Things to consider when buying a youth ATV

It’s only a matter of time until your young riding partner will want to drive their own ATV.

By Chris Conroy

If you’re a parent or grandparent, you’ve probably already experienced this. When should a child get their own machine? What is the right machine? The correct answer is: it depends.

Since parents know their child best, it ultimately comes down to the parents’ decision. What tools are out there to help parents decide? Here are some resources for youth readiness, the right machine, and rider training. 

Youth Readiness
Factors to consider: What is your future rider’s physical size, mental readiness and coordination? The ATV Safety Institute, a division of the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA), created a readiness checklist. You can find it at under the “Parents” dropdown tab. On it you will find 27 key questions and considerations related to physical development, visual perception, motor-skills development, social development, emotional development, reasoning and decision-making ability. This is a great place to start

The Right Machine
The correct machine for your rider will depend on their size and abilities. For example, a 125cc ATV may be the right machine for one rider and too big for a rider of the same age. Girls often grow earlier than boys and may ride a machine that is too big for a boy of the same age. 

All youth machines are sold with a number of safety and warning labels. The stickers are guidelines for the correct age for the corresponding machine. The age was determined by SVIA, an industry group whose members include most of the major manufacturers of all terrain vehicles (ATVs), utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) and off-road motorcycles (ORMs).

In Minnesota you will find the “right fit” law on page 21 of the current Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) OHV Regulations booklet, available on the DNR website. When your rider takes a safety course through the DNR, instructors will be checking all riders to make sure they meet these fit requirements before taking the class.

Some safety features available on youth machines include a speed limiter, usually a throttle screw to limit the speed. Some machines also come with a fob or tether that parents walking alongside the rider can pull to shut off the machine if they are about to get into an unsafe situation. Most machines also have a spot to mount a safety flag, usually located behind the seat.

Rider Training
Once your young rider has an ATV that fits them, there are classes both online and in-person they must take in order to be certified to legally ride on public ATV trails in Minnesota. Riders 10 to 15 years old need to take the online course at the DNR website. Once they complete the course and print their certificate, they need to attend a hands-on course. They are taught by volunteers from ATV MN affiliated clubs, and trained by the DNR. Hands-on classes are listed on the DNR website. When certified riders reach 12 years old, they can ride on Grant-in-Aid ATV trails with someone who is 18 years or older who holds a valid driver’s license. The OHV Regulations booklet outlines these and other requirements and restrictions for riders under age 10, ages 10 and 11, 12 to 15, and 16 and 17. Anyone under age 15 may not operate a Class 2 ATV. 

Purchasing the right sized machine and getting the safety training will set up your rider for safety and enjoyment for years to come.

Free booklets helpful to parents are available as downloadable pdf’s from the ATV Safety Institute (ASI) website at

Chris Conroy is a member of the South Metro ATV Club, an ATV Safety Instructor, and a DNR-certified Trail Ambassador.