Tips For Buying A Used ATV

When a deal on a used ATV comes along, how do you know if you should pull the trigger on it or not? You know there are good used ATVs to be had, but what sets a good used ATV apart from a bad used one?

Since the idea here is to promote ways to get more enjoyment from your ATV/UTV, some buying tips are in order. These tips come from a good friend who has bought and sold ATVs for more than 15 years.

1. Have a friend or the ATV’s owner help you raise the ATV up and stand it on the rear grab bar. This will allow you to inspect the undercarriage for any serious dents or damage. While this sounds difficult, it really isn’t and it allows you to get a good look at the undercarriage.

2. Look closely at the frame, especially the shock mounts, A-arm mounts and intersections of frame components for any signs of rust. If you see rust, it is a good indication of a stress crack and it would require welding and repainting.

3. On 4×4 ATVs, inspect the CV joint boots. They should be in excellent condition. Cracks or tears in the boot means water, dirt, gravel could have entered and created damage that could be costly to repair.

Dolle's ATV on Trailer a07051 5-14
Don’t turn down a good deal just because an ATV is used.

4. Remove the front and rear differential inspection plugs, if possible, on 4×4 ATVs. If the gear lube looks like chocolate milk, it means the oil is contaminated with water and there could be damage to the bearings.

5. Always check the engine oil to see whether it looks contaminated.

6. Check the interior of the gas tank for rust by shining a flashlight in it. OK, I know, you weren’t aware gas tanks can rust, but they can, and do. Any rust means there can be carb problems.

7. Raise the ATV and support the front of it with jack stands. Now this is important — try to move each front wheel in and out from top-to-bottom and side-to-side to check for worn wheel bearings and ball joints. Don’t forget to do the same thing for the rear wheels.

8. Check for worn tie end rods by moving the handlebars back and forth while the ATV is on the ground.

9. An often-overlooked item is to check the air box. This is easy to do. Just remove the seat and take the air box lid off. An air box can collect water and damage an engine. A clean air box and filter is a good sign.

10. Check all headlights, taillights, the engine shut off switch, and key switch.

11. Check the hand, foot and parking brakes. Do they operate smoothly or stick? Check for damaged or cracked cables.

12. Check the exhaust. Has the spark arrestor been removed? Almost every state and national forest and park requires that you have one. You don’t want to get to a forest and then find out you can’t ride because you don’t have a spark arrestor.

13. Check for worn out tires or tires full of plugs. It’s not really a problem, but worn tires or plugs should be a negotiating point on price.

14. Look closely at the front or rear sprockets. Each point should be uniform. If they are worn more on one side or have a hooked appearance, a new chain and sprocket set is in order.

15. Ride the machine and see how it handles.

Don’t turn down a good deal just because the ATV is used. Lots of times used machines have lots of years and enjoyment left in them. Remember, most used sales are final, so check the machine thoroughly before you write the check.

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