Farmers know a thing or two about utility. From a combine harvester to that trusty old pickup, they know you need the right tools for the job.
That’s why adding a UTV to your arsenal makes so much sense. You can’t spell “utility task vehicle” without “utility,” after all. But which one should you get and what can it do for you? Can you just buy one and put it to work or should you spruce it up with some extra stuff?
Let’s look at the best high-end and entry-level side-by-sides you can get.
After that, we’ll take a look at the useful stuff you can add to your side-by-side to protect your investment and make it work even more efficiently on the farm.
A side-by-side is the ultimate workhorse. With a dump bed, impressive towing capacity, and all-terrain capability, it’s an ideal accessory for farm use.
First of all, you can hook up a small trailer and easily tow it anywhere. This includes down trails, over rocks, and through ditches—all places where a full-sized trailer or large truck could get bogged down or stuck.
We know checking your perimeter fence is among the most common farming rituals. With a UTV, it’s quick and easy to get through every tough part of your property. It also makes it easier to haul the tools and supplies you need to repair any damage you see.
Checking on animals means chasing them to whatever corner of the farm or ranch they’ve wandered to, whether that’s in the barn or down a ravine a mile away. Don’t try doing that on anything that isn’t made explicitly for off-roading. You can load up your side-by-side with feed, hay, rope, farrier tools, or whatever else you need to make your livestock healthy. It’s perfect for doing the dirty work that might total your truck.
A UTV will make short work of any other outdoor project you have. Clearing debris from trails, cutting down trees for firewood, building a new outbuilding on the other side of your farmland—all of these jobs are made easier with a side-by-side. Use it to haul a log splitter or load it up with fence posts, a weed eater, a chainsaw, and extra fuel. On top of all that, it can go everywhere your big truck can’t.
Whether you’re dealing with ruts, ditches, or bad drainage, a good side-by-side can get through it without getting stuck. It will be your most-used farm tool when it comes to getting work done.
There are a lot of side-by-sides that are good for farmers and ranchers, but they’re not all created equal. Let’s take a look at a few of the top performers in terms of the best farm UTV.
The Ranger line of models from Polaris is by far the most popular utility vehicle on the market, and the XP 1000 is no exception. It’s easy to drive, reliable, and customizable. It’s also the vehicle to beat when it comes to power and capacity. The instant front differential locker on the Ranger shouldn’t be overlooked. It ensures that you automatically get maximum traction in four-wheel drive. It works so well, you won’t even know it’s there.
The Defender is newer to the game but quickly gaining popularity. Most models use a Visco-Lok front differential that isn’t always the smoothest, but it gets the job done. If you opt for one of the mud-focused X MR models, you’ll get Can-Am’s more advanced Smart-Lok Differential. Here are the specs for the baseline Defender XT:
The Honda Pioneer 1000 is a strange beast in a few different ways. The suspension doesn’t feel quite as premium as it does on the Defender or the Ranger, but the 1000-5 models allow you to convert the two back-row seats into extra bed space for total versatility. Plus, you get that proven Honda quality that most other manufacturers strive for.
You can’t talk about farming vehicles without talking about John Deere. They’re the premier farming equipment manufacturer in the US and they’re no slouch when it comes to their side-by-side offerings either. Their top-of-the-line Gator XUV835E has all the comfort features you expect with John Deere support to back them up. As with all things John Deere, your aftermarket options are limited. It’s something to consider when you’re looking at a big investment.
For us, the best bang for the buck when it comes to farming is the Ranger XP 1000. It offers the highest power and is a very high-quality vehicle, but without a bank-breaking price. It’s also backed by tons of mechanics who are familiar with the Ranger and plenty of aftermarket parts and accessories.
If you’re not working on hundreds of acres of land, you can easily get by with an entry-level UTV. Entry-level doesn’t mean “bad.” Even these lower-powered machines will earn their keep doing heavy hauls and back-breaking work. These are the best farm UTVs you can get at these price points.
The Polaris Ranger 500 is an incredibly popular vehicle for farm use. This two-seater is compact, with a 73-inch wheelbase, and stands 58 inches wide. You can take this thing through every corner of your property with those dimensions. It’ll fit between trees and on every tight path. Its 32 by 42-inch cargo box can be loaded up with tons of tools so you can get lots of work done without returning to base.
Can-Am’s entry-level Defender is a nice package. Its 427cc engine churns out 38 HP, which gives it decent towing and hauling capacity. It has an 83-inch wheelbase and stands 62 inches wide, which makes it big for its class. In fact, the cargo bed is a whopping 38 by 54.5 inches and has capacity for up to three people.
The UForce 500 may not be the most mainstream choice, but it’s a solid contender for the best entry-level UTV. It’s the lowest price, but it’s not as stripped down as you might think. The 495cc engine is capable of 38 HP. It’s relatively small with a 72-inch wheel base and 58-inch stance. That makes it nimble and maneuverable, like the Ranger but at a lower cost. Plus, it comes standard with a 3000 lb. winch and power steering—something that the others in this category can’t claim.
This one is a true toss-up. Do you want the maximum cargo weight limit of the Ranger, the extra bed box volume of the Defender, or the power steering and winch you get with the UForce? All three are great choices, and a valuable addition to any farmer’s fleet.
*Note: All prices are accurate as of November 2020.
Now that you’ve got the best farm UTV picked out, what can you do to make it work even better for you?
There are a couple different categories we can break these down into: stuff that makes your UTV more capable, like winches; stuff that protects your vehicle, like a bumper; and stuff that makes your cab more comfortable, like a roof.
There are a few key upgrades you’ll want to add to make sure your chosen UTV is the ultimate farming instrument.
Getting a pair of 4500 or 6000 Lb. Black Ops Winches on your machine will help you get other vehicles out of the ditch they’re stuck in, and they can get your machine out of trouble, too.
A set of aggressive off-road tires can help you navigate the rougher parts of your property. For farming, we recommend any of our Warrior Tires or the more aggressive Intimidator Tires. They’ll keep you gripping so you don’t get stuck.
If you want to boost your machine’s torque to make towing and crawling over uneven farmland easier, a gear reduction is the way to go. We have transmission gear reductions and portal gear lifts that have a gear reduction built into the hub.
Transmission gear reductions give you between a 12% and 25% gear reduction, depending on the vehicle. They go right in your transmission to lower your gear ratio and increase your torque.
Portals give you a lift and reduce stress on your drivetrain because they put the gear reduction in the hub. They’re also straightforward to install compared to a transmission gear reduction, since they’re a suspension upgrade. They give you a 15%, 30%, or 45% gear reduction in 4, 6, or 8” lifts. If you don’t mind a bit of lift and spending a little more cash, a portal gear reduction might be just what you need to get your work done.
Protecting your investment is a good idea too. We’ll break this up into upgraded parts that protect the function of the vehicle and machine protection itself.
Upgrading your suspension is key to keeping your vehicle running smoothly, especially if your farm is home to lots of uneven terrain. Axles and A-arms are at the frontline, so switching out to heavy-duty parts or just keeping a few heavy-duty axles on hand for replacements is a good idea. They’ll keep your tires turning if you get hung up on a stump or over-torque your wheels when they get wedged in some roots.
An upgraded drivetrain keeps your power going to the ground even when your UTV is under extreme stress. Replacing your front differential and prop shafts will make sure that your four-wheel drive keeps working no matter what.
When it comes to prop shafts, we have heavy-duty Rhino Driveline Prop Shafts that utilize bigger shafts and advanced U-joints or CV joints. Altogether it makes them one of the strongest parts on your machine, instead of one of the weakest.
For heavy-duty front and rear-end protection, you’ve got to get bumpers. We’ve got bumpers for Ranger, Defender, and Pioneer models that do more than protect your vehicle from major impacts. Our bumpers come with tow clevises and winch mounting points for most models. Some even allow you to mount extra light cubes. They make your machine safer and give it boosted capability. We call that a win-win.
You should also invest in a skid plate for your Ranger or Defender. Our skid plates are made with a proprietary variation of UHMW called ARMW. The biggest advantage of these skid plates is that they provide coverage where the stock skid plate doesn’t—the area directly under you feet. It’s not unheard of to have sticks break through the plastic floor of the cab and hurt the occupants. Better to just cover it up with our skid plate and keep everything and everyone safe.
What’s the point of beefing up your vehicle if you hate sitting in it? That’s where cab enclosures come in. You’ll want to grab front and rear windshields, doors, and a roof to keep you comfortable when it’s raining or cold out.
A front windshield should be your first consideration, and there are all types for you to choose from. From full windshields to vented windshields to flip windshields, you can get exactly what you need and what you want to make long hours of work more comfortable
Our doors are easy to remove if the summer heat means you won’t need them at all and some even have sliding windows for on-the-fly airflow control.
For roofs, you have to decide whether you want aluminum, plastic, or tinted polycarbonate. We’re quite partial to the tinted roofs. They’re strong, they block out enough sun so you don’t get hot, and they don’t make your cab feel claustrophobic.
Get the full set of windshields, roofs, and doors, and you’ll be able to stay in control of your climate and work comfortably on the farm all year long.
With the right machine picked out, and the right upgrades installed, you’ll have a machine that works for you better than any other multipurpose machine on the farm or ranch. It does the back-breaking work for you so you can get more done in less time.
If agriculture is the backbone of America, let your side-by-side be the backbone of agriculture. From small jobs to big, a UTV can be your go-to tool.
And now that you know how versatile a side-by-side can be on the farm, you can start exploring other ways to put that machine to use. For example, the right UTV can make your next hunting trip way easier!