Last Updated: August 15th, 2023

How To Buy Used ATVs: [12 Things To Check]

How To Buy Used Atvs: [12 Things To Check]

Buying an ATV can indeed, at most times, become an expensive affair in addition to the complications of the purchase.

This thought of buying the ATVs might have led you to research whether purchasing a used ATV is a better option than a new one—an utterly good idea and, if we add, a more convenient option in many cases.

Before you rush into this purchase, keeping a few essential things in mind is crucial.

For that purpose, we have spent time carefully identifying and gathering various consumers’ experiences to make the research and buying process well-informed. 

Before proceeding with this purchase, be clear about what you want. It is imperative to consider the implications of buying a used ATV.

Once you have decided, you can begin the research process. To make the decision-making process more manageable, let us think about a few things to keep in mind.

Bring a battery along.

Many ATVs come with a dead battery. We recommend buying a jumper box to ensure that you don’t have to face that. These boxes are durable, easy to carry, and can be used as and when your ATV battery needs a push.

If you have considered jumping off your ATV with your truck, we would strongly advise against it. Another battery and jumper cables are the only safe way to jump-start your ATV battery.

Checking for any pre customizations

Before you start going into the details, it is advisable to ask the dealership if there have been any customizations done before.

What might seem like simple additions can sometimes be incompatible with the bike in the future.

If there is any customization, ask for the details of the features and ensure that you research the brand before making the purchase.

Researching its history

Buying an ATV bike can be quite rewarding, especially when you spend time researching its history.

Imagine it to be like stepping into a new relationship. You want to get to know your ATV bike. Determining its longevity will help you understand how well it has been used and maintained.

The most obvious thing to do would be to check for its age, but you can be surprised by how well a lightly-used 10-year ATV can perform compared to a beat-up 3-year-old ATV.

Knowing a little about the person who used the bike before you will not harm you. It can be beneficial to know whether the ATV was in the hands of a 40-year-old on a farm or an 18-year-old that used it as a toy.

Checking for tire aging

ATV tires crack with age, just as with car tires. If they develop cracks, they are extremely dangerous to ride on.

If one tire is cracked and has the same kind of wear as the others, then plan on replacing the entire set. This can cost you upward of 450$ to start with, including labor.

Checking Ball joints and Bearings

The ATV machine works as an interdependent mechanism.

If something is wrong with one aspect, the chances are that its dependent parts will also need a check. When it comes to Ball Joints and Bearings, they can become severely damaged with use.

The way to notice this is if you notice sloppy steering and turn instability. If you have noticed this on one side, the other could be right behind. Replacing the ball joints and bearings can cost upward of 120$ per side.

Checking the Air Box

Checking the Air Box for engine oil is recommended.

Finding engine oil could mean that they had flipped the bike before and did not get it thoroughly checked. This check could additionally or also mean that there is something wrong with the engine.  

Checking Compression 

Not everyone will recommend checking the Compression on your ATV, but bad Compression directly translates into a BAD ENGINE.

Thankfully, you can easily find a way to check for Compression through a compression gauge.

With each engine comes its capacity, but what you want to look for is that both the pistons are 10% of each other and not below 100 PSI. This compression pressure is a recommended rule of thumb; however, several tested and proven methods can be found.

Checking the Engine Oil

Checking the engine oil is a must to ensure it is not old or dirty. Dirty Oil will be like a chocolate milkshake in color or solid black, whereas good Oil will be a lighter brown color.

If it resembles a milkshake, water has gotten into the Oil. We recommend that you avoid looking at that ATV altogether, as that means there is something fundamentally wrong with the ATV.

Checking the brakes

It is possible to check the thickness of ATV brake pads using an inspection mirror and a flashlight. However, the disadvantage is that it is hard to see when they are worn out because they are so thin when they are new.

Even if the pads look thick, removing the wheel, caliper, and pads is better than scrutinizing the entire brake system.

There is nothing wrong with asking the dealer or the person you buy it from to do it for you. If a person is unwilling to, walking away from the purchase is better than being stuck with a worn-out brake system.

Checking your Coolant System

Checking the coolant’s overfill area is something to consider to ensure it is full or at the desired level. There aren’t usually many coolant problems, but ensuring that the coolant has not been adulterated is always better.

The coolant is either neon green or pink in color (it can also resemble a tiny orange). It is essential not to mix two different coolants at any cost, as they can form a sludge that can be a substantial potential hazard to the cooling system, making it difficult and expensive to fix.

Checking for Buttons and the Seat 

This check is perhaps one of the most obvious and essential things to do. Make sure to properly check the tail lights and the headlights, and ensure that the kill switch works.

If they don’t have an extra key, don’t be surprised, because, well, let’s face it, it is a pretty losable item. Checking for the Seat depends on what kind of ATV you want.

If you are looking for a Mud-ATV bike, pull the Seat off to check whether it feels heavy. If it does, it means it has been water-logged.

Feel it to experience it.

After checking for all of the above, the last thing you must do is put your legs around it and take it for a nice spin.

Run through all the gears and flip through all the switches to ensure everything works.

Keep your ears open for any unusual sound coming from any part of the bike. If all feels alright and you find yourself leaving with a smile, it will be a good purchase.

Things To Consider Before Buying A Used ATV

First, If you don’t have a well-established credit history, it is highly unlikely that you will find lenders willing to loan you the money.

The financing for a recreational vehicle is different as compared to other cars. They don’t come under standard financing options requiring excellent credit history. 

Financing options are essential to consider when buying a used ATV. Many local dealerships will offer you financing options without collateral.

Be sure to look around for a lender with the lowest interest rate while choosing.

There are some additional expenses to consider as well, transportation being one of them.

Getting your ATV to your place would mean hiring a trailer. If your ATV is 60 inches wide, that would mean something more significant than a 4X8 trailer. 

Storage is another investment you will have to make. When your ATV is not in use, where do you plan on storing it?

You might have to invest in a storage shed or make enough room in your garage.

Repairing your used ATV can be slightly more expensive than a new one. Taking your vehicle out on the trail would mean a decent amount of wear and tear, and if it is a used ATV, that could mean less resilience.

New models often come with a warranty within the first year of purchase, but you might have to set aside a little more in your maintenance budget when it comes to used ATVs. 

You must consider durability because your vehicle is prone to overheating and part breakage.

Unfortunately, many private owners don’t necessarily understand the limitations of their cars. It is common to see a radiator covered in mud due to a lack of proper maintenance.

Another common problem that owners encounter is that their vehicle has become increasingly jerky and seem to lunge forward whenever they press the ignition.

Eventually, everything on your ATV is prone to damage and is not as indestructible as we imagine.

Sometimes, the fix might be taken care of by warranty, but in most cases, it won’t be because the problems we mention are caused by use and not manufacture defects. 

This would mean that you would have to keep shelling out money for these new parts, so if you are not ready to do that, we would consider going for a new model altogether. 

Plastic is the primary structure upon which many parts of the ATV are built.

This is important because many owners find it surprising when their parts deteriorate. This is a very natural process for plastic and is also prone to cracking, especially when exposed to an engine’s temperature shifts.

How To Research For Buying A Used ATV

How To Buy Used Atvs: [12 Things To Check]

You want to start with thorough research on the models you want. Hence, before proceeding with this purchase, you must thoroughly research the models you want.

By that, we mean that you zero down on 3-4 models at the most, and that is the stage where your research begins. The action of ‘due diligence’ is no more limited to the profession of law only, and there is a thing or two that we can all learn from it. 

Identify what your needs from the ATV are and cater your search based on that. What size do you NEED? Where will you be using it?

Trails, Hauling, or maybe both? As you identify your needs, look for reviews and recommendations from reliable sources.

Even though we are stressing research, it is essential to understand the difference between knowing what you want and being too loyal to a particular brand.

If you are not a world-class driver, the tiny perceivable differences between each brand will be hardly noticeable. It is your skill that is going to make more of a difference. 

Don’t become ‘that-brand guy’ before you do your extensive research. If you attach yourself too much to a brand, options become less. Each brand has something unique to offer, and keep yourself open to trying something different. 

Buying from an online Market-place

Craigslist is considered to be the go-to place when it comes to buying used ATVs.

However, emerging trends have shown that Facebook Marketplace is increasingly becoming a more viable option. There seem to be more ATVs on that platform than on Craigslist.

A sure-shot way of being immediately informed when something comes up is to keep your notifications on.

ATVs can show up as different names, such as a ‘quad’ or a ‘4-wheeler’, and if you type that in, you don’t have to repeat dozens of searches.

Craigslist is perhaps one of the most obvious choices when buying used ATVs.

It will take some digging, but it can be quite rewarding once you do. The CPlus for Craigslist app comes with some powerful features that the average website might not offer. With this, you can filter the searches and set up notifications for any new ATV offer. 

EBay Motors is not the go-to place for variety, but if you have narrowed your search to specific models, this platform can be valuable. 

ATV Classifieds is a website that allows sellers and buyers to meet and interact with each other. The main advantage of this website is that it will enable you to narrow your search to the state you reside in, filtering out the outside options.

Buying From Your Local Dealer

The question of reliability brings us to what it means to buy from a reliable source. There have been several buyers who have found great value in buying from a local dealer. Two things are ensured through this process-

  • The element of trust is higher when it comes to a known source.
  • A dealer has much to lose if he sells you an insufficient ATV. 
  • When there are problems with your ATV, the local dealership will be more willing to work on the machine. 
  • The dealership will be much more approachable regarding knowing more about the device or fixing a problem since you have built a relationship by purchasing from them.

There are some disadvantages as well, buying from your local dealer.

It is highly unlikely that your local dealer does not know the correct pricing, and if you are getting something cheap, then that would, 9 out of 10 times, mean that there is something you don’t know.

There are advantages to buying from a local dealer. However, the crazy good deals you desire will likely happen through a private party.

Being Well Informed About The Market Price Of Used ATVs

If you are deciding on an unknown source, there are two essential things that you should be aware of.

There are two kinds of prices that you will be greeted by. The first is called the ‘trade-in’ price or ‘wholesale.’ This ‘Trade-in’ is the price you should know if you are an ATV owner and want to sell it to a dealership.

The other number is ‘retail.’ You will be expected to pay this’ retail’ for the bike.

When buying a used ATV, the goal is to be somewhere in the middle of these two pricing- in simple terms, pay less than the retail and above trade-in. You can look at a couple of pricing options for retail pricing as well.

KBB and NADAGuides would be valuable recommendations, and eBay would be an excellent place to go for a more general perspective on the pricing.

The only time you should feel comfortable about paying more than retail is when you opt for accessories. Accessories like LEDs and Skid plates can unexpectedly affect the numbers.

If you want to get a deal that saves you money, then there is one thing that you have to be wary of.

That is the notorious “4-square contract”. A tactic used by car salesmen back in the day, this is a dishonest way of finding out how much a buyer has available for a down payment and how much they are willing to pay every month.

They end up tweaking the payment option to your desired outcome to such an extent that you end up paying more than what you had bargained for.


What are some key considerations before purchasing a used ATV?

Before buying a used ATV, it’s essential to consider financing options, transportation costs, storage requirements, potential repair costs, the ATV’s history, and the implications of buying a used vehicle over a new one.

How can I ensure I get a fair price when buying a used ATV?

To ensure a fair price, be aware of both the ‘trade-in’ and ‘retail’ prices. Aim to pay somewhere in between these two prices. Websites like KBB and NADAGuides can provide valuable pricing insights.

What practical checks should be performed on a used ATV before purchase?

Some practical checks include examining the battery, inquiring about any pre-customizations, researching its history, checking tire condition, inspecting ball joints and bearings, evaluating the air box and engine oil, assessing the brakes, inspecting the coolant system, and testing all buttons and the seat.

Why is it essential to check the engine oil of a used ATV?

Checking the engine oil is crucial, as dirty or old oil can indicate poor maintenance. Oil resembling a chocolate milkshake in color indicates water contamination, which suggests fundamental issues with the ATV.

What should I do after inspecting a used ATV’s technical aspects?

After conducting all technical checks, taking the ATV for a test ride is recommended. Run through all gears flip switches, and listen for any unusual sounds. It might be a good purchase if everything feels right and you’re satisfied.


Lastly, it is essential to remember that there will always be things that are not perfect and could break in the future.

If you have done your ‘due diligence’ and are satisfied with what you are buying, keep yourself prepared for any unwanted costs and a reasonable budget for repairs.

If you keep yourself well-informed, do extensive research, and check the bike thoroughly, there is nothing more you need to be worried about.

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