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Before You Buy a Chinese ATV

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Cars in China

Before You Buy a Chinese ATV

Richard Keir
October 31, 2006

Let's face it, not everybody has the cash to put out for a top of the line Honda or Yamaha ATV, an Artic Cat, Bombardier or Polaris. And even the smaller models are relatively expensive. But you still want a ride so you keep looking around.

There are used ATVs and you can save some serious coin by picking up a used model, if you're able to determine why it's being sold and what it's condition really is. The nature of ATV trekking and racing isn't the gentlest of activities and an ATV can age remarkably rapidly because of extreme stresses. Maybe the seller is telling you the truth when he says he only did some flat trail and sand riding a couple times and never ever went muddy or airborne. Or maybe not.

You need a competent mechanic to check out a used ATV and even then he or she isn't going to be able just how stressed and close to the breaking point some parts may be. So while you may be getting a great deal you may also be looking at some unanticipated repairs, real soon now.

Recently a variety of Chinese manufactured ATVs have become available. These ATVs are generally much cheaper than comparable well known brands. Usually there are fewer models and smaller engine sizes. The smaller ones may be ideal for a child's first ATV and the low cost makes it more practical in that sense. There are also now some bigger models suitable for adults.

A plus is that the engines tend to be cloned versions of Japanese engines which means that the designs are basically decent.

There are some problems however. Quality control can be a major issue with products from some Chinese factories, so you need to be very clear on what kind of warranty you're getting. Generally you'll also need to accept that these machines are not as well-finished as the big name brand machines.

The major kicker, however, is parts availability. With any kind of a machine which is subject to rugged conditions of use - that is why you want an ATV after all - things will break. No matter how hot the name, how good the quality control, how high the price, when you bounce off rocks and slam the ground, launch a quad airborne, run through mud and sand and generally have a really good time, you are going to get breakage and plain old mechanical wear, tear, fatigue and eventual parts failure.

Getting parts to fix up your Chinese ATV could be a nightmare. Maybe they'll come in six weeks, six months, maybe never. So before you put down one cent, do your absolute best to ensure that the dealer - or some dealer you can get to easily - really and truly has parts. Ask him to show you what he keeps in stock. They want to sell you a quad so they may stretch the truth some. Check on the internet, see if you can find other people who've bought the model you're thinking of and find out what their experiences have been.

Buy a model that you know is being sold fairly widely. That doesn't mean every seller will have parts, but there's a better chance that a supply chain will exist and that you will be able to get parts relatively quickly. If you are going to be an occasional rider, a Chinese ATV may offer you a whole lot of machine for a lot lower price and the parts and service issue would be slightly less important. However, if you are going to be using it daily, if it's essential to your work, then you need to be very very sure of the quality, the warranty and service and parts availability.

Doing your research first can make the difference between getting yourself a great deal versus sliding into a no-ride nightmare.

ATV trekking is a multi-faceted sport with something for everyone. Visit ATVTrekker.com for more ATV articles and information

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