This featured image is brought to you by my son after he rolled my Kawasaki Teryx with his girlfriend in the passenger seat. Nobody was hurt in the making of this picture.
Most people that see the price tag of a new side by side ranging from around $10,000 all the up to around $40,000 just can’t justify paying such an absurd price for a toy essentially.
Heck I get it, I was in that exact same boat. I didn’t see the point in spending that kind of money on something that I could only use off-road, when I could buy a Jeep, Toyota or other smaller off-road capable rig for the same amount of money, or even less if I went used.
So, are side by sides worth the money? Side by sides are not built to the same specifications as your typical Jeep or Toyota. They are built to handle and conquer extreme off-road situations right off the dealers lot. Their performance, accessories and safety systems make them well worth the money.
It wasn’t until I got into a side by side and truly experienced how much more capable they are than most off-road, street legal vehicles that I realized their price tag is certainly justifiable.
In fact the higher end side by sides are comparable to the $500,000 trophy trucks , just think of them as scale models. The way they handle, their suspension, their horsepower to weight ratio and for a fraction of the cost.
That’s not to say that you can’t buy a cheap street legal 4X4 and have a good time. Heck, if you don’t have the money to blow on a side by side, then don’t. But if you do have the money… you won’t regret it.
What Is The Best Side by Side For The Money?
This is a bit of a loaded question and the answer to this question will depend on your specific needs and wants. You can get a Kawasaki Mule SX for $6700 but chances are, it’s not what you’re looking for in a side by side.
So, in this section we will have a look at a few different categories and try to narrow down the best side by side for the money based on each category. We’ll look at Best Overall, Best Sport, Best Trail and Best Utility Side by Sides for the money.
Best Overall Side by Side for the Money
Personally, I think that the Kawasaki Teryx is the best overall side by side for the money. It is a great all around machine whether your riding trails, mud bogging, riding the sand dunes, rock crawling, hunting or just working around the yard.
It’s 783cc engine doesn’t make for a super sporty and fast side by side but it’s a tank and very durable. I’m going on 3 years of hard riding with mine and the only issues I’ve had with it are flat tires from rocky terrain and the battery recently needed to be replaced.
The Kawasaki Teryx starts at around $13,000 and can run up to about $17,000 depending on the trim package and model you want. It also comes with a 3 year warranty which is the best warranty in the side by side market today.
Best Sport Side by Side For The Money
If speed and power is more of your thing then you are going to want a sport or performance side by side. With a performance side by side you get into machines that are equipped with a turbo or super charger but you’re looking at a price difference of up to $10,000 for a machine that has turbo over no turbo. And in my opinion that’s not the most bang for your buck.
If I was to pick the best sport side by side for the money I would personally go with the Can Am Maverick Sport. For between $18000 and $26000 you get a 75 or 100 horsepower, 976cc machine. No turbo, but it still has a remarkable amount of power.
Much like Kawasaki, Can Am is known for building very tough machines. The Maverick sport will reliably be able to handle whatever terrain you can throw at it with lots of power to spare and 11.5″ to 14.75″ of suspension travel.
But just remember, like Uncle Ben said “with great power comes great responsibility” and the more likely you are to break shit.
Best Trail Side by Side For The Money
For some, a trail side by side is really their only option if they want to ride in their area. Be sure to check your local ATV trail regulations before you decide on a side by side. Some jurisdictions will not allow any side by sides that are over 50 inches to ride their trails unfortunately.
As a bigger guy, a trail edition side by side does not make sense for me but if I had to recommend one to a friend it would be the Can Am Maverick Trail which come in either an 800cc, 51hp model or a 976cc, 75hp model and retail between $13500 and $15900.
Both models are 50″ wide and 118″ long with a 90.6″ wheel base. They’ve both got 11″ of ground clearance and 10″ of suspension travel making them very agile and fun to drive on the trails.
Best Utility Side by Side For The Money
And last but certainly not least….
Heck, somebodies gotta work around here!
Let’s look at the best utility side by side for the money, something that can handle all of the heavy hauling, towing and abuse that the working man and woman are looking for.
This utility side by side was actually rated the best utility UTV of 2020 by ATV.com. The Can Am Defender Pro is a steal of a deal at around $21,000. You’d be hard pressed to find another machine that’s capable of what this beast is at this price point.
This thing will be able to handle whatever you need to throw at it, in it or on it. Speaking of in it, the defender pro has a huge 6′ by 4.5′ bed with a weight capacity of 1000 lbs. It also has a tailgate load capacity of 250 lbs, a payload capacity of 1700 lbs and a towing capacity of 2500 lbs.
And with it’s 82hp 976cc V-twin motor packing 69 ft-lb of torque this thing is guaranteed to have more than enough power to push, pull or haul whatever you demand of it.
Should I Buy A New Or Used UTV?
Whether you decide to buy a new or used side by side each of them has their own advantages and disadvantages that you should probably consider before pulling out your wallet and making such a big purchase.
The Advantages of Buying A Used UTV
- Price – Obviously the first benefit is going to be the cost savings. Let’s face it, anything you buy new depreciates in value as soon as it leaves the dealers lot. And with that said you can potentially save thousands of dollars.
- After Market Parts – Depending on who you are buying the side by side from you could end up with a machine that has thousands of dollars of after market parts like winches, windshields, lift kits, tires, stereo, snow plow, upgraded roll cage etc. For example my cousin bought an older used Yamaha Rhino that the previous owner had put around $40,000 into and he paid less than $10,000 for it.
- Insurance – Another cost savings here… With a used machine you’re going to save a fair chunk of change on insuring your side by side.
The Disadvantages of Buying a Used UTV
- Factory Warranty – Depending on how old the side by side is that you are looking to purchase it may not have warranty anymore. Most side by sides only have a 1 to 3 year warranty. With that said, the cost of repairs can get very pricey, sometimes to the point of making it no longer worth owning a used machine over new.
- Abuse – Personally I put my side by side through a fair bit of abuse. It’s been stuck numerous times in deep, sticky mud, it’s been rolled, bounced off of rocks, jumped etc. With that said, how do you know how much abuse your potential purchase has been through? You could end up paying big money for somebody else’s “crash test side by side”.
The Advantages of Buying a New UTV
- Factory Warranty – I own a Kawasaki Teryx that came with a 3 year factory warranty, I am coming up on 3 years this spring. And I have to say that the piece of mind that comes with the warranty has made owning a brand new machine well worth it.
- Make It Your Own – Most side by sides are pretty plain Jane when you buy them brand new. But with the endless after market parts available for all makes and models these days, it leaves the opportunity to be able to build your machine to your liking.
- Treat It How You Like – If you are purchasing a side by side straight from the dealership you know exactly how the side by side has been maintained and driven.
The Disadvantages of Buying a New UTV
- Price – Depending on the make and model f your side by side you can pay upwards of $40,000 to purchase a new side by side. And here’s the kicker… You’ll most likely end up dishing out thousands of dollars more for after market accessories once you get riding and find that you need a windshield, a winch, a stereo, a better roll cage or a lift kit and bigger tires etc.
- Insurance – If you are financing your side by side then chances are you will be required to have insurance on your new side by side. Even if you pay cash for it I’d recommend insurance anyways. And with a brand new machine insurance can get a little pricey depending on your insurance provider.
6 Things You Must Consider Before Buying A Side by Side
Whether you decide to buy new or used there are some general things that should be considered before you settle on your new toy. Here are a few tips and things you should consider that’ll help you make a decision while you are shopping for a side by side.
- What conditions and terrain will you be riding in? This is the first thing that I put on this list for a reason. You need to buy a machine that is built for the terrain that you will be riding in as well as your riding style. Every machine has it’s strengths and weaknesses based on the terrain and riding style they’re meant for.
I’ve seen too many people run out and buy a 1000cc Polaris Rzr Turbo because of the hype that surrounds them, only to find out that they’re not built for technical trails, resulting in having to replace belts along with a whole slew of other issues.
That’s why it’s important to look at things like horsepower, weight, wheel base, overall width and length, ride height, suspension travel, tires, belt drive or shaft drive etc….
- Who’s going to be riding with you? When I bought my Teryx I wanted something that had a short wheel base because of my style of riding and the terrain I planned to ride in. I found the Teryx 800 LE to be perfect, or so I thought.
I was under the impression that the Teryx 4 was longer in length than the Teryx 2 so I settled on the 2 seater, only to find out that they are the same wheel base and I could have had the 2 extra seats for 2 extra passengers to ride along. There is the option for the extra seats with the Quad Boss UTV Jump Seat (Amazon Link) but it’s not as safe as I need for my style of riding.
With that said, do your homework. Know how many passengers you need or want riding with you and pick a machine based on that. You can buy side by sides that allow anywhere from 1 to 6 passengers.
- Check your local ATV/UTV laws! Knowing your local laws can help you in deciding what machine is right for you. For example, some jurisdictions do not allow side by sides that are any wider than 50 inches to ride their trails. And most side by sides are at least 60 inches wide unless you go for the trail edition side by sides.
Or maybe side by sides are street legal in your state or county which will mean that you don’t need to invest the extra money to purchase a trailer and a tow rig to get your side by side to and from the trails. Heck, get rid of the car and use your new side by side as your grocery getter and to drop the kids off at school. Now you get to save money and look cool doing it 😉
Are helmets or other safety gear mandatory to drive a side by side in your area? Some areas will issue big fines if you are not wearing a helmet out on the trails. In British Columbia where I’m from, I do not need to wear a helmet but I always carry one for hairy situations.
- How will you transport your side by side? For those of us who can’t ride on the roads in our area we have to have a means of transporting our side by side to and from the trails.
When I bought my Teryx I lived in an area that I could ride right from my front door into the back country. But the problem was, if I wanted to go anywhere else I didn’t have a trailer. So I had to invest another $5000 for a trailer. Then I had to convert that trailer so I could camp (see conversion above) without having to make two trips with my current camper.
With that said, it is important to factor in your tow vehicle and your trailer set up for being able to transport your side by side to and from the trails. And just a note, most side by sides will require a trailer that can carry at least 2000 lbs and be 7′ wide by at least 11′ long (depending on the machine to be towed). So know your side by sides specs before you purchase a trailer.
- How are you paying for your side by side? Maybe you’ve managed to save up enough money to pay cash for your side by side. If that’s the case, good on you. But most people are probably going to be financing or taking out a bank loan. There’s nothing wrong with this, but be prepared to pay higher than normal interest rates if you’re financing.
- Cost to run, maintain and repair! Depending on your riding style whether you ride hard or your calm and collective the cost of running, maintaining and repairing your side by side can add up in hurry.
Let’s look at oil changes for example. The cost to have your oil changed at the dealer will probably run you between $120 to $200 once or twice a year depending on how often you ride.
Most side by sides are driven by a belt that can last many years if you treat them right but if you drive your machine hard it could end up being a cost you have regularly. The cost for a belt is about $100+ on average plus labor to install. So your looking at $200+ for a belt replacement.
Tires… Oh tires… As I mentioned I’ve replaced a few tires due to the rocky terrain that I ride in. My tires run me about $300 a piece and those aren’t even top of the line tires.
Winterizing your side by side… Depending on whether or not you live in winter climates it is definitely recommended to winterize your side by side every winter. I wrote a complete guide about winterizing a side by side, check it out. But this can cost you a couple hundred a year as well.
My Final Thoughts on Whether a Side by Side is Worth the Money…
Hopefully you got some value out of this post and you got a solid answer to the question “Are side by sides worth the money?”.
As you can tell I personally believe that they are worth every penny but with that said it comes down to your own personal financial situation. If you have the extra money to be able to spend on a $20,000 or $30,000 toy then you will enjoy every minute of owning one. However if you are struggling to make ends meet then the truth of the matter is, you will regret your purchase everyday.
Side by sides aren’t cheap to purchase and they’re certainly not cheap to maintain and run if you ride them hard and push them to their full capabilities. However, if you treat your machine well it will certainly treat you and your pocket book well in return.
Now I want to hear from you! Do you currently own a side by side or are going to be purchasing one? Let me know in the comments below…
Have Fun and Happy Riding, Cheers,