When you first purchase your bone stock UTV, you might think that you're ready to hit the trail or the mud park. You might even expect to keep up with everybody else. Here's a little secret you need to know before you load up the trailer: nobody's machine is stock.
Now I'm not saying you need to get a lift, a wrap, a sound system, a set of ultra-aggressive tractor tires, and some fuzzy dice, but there are a few things that you won't regret putting on your UTV before you start putting in vacation requests.
What are the best upgrades for your utv? We are glad you asked.
Here are our top 7 recommended items you need to maximize your side by side's convenience, comfort, and fun.
- Windshield ($150-$450)
- Winch with Synthetic Rope ($200-$350)
- Helmet ($50-$110)
- Fire Extinguisher ($30)
- Machine protection ($200 and Up)
- Storage ($200-$500)
- Side and Rear-View Mirrors ($80-$150)
A windshield is a really useful thing to have installed on your machine. Not only are you protecting yourself and your riders from the elements like wind, rain, and mud, you are also protecting yourself from the crazy driver in front of you slinging up rocks, sticks, and dust. There are many different styles of UTV windshields to choose from. Some flip-style windshields allow for three different riding positions - fully closed, fully open, or vented. Other options include a full windshield and a half windshield. Both of these offer different benefits and come in a wide variety of tints and coatings.
We have an extensive Guide to Choosing the Right UTV Windshield that will help you find the right choice for your UTV and riding style. Don’t forget, a rear windshield will also help eliminate the dust tornado that can spin in the cab when you add a front windshield.
A winch is amazing insurance and you should never be off-road anywhere without one.
Depending on your machine and the amount you may need to pull, you can choose between 3500 lbs., 4500 lbs., and 5000 lbs. winches. This is the load weight that each winch can safely handle. Anything more than 5000 lbs. is silly for a side by side application.
If you aren’t sure which winch you need, you can find the dry weight of some popular UTVs in this article from utvguide.net. Most 2-seater side by sides have an unloaded stock weight under 2000 lbs. and can count on an additional 400 lbs. or so with fluids and gas. Add the drag from peanut butter mud, a tire wedged between two boulders, and you'll find that most UTVs need at least a 4500 lb. winch.
We recommend a winch with nylon rope. They don’t rust, are easier to handle, and if they break they are much safer for the user because nylon can’t put your eye out. Each machine requires a specific winch mount, so make sure to find the right one for you. Another advantage to adding this mount plate is that it acts as a frame stiffener. Bonus!
Get a helmet! Many states require drivers and passengers to wear a helmet, and many more require them for anybody under the age of 18. Those requirements can get even more strict when you start driving your machine on the road in the various UTV friendly towns and states.
More than any legal requirements for wearing a helmet, it’s just a good idea. Put your brain bucket inside a bigger bucket so you can walk away from that rollover or debris hit. It’ll make your riding trip a whole lot more pleasant.
While they are rare, fires happen. Having a fire extinguisher handy can mean the difference between a little damage and a totaled machine. Flipped machines can catch fire if the ignition is not turned off immediately, and some recalls on Polaris UTVs remind us that sometimes things that are beyond our control can happen.
It’s the single most important tool you can bring along. A spare axle and well-equipped toolbox will keep you from losing a day of riding, but a fire extinguisher will keep you from losing out on six months of riding while you replace your whole vehicle (hopefully you’ve got insurance).
The trails can be tight, and people can be stupid. Jim-Bob likes to drink, and mistakes happen. Most of a UTV's look comes from parts that are made from plastic, and we all know plastic is easy to break. Other more important parts like tires and your frame can be damaged by small collisions too.
There are lots of options for keeping dings, scratches, and dents from happening to you. Aftermarket bumpers are a great option and are important additions, especially if you plan to add a winch. You can also purchase bumpers with extensions that help protect your machine from low hanging branches and brush called brush guards. If you are concerned about additional weight, or you aren't worried about a direct collision, a lighter front, and rear brush guard might be a better option.
Side protection comes by many names. Some call them nerf bars. Some call them rock sliders or tree kickers, but no matter what you call them, nerf bars will help you slide right past trees and rocks without damaging your body or your tires. SuperATV also makes full protection kit that is available for the Polaris RZR 1000 and the RZR XP Turbo. It will wrap your machine with protective tubing all the way around. Not only do they look awesome and come in colors to match your machine, they also help you protect your investment.
Storage is a premium commodity on sport UTVs. Fresh off the lot you’ve got a glove compartment and your pockets for storing valuables, snacks, drinks, and a change of clothes. Clearly you’re going to need more. That’s where a good cooler/cargo box comes in. These come in two varieties: universal and machine specific. The machine specific ones tend to look a little better and use your available bed space better, but you’ll have more options with universal boxes. You want to get one with more than one insulated compartment so you can store ice and drinks in one section and anything dry—like food or clothes—in the other. If you pack properly, you can plan a long day out on the trail without making any pitstops.
For bonus storage you should get yourself overhead or door bags. These are great for keeping wallets, cell phones, chargers, trail maps, breath mints, gorp, tissues, and anything else that you want convenient access to. You can even get bags with clear windows in them so you can see your texts without getting your muddy fingers all over your phone.
UTV's don't come with mirrors, which is crazy considering how important they are. They're not used so much to go in reverse or to change lanes safely, but they do help you keep track of everything around you. If you've ever been to a hot obstacle at a ride park—be it mud hole or hill climb—you know how much traffic there can be. Having a good set of mirrors is a great way to keep from bumping into your buddies when things are really busy.
When it's your turn to hit that rock shelf or whatever it is, having extra angles to see where your tires meet the ground can make a huge difference. Of course, nothing beats a good spotter, but mirrors sure make your life easier.
Ready to Roll?
Now that you've got all that stuff installed, you're ready to hit the trail. Take that week off work and get your trailer loaded. Now you can ride with a little more confidence knowing that you've got everything you need to keep you, your machine, and your stomach going all week long.