What’s the Difference Between an ATV and a 4 Wheeler?

Getting your first ATV can be a daunting task since it seems like there are so many options. One thing I got stuck on when first deciding is whether I should get an ATV or a 4 wheeler. I researched what the differences are between them and here’s what I found.

A four wheeler is a type of ATV. However, in appearance, and function they are identical. The word ATV, four wheeler, and quad are used interchangeably and have the exact same meaning. Manufacturers of ATVs will call them ATVs, 4 wheelers, or quads.

In this article, I will explain whether an ATV is a four wheeler, the difference between a quad a four wheeler, and an ATV. That way you can understand what one is the best to ride and when.

Atv riders speed race to journey

Is a Four Wheeler an ATV

A four wheeler is used on farms, for riding trails, and for going hunting and fishing. But, the same is also true of an ATV. So, is a four wheeler an ATV?

A four wheeler is an ATV. If you look at the specifications and how both an ATV and a four wheeler look you will notice that they are exactly the same thing. In everyday speech, people use the word interchangeably.

An all-terrain vehicle is an apt name for a four wheeler since they can traverse terrain that a normal motorcycle that only has 2 wheels. However, a normal dirt bike is far quicker off the mark than a four wheeler.

This increased performance is helpful for racing, and riding it around a dirt bike track. A motorcycle with 2 wheels also tends to be more agile and you can change direction more easily than on a four wheeler.

What you give up in agility a four wheeler makes up for in its ability to ride in much more rugged terrain. It also can be a far more comfortable ride since you are sitting in a more relaxed position.

Variation in tires

ATVs can have different sized tires and can have different tread. Tires are made to be suited to different conditions. For example, tires with a lot of tread perform well in muddy conditions.

I wrote an article that explains what ATV tires there are. Read it here.

Used atv utv off road tires closeup for recycling

4 Wheeler vs Quad vs ATV

A quad is also another type of motorcycle that has 4 wheels and is used in a similar way to 4 wheelers and quads. So, many people wonder what the difference is between a 4 wheeler, a quad, and an ATV. Here’s what I found…

A 4 wheeler, quad, and ATV are all the same thing. They are a motorcycle with 4 wheels that are used in farming operations, on large residential properties, for hunting, fishing, camping, and riding trails. A 4 wheeler, quad, and ATV all have the same appearance.

Polaris is a well-known ATV manufacturer. They refer to all of their ATV models as four wheelers quads and ATVs according to the Polaris website. So, they use each term interchangeably. And they don’t categorize them into different categories such as quads, or four wheelers.

Kawasaki, another well-known motorcycle manufacturer calls them ATVs, as seen on their website. But, don’t make any mention of four wheelers or quads.

But, in appearance both the ATV that Kawasaki sells, and the four wheeler that Polaris sells have exactly the same features, and look virtually the same.

There are, however, different types of quads, ATVs, and 4 wheelers. For example, there are mini quads that are designed for children. They have smaller wheels and a smaller engine.

Normal-sized quads, ATVs, and 4 wheelers are around 250cc. These are the types that you typically see in photos of people riding quads. And if you’ve ever been to a person’s ranch or farm they will typically have a 250 cc quad/ATV/four wheeler.

ATV racer takes a turn during a race on a dusty terrain

Why Do People Call ATVs Four Wheelers?

On my uncle’s farm, we used to always call a four wheeled motorbike a four wheeler. But, much later on I heard people calling them ATVs. So, I looked into why people call ATVs four wheelers, and what the definition of each is, and here’s what I found…

Companies that sell ATVs call them four wheelers instead of ATVs. As a result, people call them four wheelers. In practice, ATV, four wheeler, and quad are all words used to describe the exact same vehicle. But, technically a four wheeler and a quad are types of ATVs.

If you go to the websites of various well-known ATV/quad/four wheeler manufacturers such as Yamaha, and Polaris, you will notice that certain brands will call all of their vehicles ATVs.

Whereas, others will call their vehicles four wheelers or quads. A company will never sell ATVs, four wheelers, AND quads. Instead, they will only sell one of them.

 In reality, they are all the exact same vehicle. But, different brands call them different names. They generally sell two types 1) Sport, and 2) Utility.

4X4 Atv

What is a 4 Wheel ATV Called?

I know that a four wheeler is a type of ATV. But, I wanted to know if there is a specific name for a 4 wheel ATV.

A 4 wheel ATV is called a four wheeler, an ATV, or a quad. Different companies that sell them call them by different names, for example, Yamaha calls a 4 wheel ATV an ATV, whereas Polaris calls a 4 wheel ATV a quad and a 4 wheeler.

In everyday speech using the word ATV, quad, or 4 wheeler mean a four wheeled motorbike that performs well in off-road conditions. Another common vehicle is a 4×4. This simply means a car that has four wheel drive.

Interestingly, a quad, four wheeler, and an ATV can be both four wheel drive or two wheel drive. Similar to cars. In my opinion, the main reason they are called quads and four wheelers is because a standard motorbike has 2 wheels. For example, a typical dirt bike.

ATVs, quads, and four wheelers are all motorbikes, but instead of two wheels, they have four. Thus, the name quad – meaning 4 – and four wheeler meaning a 4 wheeled motorbike.


I’m Rob, the owner of RX Riders Place. My family and I have a long history of riding dirt bikes and ATVs and want to share what we have learned.

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