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Are UTVs Better Than ATVs for Ice Fishing?

Are UTVs Better Than ATVs for Ice Fishing?

When it comes to ice fishing, there are a lot of options.

One option is the ATV and another is the UTV.

If you’re not sure which one should be your go-to vehicle for this winter sport, we’ve broken down all the pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision.

Let’s dive right in.

Choosing an ATV or a UTV will depend on what you’re going to use it for when ice fishing.

What Is an ATV?

an ATV (all-terrain vehicle)

An ATV (all-terrain vehicle) is meant for single riders with straddle/motorcycle type seating and handlebars are used for steering.

They are smaller than UTV’s, but more physically demanding to operate, as you have to use more of your body to steer and control the four-wheeler.

What Is a UTV?

a UTV (utility task vehicle)

A UTV (utility task vehicle) is a four- to six-wheel vehicle with bench or bucket-style seating and seatbelts for, usually, between four and six passengers.

The driver operates this behemoth by using a steering wheel and pedals, similar to cars.

The UTV cab is shielded with a roll bar or cage, and sometimes windshields to protect the passengers.

Benefits of an ATV When Ice Fishing

  1. ATVs are more affordable than UTVs. If you are on a budget and looking for an off-road vehicle that can drive through rough terrain.
  2. They are faster and lighter, which allows you to get to cover longer distances in a shorter period. This is important when out in frigid temperatures.
  3. Better maneuverability for sudden turns and stops, which comes in handy on the slippery terrain of snow and ice.

Benefits of a UTV When Ice Fishing

  1. The obvious benefit of a UTV is that it can carry more people and gear than an ATV.
  2. If you’re looking to transport large items or multiple anglers out onto the ice, then the UTV would be your best bet.
  3. UTV’s have better stability on uneven ground and are less likely to get stuck in deep snowdrifts.
  4. They are also equipped with windshields and roll bars to protect passengers in the event of a crash or tip-over.
  5. UTVs also have more options for customization

When Should You Use an ATV When Ice Fishing?

Razor Dirt Quad 500 - 36V Electric 4-Wheeler ATV

ATVs are easier to transport longer distances as they can fit in most full-size pickup truck beds and many even have their own trailers.

If you are trying to get into narrower trails, an ATV will allow you to navigate better to potential fishing spots a UTV can’t get to.

While they can’t carry as much gear as UTVs, they can still include hauling racks or a trailer if needed.

If you find yourself maneuvering difficult, off-road trails to find better ice fishing locations, the ATV will allow you to handle tighter turns.

Using an ATV when ice fishing is a great choice for those looking for an affordable, fast and lightweight vehicle to navigate treacherous ice terrain.

An ATV can also be a great pick if part of your adventure includes enjoying the adrenaline rush from riding a smaller vehicle capable of high speeds and nimble maneuvering.

When Should You Use a UTV When Ice Fishing?

Episode 13 - UTVs for Ice Fishing

UTV’s are best for fishing on larger lakes with plenty of space to move around and for bigger fishing parties.

When transporting multiple anglers, gear, and dogs out onto the ice, a UTV is your best option.

If you’re looking for a vehicle that can handle rougher terrain and deep snow, the UTV is your choice.

They provide more stability when traveling over bumpy or icy surfaces and are less likely to get stuck.

If your main goal for the traveling portion of your ice fishing trip is transportation of your party, gear, and safety, a UTV will suit you just fine!

Which Is More Affordable?

ATVs cost less than the average UTVs

The affordability of an ATV vs a UTV comes down to what your primary use would be for the vehicle.

Both present benefits for making them the most cost-effective vehicle.

The average ATV will cost less than the average UTV.

ATVs are typically less because they are smaller, easier to transport longer distances save money on gas, and contain fewer features.

They do not have nearly the same comfort or safety features that a UTV has.

This could potentially end up costing more in the event of an accident occurring, as the lack of safety features increases the risk and severity of the injury of an ATV passenger vs a UTV passenger.

However, additional modifications can be added, such as a trailer or rack to transport gear or your catch.

UTVs are typically more expensive because they are larger vehicles, are more expensive to transport, and contain many more features.

If you are traveling with family or friends, it could be more cost-efficient to use a UTV rather than provide everybody with their own ATV.

Ultimately, the price comes down to your lifestyle choices and the functionality of the vehicle.

If you prefer to ride alone, and need to save money, the ATV would be the better option.

If you often have passengers with you, transport a lot of gear on your trips, or prefer a more comfortable trip, then the UTV would be more ideal and affordable in the long run.

Which Is Safer?

Utility Type Vehicle (UTV) Safety

Generally, UTVs are safer vehicles than ATVs.

That doesn’t mean that a UTV driver can be careless and ignore general safety guidelines.

It just means that UTVs have many safety features including a cabin, windshield, roll cage/bars, and seat belts to ensure the safety of all passengers should an incident occur.

ATVs can still be operated in a safe manner, but they lack the same safety features when compared to the larger alternative.

Safety gear can and should be worn to help mitigate the risk.

ATVs are safe when ridden by responsible drivers, but they pose a higher risk when driving on icy or rough surfaces.

UTVs are less likely to get stuck in deep snow and can handle bumpy and icy terrain better than an ATV.

This makes them safer for traveling over difficult ice fishing locations.

When it comes to the safety of you and your passengers, the UTV is the clear winner!

What Are Alternatives to ATVs and UTVs?

Shappell Jet Ice Fishing Sled

You might be thinking that you don’t need an ATV or UTV to go ice fishing.

There are other options out there for traveling on the ice!

Snowmobiles are a great option if you’re looking for speed and want to cover more ground on your trip.

They can also be used for transportation of gear and people, but might not be as comfortable as an ATV or UTV.

Sleds  can also be a fun option for traveling on the ice, and are typically less expensive than an ATV or UTV.

However, they are not as versatile as either of those options and do not offer the safety features of an enclosed cabin.

You can even look into mini-trucks!

Specifically, used mini-trucks are a great option as they can be more affordable than a sporty UTV, but still have similar functionality capabilities.

They tend to be more durable than UTV’s and are designed to run over 150,000 miles.

To compare, UTVs in good condition don’t make it past 50,000 miles.

Mini trucks are also able to get better gas mileage and can still tackle similar off-roading within the comfort of a heated, closed cab!

ATV vs Side by Side | 7 benefits of each
ATV ProsATV Cons
More AffordableLess comfortable while driving
Faster and lighterNot suitable for multiple passengers
Great maneuverabilityLacks safety features
Takes up less storage spaceLess hauling potential
UTV ProsUTV Cons
More comfortable seatingHigher price tag
Lots of safety featuresBigger turning radius
Better suited for hauling gear and passengersNot as agile or maneuverable
More space for cargoWeighed down, causing issues for sharp turns


1/ How thick does ice have to be to drive a UTV?

ice thickness to drive a UTV

Being a heavy vehicle carrying gear and many passengers, a safe amount of ice for UTVs to travel on ranges from eight to twelve inches thick. If you’re unsure about the thickness of the ice, you should avoid it.

2/ How thick does ice need to be for a four-wheeler?

A lighter vehicle such as an ATV can safely travel on ice that is five to seven inches thick. You should still travel carefully and avoid the ice if you’re unsure about its thickness.

3/ Is an ATV better than a UTV?

ATVs and UTVs

Deciding between an ATV and UTV comes down to lifestyle preferences and functionality.

If you’re a solo rider focusing more on fun and maneuvering, an ATV is the better choice. If your vehicle serves a purpose for carrying a larger party or more gear safely, a UTV should be used.

4/ Are side by sides good in the snow?

UTVs are capable of traversing through the snow and should be utilized for larger ice fishing parties with lots of gear. They are built to handle off-road terrain, including snowy and icy paths.


Overall, there is no right answer for whichever vehicle is best. The vehicle you choose should be based on your lifestyle, budget, and functionality.

If you prefer to ride alone, focus on saving money, and prefer the adrenaline rush of riding a high-speed vehicle capable of maneuvering, an ATV may be for you.

If your focus is on finding a vehicle with a focus on functionality, safety, and ability to haul multiple people and gear, a UTV should be your top choice.

When it comes to ice fishing, the right choice for you is important in order to ensure a safe and successful trip.

Be safe and see you out on the ice!