cash. An ATV will probably cost more than you can retrieve from a bank in one day, so it is essential to have withdrawn from the bank beforehand.

You can also use this as leverage when buying a model by saying something like, “ I have this amount of money at hand to buy the vehicle today. I know it is less than what you want for the bike, but that is the money I have at the moment.”

A private seller will offer a better deal than a dealer. Buying from an individual, however, poses more risks.

Be patient. You can end up with a bad deal if you are too quick to make a purchase. Take your time, research on different models, and look for as many possible options as you can.

Avoid being brand-loyal. If you decide to be loyal to a single brand or two, the options will be limited for you, and you may pass up on good deals.


ATVs are incredibly useful vehicles. You can use them as a recreational machine as well as for hauling goods and carrying various things.

If you are hesitant to spend thousands of dollars on a new ATV, a used one can be a financial relief. Look into online forums as well as the local club for deals. Inspect a potential purchase thoroughly in addition to checking if it is stolen.

Josh Berry - MotoShark Editor
Josh Berry
I'm a off-road enthusiast, extreme sport fan and the editor of MotoShark. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding this article, please leave a comment or contact me.

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