ATVs are a fantastic and fun way to get around the outdoors. But, I’ve been trying to decide between getting tracks for my ATV or getting a snowmobile and was wondering whether tracks are hard on an ATV. I did some research, and here’s what I found.
As a general rule, tracks will create more wear and tear on your ATV engine. Tracks make your ATV heavier, and it operates at a higher torque for longer because they have a better grip. Also, fuel consumption is higher when you use tracks.
Although tracks are harder on your ATV, the benefits can be worth it. There is a range of pros and cons to getting tracks on your ATV compared to getting a snowmobile. Below, I’ll summarise the key things to consider when deciding whether to get tracks for your ATV.
Are ATV tracks worth it?
How much do ATV tracks cost, how long do they take to install, and what are the key benefits tracks have over getting a snowmobile? Here’s what you need to know.
As a whole, an ATV with tracks is around the same price as a new snowmobile but can go through thicker snow than a snowmobile and have better balance. Therefore, for most people, an ATV with tracks is worth it. Also, an ATV with the standard tires that they come with doesn’t go in the snow at all.
An ATV with tracks will tip over less than a snowmobile and get stuck in the snowless often. But, the top speed on your ATV will go down when you have tracks.
Here’s is a breakdown of the pros and cons of an ATV with tracks compared to a snowmobile – also called a sled.
Pros and cons of an ATV with tracks over a snowmobile/sled
- Can go through deeper snow than a snowmobile
- It is more stable and tips over less than a snowmobile
- An ATV with tracks is slower than a snowmobile
1. Can go through deeper snow than a snowmobile
In a test performed comparing a snowmobile and an ATV with tracks, the ATV with tracks could get through snow that was over 5 feet deep (1.5 m) deep. Whereas, the snowmobile struggled and eventually got stuck in snow this deep.
When snow is this deep, it is virtually impossible to walk. However, an ATV with tracks go over the top of it quite easily.
Here’s a video that shows what happened when a snowmobile and an ATV with tracks tried to go through very deep snow.
As you can see the ATV with tracks was far superior to a snowmobile. And the snowmobile got stuck and needed to be pulled out with the ATV.
2. An ATV with tracks is more stable than a snowmobile.
As you may know, if you’ve driven a snowmobile before, you need to be careful when turning corners so that it doesn’t tip over.
At low speeds driving on snow is very slippery whether you’re riding a snowmobile or an ATV. An ATV with tracks though is overall much more stable and easier to ride. This is a big advantage of having tracks on an ATV compared to buying a snowmobile.
So, if you want to get around in the snow on a vehicle, you’re either going to need a snowmobile or an ATV with tracks. The cost to purchase and install ATV tracks is about the same as getting a dedicated snowmobile.
Having both a snowmobile and an ATV with tracks means you will need to service both vehicles separately, and your maintenance costs will go up. As you’ll need to pay to service and replace parts on both your ATV and your snowmobile.
So, if you already have an ATV it’s cheaper over the long run to have an ATV with tracks, rather than an ATV for the warmer months, and a snowmobile for winter.
A snowmobile is faster than an ATV, though…
How fast can you go with ATV tracks?
One of the major differences between an ATV with tracks and a snowmobile is the top speed that you can go. Here’s how fast an ATV with tracks can go compared to a snowmobile.
The top speed of an ATV with tracks is around 30 to 50 mp/h (50 to 80 km/h), whereas on a snowmobile you can comfortably go 90 to 125 mp/h (145 to 200 km/h), according to NadaGuides. Therefore, you can cover much more distance on a snowmobile compared to an ATV with tracks.
If you have a lot of ground to cover a snowmobile is definitely a better option. But, it does depend on how much snow that you typically get where you’ll be using it. As well as, how off-road you want to go.
On a well carved out track or road, a snowmobile will greatly outperform an ATV with tracks. But, if you want to go off-road, and on uneven terrain, an ATV is far superior. A snowmobile will get stuck when the snow gets over about 3-4 feet (around 1 meter) thick. Whereas, although an ATV with tracks is slower it will traverse terrain that a snowmobile can’t. Much like the difference between a 4×4 off-road vehicle and a sports car.
Therefore, if you use it to go hunting, or want something that will perform the best in extreme weather, then an ATV with tracks is your best option. In dry conditions, tracks go about 50% slower than standard ATV tires, according to BoostATV.com.
Are tracks difficult to install on an ATV?
Tracks on an ATV are the best way to get through thick snow, and uneven terrain, and also much more stable than a snowmobile. But, is it hard to install tracks on your ATV?
On the whole installing tracks on an ATV is a similar difficulty to changing a car tire. To install them you need to jack up your ATV, remove the existing tires and install the tracks. There are detailed instructions and specifications that come with ATV tracks, and it takes around 2 hours.
After they are installed you will then need to check the track alignment, the attack angle, and the track tension. Overall, someone who could change a car tire, or an oil filter on a car shouldn’t have much difficulty installing tracks onto their ATV.
Here’s a video with a time-lapse showing the whole process of swapping out ATV tires for tracks from start to finish:
Are tracks better than tires?
There are some key differences between ATV tires and tracks. Such as how much grip you get and how stable they feel. But, are tracks better than tires…
Overall tracks are better than tires in the snow but on dry land, tires are better. In snow, tires on an ATV won’t function at all. But, tracks will go through very deep snow. However, ATV tracks add extra weight to your ATV and use more traction, and as a result, use more fuel.
Tracks can also be good if the ground is often wet and slippery. On an ATV tracks will perform better than tires because they have more surface area, which creates a better grip.
The disadvantages of tracks are that you can’t go as fast, so it will take longer to get around your property or to get to a fishing or hunting spot.