ATV vs Dirt Bike: What Are the Pros and Cons of These Off-Road Rides?

ATV vs Dirt Bike: What Are the Pros and Cons of These Off-Road Rides?

If you are planning to go off-road on muddy trails, rough terrain, flooded paths, or rocky ridges, there are two top options for you: an ATV or a dirt bike. Yes, these are two great options, but if you’re comparing ATV vs dirt bike, which one do you pick?

As you may know, dirt bikes are excellent at jumping, racing, and negotiating narrow trucks. But don't start thinking that ATVs are less superior. ATVs come with better utility and comfort that dirt bikes find difficult to match. For beginners, ATVs are also easy to learn to use. 

So, we’re putting the spotlight on these vehicles and letting you in on their pros and cons to help you decide which is perfect for you. 

ATV vs Dirt Bike Comparison List

In the list below, we pit ATVs vs dirt bikes to give you a quick view of when you should go for one instead of the other. So, let’s check the dirt bikes first. 

dirt bike rider on a high jump

Dirt Bike’s


  • Fun to jump
  • Accelerate pretty fast
  • Large suspension
  • Impressive power to weight
  • Manual clutch
  • Weighs approximately 250 pounds


  • Easy to tip over
  • Intimidating for beginners
  • Uses manual clutches
  • Lacks utility
  • Requires you to stand up more
  • Riding in mud and loose rocks is never easy

Now, let’s turn to the ATV’s pros and cons.

couple on a snow covered road riding an atv



  • Comes with a comfortable seat
  • Uses 4x4 in navigation through mud and loose surfaces
  • Less intimidating
  • Utility plow
  • Some are designed with power steering
  • Comfortable seats
  • Multiple ATV options to select from


  • Restricted to two-track trails
  • Less suspension travel
  • Not very comfortable when riding fast
  • Tipping over is more dangerous

With a dirt bike, you can run through single tracks, whereas ATVs cannot. You can also ride through various types of trails with a dirt bike. Indeed, dirt bikes can even scale rocky outcrops and fly over trenches. These are impossible to do when riding an ATV. 

When it comes to mud or loose surfaces, ATV is unmatched because of the large tire thread grooves. So, if your off-road escapades mainly involve scaling very wet hills, an ATV, preferably a 4x4, will be a perfect find. An ATV rider can wade through mud and cross flooded areas, something that a dirt bike rider would find too challenging. 

ATV vs Dirt Bike: Which Is More Comfortable?

dirt bike and atv high jump

It is easy to look at ATVs and dirt bikes as simply off-road power machines, but things are different when you think of comfort. Typically, you sit down when riding an ATV, although it is also possible to stand, but you will want to stand when riding a dirt bike. 

So, let’s contrast the two: 

Sitting on an ATV vs Sitting on a Dirt Bike

two atv riders top view image

When they designed ATVs, the manufacturers were not just focusing on the ability to go through off-road trails. They also wanted to make every ride more comfortable and enjoyable. 

An ATV is pretty much like the modern off-road 4x4 vehicles, such as the Jeep Wrangler, which packs a great deal of comfort and off-road capability. So, an ATV comes with a more comfortable seat compared to a dirt bike. 

Another awesome thing about ATVs is the large footpeg that lets you move around a little. This is a nice feature, especially when doing long distances or rough terrain. Dirt bikes, on the other hand, have pegs that are smaller, and the movement option is pretty limited. 

Thus, ATV wins hands down when it comes to safety.

Standing Up on a Dirt Bike and on an ATV

two dirt bike riders on rough road

A closer look at dirt bikes reveals that they are made to provide you with a more aggressive position that uniquely transforms your hips into a sort of suspension when riding. 

Standing on a dirt bike is intuitive and allows you to make unique maneuvers. However, it is still okay to ride when seated, especially when you’re not in aggressive racing competition. 

The bottom line is that ATVs are more comfortable to ride when seated than dirt bikes, but the latter was made for aggressive rides, which require one to stand. 

Dirt Bike vs ATV: Which Is the Better Option for Work?

Let’s get this straight… dirt bikes and ATVs were originally designed for off-road rides, but the way they are used has changed completely. If you’re planning to go racing after work, around 3 pm, or your weekend is starting on Friday at noon, it is perfect to take a dirt bike or ATV to work. 

For many, their love for dirt bikes or ATVs has made them move away from cars. So, here is a comparison.

Most ATVs today come with a 4X4 drive train, tow hitch, and utility racks. They almost have all the utilities that you get in a car and will be fine to ride to work every day. If your work involves going through tough terrain, towing, and hauling tools, a 4x4 ATV would also be an excellent pick. It is because of their unique features that many ranchers use ATVs to herd their cows or sheep.

If your work involves off-site exploration, especially where an assortment of tools is required, an ATV will work excellently. For example, you can carry weather equipment to deploy in slippery areas, check instruments, or repair machinery with ease. 

One last thing: an ATV can even carry passengers to work. Well, a dirt bike can also get you to work but what you can carry is pretty limited. For example, you will not be able to tow a trailer with a dirt bike. 

In short, when it comes to work, an ATV is a better option compared to a dirt bike. 

Dirt Bike vs ATV: Which Is King in Racing?

For most people, what comes to their mind when dirt bikes and ATVs are mentioned is the adrenaline rush, with some bikes even scaling steep outcrops. 

Dirt bikes make excellent options for racing because they are narrower than ATVs and can maneuver via confined spaces. This is why racers prefer them, especially when traversing areas with no racing tracks or forested areas. You can even build your own dirt bike track to enjoy this sport any time you want. 

In racing competitions, you can make jumps with dirt bikes, which is great for conquering different trails. This is possible because dirt bikes are lighter and have larger suspensions compared to ATVs. They are also capable of racing faster than ATVs. 

Furthermore, dirt bike riders are able to perform more tricks than ATV drivers. For example, you might have seen some dirt bike riders make jumps and turn several times in the air before landing and continuing with their races. 

Others jump from rock to rock and do tricks that you would otherwise think were impossible. ATVs are less fit for making such moves, and trying them can be dangerous.

Remember that just like dirt bike races, ATVs also have their own races, such as timed events, competition riding, and motocross

When you put them head to head, there is no doubt that a dirt bike will beat the ATV easily. But there is more to ATV riding than just getting to the finishing line. The ATV’s ability to ride through muddy or dusty trails gives one that unique sense of satisfaction. 

When it comes to racing, the dirt bike is king, but ATV offers a different kind of thrill as well. 

Dirt Bike vs ATV: It’s Time to Talk About Safety

When it comes to safety, we will use numbers. If you are weighing on ordering an ATV or dirt bike, safety statistics show an interesting trend, and it is important to understand it. 

The numbers show that dirt bikes are way safer than ATVs. It is true that you are more likely to have an accident when riding a dirt bike than ATVs, but crashes in ATVs are more traumatic or fatal. 

According to John Hopkins University research on ATV accidents between 1997 and 2006, victims of ATV crashes are 50% more likely to die compared to victims of dirt bike crashes. Within the same period, hospitalizations from 4x4 ATVs rose by 150%, especially among the youth below 18 years. 

Another factor affecting the safety of ATVs and dirt bikes is the weight. An ATV weighs twice as much as a dirt bike which can further explain the sharp difference in fatalities. If you crash with a dirt bike, you are likely to get away with a number of sprains and strains, but an ATV is likely to leave you with a broken neck, back, and legs. 

When accidents happen, riders on dirt bikes are usually some distance away, which is much different from what happens with ATVs. If there are bystanders, they are impacted by the moving ATVs before rolling together with the rider. If the ATV is running at high speed, the accident is likely to result in serious injuries or fatalities. 

With four wheels planted on the ground, ATVs are quite easy to learn to ride, and this is why young people really love them. But the stability gives them a false sense of security, which is the primary reason many of them get into serious crashes. 

On the other hand, dirt bikes riders learn to respect the machines as early as possible and progressively hone the required skills. 

On safety, the dirt bike is the outright winner, but we must say this: safety largely depends on how you ride the bike. If you understand the dirt bike or ATV well, you are cautious, and you know the limits of your skills, you will be riding safely on either vehicle. 

Here are additional safety tips to consider: 

  • Always use a safety helmet
  • Have the right eye protection 
  • Use gloves for better grip
  • Even in hot weather, always use long pants and long sleeve shirts 
  • Avoid riding ATVs where you are likely to encounter significant population
  • Don’t allow kids to ride more powerful ATVs meant for adults 
  • Consider taking training for ATV or dirt bike riding 

One More thing…

In addition to the above comparison, you also need to think about fuel economy. Dirt bikes are generally cheaper compared to ATVs, and this is also similar when it comes to fuel economy. This is because they have smaller engines compared to ATVs.

Although dirt bikes use less fuel than ATVs, their fuel efficiency can easily drop during races or when riding through obstacles. However, the two models are made for people who are mainly after the thrills of off-road driving as opposed to fuel economy. 

For example, it is easy to get dirt bike racing communities in the neighborhood that organize races, tours, and fun outdoor events. For them, the simple goal is the thrill for outdoor events as opposed to saving on fuel. However, it will be rare to get such communities when it comes to ATVs because most people buy them for specific purposes, such as hunting, camping, and herding animals. 

Also, check out the difference between scooters and motorcycles

Final Thoughts: Which One Should You Pick?

The battle of dirt bikes vs ATVs is one that is not about to end because each of them is designed for specific purposes. Indeed, there are convincing reasons to go for both, because of the overwhelming pros of each. So, what if you only want one? 

If you are a utilitarian traveler, the best pick will be the ATV. You will find it handy for leisure rides, including when you want to take a passenger off-road. It will also not disappoint if you need to haul large equipment, such as hunting gear or off-site equipment. 

If, on the other hand, you are an adrenaline junkie, go for the dirt bike. It comes with the promise of unique thrills and memories that will remain embedded in your mind for years. If you got the skills, the right dirt bike could also satiate your desire for dangerous pursuits.

joshua mattie

Joshua D. Mattie

My motorbike addiction began with 50cc at 5 years old. I rode motocross as a teenager & into my 20's when I worked as a mechanic. This helped me to see the light—sportbikes & cruisers became a passion. Now I'm building BikersRights to be the #1 resource for everything on 2 wheels!