We abandoned city life a mile from Downtown Cleveland, Ohio in late 2015, and retreated to quite mountain nob outside Asheville, NC. Only a few acres, but rugged terrain meant most of our neighbors had some type of 4-wheeler, UTV, or off road vehicle.
Off road 4-wheelers – or 3-wheelers when I was a kid – was something our family only dreamed of. I remember my dad taking me to visit his friends homes and letting me watch their kids have fun on their off road fun time rides. I got to ride a snowmobile once. But at 10 years old or so, I didn’t realize the utility aspect, it just looked fun. Then there was my go-kart, with no motor, which is a story for another day. LOL.
Now 30+ years later, nearing my mid-40’s (gasp!), and I have quite utilitarian needs. I’m about to get my first ‘4-wheeler’. I need to haul lumber, firewood, soil, equipment, around our few acre portion of this mountain. But never driving a UTV myself, what should I do, where do I start?
Our needs for an off-road 4×4 utility vehicle included, not necessarily in this order:
- Reliable- Not only ‘get in and go’, but good service & support network from manufacture and users;
- Powerful- Enough to move not only two people, but carry firewood, lumber, soil, supplies, through all terrain and weather conditions;
- Convenient- Dump bed, hitch, good availability of accessories, parts, easy to work on;
- Size- Small enough to fit through tight spaces, fit onto pickup truck bed;
- Price sensitive- looking to find lowest cost good solution.
Of course my research began – and continued for months – on the interwebs. After reading what seemed like all the content on UTV’s, articles, forums, videos, reviews, and considering many different models, it was ultimately narrowed down to a Kawasaki Mule SX or Polaris Ranger 570 Midsize.
Thoughts on Kawasaki Mule SX 4×4…
- Appeared to be superior build quality, manufactured from higher quality materials;
- Mechanic reviews suggested that while it was more reliable, it was a more complicated machine, requiring more experience and specialized tools, knowledge or equipment to work on. Broke less often, but more likely to require experienced mechanic to fix;
- Replacement parts tend to be more costly, not as common to find locally;
- Lower top speed, air cooled engine.
- Narrower, definitely fits in most full size pickup trucks.
- Designed in Japan
Thoughts on Polaris Ranger 570 Midsize 4×4…
- Lower price point for same capacity features – Seemed to be manufactured from less refined plastics and materials;
- Mechanic reviews suggested it was a less complicated machine, requiring routine mechanical knowledge to service and maintain. Might break more often, but easier to self-service;
- Replacement parts tend to be off the shelf components, commonly found at auto parts store;
- Higher top speed, liquid cooled engine.
- Wider, may not fit in all full size pickup trucks.
- Designed in USA
It was a toss up. While Kawasaki Mule SX was more refined, Polaris Ranger 570 fit our needs better. It was easier to self-service, potential for more off-road use, and Designed in USA. But final decision was yet to be made, which could we score a better deal, which offered better dealer after-sale service and support?
As price sensitive buyers, during my research, I scoured Facebook, Auto Trader, Craigslist, Ebay and other sites for a used UTV. Comparing prices of used models, sometimes states away, also required comparing prices of shipping from services like uShip. But it turned out UTV’s typically went for nearly the same price as a new model! Used vehicles remained an option up until the day of purchase, but in over 3 months, never ran across anything used worth buying.
So off to a dealership! This brought unexpected challenges. Only 1 dealership had any sort of off road track to take a real-life demo ride – how could someone consider purchasing something they’ve never driven or been on before without a demo ride? I shopped and shopped, contacted about 6 dealers within a 4 hour drive from us. Several dealers were difficult to reach, unanswered phones, with seemingly rude people who answer the phone. Unanswered online emails. Not places I’d want to depend on for after sale support.
Went to 3 local dealer locations. None of them fit a typical ‘used car sales’ model – a relief! All 3 were friendly, not pushy, let me guide the questions. They also offered great follow up, both phone calls and emails – but nothing overbearing.
First local dealer, Dal-Kawa HPS in Hendersonville, NC, let us drive the Kawasaki Mule SX and Teryx through a small parking lot. Whoopie, we got to idle past a few parked cars. While salesman did a great job providing information, ultimately this dealer (and the Kawasaki Mule SX) was ruled out because pricing was several thousand over what other options within 4 hour drive offered, and there was no place to sufficiently test drive vehicle when we came to visit. It just seemed Kawasaki was more expensive and cumbersome to deal with – and we didn’t want that trouble after the sale.
Second dealer, 4X4 Country & Cub Cadet in Hendersonville, NC, had a real off road track to ride around – awesome! When we arrived to test drive the Polaris Ranger 570, salesman handed us key and pointed us to edge of parking lot. There was a small, but genuine, off-road track to test drive the Polaris. When it came time to purchase, a few weeks later, this dealer was willing to talk price by email – no messing around or wasted trips.
Third dealer, MR Motorcycle in Asheville, NC carried both Polaris and Kawasaki brands. I first called but salesman suggested I needed to come in. Upon arriving, I simply told the salesman what other dealer offered and asked if they could do better. He took my information to his sales manager, and after 10 minutes, came back and basically said they weren’t in business to loose money. He didn’t know how other dealer was able to offer such good price.
We had a good experience with all of these dealers, and we could easily see recommending any of them to a friend, depending on the needs. We ultimately struck a deal with 4X4 Country. In fact, we never had to visit dealer after our first demo ride! Michael, the sales guy, was easy to work with by email. They delivered the new 2018 Polaris Ranger 570 4×4, and we paid for it on delivery, to our doorstep! What a hassle free way to buy a buggy. We found 4×4 Country to be best place in Western North Carolina to buy a UTV.
It’s been about two months. A very fine neighbor ‘showed us the ropes’ of off-roading, and aside from mini-farm utilitarian use, this Polaris is as fun as scuba diving or skydiving! It will climb over any rocks, trees, or other obstacles with ease. But before my first ride, I had to have a few accessories…
Before taking off-road, most important and urgent need seemed to be adequate protection for the undercarriage. I was surprised to find a company famous for producing top quality, Made in USA, aftermarket products for UTV’s from my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio: Extreme Metal Products (EMP). I ordered an aluminum skid plate, set of axle guards, roof, rear view mirror, and hard coated windshield from EMP. Again, our neighborhood off road guru gave me some pointers and let me use ramps to get it up in the air.(Having been a CDL/tractor trailer driver in the past, I should’ve ordered knock-back side view mirrors instead of the centered rear view mirror. I quickly realized a rear view mirror offers little help to someone accustomed to using only side mirrors.)
Ordering was super easy, fast response from FB messaging, everything was shipped promptly, included all the pieces and excellent instructions. I’ll surely be shopping with EMP, the best place for Made in USA off road accessories.
In 2 short months, I’ve already used this Ranger to help me haul more equipment and supplies around our property that I could’ve previously done in an entire season. We’ll see what winter brings…
Mentioned in this review: