Spoil yourself rugged

If you think that sagging stock markets and our lackluster loonie have kept consumers from indulging themselves, zip up your coveralls and hold on tight: all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are selling faster than manufacturers can crank ’em out.

They’re even outrunning sales of snowmobiles, until recently the recreational toy of choice for winter cottagers and rural dwellers. According to Bob Ramsay, president of the Canadian All-Terrain Vehicle Distributors Council, the industry expects to sell more than 90,000 units this year in Canada alone. That’s almost double the number sold just four years ago.

When you think about it, there’s no mystery behind the ATV’s new appeal, according to Mark Lester, publisher of All-Terrain Vehicle magazine in Canada and the United States. While early models were hard to drive because they were modeled after dirt bikes and required constant gear shifting, many new ATVs are built around an automatic-transmission snowmobile engine and are so easy to drive even a beginner can handle them. “You put people on an ATV, it doesn’t fall over like a motorcycle because it has four wheels,” Lester says.

Best of all, you can use an ATV practically year round, while snowmobiles come out only when there’s white stuff on the ground. Plus, ATVs are good for work and play. Many folks have one at the cottage to tow firewood and clear brush, then take it out on the trail for a joyride. You can even buy snowblade attachments for winter. “That’s why guys can go home and justify [buying an ATV] to their wives,” Lester says. “The doggone things are so multipurpose.”

If you’ve been thinking of buying your first ATV, you’re in good company. Lester estimates more than 40% of people walking into showrooms across the country have never owned an ATV before. His advice: make sure you’re getting the right model before plunking your money down. For most adults, an entry-level machine doesn’t pack enough power to be both useful and fun. “People might buy a $4,700 ATV with a 200 cc engine, and they’re going to be disappointed with it.” The basic rule is the bigger the engine, the more you can do with your ATV.

To steer you in the right direction, we present Lester’s top picks:


  • Suzuki Ozark 250 ($5,499)
  • Bombardier Rally 200 ($4,699)


  • Yamaha Kodiak 400 and 450 ($8,199 to $8,999)
  • Honda TRX350FE ($8,099)
  • Polaris Sportsman 400 ($8,499)


  • Kawasaki KVF650 Twin ($10,299)
  • Polaris Sportsman 700 Twin ($10,499 to $10,999)