Thinking of buying an ATV? What you need to know

13 minute read Published on Jul 26, 2021 by BrokerLink Communications

Thinking of buying an ATV? What you need to know

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie looking for your next adventure or someone simply seeking a versatile mode of transportation for rugged terrains, an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) can be the perfect solution. These powerful four-wheelers are not just thrilling to ride, but they also offer an unparalleled experience of exploring off-beat paths. However, just like any other vehicle, it’s essential to ensure you’re making the right purchase.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve deep into what an ATV is, the crucial factors you should consider when buying one, questions to ask the dealership, and whether you need an ATV insurance policy, ensuring you make an informed decision that compliments your needs, budget, and safety.

Understanding different ATV types

All-Terrain Vehicles, commonly known as ATVs, are motorized vehicles designed to traverse a variety of terrains, from muddy trails and sand dunes to rocky paths and forested tracks. These vehicles, often referred to as quads or four-wheelers, offer an exhilarating ride and are popular among outdoor enthusiasts, farmers, and sports lovers. But before you dive into the world of ATVs, it’s essential to understand their basics and the different types available. Let’s break it down.

An ATV is a small, open motor vehicle with three or four broad, balloon-style tires and straddle seating. They are built for a single rider, although some models now accommodate a passenger behind the primary rider. Designed for off-road use, ATVs can navigate a myriad of landscapes that would be challenging for most other vehicles.

Utility ATVs

These are the workhorses of the ATV world. Utility ATVs are often used in farming, hunting, and other labour-intensive tasks. They are characterized by bulky bodies, storage racks, and more powerful engines to tow and carry heavy loads.

Sport ATVs

Built for speed and high performance, these ATVs are designed for thrill-seekers looking to race or navigate challenging terrains for fun. Sport ATVs are lighter, have a sleeker design, and are equipped with engines optimized for speed and agility rather than towing capacity.

Youth ATVs

Specifically designed for kids and young riders, these ATVs prioritize safety and are an excellent introduction to off-road riding. They’re smaller in size, have limited engine power, and often come with safety features like speed limiters.

Recreational ATVs

These are for casual riders and families. While they can handle off-road terrains, they aren’t necessarily built for extreme conditions or racing. They often come with features that enhance comfort, like padded seating, and can sometimes accommodate more than one rider.

Private seller or a dealer: who should you buy from?

Buying an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) is a significant decision and investment. One of the key dilemmas prospective buyers face is whether to purchase from a private seller or an authorized dealer. Both options come with their own sets of advantages and potential pitfalls. Let’s dive deeper to help you make an informed choice:

Buying from a private seller

Private sellers might offer ATVs at a lower price compared to dealers. Individuals often want a quick sale and don’t have the overhead costs that dealerships do. They may be more willing to negotiate on price, especially if they’re eager to sell. Also, the seller will likely have firsthand experience with the ATV and can provide insights about its performance, quirks, and maintenance history.

On the other hand, unlike dealers, private sellers typically don’t offer any warranty. This means if issues arise post-purchase, you’ll bear the repair costs. There’s also a risk of undisclosed or unnoticed issues that might come up after the purchase, especially if you aren’t adept at inspecting ATVs. Furthermore, private sellers usually require upfront payment, while dealers might offer financing plans.

Buying from a dealer

Dealers often provide warranties, especially for new ATVs. Even for used ATV models, some dealerships might offer limited warranties, ensuring peace of mind. Also, reputable dealers inspect and refurbish used ATVs, sometimes offering certified pre-owned units that meet specific standards. Another benefit is that dealerships usually have a wider selection of models, allowing you to compare different ATVs in one location.

If you’re upgrading, some dealers might accept your old ATV as a trade-in, reducing the cost of your new purchase. And speaking of cost, dealers often provide financing options, allowing you to pay for your ATV over an agreed-upon period of time. Furthermore, dealerships typically offer maintenance and repair services, ensuring you have a go-to place for future ATV care.

On the other hand, unlike a private seller, dealerships have overhead costs, like rent and staff salaries, which might translate to slightly higher prices for ATVs. Dealers are also in the business of selling, which might mean experiencing sales tactics or pressure during your buying process that you may not experience from a private seller.

Deciding between a private seller and a dealer comes down to your priorities. If you’re looking for potential cost savings and a straightforward, personal transaction, a private seller might be the way to go. However, if the assurance of warranties, the convenience of financing and a wider selection appeal more to you, heading to a dealership could be your best bet.

Essential questions to ask the dealer or seller when buying a used ATV

The most crucial factor when purchasing an ATV is making sure you do your due diligence. By researching, inspecting, and asking the right questions, you’ll be better positioned to make a purchase that brings you joy and adventure for years to come. To help ensure you make the best purchase for your needs, here’s a list of important questions that you can print and bring with you to ask when looking at used ATVs:

General questions

  1. What is the make and model of the ATV?
  2. How old is the ATV?
  3. Why are you selling it?

Ownership and usage

  1. Who was the previous owner, and how many owners has it had?
  2. Was the ATV used primarily for work, farming, recreation, or racing?
  3. How many hours or miles does it have?
  4. Was the ATV ever involved in any accidents or major crashes?

Maintenance and repairs

  1. Do you have maintenance records available?
  2. When was the last time the oil was changed or the air filter replaced?
  3. Have any major parts been replaced or repaired?
  4. How often was general maintenance performed?
  5. Are there any existing mechanical problems or things that will need fixing soon?

Safety and extras

  1. Are there any safety features on the ATV, such as speed limiters or safety switches?
  2. Does it come with any added accessories or aftermarket parts? If so, which ones?
  3. Do you have any safety or riding gear available for sale with the ATV?

Inspection-related questions

  1. Can I perform a visual inspection and look at the undercarriage, tires, brakes, lights, and other components?
  2. Can I do a test ride?
  3. Do all the lights and electrical systems work correctly?
  4. Is there any visible damage or signs of excessive wear?

Price and inclusions

  1. What is the asking price, and is it negotiable?
  2. Does the price include any gear, accessories, or aftermarket additions?
  3. Why do you think this is a fair price for the ATV?

Documentation and legality

  1. What is the asking price, and is it negotiable?
  2. Does the price include any gear, accessories, or aftermarket additions?
  3. Why do you think this is a fair price for the ATV?


  1. Is there any warranty provided with the ATV? If so, what are the details and duration?
  2. What financing options are available?
  3. Do you offer service and parts support?

It’s essential to approach the ATV buying process with diligence. By asking the right questions, you ensure that you understand the vehicle’s history, condition, and value. Moreover, it helps you avoid potential pitfalls and ensures that the ATV you choose aligns with your needs and expectations.

What you should look for when buying an ATV

When buying an ATV, it’s crucial to consider several factors to ensure you get a machine that’s safe, reliable, and tailored to your needs. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a newbie, here’s a checklist of aspects to consider and inspect when purchasing an ATV:

Identify the primary purpose of your ATV

Before you start comparing different ATV models, establish why you want one. Are you interested in a high-speed adventure across sand dunes? Do you need it for farm work or hunting? The primary purpose of your ATV will greatly influence the type and features you should opt for.

Choose your ATV type

Determine your primary use for the ATV and choose the type that suits your needs, such as utility, sport, recreational, or youth ATVs. Also, consider terrain suitability when choosing your ATV type. The terrain you primarily intend to tackle influences your ATV choice. For rocky and uneven terrains, you might want an ATV with higher ground clearance. For muddy terrains, consider tire tread patterns and durability.

Consider engine size and performance

Engine size, usually measured in cubic centimetres (cc), dictates the power of your ATV. For beginners or youth riders, smaller engines ranging from 50cc to 250cc are more than adequate. Intermediate riders might opt for engines between 250cc and 500cc, while advanced or heavy-duty users might require 500cc or larger. But remember, more power doesn’t always mean better. It’s essential to choose an engine size you can handle.

Inquire about safety features

Safety should always be a top priority. Look for ATVs with effective braking systems, headlights, and taillights. If you are purchasing an ATV as a beginner rider or for a child, you may want to consider buying an ATV that has speed limiters. Also, make sure the ATV has a sturdy build and a low centre of gravity, as these can help prevent rollovers. Learn more about safety with our top safe driving tips.

Do a physical examination and mechanical check

If you’re buying a used ATV, you need to be vigilant to ensure you’re getting a reliable machine. Check for uneven wear, cracks, or bald spots on the tires, as they can be expensive to replace. Uneven wear on the front tires could also indicate an issue with the ball joints. Inspect for cracks, bends, or any signs of welding on the frame. A damaged frame can indicate severe accidents in the past. Check for severely worn ATV bearings and bushings, and look for leaks, damage, or worn shocks and other suspension components.

Ensure that the used ATV brake pads/discs are responsive and in good shape. Though the pads might appear sufficiently thick, there could be cracks in the friction material, or it might be separating from its base. Therefore, it’s advisable to lift each side, take off the wheel, and remove the caliper and ATV brake pads for a comprehensive inspection of the brake system. A thorough inspection will help you decide if you’ll need to budget for replacing the entire brake system. A complete brake job costs, on average, between $100 and $200 for an ATV.

For mechanical checks, listen for any odd sounds. Dark smoke on startup can indicate issues. Ensure the valve cover gaskets are in good shape, as a faulty gasket can cause damage to the engine over time. Check the transmission and clutch to ensure smooth gear transitions. Using the engine and transmission dipsticks, check the engine oil and coolant. Dark or milky oil can be a sign of internal issues or neglect. And, of course, test that all lights, indicators, and electronic features are in working order.

If you feel you are unable to give the used ATV a thorough physical examination and mechanical check on your own, consider bringing it to a trustworthy mechanic for the inspection.

Always go for a test ride

Just like when buying a car, it’s advisable to test-ride an ATV before purchasing. This gives you a feel of its power, handling, and comfort. A test ride can also help you gauge the ATV’s performance and identify issues that aren’t visible. Check for any unusual noises, handling issues, or problems with acceleration and braking. If you feel excessive vibrations, it could indicate a bad wheel bearing. If the wheel bearings fail altogether, it can cause the wheel to stop or even fall off while riding the ATV.

Don’t forget your insurance and registration

Before finalizing your purchase, research the insurance and registration requirements in your area. Most places in Canada mandate ATV insurance for public land usage, and understanding the associated costs can prevent surprises down the line.

Buying an ATV is a significant investment, both in terms of money and the potential adventures awaiting you. By considering the factors mentioned above and performing a thorough inspection, you can ensure that you choose an ATV that aligns with your needs, budget, and safety. Remember, the right ATV isn’t necessarily the most powerful or the most expensive—it’s the one that suits your specific requirements best.

Do I need insurance to ride an ATV in Canada?

In Canada, the need for insurance on your ATV largely depends on where and how you intend to use it. Let’s break down the requirements by province and general situations:

A general rule

If you are only using the ATV on your own property, most provinces don’t mandate insurance. However, having third-party liability insurance, at the very least, is a good idea in case someone gets injured while riding your ATV or if your ATV causes property damage.

If you are using the ATV on public land, trails, or roads where ATVs are permitted, you are often required to have, at minimum, third-party liability insurance.

Provincial requirements


Anyone operating an ATV on public lands must have at least liability insurance. This includes third-party liability, accident benefits, direct compensation - property damage, and uninsured motorist coverage. You’ll need to carry proof of your Ontario ATV insurance whenever you ride.


Mandatory insurance is required for all ATVs, regardless of where they are ridden.

British Columbia

If you plan to use the ATV on any public lands or roads, you must have at least third-party liability insurance.


Insurance is required for riding on public land, with a minimum of $200,000 in third-party liability insurance a must.


Operating an ATV on public land or ice requires at least third-party liability insurance.


If using the ATV outside of your own property or on public trails, insurance is necessary.

Atlantic Provinces (NF, NB, NS, PEI)

Insurance requirements vary, but generally, if you’re operating your ATV anywhere other than on your private property, you’ll need liability insurance.

Other reasons to consider ATV insurance

Accidents can happen, and the potential financial consequences of injury or damage can be hefty. Insurance can protect you from these unexpected costs. While liability insurance covers damage or injury to others, what about damage to your own ATV? Having comprehensive coverage and collision coverage can provide protection for your own vehicle. Furthermore, if you or your passenger get injured, accident benefits coverage can help cover the medical bills. Finally, adding accident forgiveness coverage to your insurance policy ensures that your car insurance premium won’t increase after your first at-fault accident.

If you’re travelling with your ATV, say to an event or a competition, specific insurance might be necessary, so don’t forget to check in with the event and/or competition. Additionally, if you cross provincial lines, make sure you meet the insurance requirements of the province you’re entering.

How to get ATV insurance in Ontario

Getting ATV insurance in Ontario when you work with a reputable provider like BrokerLink is easy! Here’s a step-by-step guide to securing auto insurance with them:

First, before you can start cruising around the backroads of Toronto or along the scenic Algonquin Trail, you need to familiarize yourself with ATV insurance requirements in Ontario. Understand what kind of coverage you might need for your ATV insurance policy, third-party liability, collision, comprehensive. Next, gather any necessary information and have it ready for your insurance quote. This includes information such as personal details, ATV details, the intended use of the ATV, and your current car insurance policy if you have one.

Then, reach out to us at BrokerLink. You can do so by calling, using our free online quote tool, or visiting one of our 200+ branches across Canada if you prefer face-to-face interactions. Discuss your insurance needs with your BrokerLink representative. They will ask questions about your ATV, its use, your driving history, and more. Be honest and detailed in your responses to get the most accurate quote. Your licensed insurance broker will then compare several quotes from some of the top ATV insurance companies in your area and present you with the best quote based on the information you’ve given. This quote will outline the coverage types, limits, deductibles, and premiums.

You and your broker will go over the quote thoroughly. If something isn’t clear or you need a different type of coverage, don’t hesitate to ask questions. We want to ensure you thoroughly understand the terms, conditions, and any exclusions. If you’re satisfied with the quote, you can then proceed to finalize your insurance policy. Your broker will guide you through the paperwork and payment options.

Once everything is set, you’ll receive your proof of insurance, also known as a liability card in Canada. This card serves as evidence that you have valid insurance and should be kept with you whenever you’re using the ATV.

And don’t forget—insurance needs can change over time. Review your policy annually before it’s time to renew your insurance or if there are significant changes in your circumstances. If you modify your ATV or change its primary use, make sure to notify your insurer.

Get the right insurance coverage for your ATV

Before embarking on your ATV journey, reach out to our expert brokers, who can guide you to the right coverage for your ATV. At BrokerLink, we handle the task of comparing options to ensure you obtain the utmost value. We invest time in understanding your requirements, guaranteeing you receive a tailored policy. We can also help with other insurance policies you may need, such as home insurance, car insurance, business insurance, and more. So don’t wait. Contact BrokerLink today!