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Before you buy a muscled-up all-terrain vehicle (ATV), it's a good idea to find out if it's the right ride for you. Here's what you need to know before you go off-road.

Do Your Homework Research vehicles before you step into a dealership and start working with a salesperson. Check the specs and compare them against other models on the market to know what you're buying and what it costs compared with the competitors. The website for manufacturer Polaris, for example, lists models in categories such as Recreational and Utility or Performance and Utility, along with starting prices. Ask about loans, rebates or financing. If you currently own an ATV, it may have trade-in value.

Did You Know?

228,300 ATVs were sold to customers in the United States in 2013.

Who's the Rider? You're buying, but who's riding? Is it a recreational vehicle for your kid? Read more...▼

Are you using it to carry cargo? Will you carry a passenger? These factors can determine the size, capacity, design and horsepower of your purchase.

Ask for a Warranty If you're buying from a dealer, ask about a warranty, and make sure the model you're considering has never been the subject of a recall. You can find up-to-date recall information on at recalls.gov, a site maintained by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and other federal agencies.

When Buying Used... Buying a used vehicle requires more due diligence on your part. Check the driveline—ATV axles take a beating and can show a lot of wear if they've been abused. If you notice any crunching or grinding in the driveline, get the vehicle checked by a mechanic. Give the frame a good look, too. ATVs are made for rough riding, so look for obvious signs of wear and tear, like bent steel around the shock towers where they attach to the frame. Cracks in factory paint or rust on the welds may also be signs of covered-up repairs. Put the vehicle on a level surface and look at it from the front and rear. If it's sitting crooked, it's been damaged.

When buying a used ATV from an individual, it's up to you to sort through registration, title transfers and past inspection forms to make sure the vehicle is both safe and legal.

Tips for ATV Maintenance

Oil: Follow manufacturer instructions for oil filters and drain plugs. The filter should only be as tight as you can twist it. The drain plug bolt must adhere to a specific torque spec.

Tires: Underinflated tires could cause you to lose control and lead to uneven tread wear.

Gas: Poor-quality fuel can wreak havoc on your spark plugs and upset the timing of your engine. Be sure to change your plugs at least twice a year.

Grips: Make sure your grips are secure before every ride so that you can have the best control possible. Keep a bottle of grip glue in the toolbox.