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There is a special category of sports ATV that are designed specifically for fun riding, recreational riding, and off-road trailing; and they cannot be used in competitive ATV races.

These ATVs are classified as belonging to either the entry-level or recreational classes of sports ATVs. These entry-level and recreational ATVs are the ones recommended for children to use.

Any ATV designed for use by individuals aged 18years and below is known as a Kid ATV.

For our recent review round up on some of the best ATVs for kids, head here.

ATV for Youths and Age Limitations

The AAP recommends that the age limit for ATV riding be set at 16 years. This is informed by the fact that inexperienced kids can accelerate inappropriately which could make the ATV unstable and difficult to control; and this means that if they are engaging in recreational ATV racing, then the risk of collisions can be unacceptably high.

Even so, some State such as Pennsylvania have reduced the riders age to 8 years with the ATV limited to a 70cc engine. Moreover, these kids must take an ATV training course and upon completion, receive a valid training certificate.

Unlike cars which cover the driver and passenger compartment, ATVs are open and lack a roof nor frames for the driver compartment.

This negligible protection makes safety a key concern in ATV use, most specifically when excited and unrestrained kids are riding them. Regardless of the age group of the rider, the accident rates of ATVs are almost equivalent to motorcycle accident rates.

[For information on ATV rules in your state, head here]

Possible Injuries & Safety Precautions

For kids’ ATVs, most injuries are crush injuries which can be result in open fractures, or be limited to soft tissue injuries. Most injuries are caused by improper driving and failure to wear safety gear, especially the helmet which protects the head from potentially lethal head trauma.

Some ATV manufacturers have sought to improve the safety profile of their models by incorporating protective equipment in the vehicle designs.

This set of equipment includes the motocross-style chest protector, terrain-durable tires, and the roll-over protection cage (or roll cage) fitted to prevent the rider from being injured during accidents.

Moreover, the ATV can come with a helmet approved by the Department of Transport (DoT), knee-shin guards, protective eyewear, riding boots, and gloves. It is also recommended that the user fits an anti-crush device that reduces the bodily harm associated with roll-over accidents.

It is safety concerns that led ATVs to be functionally categorized based on consent decrees into qualitative classes that factor in two attributes: engine capacity (which is equal to the total engine displacement), and age ranges.

Engine sizes and age range

Basically, small engine displacement is suitable for younger riders, while older riders can use ATVs with larger engine displacements. This qualitative classing can be seen in the manufacturer/CPSC recommendation label which states the engine capacity and prohibited ages.

Also, most ATV have a solid beam axle and lack a differential, which means that the rider must shift his/her weight to the right or left when navigating corners so as to stabilize the CoG of the ATV.

It is for this reason that passengers are disallowed in ATVs, as they prevent the rider from appropriately shifting weight when maneuvering corners hence increasing the odds of the ATV falling.

Riders are trained how to use ATVs in the ATV Safety Institute (ASI) which was established in 1988.

One should also consider the weight of the ATV and the treads on its tires. This is because heavy ATVs with deep treads can cause terrain damage by digging into the surface which can damage both leveled ground and groomed snowmobile trails, as well as drain shallow bogs while increasing sedimentation in streams.

Kid’s ATV Buyer’s Guide

Image Credit: Suzuki Quadsport

Almost all ATVs for Kids are sports ATV, and rarely would you find a utility ATV for this age group, unless it is a high-end model specially designed for older teen racing.

Nonetheless, Kids ATV are exceptional vehicles for outdoor enjoyment, especially for kids who love to mimic adult activities such as motorcycle riding and car driving, in fact, they can enjoy both if they are accompanied by a good instructor.

As mentioned earlier, almost all kids’ ATVs belong to the entry-level and recreational sports ATV classes, and rarely would you find utility ATVs for kids.

Therefore, a kid ATV cannot be used in place of a utility ATV to tow a broadcast spreader, nor can a lawnmower be fitted under the kid’s ATV chassis. This is because most ATVs for kids and youth are low-powered models unsuitable for even light groundwork.

Instead a utility terrain vehicle (UTV) should be acquired for medium-duty to heavy-duty garden work.

The following considerations should be made by a person seeking to purchase an ATV for his preteen, prepubescent, and teenage kids, as well as sons and daughters who have just entered early youth.

1. Type of ATV

You need to choose the type of ATV that you need. Should it be an entry-level ATV for fun riding, or a recreational sports ATV for recreational riding and off-road trailing?

This choice can be made by considering the age of the child, as preteens are not expected to engage in off-road trailing. By deduction, this means that entry-level ATVs are for pre-teen and novice teenagers who must build their riding experience using low-powered, yet safe ATVs.

This explanation also sets the rule for ATV acquisition – the type of ATV model to be purchased is determined by the experience level and age of the intended user (in this case, the kid).

2. Price

Price is not a technical consideration but it is an all-round consideration as it determines which quality of ATV you can buy; as well as which technology, equipment quality, and safety features the ATV comes with. It is prudent that you choose the best model within your specified price range.

For instance, it is better to choose an ATV model that comes with power steering over an equivalently-priced model that only supports manual steering.

3. Number of Wheels

atv quad bike in the dust

There are 3-wheeled and 4-wheeled models in the market. Nonetheless, it is prudent for you to acquire a four-wheeled ATV as kids cannot master the complex training for riding the potentially unsafe three-wheeled models.

Some high-end models come with an extra-set of wheels but these are usually designed for use by youth who are advanced riders.

4. Drivetrain

There are two types of drivetrains:

Two-wheel drive (2WD) – only two wheels, usually the rear wheels, simultaneously receive power from the engine.

In some models, this is denoted as 4X2 which indicates that out of the four wheels, only the 2 rear wheels receive power directly from the engine.

These models are light weight, have less traction, and feature simpler designs as compared to four-wheel drives. In rare cases, some 2WD ATV can be fitted with side cars so as to carry two or more people.

Four-wheel drive (4WD) – all the four wheels simultaneously receive power from the engine.

At the moment, it is preferable that you purchase a 4WD model rather than an equally-priced 2WD model, but you still need to consider other factors, especially safety features.

5. Type of Engine

There are two types of engines that power an ATV:

Gasoline (petrol) or diesel

gas powered ATV for kids

Spark-ignited gasoline engines are associated with production of toxic environmental emissions, especially nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, partly-burnt hydrocarbon emissions, and particulate matter.

For this reason, it is prudent to purchase a model whose engine was built after 2006, and its engine power is less than 25hp, as such ATVs have a low carbon footprint and produce much fewer toxic emissions as compared to older models.

Moreover, purchasing such models ensures that your ATV adheres to most environmental laws, hence cushioning you from legal penalties.

Relatedly, diesel engines also produce similar toxic environmental emissions. This leaves the electric engine as the most environmentally-friendly ATV engine.

[To note: gasoline engines come with a carburetor, while diesel engines come with injection nozzles which inject aerosolized fuel into a combustion chamber filled with heated compressed air.]

Electric Engine

This uses an electric motor that derives its electric power from a battery that can be connected to an alternator or small-sized power generator.

The battery is usually a starter direct current model that can deliver 12 volts(V) or 24V depending on the model.

The starter battery can be substituted by a deep cycle battery for enhanced performance. Additionally, 2 or more 12V DC batteries can be arranged in series in the battery compartment so as deliver 24V or more.

Likewise, parallel arrangement of 12V DC batteries can be done if you desire a high current output to run a 12V DC electric motor at a higher speed. In most low-performance kid ATVs, the battery needs to be charged using an external power source, most commonly, from the standard AC power outlet.

Compared to fuel-powered models, electric models require less maintenance, are easier to use, and are safer as they generate less engine power as compared to fuel-powered models.

6. Engine Power and Capacity

Engine capacity and size shows a strong positive correlation with engine torque power. In turn, high-powered ATVs cause more catastrophic injuries during accidents as compared to low-powered ATVs.

Engine power of less than 125cc is recommended for kid ATVs.

The following listing on engine size/capacity will provide guidance:
  • 70cc/0.07L and less is suitable for children aged 11 years or less.
  • 70-90cc is suitable for kids aged 12-15 years.
  • 90-125cc is suitable for teenagers.
  • 125-250cc is suitable for older teenagers aged 16-19years and young adults. It is also suitable for adults who are beginning to use ATVs. Therefore, if you are a parent buying an ATV for your teenager of the aforementioned age group, then this ATV can serve both you and your teen son/daughter.
  • 250cc and above are suitable for intermediate and advanced ATV riders, especially youths who cherish the adrenaline associated with speed racing.

You should choose an ATV whose engine size cannot power it to cause catastrophic injuries in case of accidents.

7. Load Capacity

ATVs are built to carry a specific weight when moving, and the maximum weight that can be carried is known as the load capacity. This capacity is the sum of all the weights added on top of the ATV tare weight, and they include the weight of the rider, passenger (in tandem ATV), fuel, and goods carried.

You can find out how much load your kid can add to the ATV by subtracting the maximum fuel weight from the load capacity.

If the weight of your child is less than this difference, and the ATV has a carriage with adequate storage space, then your child can carry food and drinks during rides.

Additionally, the load capacity must be paired with well-treaded tires, with quality tires needed to effectively carry loads as there is less risk of the ATV slipping or sliding during rides.

8. Maximum Speed

Speed and tare ATV weight matters a lot in ATVs as it determines the momentum of the ATV during collision.

To minimize the risk of injury to your child, ATVs come with speed controls, while others allow for speed adjustment.

Generally, it is recommended that you allow your kid to ride the ATV at low speed, and if possible, you should acquire an ATV whose top speed ranges between 10-15 miles-per-hour (mph)/16-24 kilometers-per-hour (kph).

Moreover, electric models have lower top speeds as compared to fuel-powered models, and therefore electric models are preferred for early teens and pre-teens.

Some models come with remote shut-offs which allows you to stop or reduce the speed of the ATV. Such models are recommended.

Other models have throttle limiters which act as modified (or improvised) speed governors that can be set to ensure that the ATV does not exceed a specified speed limit.

9. Legal Requirements and Age Limit

legal requirements

ATVs are not considered street-legal in some US states and provinces in Canada and Australia. It is therefore advisable that you ferry your ATV on a pick-up truck or flatbed (if it is large) to the recreational site.

Additionally, you should check state laws regarding where the ATV can be ridden, as some states prohibits ATV riding in forest land, ranges, wetlands, and sand dunes.

These laws seek to regulate the effect of environmental degradation caused by ATV riding in delicate ecosystems. It also goes without saying that you cannot allow your child to drive his/her ATV across private property that you do not own nor have a permission to ride in.

You should also check emission regulations if you plan to acquire a fuel-powered ATV so that you purchase a model that produces less emissions than the accepted environmental limit. Usually, the longer you ride the ATV, the more you emit toxic exhaust fumes.

There is also an age limit specified for particular types of ATV. This necessitates you to check the manufacturer/CPSC recommendation label.

The age of the child signals his/her level of maturity, expected athletic ability, skills, and dexterity, as well as his/her physical size. These should be matched with the size, power, and weight of the ATV as it ensures that the trained kid can maintain focus and balance during rides.

Relatedly, the wheelbase, seat height, and suspension system need to be considered as they determine the level of comfort that your child will have when riding his/her ATV.

For quad-bikes, a wide wheelbase, lower seats, high-quality suspension system, and overall light-weight are desirable as they allow for easy control and maneuverability of the ATV in uneven terrain.

Most importantly, never acquire a model that is too large for your kid. This only exposes your kid to unacceptable risks of accidents and injuries such as (body) falls when trying to steady him/herself on a high seat.

10. Safety Profile

atv and girl

Safe driving experience is the catch-phrase for modern marketing of ATVs for kids. This is because ATVs are known to be one of the leading causes of recreational trauma in the pediatric age-group.

In correspondence, ATV manufacturers have sought to incorporate advanced safety features and equipment to their models.

These features include headlights, a disk brake system, automatic brakes, well-treaded quality tires, remote shut-off, padded or rubber-fitted handlebars, high-speed lockouts, handguards, and speech control equipment for speeding or slowing down the ATV.

You should look for a model – within your budget – that incorporates as many safety features as possible.

11. Aesthetics

The build style of an ATV plays a key role in determining how it will be received in the market. Basically, kids prefer ATVs that have bright colors, some flashy lights, and styled after utility and high-powered sports ATVs.

Additionally, kids’ ATVs whose design scheme relates to popular movie or TV characters are much loved by kids.