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Buying A Recreational UTV

Published: 5/13/2013 Author: Jeff Griffith, Garry Griffith Cycle Category: Buying Guides

SVR interviewed Jeff Griffith of Garry Griffith Cycle in Chattanooga, TN about buying a side-by-side for the first time for recreational/sport riding. Griffith Cycle carries Arctic Cat side-by-sides.

When you are talking to a first time buyer for a side-by-side for recreational riding what are some of the questions you ask them to find the right vehicle for them?

The main thing is what else they have looked at, that way I can give a good comparison between what we have to offer and what they have looked at.

And ask them what they are going to be using it for because you have people who are going to be using it more for utility use and then you have ones that are more sport oriented. Then I can point out individual features.

For the sport oriented do you get anymore specific about the type of riding they might do with the recreational vehicle, like where they might be using it?

Oh yeah, absolutely, you are going to have a different customer. People who are going to be doing rock climbing are going to love the suspension travel that the Wild Cat has so they are going to have more flex and be able to go to more places.

As for some of the features, for recreational riding should they be expecting to buy a vehicle with fuel injection?

Right now on the market there are not many vehicles without fuel injection and most of them do. And the carbureted engines are just not up to par.

What are the advantages of fuel injection?

Its going to have quicker throttle response, its going to be more fuel efficient and you are going to get more power out of it?

And I assume for any recreational riding they will need some kind of 4WD?

Usually. As far as side-by-sides go I do not know of anything that does not have 4WD.

What is the minimum about of ground clearance and suspension travel a recreational rider should be looking for in their recreational vehicle?

There is so much competition out there right now it would be best to get 10 inches of ground clearance or better and 10 inches of suspension travel is normal.

And what about electronic power steering? Is it as prevalent as fuel injection?

It is getting to be pretty common.  Can Am, Polaris and Arctic Cat have started to use it pretty consistently.  There are some brands like Kawasaki Teryx that doesn’t have it, some of the Rhinos for Yamaha don’t have it and Honda doesn’t have it on anything except their ATVs.

Would you recommend it? How much of a difference does it make for riding?

It’s like night and day. It’s basically like driving a jeep but costs less and not as likely to break something. It gets pretty difficult to steer in slow, hard to reach places, especially if you are doing some rock climbing.

So the more difficult the terrain the more of an advantage it is?

Yes as long as you are moving it is pretty easy to steer.

Do you typically have a buyer test drive a model?

As long as I feel it is a customer I can trust. If I have the opportunity I do get them on it and encourage a test drive.

Do you have a course near your shop or a place where they can test drive?

Next to our shop we have a field they can ride in.

What would they expect to do on a test drive.  Ride our around the field, do some turns?  Do you have any obstacles or stuff like that?

We don’t have much in the way of obstacles but you can feel how the suspension works because you know the field is not completely even.  We do we have a mound of gravel that customers like to climb over so that’s nice.

How much money should a first time buyer expect to spend on a vehicle for recreational riding?

It varies because some customers get into it and they say I don’t need anything big. It’s the first time they are buying a unit so they will spend $10,000. The other variety are those that are getting into it and they are going to do it right and they are going to spend anywhere from $15,000 to right know the most expensive is $20,000.

Is financing available?


What would you say are some of the key accessories or options that you recommend to someone when they are buying a vehicle for recreational riding?

Most don’t come stock with a hardtop or some type of covering from the sun. I like to get a top for them and a windshield. Those are my two best sellers.  A lot of people like to get a winch with them. Those are the top three.

How much do those cost as a package?

A soft top will cost $80 to $120.  A windshield will cost from $300 to $600. A winch you are looking at $500 to $1,000 so there is a lot of variance.

Beyond those accessories, if they are a first time buyer but interested in getting into more aggressive recreational riding what else would you recommend?

A winch is a definite must if you are going to get very aggressive. Also on some of the A-Arms you get some boot guards and a skid plate for the bottom of it. Well I say boot guards but they call them A-Arm guards now because they don’t actually protect the boot.  A lot of people I found will get some different radial spars that will raise the ground clearance in certain areas.

The winch is in case they get stuck?

Yes in some cases it is to keep people from getting stuck. But I have seen in real extreme situations where they are afraid they might flip backward they will go ahead and attach the winch up top or have somebody hold the winch up top to pull the vehicle down if it starts to tilt backwards.

Do you offer any safety tips or any type of safe driving course that you offer?

Arctic Cat actually requires that for every ATV (including side-by-sides) we sell out of here we have to give them an ATV training DVD, a safety DVD, and they offer free ATV training classes.

Do you measure vehicle usage by hours or miles?

Depends on the unit. It is really hard to get hours so most models are coming with an odometer now.

For a moderate user how many miles would they put on a vehicle for a year for recreational riding?

Probably around 500, that would be every weekend so take that down to 300.

What type of maintenance would they expect to do in that first year as a moderate user?

You are looking at an oil change at 500 miles. Within 500 miles, lets use that number, you are going to have a valve adjustment in that time. After that you are really going to just change your oil and make sure your transmission fluids are topped off. You are definitely going to be checking your air filter after every couple of rides to make sure it is not all clogged up. If it is clogged up you will take it out, clean it and re-oil it.

So that is the one thing they need to keep an eye on, the air filter?

Yeah, that and the oil.

Is that something they can do themselves or what’s the type of maintenance that the dealer would do?

Most ATV users don’t check their air filter. So when they bring it in for an oil change. (They usually do bring it in for an oil change.) We will check it for them and if it is dirty we will clean it and oil it and send them on their way. The air filter is something they should learn how to do themselves. But not many do.

What parts of the vehicle are expected to be replaced from normal wear and tear during the life of the vehicle?

Normal wear and tear, you will replace the tires, brakes, or brake pads at least, oil filter, air filter. And some manufacturers will consider the boots a general wear and tear item. Other than that, that should be it.

Can you explain what a boot is?

Where the axle comes into the differential there is a little rubber boot there that keeps your oil and everything lubricated from coming out and keeps dust and debris out of the boot area.

That just gets worn out over time?

Right and quite often people will get sticks stabbed right through them.

And how long should tires last, assuming not super difficult terrain, sort of moderate use?

That’s really hard. It depends on use and terrain. Rocky terrain is going to chunk a tire and if you are riding on the road, which people are not supposed to do but do anyway, that will flatten them out real quick. It is really hard to put a number on that.

Given moderate use, how long should people expect the vehicle to last or are people more likely to replace it because they want a new vehicle rather than the vehicle is worn out?

A lot of times the vehicles I get on trade in have around a thousand miles. That’s a good time where people come in and trade it in. That’s usually around five years old.

Is there anything else we haven’t covered that’s relevant to the first-time buyer?

One thing you probably know is that people do a lot of online research before people come into a dealership these days. And I think a lot of the information they get online is from manufacturers and is biased information.  So I do think that coming in and doing a test ride is one of the best things they can do to get an unbiased idea about a vehicle.

When is a good time to buy from a dealer where they can get a good deal or selection?

People usually buy in April and May and going all the way through August and September and even into November. Those are times when a dealer will be less likely to be able to work with a customer.  In the winter, getting into December and January would be best.

Thanks for your time Jeff.

 Griffith Cycles can be reached at (423) 867-0423 or on the web at Garry Griffith Cycle

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