Are ATVs considered motor vehicles?

All-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, are popular for both recreation and work. They have four large tires and handle well on all types of terrain, including sand, mud, snow, and even water. Many people use them for hunting, farming, or other off-road activities. But what about when you want to take your ATV on the road? Are ATVs considered motor vehicles? The answer may surprise you.

ATV and laws regarding ATVs?

An all-terrain vehicle (ATV), also known as a quad, three-wheeler, or four-wheeler, is a small, open motor vehicle with low-pressure tires designed for off-road use. ATVs are commonly used for recreation, farming, and other utility purposes.

ATVs typically have four wheels and use gasoline or diesel engines. They are typically designed for two or more people to ride on, although some models are designed for single riders. ATVs were first manufactured in the 1960s and have become increasingly popular in recent years.

In the United States, ATVs are considered off-highway vehicles (OHVs) and are subject to regulations set by each state. Some states require that riders be licensed and insured and that their ATVs meet certain safety standards. Other states have no specific laws governing the use of ATVs. However, all states prohibit the operation of ATVs on public roads and highways.

Should ATVs be considered motor vehicles?

There are many debates surrounding the classification of ATVs, with some people arguing that they should be considered motor vehicles while others contend that they should not. There are a few key points to consider when making this decision.

First, ATVs are typically designed for off-road use and lack certain features that are commonly found on road-going vehicles, such as turn signals, mirrors, and license plates. However, some ATVs do have these features and can be driven on public roads.

Second, ATV riders are not required to have a driver’s license in most states. In contrast, operating a motor vehicle generally requires a valid driver’s license.

Third, ATVs are not subject to the same safety regulations as motor vehicles. For example, they are not required to have seat belts or airbags.

Fourth, the insurance requirements for ATVs are different from those for motor vehicles. In some states, ATV riders are only required to carry liability insurance while in others no insurance is required at all.

Taking all of these factors into consideration, it is up to each individual to decide whether ATVs should be classified as motor vehicles or not.

The pros and cons of ATVs

Assuming you would like a pro and con list for ATVs:


  • Can be used for off-roading/recreation,
  • All-terrain vehicles can go places cars cannot,
  • relatively inexpensive.


  • Can be unsafe if not driven correctly,
  • Not environmentally friendly,
  • Noisy.

How to safely operate an ATV

Before operating an ATV, review the owner’s manual and become familiar with the controls. Remember that ATVs are not toys. They are powerful machines that require skill and training to operate safely.

Never allow children under the age of 16 to operate an ATV. Children between the ages of 16 and 18 should only operate an ATV if they have completed an ATV safety course and are supervised by an adult.

Wear proper safety gear when operating an ATV. This includes a DOT-approved helmet, eye protection, long pants, long sleeves, gloves, over-the-ankle boots, and reflective materials.

Inspect your ATV before each ride. Check the engine oil level, brakes, lights, and tires, and make sure there is nothing caught in the moving parts of the machine.

Operate your ATV at a safe speed for the conditions. Avoid excessive speed, sudden starts or stops, sharp turns, or wheelies (driving on two wheels). Use extra caution when riding on slippery surfaces or crossing obstacles.

Be aware of your surroundings at all times while operating an ATV. Watch out for other vehicles, pedestrians, animals, potholes, rocks, ditches, and other hazards. Never ride on paved roads unless the ATV is specifically designed for road use – most are not.

And lastly, never drink alcohol or use drugs while riding an ATV even on your private property.


In conclusion, ATVs are considered motor vehicles in some states and not others. It really depends on the state’s definition of a motor vehicle. If you’re planning on using an ATV on public roads, it’s best to check with your local DMV to see what the rules are in your state.

John Webler a writer for Offroadbible
John Webler

Hi there, I'm John Webler, the owner and a writer for Offroadbible, a website that covers everything related to ATVs, dirt bikes, and UTVs. As a lifelong off-roading enthusiast, I have a deep passion for exploring the great outdoors on two and four wheels. I have spent countless hours tinkering with engines, navigating rough terrain, and pushing the limits of what these machines are capable of.

Leave a Comment