What to Look for When Buying a UTV
6 May

What to Look for When Buying a UTV

So you’re buying a UTV! It’s a big purchase that you’ve probably researched and thought about it for a while. But there is nothing worse than buying an awesome-looking used car and finding an issue—or worse, having it break down—the first time you take it out. 

When buying a UTV, there are quite a few things to keep in mind and look out for. We put together a list so you can go into the purchase informed and aware of potential money pits. 

Here’s our list of things to look for when purchasing a UTV.

Start with a walkaround

The first and easiest step is to just take a look at the car to see if it looks well kept. Is the car washed? Did they repair anything that is broken? If they didn’t take the time to deep clean the car before they sell it, then chances are high they didn’t maintain it properly. Here are a few specific things to look out for.

Look for scratches and dings

Do you see any scratches and dings? It’s normal for a car to have some scratches, but anything major could be a sign of an issue or a lack of maintenance. 

Rock pits come from pebbles that have been kicked up on rides. Most rock pitting will be in the front of the car while scratches would be on the sides or any parts that hang off the body. 

Aftermarket accessories can be a huge draw when buying a used car. But you have to look past the pretty! Look out for missing fenders, mismatched hardware, zip ties, and anything else that doesn’t belong. You want to buy a UTV that has been taken care of, and those could be signs of a car that has not been maintained properly. 

A torn bolt that can be a sign of an issue: 

Torn Bolt Rzr

Check for signs that a car has been rolled

There are a few telltale signs that a car has been rolled. You can buy a rolled car, but it is an indicator to take a closer look at the overall maintenance. The roll should also be reflected in the price. You may have to replace the cage sooner than if the car hadn’t been rolled, so it should have a lower price.

Measure both sides of the cage to see if the measurements are the same. If they are different, then the car has probably been rolled. 

Look closely at the cage. Unless they have sanded down the cage and repainted it, then you will see deep scratches from a roll. Even if they just painted over the scratches, you will still be able to see them. Don’t be afraid to ask where a scratch or ding came from. If the seller has been the only owner then they can tell you where the scratches came from. 

You will also see signs of distress on the corners of the cage. Look at the corners and the parts that stick out. They take the most impact and as a result, they will take the most impact. You should see it. 

An example of a cracked frame:

Cracked Rzr Frame

And an example of a cracked weld:

Rzr Cracked Weld

Take a look at the front differential

This is one of the places where you will find signs of trouble. Check the axels to see if they are leaking, dirty, dusty, or dark. A light tan color is fine, but a dark tan color could indicate a leak. These seals need some oil, but if they are really leaking, then you will drips or streaks.

A broken axel: 

Broken Rzr Axel

And a correct CV boot:

CV Boot Rzr

Check out the engine

Once you have taken a thorough walk around the car, then head to the engine to take a closer look inside. 

This is what an oil leak could look like:

Rzr Oil Leak

Measure the oil level

Checking the oil level in a UTV or ATV is just like checking the oil in a street car. Pull out the dipstick, and see where the oil line is. The same rules of thumb that apply to your regular car apply to your offroad vehicle. And don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty!

Overfilled oil: An overfilled oil tank puts extra pressure on the engine seals and pushed oil into the intake. Maybe this is the first time they have overfilled the oil tank, but it’s probably not. They likely have been putting extra stress on the engine. 

Low oil: Either there is an oil leak or they are not on top of maintenance. Running a car with low oil is bad for the motor, so this could be a sign of a worn-out engine. 

Color: The oil should be light tan in color. The darker the color, the more concerned you should be. If the oil is black then it probably has not been replaced in years. This is just another sign of a car that has not been maintained. 

Look at the air filter

The air filter is another place that can show any excess stress a car has been under. Pull the cover off, knock the filter on the ground, and see what comes out. If you lightly tap it and you’re left with a handful of dirt, then that’s a bad sign. 

Look in the air box past where the air filter is. If it is dirty or dusty, then the engine has probably been sucking in dust. Most people won’t clean behind the air filter, so you’ll really be able to see if the engine has been taken care of. 

Start the car and listen

When you start the engine, listen for a ticking or rattling sound. If it sounds like there are rocks inside then there probably are. This is something to look out for. 

If you hear a sound, then look at the milage. If it has fewer than 500 miles and a ticking sound, then it could mean something is out of adjustment. If it has up to 5,000 miles, then it could be an indicator of damaged components. 

If a car has over 5,000 miles and the engine makes a ticking sound, then you should reconsider buying the car. That motor will probably have to be replaced soon. 

When you turn the motor off it should take a minute to slow down. A quick grinding stop is another indicator that the engine has issues.

Take a look at the mileage 

The next step is to evaluate the number of miles on the car as well as the type of miles. You can ask these questions before you go see the car to decide whether you want to spend the time inspecting it. 

So what does “type of miles mean”? Ask what kind of drives the car has been on. Short trips are harder on the car than long trips. On short trips, you have to start and stop more frequently, which is tougher on the engine. 

Sand dune miles are hard on the car because you have to ride the breaks or the gas. Cruising miles are easier on the engine. Ask where they take the car, how they drive it, and how often they use it.

Now, check the number of miles. How many miles are on the car? 

At 5,000 miles, you should take a really close look at the car and decide whether or not you want to spend money on replacement parts in the next few years. Again, the type of miles matter, so take that into account as well. 

If the car has 7,500 miles or more, then you should probably plan to replace the motor and transmission within a year. If you take the cost of a new motor into account and the price still makes sense, then it may be a good purchase. Go with your gut. 

Congrats on your (hopefully) new purchase

You’re well on your way to becoming a Rzr or UTV owner! Take this checklist into account during the buying process and you will minimize your risk of buying a car that will need repairs. If you are in Las Vegas, we can always do an evaluation on a car to see what needs work. Give us a call if you have any questions!