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ATV refers to All Terrain Vehicle, a vehicle that can assume the form of a small, open configuration that is designed for off-road use. These types of vehicles can sometimes be found in the form of a buggie, but are usually thought of as four-wheeled vehicles. Most are designed for a single operator, who steers with a set of handlebars that controls the front two tires. The rider operates the vehicle in a similar fashion to that of a motorcycle, with the extra wheels providing greater stability at slower speeds. The main attraction of ATVs is their ability to go over any type of terrain, and ultimately carry people and supplies to areas that other vehicles cannot reach.


Although four-wheeled ATVs are considered the standard, there are also three and six-wheeled models in use. The four-wheeled version is often referred to as “quad” or “four-wheeler”. ATVs are used worldwide, in all climates and conditions for recreation and industrial purposes. About 80,000 ATVs are sold per month across the globe.


ATVs were first manufactured in the United States in the 1930s. Early models were quite large, often sporting six wheels around a plastic or fiberglass tub that could seat up to six passengers. The vehicles also had steering wheels or control sticks instead of handlebars. Their construction was oriented around work activity, as they were able to traverse ponds, streams, and climb up walls. They were also designed to float, being able to carry people and supplies to work places such as dams or pipelines. The advent of modern, recreational four-wheelers has come to assume the “ATV” designation as larger, amphibious vehicles are now termed AATVs (Amphibious All-Terrain Vehicles).


Suzuki sold the first purpose-built recreational ATV in 1982 with the QuadRunner LT 125. This was the first design to include suspension and lower profile tires. The ability to ride in relative comfort over any terrain soon made these vehicles very popular for all types of outdoor enthusiasts. This popularity spurred other manufacturers to produce their own models, including power sport giants such as Bombardier, Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki.


Similar to other power sports, a large and dedicated sub-culture dedicated to the sports aspect of ATVs grew steadily in reaction to its initial popularity. These sports include racing, jumping, endurance, and adventure riding. For this type of competition, ATVs are modified for increased performance and handling. Many other government and industry leaders have also used ATVs for service and transportation. The U.S. military currently has over 1,000 ATVs in its inventory.


ATVs are mainly used in rural areas, where there is an abundance of natural land to explore. Many snowmobiling trails are used by ATV clubs in warmer months. However, in some densely populated areas such as India and China, ATVs are becoming a small, quick, and low-polluting substitute to cars. The Asian market also serves as a major point of growth for ATVs, as domestic sales in India alone topped 50, 000 units in 2005.

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