As new quads continue to climb steadily in price, spending somewhere in the region of €9,000 to €12,000 plus VAT may not be justified or within budget on many farms. Buying a used quad is no different to buying any other used machine.

It’s important to know what to look out for and assess each machine based on its condition and age in respect of its price.

Where the budget allows, try to buy a recognised brand with a proven history. Not only will a reputable brand have a better resale value, but when it comes to sourcing parts the process will generally be much easier than trying to source parts for a knock-off brand that may potentially be no longer manufactured, or retailed in the country.

1 Is it stolen?

One of the biggest things to check when buying a used quad is to ensure it hasn’t been stolen. Ensure the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), more commonly known as the chassis number, is present and has not been tampered with.

A tracking device is a worth while investment for any ATV.

Over the past decade, the financing of new and secondhand ATVs and UTVs has become very popular. If buying a used machine, it’s strongly advisable to carry out a finance check to ensure there is no remaining debt.

If you have invested in an ATV, it’s advisable to invest in a tracking device. Such units are relatively inexpensive, are easily fitted and record the machine’s location at any given point in time, helping with relocation if a theft ever occurs.

2 Appearance and panels

General appearance always tells a lot about a machine’s history and the previous owner(s). Aside from cosmetics, it’s important to inspect the quad structurally. Plastic panels are generally cheaper to replace and an easier fix compared to a cracked or strained chassis. Strain can occur if a machine has been used to tow loads over the rated capacity or where objects have been pulled from the wrong location ie cargo racks. Where there are obvious signs of strain, cracks or that the quad has been previously damaged and repaired, strongly consider passing on this machine.

Ensure plastic panels are all in good condition.

That said, the plastic panels should be intact and in good shape. If damaged, factor replacement into the buying price. Some plastics will fade and eventually turn brittle over time which is a strong indication that the quad was predominately parked outdoors.

Tyre condition should also be another factor taken into consideration. New tyres will set you back from €75-€110 each including VAT depending on brand and size.

3 Engine

Where a machine is being sold from a reputable dealer, it generally comes with the peace of mind that it will be sold serviced and with a warranty in some cases. Often, dealers may have some history on the quad and previous owner as to whether it was serviced on time or received any major repairs.

Before starting the engine, check that the quad is parked on a level surface and check its engine oil level.

When buying privately, this luxury doesn’t tend to be available – it’s a case of trusting the seller and forming your own opinion on the quad. Check engine oil level and air filter condition before starting the engine from cold – this is the most likely time to hear any potential issues. Once started, listen to how the engine idles and whether it is smokey or not. It should start easily and idle smoothly. A little white smoke on startup can be normal with a machine that hasn’t been started in some time once it disappears within 30 or so seconds. This tends to be water vapour burning off.

A lazy-starting petrol engine generally has one of two issues. The spark plug is worn, or the starter motor needs repair. A machine that is misfiring or remains smokey once warmed should be questioned and potentially avoided as it could be a symptom of several possible issues. The sound of an engine and how it responds while driving is a good indication as to its health.

4 Transmission

Most bikes on the market are fitted with belt-driven CVT-type transmissions with the exception of Honda and one or two others which are manual or electric powershift. CVTs tend to be maintenance free with the exception of the belt slipping which is a straightforward inexpensive replacement. Manual shift models tend to be trouble-free while electric shift, depending on how the machine was operated by its previous owner (starting off in high gears, labouring etc), can slip or fail to select gears due to worn brushes in the electric shift motor. Ensure each gear change is smooth and easily selected on both the upshift and downshift.

Machines with selectable 4WD should be checked, ensuring it engages and disengages at the press of the button. It’s not uncommon for the 4WD to not disengage straight away; coming to a stop or engaging the brakes generally does the trick.

A non-functioning 4WD can have several possible causes and a potentially costly repair up to €600 including VAT. If fitted, the front and rear locking differentials should be checked to see if they’re engaging and disengaging.

Tyre condition is another factor worth taking into consideration when buying used.

5 Brakes, steering, suspension

Check the condition of brakes. Disc brakes should have both pads and discs checked for wear and to ensure they are functioning. It’s not uncommon for ATVs with foot brakes and or drum brakes to become seized. With foot brakes in particular, the brake cable generally seizes from lack of use or buildup of dirt and results in brakes sticking on. It’s vital brakes are working correctly. It is important to check for play in the steering. The handlebars should not move without a response from the wheels.

Check that all brakes are functional, as foot brakes tend to be cable operated and are prone to seizing.

A little play is acceptable but anything beyond 5mm is deemed to be dangerous. This kind of play would suggest worn ball joints, worn track rod ends or play in the wheel bearings. Wheel bearings can be checked by rocking each wheel. A worn wheel bearing gone unnoticed can result in hub damage, leading to costly replacement. Clicking or cracking sounds on the go will indicate worn CV joints.

Quads with rear independent suspension have more moving parts and linkages so check closely for play or wear.

It’s also important to check the machine’s suspension. Machines with independent suspension will have a lot more moving parts. When weight is placed and released on the suspension system, it should return to its original position nice and slowly. If it springs up like a basketball, it may indicate all that is active is the spring and not the gas in the shocks. Replacement shocks can cost in the region of €150 including VAT. Check bearing condition in each swingarm and that linkages and pivots are not damaged.