A drive isn’t complete without the kids in the backseat making each other crack up one minute, and then jabbing each other in the ribs and throwing fits moments later. No matter what they’re doing back there, you need the best UTV for your family. After all, nothing’s more important than showing them what an adventure is all about.
If you want to know what the best family side-by-side is, you first need to know what makes a UTV good for the family in the first place. There are a few necessities that come to mind right off the bat:
Those are the key considerations for any family UTV, but they’re not the only things you’ll want to consider. After all, if you’re the one behind the wheel and the one taking care of this vehicle, you need to make sure you’re happy too, right? Here’s what you need to look for to satisfy the needs of the driver:
Adding those to your checklist will ensure that everybody is happy with your decision.
Here’s our list of vehicles with four seats or more that excel in these areas, starting with our top pick.
The Polaris Ranger Crew XP 1000 is our pick for the best all-around side-by-side for a family. It combines reliable performance with ample storage and six, count ‘em, six seats! That’s enough for an average sized family plus a guest or two. Not bad. It’s good at everything and won’t disappoint. Although, you can find vehicles that beat it in certain aspects like comfort or storage.
Six seats! Yeah, we got a little excited and mentioned the seating capacity. But seriously, the two rows of bench seats have six three point harnesses to hold down six rear-ends. It might be a little packed, but when push comes to shove, you won’t find another UTV that fits more.
All that seating room does compromise comfort a bit. You’re not going to feel like you’re in some luxury vehicle, but it gets the job done.
The Polaris Ranger XP 1000 has excellent storage options. The dump bed gives you about 108 gallons (408 liters) of space. It also has a 1000-pound capacity. So whatever snacks, clothes, tents, and camping supplies you need on your adventure will fit no problem.
Polaris gives their Rangers excellent rollover protection and stability. You shouldn’t have any problems staying sunny side up and you’ll be fine even if you don’t. Polaris tends to be very proactive with recalls, often identifying and fixing potential issues before any actual problems are reported.
The Ranger XP 1000’s 999cc engine gives you 82 HP. The maximum speed is ECU limited to around 60 MPH, but you can increase that with an ECU tune. Either way, you won’t be disappointed in this UTV’s performance.
The front differential locks automatically and does an excellent job of maintaining traction, control, and momentum when you have 4WD toggled on. Check out our article on Polaris differentials to see why we think this diff is so special.
Polaris UTVs are some of the easiest to maintain. You can take apart and replace almost anything on the machine with a simple socket set. They don’t use weird proprietary ball joints, bushings, or anything else, so maintenance is easy. Plus, it’s one of the most popular UTVs on the market, so you won’t have any trouble finding a good dealer near you to do work on it for you.
The Honda Pioneer 1000-5 is a great, flexible family UTV for a number of reasons.
It has five seats. That’s plenty of room for the average family and gives you some flexibility about seating positions. With three bench seats up front and two bucket seats in the back, you can fit a family of five and put one lucky kid up front for a better view.
The Honda Pioneer is plenty comfortable. The cab is wide enough that you won’t be bumping shoulders the whole time. The seats are perfectly average in their comfort, however some find the rear buckets to be a tad on the firm side.
When it comes to storage, the Pioneer can get a little iffy. As a convertible machine, the back row of seats sit directly in the bed and take up all of its space. If you can leave one rear seat empty, you can fold it down and use about half of your bed’s 1000-pound capacity. Otherwise, your gear is relegated to the cab storage.
For safety, Honda has a good track record. The Pioneer 1000-5 has only faced a pair of recalls over the last several years. Honda brings Honda quality, and the Pioneer is no exception. The roll cage, doors, and seats will keep you in one piece.
The Pioneer 1000-5 uses a 999cc engine that outputs 72 HP. It can hit a max speed of around 67 MPH. Translation: this family side-by-side is no slouch.
It’ll get the blood pumping when you put the pedal down.
It also boasts one of the most advanced transmissions and differentials on the market. The transmission responds to your driving style to give you smoother, quieter shifting for easy rides and more aggressive shifting for fast rides.
The differential uses sensors throughout the machine to lock and unlock your differential intelligently, so you always keep traction with next to no effort on your part.
Honda’s well known for making reliable products, from cars to lawnmowers to UTVs. The Honda Pioneer is easy to maintain and problems rarely arise. If you’re planning on keeping this thing running yourself, this family side-by-side won’t give you a headache.
The Can-Am isn’t really a showstopper in any particular sense. But it does well enough in just about every aspect, and it’s the most affordable of the bunch, making it one of the most practical choices for a family UTV.
The Can-Am Commander Max only has four bucket seats. That’ll be plenty for most families, but it is tied for the smallest capacity of all the UTVs we’re looking at.
But those four bucket seats are pretty dang comfortable. Combined with the spacious cab and the above-average fit and finish of everything, you’ll feel like you’re sitting in a nice car. Also, the rear seats are raised a little higher than the front, so the kiddos have a better view.
There is one major caveat to the Commander’s comfort, though. The engine is beneath the rear seats and generates a lot of heat and noise. It’s nice in winter, but generally overpowering the rest of the year. This can be reduced by adding insulation.
Nobody beats the Can-Am Commander when it comes to storage. It has a dual-level cargo box that gives you 75 gallons in the dump bed and 30 more gallons in the storage compartment below that. Both sections can be accessed independently or combined into one big compartment. It makes that long family trip easy when you can keep the heavy supplies up top and still have easy access to food and extra clothes in the lower compartment. For a family, this storage setup just rocks.
The Commander is reliable and safe, owing primarily to the fact that the design hasn’t changed much in 10 years. Any issues have been ironed out, and its construction is stout enough to handle its relatively modest power output.
You get a 92 HP, 976cc V-twin engine with the Can-Am Commander. It tops out at around 64 MPH, so you get plenty of push when you hit the gas.
The sub-par Visco-Lok front differential makes some of that power go to waste. It locks the front diff slowly, so you’ll lose momentum and struggle with any substantial obstacles like logs or washouts.
It’s also difficult to maintain. You have to remove a seat and plastic panels just to change the oil. You’ll save some time and money by finding a good dealership to do the work for you.
If you’re looking for the pipedream family UTV that’s designed to put smiles on everybody’s faces, the Polaris RZR XP 4 Turbo S is awesome.
Look, the comfort is fine, the storage is sub-par, and it fits exactly four people, but that’s not what this UTV is all about. This is your day trip, roller-coaster-in-the-woods machine. Bring a smaller cooler and nothing else, because that’s all you’ll fit.
It is worth noting that this thing is really dang fast, so proper safety should be a first priority. Replace the stock seat belts with four or five-point harnesses ASAP and always, ALWAYS wear helmets.
This is why you choose this side-by-side over any others. The 925cc engine pumps out a whopping 168 HP and pushes to a top speed of around 80 MPH. That’s fast enough to make your eyes water and get the adrenaline pumping hard enough to blow a gasket.
What makes it even better is the 72-inch wide suspension. It has 19 and 21 inches of travel in the front and rear respectively. The result is that even when you’re traveling at highway speeds over uneven rocks, branches, and bumps, it feels like you’re driving on a cloud.
You’ll love driving it, the kids will gain a lifelong love of going fast, and you’ll be a hero… as long as you don’t have to sell your house to buy one.
If you read through everything, you’ll see why we give the most reliable UTV award to the Honda Pioneer 1000-5. Honda’s dedication to quality and easy maintenance makes it the side-by-side that’s least likely to fuss after a ride.
All the UTVs we’ve showcased are very reliable, though. No matter what you choose to cart your kids around in, you’ll be making memories and sharing stories for the rest of your life. The best choice is to choose one and start your adventure.