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How to Select an ATV for Your Kids

From engine size to safety, learn how to provide your children the best experience on their own ATV.

As parents, you want to provide your children with enjoyable and safe opportunities for hands-on learning, especially on the farm. Children want to go fast and have fun. Allowing your children the freedom of their own ATV teaches them responsibility in helping with farm chores and gives them a way to enjoy recreational activities.

“Youth ATVs give children control of their own off-road adventure and allow them to learn on machines appropriate for their age and size before advancing to full-size machines,” says Ben White, partner relations manager at Textron Off Road.

Parents know best when it comes to determining their children’s abilities. Physical and emotional development are key in allowing your child to operate an ATV. An oversize ATV can be hazardous to a child’s ride and can be dangerous if the child doesn’t properly understand the importance of safety when operating an ATV.

Fitting Engine Size to Age

The size of an ATV motor plays an extensive role in allowing youth to travel at a pace they can handle while enjoying the ride. Starting at age 6, a small engine ranging from 48 cc. to 70 cc. will allow youth the best experience without too much power.

“It’s just like buying a pair of shoes,” says White. “If you buy a pair that’s too big, a child will be tripping over his or her feet, making the shoes a hazard. The same principle applies when deciding on a youth ATV.”

Polaris’s Outlaw 50 is designed for ages 6 and up loaded with safety features. Running on a low-maintenance 49-cc engine, the Outlaw 50 is great start for a young youth’s first ATV experience. Starting at $2,099, the ATV is designed to get youth comfortable with driving their first vehicle.

An engine ranging from 70 cc. to 112 cc. fits well for kids ages 10 and older. Compared with the smaller engines, these ATVs allow older youth more power without becoming bored on a low-powered engine.

Textron Off Road offers two models in its new 2018 lineup of youth ATVs. The Alterra 90 and Alterra DVX 90 feature 90-cc engines and full independent front suspension, helping beginners take corners and terrain with ease. With both starting at $2,999, the Alterra 90 is similar to the adult-size Alterra models but built in a package designed specifically for younger riders. The Alterra DVX 90 is shaped for youth with a race-inspired personality.

Alterra90
The Alterra 90.

Polaris also offers the Outlaw 110 EFI and the Sportsman 110 EFI for ages 10 and up encompassing similar features, including a 112-cc engine, front and rear suspension, and electronic fuel injection for ease of starting. Offering more power than the Alterra 90 and DVX 90, the two Polaris machines start at $3,099.

Engine sizes from 125 cc to 250 cc fit older teens and adults. These are teens who have had experience operating smaller ATVs and understand safety and operating instructions. Larger engines, from 250 cc and up, equip intermediate to advanced riders the ability to enjoy recreational activities and give them more work load capabilities.

The Phoenix 200, designed for youth 14 years and older, features a 196-cc four-stroke engine, which provides more power to an early experienced rider. Starting at $3,799, the entry level ATV gives older youth more power across rough terrain and up hills without giving the power of a full-size vehicle.

The Alterra 300 also offers young riders and teenagers big features at a youth-size price. With a 270-cc. 4-stroke engine, the 2018 vehicle is lightweight, compared to full-sized Alterras, making it user-friendly for intermediate experienced riders while featuring a 500-pound towing capacity. Starting at $3,999, the Alterra 300 also includes front and rear racks for hauling equipment and other necessities.

Specifications and Mentality

To match youth with a vehicle, there should be no fewer than 3 inches of clearance between the child’s pants and the ATV’s seat when standing, according to the ATV Safety Institute. The child must be able to grip the handlebars and move them all the way to the left and right in addition to operating the throttle and brake lever with one hand, depending on each vehicle’s functions. A child operating a vehicle that doesn’t fit these specifications is in much greater jeopardy of becoming injured.

Emotionally, a child that is able to grasp the consequences of their actions, understand and follow rules, and demonstrate self-control is properly prepared for an ATV. If the child can control a bicycle without any problems, then a child is properly prepared to try an ATV.

The ATV Safety Institute’s Readiness Checklist can help to decide if your child is ready for their own vehicle.

Above All: Safety

Although all youth vehicles are designed for children to travel at slower speeds, every child differs in his or her abilities to handle an ATV.

“Getting children out on an ATV and learning from an experienced adult on basic knowledge, such as how to shift their body weight, is a good place to start before turning the child out on their own,” says White. “Give experience to children from those who have experience on ATVs.”

Adult supervision is always required when a child below the age of 16 is operating an ATV, and children under 16 are never allowed to operate a full-size ATV. Single rider vehicles also should never carry a passenger.

ATV regulations vary by state for both youth and adults. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission has up-to-date information for state-by-state regulations as well as training courses. The ATV Safety Institute also offers ATV e-courses online for all ages and experience levels.

As a parent, setting up your kids with the proper safety gear will teach them to always ride with safety gear. According to the ATV Safety Institute, helmets, gloves, boots, long sleeves, and pants should be worn at all times while riding.

Use orange safety whip flags to show where young operators are and to keep track of machines. Polaris supplies a free helmet and orange safety flag for every youth ATV sold.

“Safety is the No. 1 piece of equipment parents need to look for,” says White. “Headlights are a huge piece not only for youth drivers to see but also to be seen.” Standard headlights and taillights are available on most youth models as well as brake lights for increased safety.

The parent-adjustable speed limiting feature gives parents full control of speed for each vehicle. The smaller youth-size engine models, including the Alterra 90, Alterra DVX 90, Outlaw 50, Outlaw 110, and Sportsman 110, allow parents to decide the maximum speed a child can run the vehicle.

“Allowing the availability to control a child’s speed gives parents peace of mind in knowing the child’s vehicle limitations,” says White. “Parents should always read the owner’s manual, making themselves second nature to the features of the ATV.”

Side-by-Side Options

If your child is more interested in side-by-sides, Polaris has recently released a 2018 Ranger with a small engine of 150 cc, starting at $4,999.

PolarisEFI150
The 2018 Polaris EFI 150.

“The new 2018 Ranger 150 EFI is the industry’s first youth side-by-side packed with safety features to ensure young riders are safe,” says Chris Musso, president of Off Road Vehicles. “When paired with the Ride Command smartphone app, parents are given unprecedented control over riding safety, including geofencing capabilities, passcode protected safe-start, and digital speed limiting.”

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