Chinese branded (off brand) atvs are increasingly becoming a legitimate part of the motor sports market, are they right for you?
There are many opinions. Most opinions are based, not on personal experience, but rather their general perceptions, of foreign made products. In most cases they have inaccurate information.
What is a China made ATV?
A Chinese ATV is a less expensive ATV. The way in which business is done in China, there might be a handful of actual ATV manufacturing facilities. This is done because these handful of manufactures can purchase supplies in very large quantities. This is why it is possible to offer these units at a much lower cost. In most cases this causes the ATV’s to look very similar. The factory produces the ATV to the specifications of the purchaser or exporter. So it is common for competing brands to be made in the same factory. The same thing happens here in the USA. For example, the store brand products vs name brand. They are made in the same manufacturing plant but the packaging is different. Chinese ATV’s use just a handful of proven air cooled engines, Lifan, Jialing, or Zongshen. These engines are based off Japanese tooling and design. Some water cooled engines are proprietary and some are based on brand name engines. To be clear, they are not exact copies of the brand names. However, there are many resellers of these engines in the USA that are used in other industries and they are performing well. The frames of these Chinese units are built to the exporter/importers specs and usually are not manufactured the same as name brands. Oddly enough we found Chinese frames and suspension, especially in youth ATV’s are superior in design to the name brands. The other myth that needs to be cleared up is regarding parts. Parts are readily available, ATV’s and the parts are manufactured by the same plant in most cases.
A Chinese made ATV is less expensive to purchase accessories for. In a 2017 poll, it was found that the average ATV owner spent an additional $1700 on accessories. These accessories ranged from engine modifications to bag/racks. If purchasing a brand name ATV, this would make the brand name ATV even more expensive than if you purchased a Chinese made ATV. For example, Chinese youth ATV costs $850, plus $1K in accessories your cost of ownership is $1800. Brand name purchase would be $7000. Why spend $7K for a unit that your youth will outgrow or lose interest in within a few years.
What is a China made ATV not?
A Chinese ATV is not a high performance, race, or competition unit. A Chinese ATV is typically not dealer prepared. Yes the unit is fully assembled (not true for units purchased online) but the seller does not perform the PDI, set up, break-in, and first oil change to replace the light weight oil used by the manufacture that is needed to start the unit for the first time, but cannot be used after the break in period. For the non-handy and uniformed buyer their experience with the unit did not perform as expected or might have needed frequent maintenance in the first 5 hours of use. This is usually the source of negative feedback when it comes to these types of buyers of Chinese made ATV’s.
Who is an ideal candidate for a Chinese manufactured ATV?
Chinese ATV’s cannot be directly compared to the other major ATV brands because of their vast dealer network. These dealer networks require more profit margins and result in more overhead costs which require the high selling price.
The ideal candidate (family) for buying one of these ATV’s is:
1. Handy – For example, can change oil on their car. (not mechanically challenged)
2. Troubleshooting patients (problem solving logic)
a. Willing to research a problem or fix. Using internet search engines, YouTube, social media, and friends or even friends of friends.
3. A variety of tools that go beyond just having a small drawer in the kitchen with a few screwdrivers and a tape measure in it.
4. Willing to inspect and complete the pre-ride procedures. For example, tighten all bolts.
5. Purchaser does not require 100% of their needs covered by a dealer. Also one that requires warranty/maintenance/service programs.
In short, if you are not mechanically inclined these units may not be your best option.
What is next?
If after reading the above and you have the basic skills listed above, a Chinese made ATV might be a great option for you and your family. Low cost entry point with high end rewards for the family.
Yes you can search the internet for Chinese made ATV’s. You will find more than enough sites to purchase from. Just realize the unit will come in a steel crate and you will need to perform the initial assembly and then the dealer prep items. Do your homework. Read reviews, posts on ATV forum sites. If you use forum sites you will need to read through the negative comments about China made ATV’s to get to the meat. Remember, 95% of the negativity comes from uninformed buyers that are not mechanically inclined and ignore the advice in articles like this. Get to the unbiased information. Sites to check out are www.chinariders.net and www.thumpertalk.com.
You should first look for a local dealer that specializes in Chinese made ATV’s. You will still get the low cost of ownership but you will be supporting a local company that is providing employment opportunities to the community. Yes parts are easily found on the internet but this local company might have a service department that can help you with parts. Furthermore, if they do not have a service/parts department they will know local experts than can assist you.
Another advantage to China Made units other than a low cost of ownership is the low costs allow an entire family to get involved in this outdoor activity. It has been reported the lower entry costs have increased the number of female and children riders, truly making this outdoor activity an entire family activity. Riding ATV’s can go from simple day rides to weekend trips to ATV parks. These parks offer hotel or camping opportunities. If the family loses interest in the activity then the low cost entry point was an advantage over the expensive brand names.
It is not advised to purchase a used China made ATV. In most cases it was not assembled properly, correct engine break in, oil changes, and regular bolt tightening. The used unit will become more expensive to repair than it would be to purchase a new one and perform the proper maintenance.
If you are handy and willing to spend the time doing the required maintenance, they can be great, long lasting ATV’s making there low purchase price well worth it. If you are not prepared or do not want to perform preventative maintenance, then these units may not be for you.
A Chinese ATV can be a good value provided it is properly broke-in, maintained, and is not abused beyond what it was designed to do.