While an ATV and a UTV will share many similarities, they are distinctly different vehicles intended for very different uses. An ATV, or all terrain vehicle, is an off-road, single-rider vehicle intended for use as a recreational vehicle, racer, or transport over rough terrain. A UTV, or utility task vehicle, is also intended for use over rough terrain, though this vehicle is sometimes known as a side-by-side because two people can sit in the cab next to each other. Both can be used to haul items, but a UTV features a truck-like bed specifically for this purpose.
Both vehicles typically feature a combustion engine — some models do feature electric engines instead, but these are intended for light duty use only — and both feature significant suspension and aggressive tires. They also generally feature a low center of gravity for added stability over rough terrain. The differences between an ATV and a UTV become clear with a simple glance at the rider positions: an ATV rider will straddle the vehicle on a saddle, while UTV riders can sit on side by side on bench seats or bucket seats.
The steering differs between the two as well. On an ATV, a rider will steer using a handlebar system, while UTV drivers will steer using a steering wheel similar to that in a car or truck. The configuration of a UTV allows for more passengers to ride along, which is useful in maintenance settings or construction sites. People and materials can both be hauled easily, making UTVs are popular among golf course maintenance personnel, parks and recreation departments, and any other users who need to travel over uneven terrain with people and materials.
Both types of vehicles can be designed to be street-legal, though UTVs are more likely to come from the factory with accessories or features that will make them street legal with little or no modifications necessary. In some regions, all ATVs are illegal on roadways, though UTVs may be allowed.
Accessories that are often used on ATVs can also be used on UTVs. A winch, for example, is a useful addition to either, as are storage bins and racks. UTVs tend to come stock with roll cages, and some even feature windshields; ATVs will usually not have such features.