what to look for in a used ATV before making the purchase

Buying a used ATV is different from buying a used car. But there are certain similarities and analogies between the two. If you know a thing or two about cars, this article will help you understand the dynamics of an ATV and make an informed buying decision.

We've had a lot of fun driving ATVs over the past few years and frankly, it's been more than just a few times when I've thought about buying one myself. As someone who lives in the city and only would use it a few times a year though, this can be a huge investment so the possibility of buying a used ATV or RZR is something I continue to think about. Here's my thoughts and what I look for.

What Is The Best Way To Buy A Used Atv?

ATVs are designed for off-road activities, which subject these vehicles to a lot of abuse. Therefore it is always best to look for places that have used ATVs for sale that are newer. These newer used ATVs are less driven or in some cases, not even driven at all, saving you the time, energy, and money required to have a professional inspection.

But if you are looking for cheaper options, you will need to do your research and assume the role of a vehicle inspector to be sure you aren’t in for any surprises. 


What You Should Look For In A Used ATV During Your Walkaround / Inspection

ATV's get pretty beaten up. That's just part of what they are designed for. While a used ATV will almost always have cosmetic damage such as scratches as well as often having cracked or broken plastic cowling pieces, the important thing is to look at the mechanical core of the vehicle. This includes looking for engine damage, fluid leaks, damaged wheels, and frame damage that could cause the vehicle to no longer be safe to operate. Similarly, other items such as tire wear and air filters are important to consider since it means extra time to bring it up to a fully operational condition - but they can ultimately be easily fixed.

Engine Oil

The engine is the heart of the vehicle, and engine oil is the lifeblood. The oil's condition and level can reveal a lot about how the vehicle has been maintained. Pull out the dipstick and wipe it through a clean rag. If it appears black and gunky, it's a clear sign of neglect. Also, look for any oil leaks around the engine's cylinder. If it is leaking oil, you should simply walk away from the deal.



It's natural for buyers to overlook the tires' condition while they are focusing on other details. Most buyers don't realise that worn-out tires translate to a massive expense in the near future. Therefore, always check the tire's tread and look for any cracks or major puncture marks on the sidewall and between the knobs. While you are at it, jack up the ATV to check the play in wheels. If you can feel the wheel rocking in and out, that indicates worn-out ball joint or bad wheel bearing or both. Replacing these parts can cost you anywhere from $120-$150 per side so you’ll want to know if that will need to be done soon as it will affect the overall price.



If you are looking at a relatively old ATV, its suspension system may be sitting on its last legs. The most common sign of wear is oil dripping down the suspension strut. Use a flashlight to inspect the front and rear suspensions closely. Any form of rust or oil leakage is a red flag; you are looking at a repair expense of $150 each. So, negotiate the deal accordingly. 


Air Filter

ATVs are driven on dirt tracks for the most part of their life. It is not unusual to have a dirty air filter after a couple of rides. But if the seller takes good care of their ATV, they will replace the filter regularly as a precautionary maintenance measure. Buying from such a seller means you are buying an ATV that has been taken care of. 


Check Brake Pads And Rotor

While you are inspecting brake pads, bear in mind that the brake pad rubber on ATVs are not as thick as on cars and bikes. Hit the local ATV parts store, pick up the brake pad and look it over carefully so that you know what to expect at the time of inspection. If the brake pads have worn-out to the point of metal contact, there are chances that the rotor is worn out too. An ATV's brake assembly can set you back by $175 - give or take - depending on the model.


Don’t Skip The Paperwork

If you are buying directly from an individual, make sure the paperwork is accurate and up to code. If the seller tries to give you a runaround on paperwork, walk away. And don't make a full payment without verifying the title, insurance, and emission test.