How do you employ the utility factor of your UTV? Are you looking for something to enhance your current setup? Winches are often overlooked, but they complement any side-by-side’s setup. Take a look at these important items to consider when choosing a UTV winch.

UTV Using a Warn Winch on a Rocky Trail

What Elements Matter with UTV Winches?

Every winch manufacturer is going to talk up its important features, and sometimes a lot of product description is just fluff. So what really matters when it comes to picking out a winch for your side-by-side? While other things are important, a lot of times the significant thing to look at is the weight rating and the cable.

UTVs Riding Along a Desert Trail

Weight Rating

Winches are not usually differentiated by UTVs or ATVs. That means that when you’re shopping for a winch, you’re probably going to see products that really aren’t appropriate for side-by-sides. So how do you tell the difference? It mostly comes down to the weight rating.

UTVs weigh much more than quads, so you’re going to need a rather high weight rating. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to look at winches in the 4000 lb. range (or even higher, depending on your needs). A 3500 lb. winch will work in some circumstances, but if you dip down into the 3000 lb. range or lower, you might find yourself equipped with a winch that just doesn’t have the pulling power that you need. If you own a UTV on the heavier side of the spectrum, you might want to set the minimum even higher than that.

Of course, you may find that your needs differ based on the kind of riding that you do. If you just need a winch to operate a snow plow during the winter, you can get by with a winch with a far lower weight rating. If you plan on doing some mud riding and want something to pull you out if you get stuck, you’re probably going to want a winch rated at 4000-4500 lbs. at a minimum in order to combat the mud’s suction effect.

Green UTV with Nose (Sporting a Winch) in the Air


There are two types of cable: wire and synthetic. While synthetic rope is newer and often generates more hype, both have their specific advantages and disadvantages.

Warn Winch Cable Options
Winch with a Wire Rope


Winch with a Synthetic Rope


Wire rope is composed of many small strands of steel wire wound spirally. Because it isn’t unusual for individual strands to break, it’s best to wear gloves to protect the hands. Synthetic rope is made of synthetic fibers and is usually safe to touch. It’s a lot stronger than wire rope of an equivalent diameter.
Wire rope is relatively heavy since it is made out of steel. Synthetic rope is lightweight. It even floats, so it’s excellent for recreational riders who love mud and bogs.
Wire rope is more resistant to abrasion. This makes it a great choice when used for work where the winch needs to be used often. Synthetic rope will wear out more quickly when it is repetitively rubbed against different surfaces.
Wire rope is heat resistant. Synthetic rope can be damaged from excessive heat caused by too much use in a given period of time.
Wire rope naturally stores a lot of built-up energy, so in the event that it breaks, it can whip back dangerously, causing damage to you or your side-by-side. It’s a good idea to place something heavy over the top (like a blanket or a broken tree branch) when in use. This can diminish the whiplash effect. Synthetic rope is much safer if it breaks and generally doesn’t create a whiplash. In an emergency, you can even tie a knot in it (though this can reduce its strength).
Wire rope is cheaper. Synthetic rope is more expensive.

Aside from the material of the cable, you’ll also want to consider its length. Most UTV winches come with 50’ of cable. You might be tempted into thinking that more would be better, but it’s often not. The winch’s weight rating is based on the first layer of line. To use your winch’s full power, you’ll need to spool out most of your cable. If you feel like you might need more than 50’, a better solution is to carry an extension with you.

Sometimes product descriptions will include the rope diameter – especially when you’re looking to buy replacement cable. As a general rule, a larger diameter results in more strength.

Warn Winch Mounted on an Arctic Cat

Other Considerations

Aside from the weight rating and cable, there are a few other things you may want to take note of.

Some winches come with a mount plate, but many do not. This means that if your side-by-side doesn’t come standard with a mount plate, you’ll probably need to purchase this separately.

Similarly, some winches are designed specifically for a particular machine or brand. For example, Polaris makes several great winches. If you own a Polaris side-by-side, this can be great since it is pre-wired. Other manufacturers (like Warn or Tusk) make universal winches that will work with any UTV as long as a mount plate exists for it.

Of course, price is also a consideration. You’ll find that price varies significantly between brands. After that, both the weight rating and the choice between wire rope and synthetic rope can create a significant price gap.

Don’t neglect reading the product description when shopping for winches. They often include little details that may be an important part of your purchasing decision.

Two UTVs Sporting Different Winches


Now that you know what to look for in a winch, head over to the winch section at Rocky Mountain ATV/MC. You’ll find a variety of winches, mount plates and accessories to get your UTV equipped and ready to roll.

What other things do you like to look for in a side-by-side winch? Let us know in the comments.