Efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to barn chores. Utility vehicles are one way to get more work done with less manual labor. These multi-purpose workhorses are popular options because they have more power than a golf cart, seat more than one person, are smaller than a tractor, and have greater versatility than an all-terrain vehicle (ATV, a four-wheeled vehicle on which one person rides astride—like on a motorcycle).
And utility vehicles (also know as side-by-sides) are wildly popular with lots of makes, models and accessories—a quick search reveals hundreds of choices.
Here’s what you need to know before making a purchase.
“Don’t just look at the name brands. Look for the models that can do the work you’re looking for,” said Karlene Bushey, an upstate New York barn owner.
One of the first things to consider is if you need a 2- or 4-wheel drive utility vehicle. Bushey’s barn has hills and clay soil, making 4-wheel drive necessary. Other barns with unvaried terrain might be able to opt for a 2-wheel drive utility vehicle and save a little money. Prices vary based on size, horsepower and accessories.
Before buying make a list of needs and wants.
- How often will you be using the utility vehicle at full capacity? Gas-powered models are less expensive to run. Diesel models are better for heavy work.
- Side-by-sides are handy workhorses regardless of stable size. Utility vehicles can handle a 20-cubic-foot manure spreader, but not a 50-cubic-foot model.
- Mower attachments are available. Consider your total acreage and whether a utility vehicle is the best fit or if a small tractor is better suited for the job.
Utility vehicles can run at speeds of 20–25 mph, although some manufacturers advertise speeds as high as 40 mph. Since the purpose is work rather than play, speed isn’t as relevant as horsepower. Investing in the highest horsepower you can afford offers flexibility as needs around your barn change over time.
“I think the biggest advantage is that a side-by-side can handle bigger jobs without needing the extras that you need for a 4-wheeler,” she said. “Also, we liked that we can get a bigger passenger one and use it to go out with the kids to do non-work things as well.”