Thursday, July 5, 2012

Utility Vehicle

The single biggest purchase that we have made, since moving to the property, is our Kubota RTV 500 Utility Vehicle. When we first moved here, I had a 4-wheeler that I was using for several tasks. It was my transportation to different parts of the property, I'd use it, along with a buggy, to haul rock, tools, etc. Since I had grown up riding 4-wheelers, I was perfectly content and never expected that we would need anything more, other than eventually upgrading to a 4-wheel drive model.

Early last Spring, as we began seriously planning a garden, we realized that Andrea needed to learn to ride the 4-wheeler so she could use it for transportation to and from the garden. After a couple of lessons, Andrea decided that she was not cut out for 4-wheeler riding, and requested that we purchase a Utility Vehicle (commonly referred to as a side by side).

The initial plan was to purchase a cheap UTV, that would primarily be used for transportation to the garden. We looked at the UTVs that farm supply stores sell, and we looked at used 2-wheel drive models online. Eventually, though, I started to reason that if we were going to be buying a new piece of equipment anyway, maybe it would make sense to go ahead and get a 4-wheel drive model since I planned to eventually purchase a 4-wheel drive 4-wheeler.

With that decision made, I began researching the various models that were available. There are a staggering number of options, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. I looked at machines made by Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Polaris, John Deer, Cub Cadet, and Kubota, while researching several other brands online. I quickly concluded that the bet fit for us would be a UTV that was made primarily for work, rather than trail riding. I began focusing on the machines made by tractor manufacturers, and eventually narrowed the options down to the Kubota RTV 500 and the Cub Cadet Volunteer 4x4.

I spent weeks trying to decide between the two machines. During that time I asked questions on line message boards, read all reviews I could find, watched YouTube videos, and test drove both multiple times. We initially decided on the Cub Cadet, and went to the dealership to make the purchase. Unfortunately, the financing terms had changed since we had last talked to the salesman, and we weren't happy with the new fee that was going to be charged to get the 0% financing. We went home empty handed that day, to give the decision more thought.

Shortly after that disappointing day, I discovered that Kubota offered a discount for cash customers. This eventually became the deciding factor, and we purchased the RTV 500. In hind sight, I'm very happy with the decision. While I'm sure that the Volunteer would have been a fine machine that would have suited our needs well, the RTV seems to fit our needs perfectly.

We've owned the RTV for around 14 months. In that time we've put nearly 120 hours on it, which may not seem like a lot for some, but considering less than 5% of that has been trail riding, it adds up to a lot of work hours. There are periods, such as right now, that a day rarely goes by without the RTV being used for something. We use it for everything from taking the trash down to the road, to dragging logs and hauling loads of rock.

The advantages of a UTV over a 4-wheeler are numerous. First, the obvious advantage is the ability to easily carry a passenger. Some of the larger UTVs have the ability to carry up to 3 passengers, but that wasn't necessary for us. The RTV has a bench seat, which comfortably carries 2 adults, and occasionally our dog, Luke, as well. The weight of a UTV can also be an advantage over a 4-wheeler, especially when pulling logs or doing other work where the extra weight results in added traction. The biggest advantage, however, is the bed of the UTV. I use it to haul tools to wherever I'm working, as well as at times as a work surface. I regularly haul brush, rocks, and mulch. Even with a task as simple as going to the garden to harvest a few potatoes, the bed is an advantage.

The RTV is, without question, the best purchase we have made since moving to the country. I have thanked Andrea several times for convincing me to buy a UTV. While I'm sure we could have managed to do many of the tasks with the 4-wheeler, there is no doubt that the RTV has allowed us to work more effectively and efficiently. My only uncertainty is whether the RTV 500 was the best model for us, or whether we should have bought the larger, more powerful, RTV 900.

After having praised UTVs, and the RTV specifically, you're probably expecting me to recommend that everyone go out and by one. I am not going to do that, however, because I realize that what works well for us may not work for others. For those living on a small tract of land, especially in a city or suburb, a UTV may not be necessary, or even very useful. A riding lawn mower with a buggy may be just as useful, or even a simple wheel barrow. Some people, who live on larger tracts of land, may find that a 4-wheeler is all they need, and if they, like me, prefer a 4-wheeler for trail riding, it may not make sense to also invest in a UTV. For those doing large scale gardening, while a UTV may be useful, it may make more sense to invest in a tractor instead, at least initially. My point is that everyone has to decide what equipment makes the most sense for his/her situation. I just hope that by describing my situation, and how a Utility Vehicle has helped us, I can help make that process easier.

For those interested in the specifics of why I chose the RTV 500 over the other offerings, I hope to do another post later with details on the entire decision making process.

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