Buy a Used ATV: Your Buying Guide

Buying a used ATV can save you thousands over the price of a new model. But a low price is a good price only if the entire rig checks out. Here’s how to conduct the inspection.

We asked our expert, Josh Fischer, owner of Unlimited Motorsports, New Prague, MN, to walk us through all the ATV pre-purchase inspection steps he performs for his customers. Skip the inspection and you could be in for some pricey repair bills before logging your first 100 miles.

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Start with the tires

ATV tires age and crack just like car tires. Once they develop cracks, they’re dangerous to ride on. If one tire is cracked and has the same wear as the others, plan on replacing the complete set. That can easily cost upward of $480 with mounting labor.

Check the bearings and ball joints

Severely worn ATV bearings and ball joints can separate in use, causing serious personal injury. Before they let go, you’ll notice sloppy steering and instability in turns. If one side is worn, chances are the other side is right behind. Ball joints cost $140 per side (installed), and wheel bearings run about the same.

Inspect the shocks

Worn shocks don’t dampen spring oscillations, so your tires spend more time in the air after each bounce. That dramatically reduces the machine’s stability. Leakage is a sure sign of wear. Shocks cost $150 each installed.

Check the constant velocity (CV) boots

Check for engine leaks

Pull the air cleaner cover

Check the brakes

You can check the thickness of ATV brake pads with an inspection mirror and a flashlight, but ATV brake pads are so thin when new that it’s sometimes hard to see when they’re worn. We disassembled the brakes on this machine so you could see what we’re talking about. The new brake pad on the right is about 1/4 in. thick. The used pad below it still has more than the minimum 1/16 in. However, since ATV rotors are so expensive (almost $120 each), it’s never good to let them wear down that far and risk metal-to-metal contact.

Even if the pads look thick enough, the friction material may be cracked or delaminating from the backing plate. So it’s best to jack up each side and remove the wheel, caliper and pads to inspect the entire brake system.

A complete brake job costs about $175.

Check the fluids

Chain and sprocket

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