John Deere utility vehicle
Photo provided by John Deere

Analyzing Today’s Utility Vehicle Trends

By Glenn Hansen

Kawasaki introduced its Mule utility vehicle brand in the 1980s; it was way more functional than the once-popular three-wheeler and far easier to use than a pickup or tractor. It didn’t take long for competitors to field new vehicles, and for entrepreneurial owners to improve them. Although Kawasaki has updated its Mule family, today’s utility vehicle stable is full of a wide variety of thoroughbreds, mustangs and Clydesdales – from beefed-up golf carts to wanna-be pickup trucks, the list of utility vehicles and manufacturers is long.

The vehicle market continues to grow, making it difficult to define and to quantify. However, based on information from various market research groups, as well as discussions I’ve had with analysts, industry experts predict a compound annual growth rate that ranges from three to nearly five percent between now and 2027. If so, that would grow the North American UTV market to an estimated $5 billion or higher. 

In a survey we conducted to learn about the intent of vehicle shoppers, we found that 31.8% are currently looking and expecting to purchase a powersports vehicle in 6 months, and another 18.2% are thinking about looking but not planning to make a purchase in 6 months. Thirty-four percent of all respondents are looking to purchase a UTV, and are willing to spend $26,000 on that purchase.

In general, original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have in recent years put increased emphasis on UTV development. Honda, one of the late comers to the UTV market, now offers 13 different models. Kawasaki now offers at least nine unique Mule vehicles, plus its Teryx line of work/play UTVs. A similar shift is happening with Polaris, Yamaha, and Can-Am. (Four-wheel ATV pioneer Suzuki never officially entered the UTV market; it does still sell ATVs.)

The UTV market is much broader than just the historical ATV players, with more utility-focused companies offering work/sport UTVs. John Deere once sold ATVs that were manufactured for the company by Can-Am; it stopped selling those vehicles in 2006 and continues to market an increasingly broad range of Gator UTVs. Manufacturers including CF Moto, HiSun, American Landmaster, Kubota, Kioti and more serve power-equipment retailers with utility vehicles.

UTV manufacturers are offering an increasing number of vehicles at a range of price points and packages. As varied as these vehicles are, they seem to be moving in the same direction, and that is toward versatility for both work and play. Let’s look at some specific trends in the UTV arena today.


The power shift is not coming; it’s already here. Electric UTVs are real and can offer advantages for users. While Polaris gained a lot of media attention when it introduced the Ranger Kinetic UTV in 2022, the first production run was limited and interested shoppers nationwide continue to wait for units to hit dealerships. Meanwhile, both American Landmaster and Intimidator UTVs sell electric UTVs right now.

At its facility in Indiana, Landmaster produces UTVs covering a spectrum price points, with a couple lithium-ion powered units joining a fleet of gas-powered UTVs. Intimidator, based in Arkansas and purchased by Toro in 2022, makes mid-size and full-size UTVs and offers an electric model that runs on eight 6-volt sealed lead-acid batteries instead of lithium-ion batteries more commonly found in newer EVs. These 6-volt batteries are easy for vehicle owners to source and replace (for around $200 each), which can’t be said of lithium-ion power sources.

Also in the coming-soon category, the Volcon Stag is an electric recreation-focused UTV that could be available later this summer. The Volcon UTV will be powered by an “electric propulsion system” sourced through a partnership with General Motors. The Stag comes with a long list of high-end features, as well as a $40,000 MSRP.

As is true with the electric car and truck market, several manufacturers are hinting at future electric-vehicle introductions into the UTV industry. Can-Am, maker of the Can-Am Defender UTVs, recently introduced an electric touring-focused snowmobile, and has shown electric motorcycle concepts. Honda recently announced a corporate restructuring that puts an emphasis on EV design, though that focus could be directed at the much larger car and truck market.


Each UTV manufacturer has a strength, a unique character, and a design position that can be seen in its products. That vehicular personality can be what attracts users to any of these machines. John Deere Gator UTVs, for example, align with the manufacturer’s tractors. Most of the green-and-yellow machines are pure workhorses. And even the company’s “crossover” utility vehicles have a utilitarian attitude. Unique to the market, Deere offers a Gator XUV with HVAC controls in its cab, and owners can equip this machine with the same Auto Trac found on Deere tractors for precision work in the field.

Kubota calls its utility vehicles “RTVs” and categorizes them into residential, commercial, and agricultural groups. Unique to the UTV market, Kubota equips some of its machines with a hydrostatic transmission more commonly found in tractors. That will appeal to some buyers accustomed to the singular performance of hydro transmissions. You can also buy a Kubota with a belt-operated CVT.

The Kawasaki Mule has aged well and grown into a highly versatile fleet of vehicles. From sports field management to parking lot security to ranch maintenance, Mules are among the most popular vehicles that few people ever see – because these machines are always at work and are often customized to match a company’s fleet or brand color. Kawasaki makes Mules in two-, three-, four-, or six-passenger configurations, including diesel-powered models.

Can-Am tends to set its design sights on trail-riding performance, but the company’s Defender UTVs have a work-ready side. The Defender 6×6 UTV is a six-wheel drive machine that can tackle nearly any terrain and carry a large load too.

Honda has a reputation for making vehicles high on creature comfort and intuitive user experience. Its Pioneer UTVs, for example, feature a dual-clutch transmission that offers both automatic operation and push-button manual shifting. With no belt, this transmission gives the UTV engine-compression braking that a more common belt-drive UTV can’t match.

Value options

While many UTVs sell for $25,000 or more, there are options for half that, and a few with MSRPs under $10,000. CFMoto, a manufacturer based in China with a growing list of vehicles for sale in the U.S., offers its U-Force utility vehicle for around $10,500. And the familiar Cub Cadet brand, whose UTVs are made in China by HiSun Motors, sells its Challenger 500 UTV for just under $12K.

Accessories and upgrades

What makes UTVs so useful for owners, and so profitable for retailers, is the ever-expanding accessory market. Like in the growing attachment market for the small-tractor category, UTV add-ons and accessories help owners personalize vehicles and maximize their use for work or play.

While recreational UTV owners love aftermarket tires and wheels, utility users can find aftermarket cabs, plows, winches, storage options, lighting upgrades and more. Back to our survey data, we found that 47 percent of ATV and UTV shoppers are interested in customizing their vehicles. The top accessories of interest are tires (40 percent of buyers), lights (32 percent), and engine upgrades (18 percent). While that last category might seem focused on sport or trail riding performance, engine upgrades go beyond just horsepower. Users with big loads to carry might alter engine-power curves to deliver more torque.

Glenn Hansen is editor of OPE Business magazine, and contributing editor of PowerSports Business magazine, sister publications to SportsField Management.