After a lot of research and personal experiences, I’ve come up with the top 11 reasons why ATVs are so expensive these days, and why it may get worse.
I’ll list the reasons, and then go over each point in their own section.
- Supply and Demand
- More Technology
- More Premium Materials
- Customization and Accessories
- Durability and Off-Road Performance
- Research and Development Costs
- Compliance with Safety Standards
- Brand Reputation & Name
- Maintenance and Ownership Costs
- Used Market Demand
It’s not just quads, but side by sides, UTVs and other off-road vehicles are more costly than they have ever been. Let’s break down each point to give you a better understanding before I go over how to get better deals on your next purchase.
1. Supply And Demand
Supply and demand has always been an issue, but it was far more noticeable when people were locked down and looking for something to do.
ATV manufacturers tried to keep up with the new demand, but when parts they needed were also lacking from their suppliers, everyone suffered. When there is not much of something, and it has a high demand, the dealerships will charge more. It’s not fair, but if the guy behind you is willing to pay the higher price, then what can you do?
Things have cooled down a bit, and supplies are starting to return.
Even as things return to normal, there are some models that people want more and continue to have a higher price. You also have the seasonality of buying an ATV or side by side; you’ll pay more in the middle of the riding season. Timing your next ATV purchase can give you a better chance on your next ATV purchase.
2. More Technology
The machines today are not the same machines from the 90s or even 10 years ago.
Today we see more with:
- A display.
- Power steering.
- Air ride suspension.
Just to name a few.
There are 4-wheelers and side by sides with more technology than my first car, it’s no wonder they’re so much more costly.
It would be nice to see the manufacturers take a step back and give us simpler machines at a lower price, but the people want more and more tech. Combined with needing to comply with more safety regulations, it’s getting harder for the manufacturers to offer cheaper models.
3. More Premium Materials
In a world of $100k pickup trucks with fancy leather and other premium materials, it’s no wonder the ATV and SXS market follows behind.
Not only are they getting more tech like stereos, but they’re getting higher-end premium brands of stereos.
There is always something better for them, from shocks and tires to custom paint jobs and more. You got some guys who will mud their machine, and others that let it never see any dirt. The manufacturers know this and are adjusting to fit more people, which raises the cost of all products and accessories.
4. Customization and Accessories
I remember a time when adding a box and some lights was customizing your ATV. Or adding PVC to make your own snorkel was the most people would do.
Today, accessories and customization to ATVs and SXS have gone to the extreme. A lot of the stuff that people do after buying an ATV is coming from the factory, for example, we have mud-ready ATVs with snorkels.
There are also greater margins in ATV and SXS accessories that the manufacturers have gone overboard and released many options. It’s not uncommon for a dealership to make more money on selling and installing accessories than what the ATV costs.
You’ll find after buying an ATV that you’re not done. You’ll want some things to add, and all of which tend to be more overpriced than a similar accessory made for your truck. It’s a “power sports tax”, and people pay it. So be smart and double check to see if that “LED Light Bar” can also be found for cheaper in the non-power-sports sections.
5. Durability and Off-Road Performance
ATVs and side by sides have gotten a lot bigger over the years, and this leads to bigger and heavier materials.
People want comfort, ease and stable machines, so the manufacturers are making just that. You end up with larger machines that need more metal, plastics, and to hold up to the new stress of just being bigger.
These things are not small anymore, especially SXS:
You also have changes and updates to the off-roading world, where new suspensions are created and more to give you better control when off-roading. Improvements will keep coming and 4wheelers will keep getting better, and the ones that won’t get left in the dust by the competition.
6. Research and Development Costs
All manufacturers try to be at least 5 years ahead of the market. All these ATV manufacturers are also a business, so they need to create things that people want.
If no changes were made in the last 20 years, they wouldn’t be selling as much as they are now. In fact, 20 years ago, a side by side looked like golf carts, and now they have features that put to shame many trucks on the road.
Developing new models involves extensive research, engineering, and testing phases. The costs associated with designing and refining these vehicles are often passed on to the consumers, making the prices reflect the investment in research and development.
You also have to pay for the marketing costs. Not many people know what 4-wheelers can do today, or how SXS are more feature-rich than most trucks from 10 years ago.
7. Compliance with Safety Standards
Complying with new safety standards is not new, but what is new is the amount of safety standards we have today.
There is a reason we don’t have 3-wheelers anymore (one wheel in the front) as they were too dangerous. There is also a reason why most SXS have seat belts and limiters.
ATVs and SXS have gotten faster, so different keys and modes are needed to tame the machines so new and pro riders don’t hurt themselves.
Quads are subject to strict safety regulations to ensure rider protection. Manufacturers invest in safety features such as roll cages, seat belts, and impact-resistant body panels, which adds to the overall cost of the vehicles.
More safety standards will be coming, especially since many states allow ATVs and/or side by sides on the roads.
8. Brand Reputation & Name
Well-established brands with a strong reputation and a history of producing high-quality vehicles often come with a premium price tag.
The reputation and prestige associated with these brands contribute to the higher cost of their ATVs. In other words, they cost more because they want to charge more, and people are willing to pay for that name.
Cars and trucks are no different. People will pay a premium for a luxury sports car, and the funny part is that many of those sports cars have the same steering wheel or window switches as the economy cars. Overall, people pay for a name, even though most use the same parts as the cheaper options.
9. Maintenance and Ownership Costs
Owning an ATV involves regular maintenance, including servicing, parts replacements, and fuel expenses.
It’s not only the cost that has gone up, but the maintenance items needed to keep it going, have gone up, too. You’ll have more things to do, as more tech and features are added, the more things you’ll need to do.
So, if you’re worried about costs, stick to simpler and easier ATVs and side by sides.
10. Used Market Demand
When new ATVs and SXS go up in price, so do used models.
It’s back to supply and demand, when people can’t get the new ATV they want, they go with a used model. With more people wanting a used ATV, it drives up the costs as the guy behind you is willing to pay more.
When the new market cools down, so will the used market, but when there is a crash in the market, there is often an even worse crash for the used as people try to unload them. If you’re cash heavy during this downtime, you will find the best deals.
Inflation, it’s the elephant in the room.
Inflation has always been there, but in recent years people have now become more aware of it. The price of everything has gone up, so it makes sense to see the price of ATVs and side by sides go up too.
Combined with more features, tech, safety standards and everything else I covered, it’s no wonder they are so expensive. The cost radiates to other things, even if they don’t seem to be related. The cost of fuel raises the shipping costs of parts and getting your new ATV to the dealership. The dealership is now paying more for labor and materials to run the shop, so they pass it to the customer. The manufacturer is paying more for supplies and labor costs… it slowly ripples to the customers who are also suffering, too.
What You Can Do To Avoid Overpaying!
Now that we have gone over why ATVs are so expensive, let’s go over things you can do to help you get a better deal on your next ATV or SXS.
- Price Shop – Prices have gone up everywhere, but there are still dealerships looking to move inventory, especially now that things are cooling off. Have your local dealerships get into a bidding war, but do it over email to have a record of it.
- Be Patient – If you got the time, wait it out a bit. Inventory is returning and people are more sensitive about spending. At some point, someone needs to get rid of an ATV do to life changes, and being patient and always watching can get you those prime deals.
- Buy When It’s Slow – The best time to buy is when no one wants to ride, or right after the new models are released.
- Understand Dealer Markup – I have a post that goes over how much mark-up ATV dealerships have, and it might surprise you. It’s not about how low they can go, but how much you can get. The real money is in the accessories and labor, so that is what you need to haggle on instead of the ATV.
- Manufacturer Rebates and Warranties – Don’t walk into an ATV dealership without knowing the rebates and warranty options on new units. Sometimes, the warranty and a good dealership is worth more than most rebates, as I’ve come to find.
- Go To ATV Shows – Many dealerships will go to a fishing shows, ATV shows, or some kind of convention center showing and sell their 4wheeler. When you have multiple dealerships at these shows, it can become a bloodbath as they undercut each other. These shows seem to be getting more rare because of the competition trying to be sneaky on deals, which means it’s perfect for the guy whose looking to buy, but be careful as some are shady.
- Don’t Believe Everything You Hear – It is common for people to exaggerate or fabricate stories about how they obtained a cheap ATV. This issue is further exacerbated when it’s people on the internet, as the full story and the source of the ATV are often unknown. Each state has its own unique taxes and fees, and every dealership has its own set of charges and undisclosed details. It is possible that the guy bragging about their bargain may have acquired a good deal due to the ATV having some underlying issues that the seller wanted to dispose of.
Everything Cost More
To sum it all up, everything costs more.
Along with ATVs and side by sides getting more features and tech that rival many trucks on the road today, it’s no wonder, the price of them has gone up.
The ATVs and SXS of the past are gone as the market wants bigger and better machines that come with a higher price tag.