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What Are UTVs Anyway?

Offroad vehicle manufacturers sure have a way of complicating things.  In the 15+ years I’ve been riding, they’ve been referred to as Off Road Vehicles (ORVs), All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), ROVs, Buggies and “those godda#*$ mud trucks”, among other things.

Now there’s a relatively new acronym in town, called them “UTVs”.  And just like the rest of you, I’m a little confused on what differentiates UTVs from ATVs and all the other 3-letter acronyms.

In order to clear up the confusion a bit, I wanted to share with you the notes I’d taken on the subject on getting back from the NOHVCC conference back in August.

The bad news is:  it might confuse you more.  Despite that, I’ll do my best to explain in today’s post…

What Is NOT a UTV

This Is Not A UTV
This Is Not A UTV

Utility Vehicles (UTVs) in the market are often referred to as:

  • Utility Vehicles (UVs)
  • Side-by-Side vehicles (SxS or SSVs)
  • Recreational Utility Vehicles (RUVs)

All of these encompass a very broad number of off-road vehicle types and for that reason there is a lot of ambiguity in the market about what each specifically represents, so perhaps a good place to start would be to describe what is not a UTV.

UTVs are generally marketed toward the recreational crowd, so any vehicle marketed outside of this customer base, should not be called a UTV.

I’d already mentioned that 1 seater ATV’s are in a classification of their own, but aside from that, so-called “golf-cart” vehicles from companies like Taylor-Dunn, Motrec, Cushman, Columbia ParCar and Pack Mule should be excluded.  Similarly modified golf-cart, “personnel carriers” used by businesses and airports should be excluded as well.

In general, here’s the vehicles that were outside the UTV designation:

  • New and used golf carts (including modified ones)
  • Neighborhood Vehicles (NEVs)
  • Low-Speed Vehicles (LSVs), which we provide in separate databases
  • Pickup trucks
  • ATVs with cargo beds that are counted as ATVs
  • Airport tow tractors and baggage handlers
  • Dedicated turf vehicles that are fertilizers, sprayers or bunker rakes
  • Underground mining equipment
  • Multi-car passenger trams often seen in amusement parks

What is a UTV, specifically?

UTVs have bench or bucket seats for one or more passengers as opposed to all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) where passengers sit astride the machine like a motorcycle. They have 2-wheel-drive (2WD, 4×2), 4-wheel-drive (4WD, 4×4) or 6-wheel-drive (6WD, 6×4) options. They could typically have rear dump beds, cargo beds or additional seating, and can be classified as light-duty (1,200 lbs. and under capacity), medium-duty (1,201-1,800 lbs. capacity) or heavy-duty (over 1,800 lbs. capacity).

UTVs can be driven either by internal combustion (IC) engine or electric-powered and can differ significantly in body style from the typical injection plastic molding bodies to heavy-plated steel bodies commonly found on vehicles in industrial plants and warehouses.

Narrowing It Down

In recent years there appears to be a growing number of descriptions that go beyond the widely used term of utility vehicle, UTV or UV.  These include Side-by-Side Vehicles (SSVs) and Recreational Utility Vehicles (RUVs).  Because this market has changed so much in recent years there has been ambiguity concerning these classifications.

For example, one general classification that the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ROHVA) has used is recreational utility vehicles, or RUVs, as those exceeding 30 mph.  But there are even more diverse classifications being used by different OEMs that further define these vehicles in various segments and niches.

The following six categories represent a new and different way to classify the market. The categories look not only to the top speed of the vehicle, but also cargo space, engine power and type, and seating configuration.  While these new categories do not reflect any agreed to industry standard, we believe they better describe the dynamics and new vehicles in the market over the last few years.

Pure Utility Vehicles (PUV)

PUV are speed-governed at 35 mph and under, large cargo area, most lack independent rear suspension, 2WD or 4WD, bench & bucket seats, 2- and 4-passengers, carb as well as FI and EFI, and includes all diesels.  Examples include:

  • Kawasaki Mule, excl. the PRO-FTX
  • Kubota RTV
  • Deere Gators, excl. the XUV825i & RSX850i
  • Polaris Ranger Diesels and Brutus

Electric Utility Vehicles (EUV)

As the name suggests, EUVs are more utility based and speed-governed at 25-mph and under, large cargo area, 2- and 4-passengers, can be either 2WD or 4WD, very popular at golf courses, estates and gated communities, with hunters and industrial in plants and warehouses.  Not LSV/NEV certified.  Examples include:

  • Polaris EV
  • Bad Boy Buggies
  • Martex Global (HuntVe)
  • Club Car Carryall, Turf, XRT and Shuttle series
  • Cushman Hauler and Shuttle series
  • E-Z-Go Express and Terrain series
  • John Deere E-Gator and Toro Workman MDE

Utility Crossover Vehicles (UCV)

UCVs include larger cargo area, utility styling, and higher speeds between 44 to 53+ mph.  Most include independent rear suspension, carb &EFI, 2- and 4-passengers and 4WD.  Examples include:

  • Polaris Ranger
  • John Deere XUV825i
  • Kawasaki PRO-FTX
  • Honda Big Red, Pioneer 2- and 4-pass. & Trail
  • Hisun new Sector & HS

Recreational Utility Vehicles (RUV)

Speed of 42-55 mph, sportier styling and smaller cargo area than UCV, independent rear suspension, FI & EFI, 2- and 4-passengers, bucket seats and 4WD.  Examples include:

  • Kawasaki Teryx 750
  • Yamaha Rhino
  • Yamaha Viking, Viking VI & Wolverine
  • Hisun old 500, 600 & 700cc

Sport Recreational Vehicles (SRV)

Speed of 52-70 mph, sporty styling yet more cargo area than a SSPV, typically with large displacement engines 800cc & over, independent rear suspension, EFI, 2 and 4-passengers, bucket seats and 4WD.  Examples include:

  • Deere RSX850i
  • Arctic Cat Prowler
  • Can-Am Commander
  • Kawasaki Teryx 800
  • Polaris RZR 570 & 800
  • Hisun old 800 & new Strike 800

Super Sport Vehicles (SSV)

Speed exceeding 70-mph, performance styling and with a limited cargo area, typically with large displacement engines 800cc & over, independent rear suspension, EFI, 2- and 4-passengers, bucket seats, superior handling & suspension and 4WD.

Examples include:

  • Arctic Cat Wildcat 2- and 4-passenger & Trail
  • Polaris RZR 900 and 1000 2- and 4-passenger
  • Can-Am Maverick 2- and 4-passenger & Turbo
  • Hisun new Strike 1000 2- and 4-passenger

Well there you go.  I know it’s a bit confusing, and while you could argue that all of these aren’t marketed to the “recreational” crowd, it puts the UTV business in perspective.

Thanks for reading!


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About the Author

Fred Willlett

Fred is an off road junky from Memphis who, from the best of his recollection, was born on back of an ATV riding the trail north of Hotsprings, Arkansas. In addition for writing for a couple other ATV blogs including this one, Fred spends whatever money & time visiting Offroad hotspots throughout North America.

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