ATV vs RTV: Speed, Comfort, Safety, and Fun


If you are looking to buy your first off-road vehicle, it’s vital to research every option out there and figure out which is the best for your needs. I recommend reading this in-depth analysis to learn what is the difference between an ATV and an RTV. From speed and comfort to usage and price point, I’ll cover everything you need to know for your next purchase!

The main difference between an ATV and an RTV is their usage. An All-Terrain Vehicle is mostly made for recreational solo riding, nature exploring, and competitions. In contrast, a Rugged-Terrain Vehicle is built for work-related purposes and hauling cargo and can accommodate two to four passengers. Other differences between the two include steering style, different price points, and a large speed difference.

A quad rides like a motorcycle, with handlebars and hand levers, while an RTV mimics the driving style of a car or a tractor. The latter is generally more expensive than an ATV, and its top speed is at least 20mph slower than a quad with similar engine capacity. Most off-road experts will agree that the RTV is safer, more comfortable, and more suited for labor than the ATV.

As you can see, there are quite a lot of features to note when comparing an ATV to an RTV. While the paragraph above gives you a brief overview of the differences between the two, I encourage you to keep on reading for the full rundown on comfort, speed, usage, and price point. In the end, I’ll give you my opinion on which is the best out of the two.

infographic comparing ATV vs RTV

What is the Difference Between an ATV and a RTV?

RTV XG850

First and foremost, you can see some clear differences when you sit the two vehicles next to each other. The ATV is a smaller vehicle with handlebars and one to two passenger seats that is not equipped with many safety features. The RTV is a Utility Task Vehicle, a category of off-road vehicles that are known to be the safest and most comfortable options in the field.

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These four-wheeled machines are the closest off-road cousins of the car since it has a steering wheel, foot pedals, and similar seating. Passengers are protected by a steel cage equipped with a “headache rack” that keeps unstable cargo from entering the cabin. It’s safe to say that if safety is your main priority, the RTV will be your go-to vehicle between the two.

However, that is not to say that ATVs are risk-machines made for injuring their passengers. The safety precautions when riding a quad come mostly from the passenger’s equipment, such as a reliable helmet, gloves, and chest protection. Do not be ready to dismiss the ATV just yet, but keep in mind that the RTV is the safest option between the two.

What is an RTV Vehicle?

RTV stands for “rough terrain vehicle” and it’s a type of UTV (utility task vehicle). RTV vehicles are made by Kubota and they are designed for offroad trails. You can ride RTV vehicles on all sorts of terrains without encountering any problems. The most popular RTV vehicle is the Kubota RTV520, which comes with a slew of premium features such as an improved suspension system, increased energy displacement and a detachable cabin.

In general, the people who choose to buy RTVs are those who love offroad adventures but don’t enjoy ATVs. RTV vehicles are more stable and they can actually reach fast speeds. Another perk of going with an RTV is the fact that you will have room for passengers. Most RTV vehicles offer seating for up to 6 passengers. That’s not all. You will also have some extra rack space to store essentials such as food and water.

How Comfortable Do You Want to Be?

an UTV and ATV

Comfort is one of the most important factors to take into consideration in my book. The two vehicles offer vastly different experiences in terms of riding and comfort, so now is the moment to stop and think about what you want. Only you can determine what type of off-road riding you enjoy most, so it’s best to try out both options before making a decision.

Are you looking for an adrenaline-pumping ride on all types of terrains, from dunes of sand to rocky mountain trails? Then go right now to an ATV rental shop and try out this off-road vehicle made for fun! It’s no wonder that quad competitions are so popular, considering that you can challenge yourself every single time you try out a new trail on this powerful machine. However, when you get off the ATV, you might feel a little tension in your muscles from all that difficult riding, so the comfort level is not as high as with an RTV.

Kubota’s UTV, on the other hand, is much more comfortable. The seating bench has a 60/40 configuration, equipped with comfortable foam that feels great. Because it is made for rugged terrain, you will barely feel the rough terrains even when you’re carrying cargo. Not to mention that you have plenty of storage space from the glove box to the hollow seats. This allows you to carry around other items that can add to your comfort and experience, like a hand fan, a speaker, or even a blanket. In case you cannot find a friend with an RTV to try it out, you can still get a feel for the level of comfort by riding another type of four-wheeled UTV.

Is Speed Important to You?

If you are really avid about reaching top speeds with your off-road vehicle, then your decision has just been made 10 times easier. With maybe just a few low cc exceptions, ATVs will always be faster than Kubota’s side by side. This is not that surprising actually, the main reason being that they were made for very different purposes. I’ll tell you more about their usage in just a second, but for now, let’s focus on the speed.

Most Rugged-Terrain Vehicle models will not go over a top speed of 28mph. If you have some experience riding an off-road vehicle, you are probably thinking: “Wow, that’s so slow!” Well, if it makes you feel any better, their gas engine model RTV-XG850 Sidekick can reach a top speed of 41mph. Still not very fast, but much better than the gasoline-fueled older models.

To put things into perspective, an ATV with the same engine capacity will easily reach a top speed of 60mph in under 15 seconds. For instance, the Polaris Sportsman 850 is known to reach around 66mph top speed. Polaris is also known to have some of the fastest ATVs on the market, with the Scrambler XP 850 reportedly reaching 83mph. In all honesty, there is no reason why you would need that much speed on an off-road vehicle. Regardless, you can clearly see how much of a difference in speed there is between an 850cc RTV and an 850cc ATV.

How Do You Plan to Use Your Off-Road Vehicle?

If you weren’t able to decide between the two until now, then I recommend you just make a decision based on your purpose. As I’ve lightly mentioned before, the ATV is made for thrilling solo riding, while the RTV is a work machine made for hauling and towing cargo.

Kubota has made it pretty clear that they weren’t looking to make a recreational UTV, even though you can still use it for this purpose. In case you are looking for a relaxing ride through the woods without too much speed or exhilarating turns, then you can still have a great time riding the RTV for fun. Still, if you just want a UTV for fun, there are other options out there better equipped for trail riding. Choose the RTV if you are looking for a small tractor-like vehicle that can handle all types of terrains. This is where this machine excels and will offer you exactly what you need.

The ATV will always be my top choice when it comes to riding for fun. Even though the steering takes a little getting used to, once you get the hang of it, you won’t want to stop for miles. If you are surrounded by fun trails, challenging terrain, or stunning natural forests, then the ATV will be able to weasel through any narrow paths and offer you a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Quads are not too bad for farm work either, but you need to take into account that they do not have as much towing capacity as an RTV. If you are mainly a recreational user that wants to haul some equipment once in a while, then the ATV is better suited for your needs.

What’s the Best RTV For the Money?

RTV Kubota Model

This is a tough question to answer since Kubota’s RTV models are quite similar. It depends on what you are looking for, whether that is more speed or more towing capacity. It seems to be a consensus between Kubota RTV owners that the newer X models have a cheaper feel to them, so an original model like the RTV900 might be better worth your money. These sell for around $12,000, which makes them one of the more affordable RTVs out there. However, if those extra 13 miles on top speed are important to you, then I recommend you choose the orange RTV-XG850 Sidekick that has a price point of $23,500.

To put things into perspective, the average price of a new ATV is around $7,000. Budget can also play an important role in your decision since you can use the leftover cash for some improvements—for instance, snow power. In case you want to get an off-road vehicle to plow the snow in the colder months, both ATVs and RTVs can help you out. But keep in mind this is an additional expense that can cost you anywhere from $400 to $700. Regardless of the vehicle you choose, I recommend you keep in mind that each customization will add up to a pretty penny in the end. Budget-wise, an ATV is the better option.

Wondering if an ATV is better than a dirt bike? Check out this article I wrote about the top differences between ATVs and dirt bikes.

ATV or RTV: Which Should You Choose?

If you’ve been with me so far, you can already tell that this is a loaded question. If you’ve just scrolled down to the conclusion looking for a quick answer from an experienced off-road rider, then I’ll cut right to it: go for the ATV. It’s not just my biased opinion as a die-hard ATV fan, but my informed opinion based on all the criteria above.

The Kubota RTV is a bulky and heavy machine that is best used for farm work and hauling at a moderate speed. There might even be some better UTVs available for this job out there. What makes the Rough-Terrain Vehicle unique is the tractor-style engine and the trademark reliable workmanship of Kubota. I would recommend this vehicle to people looking to have a work UTV for many years to come, and not much else.

An ATV, on the other hand, has much more to offer. It is a speedy off-road vehicle that can explore most types of terrains and trails. With the right accessories, you can still tow around 500 pounds worth of cargo. Therefore, you can even use your quad for light farm work as well. In terms of recreational use, there is no question that the ATV is better than an RTV. If comfort and hauling capacity are important to you, but you will not use your machine for work, then I would still choose another UTV better equipped for this purpose, like a Polaris or Can-Am.

Bob Kelly

Hey there, my name is Bob and I've been riding ATVs, dirt bikes, and UTVs for most of my life. Going on outdoor adventures has always been my passion. I love sharing tips and tricks with beginners who are getting ready to join the world of outdoor enthusiasts. You can reach me at bobtheatvguy@gmail.com if you want to get in touch.

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