How to buy used ATV without paying a fortune


Buying a used ATV makes sense as the price of a new one is just a little less than 10,000 dollars. Whether you would be buying for the first time, or looking for an upgrade, you can get a good one for a much lesser price. But be careful when you buy a used ATV, as you may land up with one on which you have to spend a lot on, over time. Here are some tips you might find useful while buying the used ATV, and if you have bought one before, these tips will serve to refresh your memory.

Tips to buy a used ATV

Where to buy:

Buying from a dealer


First of all, you have to know where to buy the used ATV from. Some ATV enthusiasts are of the opinion that buying from dealers is a good option as you will be getting a warranty, which you will not get while buying from an individual. If it conks out after a week, or on the same day, you will at least be able to replace some parts free of cost.

Buying from an individual

If you’re wondering how to buy a used ATV from an individual, then you should contact your local ATV riders’ club. You might check out what the dealers have to offer, as well as individual sellers, as its best to shop around before making a decision. As with any private party transactions, you have to rely on the honesty of the seller. Try to buy from someone who you already know and trust. If you’re lucky, either through friends, club members or classifieds, you may find an ATV which was barely used and the owner just wants to get rid of it.

Test ride


Visual inspection is not enough when you are out to buy a cheap, used ATV. You must have a test ride to get the feel of it, and whether everything sounds okay or not. Any suspicious sounds should be looked into. Most dealers get their ATVs checked out by their own mechanics, but still starting the engine and driving it for a short cruise is a good idea.

Veterans usually replace a lot of the parts on their quads, except for the axle, engine and transmission, which are quite expensive. Check that these parts are in more than working order, to prevent draining money into your used ATV later.

Look out for details

Don’t waste your time checking out ads which do not have any specifications such as the model year, engine size, brand and type. The best ads include photos so that you know what to expect. The VIN number provided can be checked through the DMV.

How to buy:

Use the right keywords in your search


If you look for only ATVs, you may lose out on many machines for sale. People use terms like quads, four wheeler as well as brand names some of which are:

Honda – TRX, Pioneer, Recon, Foreman, Rancher, Rubicon, FourTrax

Polaris – Scrambler, RZR, General, Sportsman, Ranger

Yamaha – Kodiak, Raptor, YXZ, YFZ, Viking, Grizzly

Suzuki – KingQuad, Vinson

Can-Am – Outlander, Renegade, Commander, Maverick

Kawasaki – Brute Force, Prairie, Teryx4, Mule

Textron – Alterra

Arctic Cat – Wildcat

John Deere – Gator

These are a few names of used ATVs which sellers use interchangeably or completely. Look out for these and other brands in your quest to buy a used ATV, in ATV classifieds, ATV traders, club notices, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and other offline and online sources.

Get a good deal

Negotiate before buying to get the best deal. There are various ways to do this depending on the make and model, as well as the owner. Check out the various prices on websites and dealerships, and compare them. Even though a used ATV will be cheaper than a new one, you will still be paying a hefty amount. Before shelling out that kind of money, do the legwork and visit and check out all the ATVs which sound good on the ads. That way, you can make an informed decision. Try to negotiate for a price which is above the ‘trade in’ or wholesale price and less than the ‘retail’ if you are buying from an ATV dealer.

One of the tips to buy used ATV is to always request for the right papers. Don’t just pay the cash or cheque and be done with it. Have the Bill or Invoice of Sale, or any type of receipt which says ‘Paid in full’. This is for your protection as well as the seller’s, as once the ATV is sold to you, the previous owner is no longer responsible for whatever damage you cause to the vehicle. Besides, having papers means that you are not dealing with some con.

Get some freebies


When you buy a used ATV, if you pay more than the retail price, then make sure that the dealer will throw in some accessories for free, such as LEDs and skid lights, which could be worth around 50 to 400 dollars. Individual sellers too throw in a lot of accessories for free such as a new set of tires and more. Even if you don’t need the gear, you can always sell it and make some money, so do not refuse anything that you’re given for free.

Sometimes, you can get a discount if you are willing to go and pick up the ATV from a dealership which is far from town or in another town. Talk down the price if you see any scratches or slight damage on the quad.

Another way to reduce to price is to look for ATVs which are not advertised well, or those which you feel will be good deals later on. Buying in the off season, in the height of winter, is a good strategy as this is the time when prices go down.

Tips to test the ATV before buying:

Before you buy used ATV, you have to carry out an inspection either on your own or with the help of a knowledgeable friend or a mechanic. Skipping the inspection is not advisable, as you might have to pay a huge bill later, even before you log 100 miles. Check out these inspection tips:

Carry a battery along with you


It’s better to go prepared with a battery as the ATV might have dead battery. You can use a jumper box too, which will come of use later also. Jumping the ATV with bigger car batteries might overcharge or damage the tiny electronics of ATVs.

Worn out tires

It’s very rare that the owner will fit new tires and sell the ATV. The tires will most likely be worn out, which experts say that it could be a good point to haggle over the price and get it cheaper by about couple of hundred dollars. Check the treadblock and the sidewalls, and see if you can find missing chunks of the tires rubber and/or cracks. If the tires are damaged, the ATV is dangerous to drive. Point this out to the seller, get a discounted price and replace the complete set of tires (preferably) later.

Check ball joints and bearings


When you buy a used ATV, how to check the bearings and the ball joints? Jack up one side of the ATV and hold the tire at 12:00, 5:00 positions. Then rock/pull the tire in and out. If there is any play, then it is due to bad ball joints or bad bearings. This fault can cause the ATV to be sloppy in steering as well as being unstable. These bad joints as well as bearings can separate while in use, which is quite dangerous for you. If one side is bad, chances are the other side will also be defective. The price of a ball joint on one side is about one hundred and forty dollars. So keep that in mind – the seller should deduct this from the price.

Check for cracked welds and rust

One of the indications of damage is rust. All the external parts of a quad, made of steel, is coated or painted or treated in other ways for prevention of rust. The brake disk as well as chain is prone to rust.

Many quad frames are made out of aluminum, which does not rust. So you have to visually check meticulously to find any cracks in the frame, which might appear as black or silver lines in the aluminum.

Suspension and wheel inspection


Inspecting the suspension and wheels is a must when you buy used ATV. Spin and hold the tires, twist, bend as well as shake them and listen for problems. Beneath the handlebar is steering stop which will make a metal on metal sound. Look carefully to see if there is any damage in suspension or steering problems due to an accident or crash.

Spark Arrestor

This one is easily missed, but much required, as most of the parks and states require a Spark Arrestor. It is located in the ATV’s exhaust pipe.

Check air filters

Take off the seat and remove the cover of the airbox. Take out the air filter and inspect the air intake part. If there is any dirt, water or debris in the air filter, it is an indication that the motor has debris, dirt or water in it too. Not a good sign. And if you see signs of rodents or mice, it’s a definite no-no to buy this particular ATV.

Check the ATV’s motor


The motor oil should not have a burning smell, any contaminates, be excessively dark or have low viscosity. Check all switches, lights, levers and everything you can see. Touch the motor and see if it is warm or hot. If it’s warm, then it might not start when it is cold.

Look for any leakage

If there are moist areas on the surrounding area of the quad’s shock, or wet spots or oily ones, then the shock is on its last leg. Worn out shocks do not dampen the oscillations, and your tires stay in air for a longer time after every bounce. This reduces the quad’s stability.

Check for the CV boots

CV connect axle to wheels and any tear in this means strain on bearings. When the boots are worn out, then they fling the grease from the joints and allows water and sand to get in, which further damages the joint. Check all the eight joints and remove splash guards, separate pleats to check for tears and cracks. Each boot costs around 250 dollars installed.

Check the brakes


Check the thickness of the brake pads, deep gauges in the rotor and caliper leaks. Brake pads of ATVs are quite thin, so thin that it is difficult to tell them from worn out pads. ATV rotors are very expensive, so it’s best to check the pads before buying. You have to change the pads sometime, but if you’re paying a hefty price, the brake pads should be in good or new condition for safety’s sake.

Check compression

People who buy used ATV rarely check compression. Bad compression means a damaged engine, which would be costly to replace. Check compression with a compression gauge, and both pistons should be 10% of the other and not less than 100 PSI. Google the correct compression for the ATV model you’re inspecting or going to inspect, so you’d know the values and the limits.

Engine oil check


The engine oil speaks volumes – a dark, dirty or black color means it is too dirty and a light brown color means the oil is new. If a chocolate milk and milkshake color shows up, then it means there is water in the engine and you should walk away. The seller is trying to pawn it off on you!


Coolant is orangey pink or neon green in color. Any other color means there has been a mix of coolants which can be fixed, but it’s an expensive option.

Always test drive

Always test drive

Never buy a used ATV without going for the mandatory test drive. Though you should not go hard on the jumps, considering that it isn’t yours as yet. Run through all of the gears, flip all buttons and check for clicking sounds. Check both rear and front brakes work well. If you feel good about the ATV, and don’t hear any out of the ordinary sounds, then you should go for it!

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