The UTV market is a new and strange place full of dirt, sand, fun, fear, excitement, families, hunting, and damn near anything else you could ever hope to do on four wheels. I, like many UTV drivers, am new to the segment. After spending my third weekend this year testing a new one – this time, it was the superb 2023 Kawasaki Teryx KRX4 – I had a major realization. After climbing a nearly 4-ft rock wall, jumping a dune, and taking sandy corners at 40 mph, I realized that these might have made Jeep Wranglers a little pointless. Here are five reasons you should buy a UTV instead of a Jeep Wrangler.
UTVs are the most capable things on four wheels
I love Jeeps. I owned and off-roaded a 2000 Jeep Wrangler for 11 years. It was a blast. It was capable, strong, and reliable. I loved it. However, after driving the Polaris RZR Pro XP for the first time (also my first UTV experience), I couldn’t look at Wranglers or off-roading, in general, the same ever again.
UTVs are the most capable things on four wheels, period. Today’s worst UTV has more off-road, go-anywhere potential than any stock pickup truck or SUV. The speed and uncaring with which you can hit the trails in a UTV is astonishing compared to how most people off-road with a Wrangler. In a perfectly bone-stock 2023 Kawasaki KRX4, as I previously mentioned, you can hit whoops at 60 mph, carve tight corners at great speed, jump, rock crawl, and more. Try doing half of that with a stock Wrangler in the deserts of Utah and see how far you get.
UTVs are cheaper than a Jeep Wrangler
The base 2022 Jeep Wrangler Sport starts at $29,999. The Kawasaki I just tested starts at $27,499. Now, I’m not suggesting that that is cheap. But for something so much more capable to be cheaper? That demands attention. If you want the special edition KRX4, it comes in at the same $29,999.
UTVs are more fuel-efficient than a Wrangler
Excluding the Wrangler 4xe, Most modern UTVs manage around 25 mpg, according to UTVactionmag. Meanwhile, the 2022 Jeep Wrangler gets 21 mpg in town and 24 mpg on the highway. In fairness, the Wrangler has made a lot of progress on this front, just not enough.
Granted, the fuel-economy difference between the two 4x4s is negligible, but these days with the cost of fuel being what it is, every little bit counts.
Side by Sides are simply too much fun to miss
I’ll say it again for all those in the back; I love Wranglers. I love them. I imagine I always will. That being said, it took me years to fall in love with my raggedy-old Jeep. With side by sides, I fell in love with the whole segment after one afternoon.
Anytime you go off-roading, there is risk involved. No matter how good or experienced you are, there is always a good chance of damaging your vehicle, hurting yourself, getting stuck, and so on. The UTVs are so well designed and tough; there really isn’t all that much you can do to tear them up if you are even somewhat behaving yourself. However, a simple tree limb can score your Wrangler’s paint job to hell and back before you even know what hit you, not to mention the countless ways to incur some real bumps and bruises.
For me, that lack of preciousness that comes with a dedicated off-roader like a UTV makes for more fun and a less stressful ride. Furthermore, what you can demand from the side by sides is just so much greater than you can demand from any stock 4×4 SUV or truck. This means bigger jumps, higher speeds, tighter corners, etc.
UTVs can teach you a lot about driving performance vehicles
Because of the capability of modern side by sides, novice drivers can work their way up to higher speeds and more skilled driving maneuvers than with larger SUVs. The margin for error in a Jeep Wrangler traveling 40 mph on uneven terrain is razor-thin. The skill level (and courage) needed for such driving is far higher than with UTVs. That’s not to say that UTVs don’t also demand respect and skill, but their capability makes them far more forgiving while new riders learn the ropes. This might be the most valuable aspect of these vehicles.
Side x sides are here to stay
If you haven’t had the experience of driving a side x side, don’t fret. Many people haven’t driven them yet. The segment is still new. These little off-roaders really only made it to the mainstream around 10-ish years ago. This means the entire segment is growing, changing, and evolving at the speed of light.
UTVs might be the new kid, but they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.