Are Side-by-Sides Worth It?

Side-by-sides, also known as utility task vehicles (UTV), are all the rage and gaining popularity across the country. Although pricy, side-by-sides are adaptable and perfect for families looking for fun or to tow heavy materials. No matter your interest in UTVs, there’s one for everybody.

But are side-by-sides worth it? Let’s look at all the benefits of owning a side-by-side and consider the risks.

What is a Side-By-Side?

A side-by-side (SxS or SSV), often known as a recreational off-highway vehicle (ROV), is a tiny four-wheel drive off-road vehicle that seats one to six people. Side-by-sides have ATV-like powertrains and much of their rugged-terrain capability.

The term “all-terrain vehicle” is traditionally restricted to four-wheel, straddle-seat vehicles. Side-by-sides get their name from the ability of multiple users to sit beside one another.

Why Side-By-Sides Are Worth It

Many side-by-side uses include exploring mountain trails, country back roads, and desert areas. The following are the benefits of owning a side-by-side.

1. Fun for the Whole Family

Side-by-sides are great for families, as they have enough seating for up to 6 passengers. Because of its seating capabilities, side-by-sides are a great outdoor activity for anyone wishing to spend quality time with family and friends.

You can always add a bump seat for toddlers or young adults to a two-seater side-by-side to bring the whole family along. UTVs are not difficult to control and are engineered for safety and comfort, making them ideal for family activities.

They are much safer than other recreational vehicles and can be enhanced with additional safety features such as four-point safety harnesses and doors. Additionally, there is sufficient legroom in the backseat, so you don’t need to worry about cramped space.

2. Side-By-Sides can be Modified to Make Street Legal

UTVs are generally not allowed to be driven on public roads, but most states in the US allow you to modify the side-by-side to make them street legal.

These states include:

  • Kansas
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • Montana
  • Arizona
  • Washington
  • Utah
  • Michigan
  • North and South Dakota
  • Nebraska
  • Wyoming
  • New Hampshire
  • Nevada
  • Colorado
  • Indiana
  • Idaho
  • Texas
  • Minnesota
  • Wisconsin
  • Kentucky
  • Vermont

If you’re considering riding your side-by-side on public streets, ensure the modifications conform to motor vehicle regulations. Each state is different, so do your research before making any changes.

3. Off-Roading

Side-by-sides are ideal for off-roading adventures due to their sturdy design. UTVs are easy to handle and include features that make them better equipped to navigate off-road conditions. You can buy a UTV to handle whatever conditions your area offers, such as sandy, muddy, or mountainous terrain.

The primary reason is that there is sufficient ground clearance. The UTV frame is exceptionally high, increasing ground clearance and making off-roading much easier. Some manufacturers even provide offroad-oriented versions of their UTVs with more ground clearance than standard models.

Another advantage of UTVs as offroad vehicles is the mix of comfort, performance, and an open-air cabin.

4. Side-By-Side Competitive Racing

UTV competitions are held all across the country, just as dirtbike and ATV racing. The most popular race is the annual Best in the Desert race in the Nevada desert. Other races include:

There are several UTV racing competitions in the US with different rules. These rules specify the type of UTV you can use in the race, safety precautions that need to be followed, and the engine size of the UTV.

However, UTV racing is pretty expensive. Many riders must spend money on safety equipment and the performance upgrades required to compete effectively. Although costly, the experience is well worth it.

5. Side-By-Sides Can Tow Heavy Materials

Most utility vehicles and certain hybrid recreational vehicles have beds to store or transport items. A UTV can tow more than a standard crossover. The average UTV can tow over 1,000 pounds, making it ideal for farmers transporting construction materials, manure, crops, or even hunters to transport a large game animal. You can also buy dump beds or build your own hydraulic lifts to make unloading heavier loads more manageable.

Side-by-sides are worth it if you need light towing and don’t have the money for a big truck.

6. Fun Addition to a Camping Trip

Side-by-sides are workhorses ideal for construction sites and ranches, and they also make great camping vehicles. Sports models are also a great addition to any weekend getaway, but they often have less storage space. Night riding, rock crawling, mudding, dune buggy, and trail riding can all be added to your outdoor trip.

The majority of UTV riders are also avid nature lovers.  Camping, fishing, hunting, and hiking all go together with UTV riding. The feeling of adventure and thrills of outdoor living binds them together. Many side-by-side riders map out their trail routes based on available camping locations. It allows people to combine their greatest passions: power riding and coming in touch with nature, whether they travel alone, with friends, or plan a family adventure.

Extra accessories are made for camping and can make your next camping trip comfortable. UTV accessories for camping include:

  • Rooftop tent
  • Spare tire carrier
  • Emergency winch
  • LED light bar for night riding

7. Variety of UTVs Available

Side-by-sides were initially used to tow fertilizer and farm materials on farms. Depending on what you want to do with the UTV, various UTV classes are available. Sport side-by-sides were introduced, and more recently, the sports utility side-by-side.

The sport side-by-side is ideal for those looking for torque to ride aggressively or for an all-around UTV, whereas the sports utility side-by-side is perfect for utility purposes.

The size UTV you choose will depend on whether you want to ride alone or with your family or friends. Sizes vary from 2 seaters to 6 seaters. Apart from seating, there are also different engine sizes, with powerful UTVs available to the daredevils!

8. Side-By-Sides are Safer Than ATVs

According to a 2020 US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report, the most recent fatalities reported were in 2017. The CPSC defines 1,697 of the 2,258 off-highway vehicles (OHVs) involved in the reported deaths as ATVs, 445 as Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles (ROVs), and 47 as UTVs. The vehicle classification for the remaining 69 deaths is unknown to the CPSC. However, it is assumed to be either an ROV or a UTV.

Despite these statistics, side-by-sides can still easily rollover due to their ground clearance. Because most modern UTVs lack stability control, you must exercise extreme caution when riding at high speeds, especially over uneven or rocky terrain.

All of this necessitates the need for safety gear. At the very least, you should buy a helmet and a chest protector. Fatal injuries sustained while riding side-by-sides are the spine, head, and torso. You should also invest in a quality pair of boots, a riding shirt and pants, gloves, and goggles to accompany your helmet.

However, wearing safety gear isn’t the only way to stay safe while riding. To avoid an accident:

  • Keep your tires in good condition
  • Avoid overloading your UTV
  • Prevent harsh cornering

Disadvantages of Side by Sides

Although there are many benefits to owning a side-by-side, there are a few disadvantages.

1. Side-by-sides are loud

UTVs are loud – much louder than cars! Compared to cars, UTVs have a smaller engine and generate less power, yet they are louder. Therefore, whether you’re riding a side-by-side or merely idling it, expect a lot of noise! You may also want to avoid UTVs if you’re a hunter that needs silence and doesn’t want to scare animals away.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to silence a side-by-side. An exhaust silencer is the best way to silence a UTV. There are high-quality mufflers available for riders who prefer something quieter.

2. Side-by-sides are expensive to buy and maintain

Side-by-sides are expensive but are affordable when you buy a used model. UTVs, like cars, depreciate significantly in their first few years, so the optimal time to buy one is when it’s between two and three years old. In that period, the UTV has likely depreciated by over 50% while remaining in excellent condition.

Alternatively, you can search dealer promotions, such as Black Friday or another holiday season. Purchasing a new side-by-side during this time will possibly save you a lot of money.

The reason why side-by-sides are expensive is because of two main reasons:

  • Supply and demand
  • Improvements in UTV performance and an increase in the number of accessories, add-ons, and luxury offered

Ensure you get an all-weather cover to protect it from the elements. You can also store your UTV in a garage or building.

The Bottom Line

Side-by-sides can perform almost anything you want from a utility or recreational vehicle. They are strong, fast, relatively safe, and can be affordable. When you add up all of the advantages you’ll get from one of the basic models, it’s clear that they’re well worth the money.