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Posted: 09/22/2015

Things to Look for When You Demo a Utility Vehicle

Bobcat 3650 utility vehicle with snowblower attachment clears snow on a mountain road.

A utility vehicle might be the most productive and versatile vehicle you’ll ever own. With that in mind, it’s very important to evaluate a utility vehicle’s comfort, ease of use and safety. When you go to take a test drive, consider the tasks you perform most often, the gear and gadgets you carry, and the passengers who join you throughout the day.

Entry and exit
Enter and exit the vehicle several times. Do you have enough foot space and legroom, particularly if your work boots are covered with mud or snow? Also, consider the height of the entry step to ensure easy access.

Seats and steering wheel
After you assess the entry/exit space, sit behind the wheel and get comfortable. Place your hands on the steering wheel and adjust the tilt steering if the vehicle has it. Ensure you can reach all of the controls and storage compartments.

Next, check out the seat belt system. Models with a three-point shoulder harness provide additional restraint compared to lap belts. Some seat belts have a suspension mount for comfort.

Visibility
As you sit behind the wheel, take a 360-degree view of your surroundings. Be sure you have a clear view of front and rear working areas and the cargo box. For nighttime operation, assess the light output and lighting accessories for various models. Check for front headlights, brake lights, taillights and turn signals.

Cab, heat and air conditioning options
Ask about the cab, heat and air conditioning options for various utility vehicles. Many models offer an optional dealer-installed cab that can be combined with a heater or even air conditioning.

Instrument panel
The utility vehicle’s operator-friendly design extends to the dash, where you commonly see a speedometer, hour meter, engine rpm, warning lights and other indicator lights. The information display should be in convenient locations and easy-to-read.

Operation
You’ll quickly notice the easy operation of utility vehicles with a steering wheel, foot accelerator (or travel control pedal) and foot brake. Automotive-style controls make operation easier. Most utility vehicles have simple drive options — simply shift and go.

Sound quality
Evaluate the noise levels during operation. Noise should be minimized by the muffler and engine layout.

Occupants
Utility vehicles are frequently used to transport occupants at resorts, parks, clubs, construction sites and more. Some manufacturers have met this need by offering models with four forward-facing seats. Ride in comfort and enjoy the same versatility and cargo capabilities as two-seated vehicles. Some manufacturers even offer a six-occupant vehicle.

Storage
If you leave the house with coffee, soda or water in hand, be sure to consider the placement of cup holders for the operator and passengers. The utility vehicle may have storage space for gloves, tools, flashlights and other objects you might need to take to work too. And, look for 12-volt plug-ins to charge your phone and other electronic devices.

Suspension
Be sure to understand the suspension systems on different utility vehicles. With four-wheel independent suspension, each wheel moves independently to smooth out the bumps, improve your comfort and keep wheels in contact with the ground for maximum traction.

Other suspension systems include swing-arm, semi-independent suspension and De Dion suspension. If you tow or haul heavy loads frequently, De Dion suspension is ideal because it distributes weight directly to the tires, not the suspension. It makes for a comfortable, stable ride, even when you’re carrying a heavy load.

Safety
Many utility vehicles have seat belts and a standard roll over protective structure (ROPS). Both are important safety considerations. A parking brake protects against accidental movement, and some models feature an override system that limits engine rpm if the parking brake is set.

Options and accessories
Customize your utility vehicle with accessories that protect the vehicle, provide additional operator comfort and accomplish more tasks. Common accessories include:

  • Modular or steel cab
  • Heat and air conditioning
  • Accessory systems
  • Running boards
  • Turf, mud and all-terrain tires
  • Factory-installed packages with a brush guard, powered lift, stylish rims and other popular choices
  • Worksite accessories including lighting options, turn signals and backup alarms
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