Side-by-side can rarely be described as a bargain. Good used ones are therefore in great demand. We show you what to look out for if you want to buy a second-hand copy.
Current models are always a bit stronger, always a bit better – but therefore always a bit more expensive. But even older vehicle versions from previous years are still fun and have sufficient power. But whoever buys used should pay attention to a few things. A side-by-side can still be as good as it was on the first day after 30,000 kilometers, or it can be badly run down after four hours of operation. This is exactly where the risk of buying a used vehicle lies: Side-by-sides tend not to be treated normally. They dig in the mud, jump over hills and are mostly used extremely.
Basically, don’t let the look fool you. Actually, some add-on parts have to be taken down in order to be able to check the condition of the frame and bearings. Is there rust, is the frame bent? Without looking under the cladding, you can quickly fall for fraudsters here. Summer vehicles are rare. Why also? Driving in the snow is just as much fun. Therefore, watch out for scuff marks from road salt, especially on aluminum parts. If a lot has been changed on the vehicle, this is a sign that the previous owner has paid special attention to the vehicle. But who did the existing conversions? Someone who can and should, or an amateur? You should check this carefully and, if in doubt, refrain from buying an extensively modified vehicle. Because the previous owner has not optimized the performance of the four-wheeler in order to be the first at the ice cream parlor.
In racing, the chassis are extremely stressed, which is why you should look carefully here. Is there any game? Does the damper performance match, when was the chassis last overhauled? There are quickly several hundred euros on the bill as repair costs. Jacking up is therefore always a good idea. In this way, the play of the wheels and steering can be checked.
We advise against tuned engines. The manufacturers offer sufficient performance and changes always place an extreme load on the technology. When started cold, you can hear whether something rattles. Of course, the oil level should also be checked. Much attention should be paid to the engine even when it is stationary. When everything is sparkling clean, the engine has been freshly cleaned. In this case, it is difficult to check for leakage problems because the traces of oil that then exist have been wiped away. Means: when discussing with the seller, make it clear that an engine wash is not desired. Oil doesn’t always have to be bad. In general, however, the following applies: where there is oil, there is also a leak. No matter where.
Pay attention to the little things
The general maintenance status should also be checked. Is the air filter clean, have the inspections been carried out? Clean air filter oil pulls “cobwebs” when you touch it. If dirty crumbs stick to the fingers and the foam is dirty, the general care is not right. Very important: the belt. They are THE weak point of side-by-sides. Every vehicle wears this out in no time. Therefore: take the gear cover down and check. If the belt is already frayed or slack, a new one should be negotiated.
The brakes must also be checked. Do the pads fit and are the brake calipers dry? Is there any brake fluid squeezing out of the connections? Pressing the brake several times helps to identify weak points. Is there anything negative? Then the fun stops and it shows how badly the vehicle has been maintained. The brake discs also have to be checked with a flashlight: cracks, dents or grooves?
Something breaks quickly off-road.
Used vehicles are often a good choice. However, you have to take a closer look and shouldn’t buy the first vehicle right away. A little luck at the bargain is of course also part of it. Often the vehicles have gotten older, but one thing is certain: a used one is just as much fun as buying a new one if it is in good condition.
Text: Martin Zink
Photos: Martin Zink, Yamaha, Can-Am, Polaris, Ralf Wilke, Shadow Quad