The Utility Vehicle Buyer’s Checklist

Before investing in utility vehicles, know what to look for. A little preparation before purchase ensures your utility vehicles will get the work done.

March 2014, Government Fleet - Feature

by Shelley Mika - Also by this author

According to Club Car’s Mike Cotter, the manufacturer’s aircraft-grade aluminum frames are rustproof and corrosion-resistant. Pictured is the Carryall 500. Photo courtesy of Club Car.
According to Club Car’s Mike Cotter, the manufacturer’s aircraft-grade aluminum frames are rustproof and corrosion-resistant. Pictured is the Carryall 500. Photo courtesy of Club Car.

At a Glance

Some questions utility vehicle buyers should ask themselves are:

  • Is the vehicle built for work?
  • Is the vehicle versatile and durable?
  • What type of powertrain works best for the application?
  • Does the application require two- or four-wheel drive?
  • What accessories will the unit need?

Utility vehicles fill a unique niche in a government's fleet — they can operate on rugged terrain, transport people while also performing work, and navigate tighter spaces than a traditional vehicle, whether inside a facility or out in the woods.

Just as purchasing decisions are made carefully for on-road fleet units, so should they for utility vehicles. However, the requirements aren't quite the same. Here's a look at what to consider when purchasing utility vehicles.

Proper Application

The first step in buying a utility vehicle is fitting the right vehicle to the right job. Ask yourself how the vehicle will be used day in and day out. Consider:

  • All the purposes the vehicle will serve
  • The type of terrain on which it will be used
  • Fuel type
  • Passenger capacity
  • Hauling and dump bed capacities
  • Climate and altitude in which the vehicle will be operated.

“The most important first step is to match the right utility vehicle to the proposed application,” said Aaron Stegemann, business development manager, Polaris. “Once the right model is identified, the utility vehicle can be customized to match the application.”

In addition to the basic requirements, Stegemann said fleets should also consider whether they have needs for fully enclosed cabs, heaters, audio equipment, and power steering. Likewise, it’s important to consider any safety equipment that might be required on the jobsite, such as strobe lights, reverse warning kits, horns, and light bars.

Without careful consideration of the application, fleets may end up with utility task vehicles (UTVs) that don’t fulfill their needs. For example, a Polaris customer purchased a four-passenger fleet for use in an indoor manufacturing facility. The customer wanted to haul more passengers, but after getting the fleet onsite, he realized the vehicles didn’t have a tight enough turning radius to navigate the facility. The solution was to sell off the four-passenger models and change to smaller two-passenger models. While the two-passenger models were a much better fit for the application, the fleet could have saved time and money had it more carefully considered the application to begin with.

Models Built for Work

It’s important to buy UTVs that are designed specifically for work — not golf carts or other vehicles dressed up with enough accessories to masquerade as a UTV. 

“Fleet managers should look for models that are built from the ground up as a utility vehicle. They should avoid overseas manufacturers that basically put a box on the back of a golf car, declaring it a utility vehicle,” said Mike Cotter, director, Consumer & Commercial Marketing for Club Car. “When a utility vehicle is engineered and built from the ground up, you can be assured the vehicle will have a durable chassis to handle the job required. Converted golf cars, in most cases, don’t have the suspension/chassis to handle rugged jobs required by government facilities.”

Cotter has known fleets that purchased converted vehicles in an effort to save money — a choice that cost them more money in the long run. He recalls a military base in Georgia that decided to order vehicles with kits that converted them from a golf car to a utility vehicle, which didn’t hold up to the work demands of a government facility. “Over time, they realized those vehicles actually cost them so much more in additional maintenance and repair,” Cotter said.

In addition to ensuring a UTV can perform the necessary work, Stegemann said it should be designed for the needs of the driver, too. “Ergonomics become so important when workers spend all day in a vehicle; they should be comfortable,” he noted.


  1. 1. Mike [ April 01, 2014 @ 05:34AM ]

    A question that also needs to be asked is does it have a certified ROPS which is mandatory

  2. 2. John [ November 07, 2014 @ 10:26AM ]

    If a certified ROPS is mandatory - then there would be no need to ask this question.

    Who makes this requirement mandatory?


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