How to Drive a UTV: It’s easier than you think!

Are you planning to buy or rent a UTV for your next vacation and want to learn how to drive one? If you are familiar with automatic cars, you will have an easy time learning how to drive UTVs. I was surprised to find out how easy it is to drive UTV when I first got on one. However, there are some beginner mistakes that you need to avoid and today I will tell you all about them.

Learning how to drive a UTV is just like driving an automatic car. The side by side only has a steering wheel and two pedals (gas and brake). As long as you learn how to use the gas and brake pedals, driving UTVs will be easy and fun because you don’t have to worry about shifting gears. You just have to set the automatic gear selector to low or high gear and you are good to go. When driving UTVs, it’s important to be equipped with a safety helmet and to always keep the seatbelt on.

Driving a UTV is intuitive and everyone can do it. Keep reading because my detailed UTV driving guide will show you how to do it!

How to Drive a UTV

kid riding a Hisun Sector 250 UTV stock photo

UTVs are designed just like automatic cars. This means that the vehicle is equipped with a standard wheel and two pedals (brake and acceleration). If you drove any other vehicle before, chances are that you can handle a UTV without a problem. Although, it’s important to mention that the weight distribution of a UTV is way different than a regular car or ATV. With that said, here is a full guide on how to drive a side by side:

#1 Preparation: The first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with the vehicle. Inspect the UTV and look for the steering wheel, the brake and acceleration pedals, and the ignition. Make sure your UTV is in good condition, and the tires are properly inflated. Always remember to put on safety gear, such as a helmet, gloves, and eye protection.

#2 Getting Comfortable: Next, climb into the UTV. Most models will have a step to assist you. Once inside, adjust your seat so that you can comfortably reach both the pedals and the steering wheel. It’s also essential to fasten your seat belt.

#3 Starting the UTV: With your foot on the brake pedal, insert the key into the ignition and turn it. Some models might have a start button instead. Release the key or button once the engine is running smoothly.

#4 Understanding the Controls: Become familiar with the throttle and the brake pedals. The right pedal is typically the accelerator, and the left one is the brake, much like in an automatic car. You should also identify the gear selector, usually marked with P (Park), R (Reverse), N (Neutral), L (Low gear), and H (High gear).

#5 Shifting Gears: To begin moving, you must shift gears. With your foot on the brake, move the gear selector from Park to either Low or High gear, depending on your expected speed and terrain. Driving a side by side is easy because they are automatic!

#6 Accelerating: Gently press the accelerator to start moving. Remember, a UTV isn’t a regular car, and its acceleration might feel different. Start slow and gradually build up your speed.

#7 Steering and Turning: Practice steering and turning at a safe speed before you venture onto trails. Remember, a UTV has a wider turn radius than a car. For sharp turns, slow down and turn the steering wheel in a smooth, steady motion.

#8 Braking: Understand how your UTV handles braking. Apply the brakes smoothly and gradually to avoid jolting stops. If you’re going downhill, it’s often better to use the engine brake by releasing the throttle and allowing the UTV to slow down naturally.

#9 Practice: Before hitting the trails, practice in a controlled environment. Learn how the UTV responds to different speeds, turns, and braking. Once you’re comfortable with the basics, you can start to explore more challenging terrains.

If you are brand-new to UTVs, I highly recommend choosing a UTV with power steering. This will make your experience more enjoyable!

Is It Hard to Drive a UTV?

Driving a UTV is as easy as driving an automatic car. In my experience, driving a UTV is much easier than an ATV because you don’t have to worry as much about the weight distribution. To make things even better, UTVs are equipped with automatic transmission gearboxes. As a result, there is no shifting or clutch required to drive a UTV. Therefore, it’s not hard to drive a UTV.

How Do I Start My UTV?

Starting a UTV is not that different than starting a regular car. You just have to put your foot on the brake and turn the key into the ignition. You will instantly hear the engine and can let go of the key once it’s turned on. Now that the engine is turned on, you can take your foot off the brake and start accelerating. Check out the YouTube video linked below to see exactly how to do this.

Tips and Tricks for Beginners

It’s okay to be nervous about driving a UTV for the first time. It’s something new and more than likely, you will drive the UTV on rugged terrains. On the bright side of things, you can be sure that you will have a blast. Here are some tips and tricks for beginners that might make your outdoor adventures a bit more fun:

  • Getting Dirty

Most people who choose to rent or buy a UTV instead of an ATV do it because they don’t want to be safer and more comfortable. While UTVs provide that, this doesn’t mean that you will not get dirty. Quite the opposite! A little bit of dirt never hurt anyone and in fact, it might make your outdoor adventures even more fun. However, it’s best to be prepared and come prepared with the right type of safety gear, such as a helmet and riding boots.

  • Bring Someone Who Is Familiar with UTVs

One of the best ways to make sure that your UTV driving experience goes as smooth as possible is to bring someone who is familiar with UTVs alongside. UTVs have usually 2 extra passenger seats and you can invite a more experienced friend to help you master driving a UTV and the lay of the land. Don’t worry if you don’t have anyone to bring along because if you follow the tips I mentioned above, you will feel comfortable driving a UTV right from the start.

  • Use a Safety Helmet

Even though you will not be riding a dirt bike or an ATV, a safety helmet is essential. It’s always best to be safe than sorry and getting a safety helmet is something that is worth the money. If you plan on riding on bumpy terrain at high speeds, there are many risks that can be avoided just by wearing a good helmet. The O’Neal Unisex-Adult Off Road 2SERIES Helmet is one of the best that you can get.

  • Eye Protection

As previously mentioned, you will get dirty when riding UTVs and there is no way around this. This is why it’s a good idea to consider getting extra eye protection. The safety helmet I recommend comes with a free pair of eye protection but if you are going for something different, you need to get some glasses. If you are riding at fast speeds and going through tree lines, you will want your eyes to be protected.

Final Words

I always have a blast when riding UTVs, especially since it allows me to carry a lot of cargo. I think you will have a great time as well because driving a UTV is very intuitive. You just have to worry about the steering wheel and know when to press the brake. What’s cool about UTVs is that you can also get some special models that are equipped with A/C. I actually wrote an article about the top 3 best UTVs with air conditioning that you can check out here.

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 if you want to get in touch.

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