Riding is a lot of things: thrilling, adventurous, and really dang fun. But do you know what it’s not? Cheap. Owning and maintaining a side-by-side is on the pricier end of the spectrum as far as hobbies go. And some people fail to see the point in spending as much on a UTV as they would on a regular vehicle.
But then there are those who do see the point. These people are the reason manufacturers continue to churn out new models year after year.
Why exactly are side-by-sides so expensive, though? What is it that makes these machines, most of which you can’t even drive to the grocery store, worth tens of thousands of dollars?
Let’s take a look at what you can expect to pay for a brand-new UTV and what factors influence those numbers. Afterwards, we’ll let you be the judge—is it worth it?
If you’re budget conscious, your best bet is to purchase previously-owned UTV. But let’s say you’re looking at something fresh from the factory. How much are we talking for a brand-new model?
Side-by-side cost depends on a lot of factors. Depending on your budget and needs, you can expect to spend anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 for a new machine. For the majority of new side-by-sides, the average cost is around $15,000.
Why do UTV costs vary so much? Every model is unique and built for specific applications. The more features you pile on, the higher the cost goes. It’s just like any automobile purchase—if you want your vehicle to be faster, stronger, and more powerful, the price is going to reflect that.
Many machines are also available in special edition models. These models include unique accessories and features and, as a result, come with a higher price tag.
The side-by-side industry is still fairly young compared to the rest of the automobile world. As a result, the cost of manufacturing UTVs is higher due to increased production costs.
Here are some other factors that can drive up the price of a machine:
Arguably the largest contributor to the cost of side-by-sides, though, is the simple matter of demand. The off-road industry is growing rapidly and as riders demand newer models with flashier features, the cost will continue to rise. That’s because manufacturers know people will continue to pay.
Let’s say you’re looking to get the best bang for your buck. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to buy the most expensive machine on the market—just the one that justifies your purchase the most.
We’ll break these recommendations down into categories. Side-by-sides typically fall into one of three categories: sport UTVs are built for thrills, utility UTVs are built for working, and recreation UTVs offer the best of both worlds.
So which machine from each category is going to give you the best value for your money?
Polaris re-engineered this 2020 model to be stronger, tougher, safer, and smoother than all the machines that came before it. This is a pricey machine for sure, but it’s also a great example of getting what you pay for. And what exactly are you paying for? Well, a lot, but a big draw is Polaris’ DYNAMIX Active Suspension. It lets you toggle between firm, sport, and comfort drive modes to ensure that you get the most out of each ride. Oh, and did we mention it’s packing 168 HP and has a top speed of 85 MPH?
Starting at $28,199
When it comes to utility side-by-sides, the Honda Pioneer is a classic. And if you truly want to make your purchase worth it, you can’t go wrong with the 2020 Pioneer 1000. A refined chassis, long travel independent front and rear suspension, and impressive ground clearance make it capable of getting the job done just about anywhere. And it wouldn’t be a utility UTV without a strong, reliable dump bed. The Pioneer 1000 comes equipped with a 1,000 lb. capacity tilt bed that you can operate from outside the machine or from the comfort of the driver’s seat.
Starting at $15,799
If you want a side-by-side that lets you experience the best of both worlds, this is the machine for you. In the name of utility, it comes with a factory-installed winch, tilting cargo bed, and 2,000 lbs. of towing capacity. And when you’re ready to have some fun, an advanced suspension and Yamaha’s On-Command 4WD makes it easy to dominate any type of terrain. According to Yamaha, the Wolverine X2 is the perfect “balance of work-ready capability, refined comfort, and trail-proven confidence,” making it the ultimate partner for all off-road applications.
Starting at $15,999
It would be nice if we all had unlimited UTV budgets, but alas, that’s not the case. For those of us on a budget, sometimes it’s not about getting the most bang for your buck—it’s about spending the least amount of buck, period.
You won’t find many bells and whistles on these machines, but if you’re looking for an affordable and brand-new model, here are some cheap side-by-side options.
The ACE is a unique sport model in that it’s a one-seater. But if you don’t need to bring a buddy or two along for the ride, this is the perfect way to experience hair-raising thrills without breaking the bank. The 32 HP EFI ProStar engine emulates quickness, power, and optimal performance, and EFI delivers the fuel charge you need for instant throttle. It’s sporty, speedy, and really affordable, as far as brand-new UTVs go.
Starting at $7,299
The Mule is another “tried and true” utility machine, and you really can’t beat this particular model in terms of cost. The 2020 Mule SX delivers high-performance qualities in a low-maintenance and affordable UTV. It has quick steering and response, making for easy and comfortable handling. And the 4-stroke, single-cylinder OHV engine pushes out over 20 ft. lbs.—plenty of torque to get the job done.
Starting at $6,699
This one is a little pricier than our other budget options, but still well under the average side-by-side cost. The 2020 Can-Am Commander is designed for versatility. No matter what you use it for or where you ride, this machine will rise to the occasion. A 1,500 lb. towing capacity and 8.3 gallons of storage make it the ideal workhorse for light-duty applications. And when you’re ready for some fun, the 800cc engine and 11” of ground clearance make it the perfect trail cruiser.
Starting at $11,199
Again, these three affordable options are assuming that you want something brand new. If you really want to go easy on the wallet, we strongly recommend shopping around for pre-owned machines. Our guide to buying a used UTV can help you know what to look for.
One more thing to note is that the cost of a machine isn’t just how much you’re initially putting down. The price of owning and maintaining a UTV can catch you off guard if you’re not ready for it. Every rider should budget for side-by-side insurance, repairs, regular maintenance, and (sometimes) new tires in order to get the most out of your purchase.
Then, once all that is taken care of, you can focus on the fun stuff: customizing and upgrading! The possibilities are endless when it comes to aftermarket parts and accessories for your UTV.
Whether you go with used or new, bare bones or decked out to the nines, investing in a side-by-side can easily run you several thousand dollars. If you’re still wondering whether or not it’s worth it, it might be time to get behind the wheel of one and see for yourself. Because we’re certain that once you get a taste of the off-road lifestyle, you’ll be ready to shell out some cash for a machine of your own.