UTVs are for work, too

Features - Equipment Focus

Utility vehicles aren’t solely for fun anymore – landscapers have been using them in various capacities.

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January 8, 2020

Utility vehicles aren’t just for fun. Landscapers are putting their expanded capabilities to work.
Photo courtesy of Kubota

The utility vehicle market is in the midst of a boom.

Already wildly popular, sales of UTVs are only expected to grow thanks to their versatility, power, and expanding model lines and capabilities.

A recent study by BrandEssence Market Research estimates that the UTV market will reach $6.47 billion in sales by 2025 – an average compound annual growth rate of almost 7% per year over the next five years.

While UTVs have been available on the market for years, their popularity in a wide range of sectors – from lawn and landscape work to farming, hunting, golf course and even hotel/resort maintenance – has driven new suppliers into the market for the first time and encouraged longtime manufacturers to expand their UTV product lines to fit growing demand.

The versatility of the vehicles is part of what’s driving their appeal.

“I went to a meeting of a professional grounds and maintenance society, and it was amazing how many fleets of our machines are at luxury hotels, or are being used by crews to spray applications on center islands of roads or on college grounds or other large properties,” says Roger Gifford, product marketing manager with Kubota.

Thanks to available add-ons like salt spreaders and snowplows or snowblowers, many units have true year-round usability. “At a (GIE+EXPO) snow and ice management meeting last year, before I could even start presenting, people were coming up to me saying, ‘Oh, we’re familiar with your (UTV) product. We run a fleet of 10 to 12,’” Gifford says. “They were using them everywhere from commercial sites to colleges to city sidewalks and railroad yards for ice and snow removal.”

New Models Coming

Last year, Greenworks unveiled its new, electric-powered CU800 UTV, which has a 1,500-pound hitch towing capacity and runs up to 60 miles on a single charge of its 13.8 kilowatt-hour lithium battery.

“With a 12-inch clearance and 10-inch suspension, it can go pretty much anywhere off-road,” says Corey Fisher, Greenworks’ vehicle engineer. “For landscapers, it’s a very capable vehicle that can easily go up and down hills around properties, and with a 550-pound cargo capacity bed, you can store equipment and whatever tools you need for the job, along with two occupants.”

Greenworks also offers a smaller UTV – the CU500 – which offers a 1,250-pound hitch towing capability and 330 pounds of cargo capacity and is able to travel up to 70 miles on a single charge. Being electric, both UTVs are emissions free and essentially silent to run.

“These (two models) are the first UTVs that we’re coming out with, and we have a road plan ahead of us, where we’re going to be coming out with more models,” Fisher says. “This is just the first of many. The market is quite large and has everything from small, Gator-style vehicles to huge, four-person off-road units. This is our first foray into the market, and we plan on filling each of those categories with a unit.”

Focusing on factors like fuel type, speed and preferred rider capacity could help you decide which UTV is right for your crews. Left: Greenworks entered the UTV market in 2018.
Photo courtesy of Kioti

Tailored UTV for Every Job

Kubota’s RTV-X1120 first launched in 2014, with an expanded line of new models hitting the market for 2018 production. “The original one was more of a deluxe model, then we introduced a worksite model and one that we call a general-purpose model,” says Gifford. “So, we have expanded the model offerings within that line.”

The diesel-powered RTV-X1120 product line now includes six distinct models, allowing customers to select from among a range of towing, power and cargo capacities to best suit their work needs.

“With a general-purpose model, you don’t have a hydraulic bed lift. You just have a base bumper in the front, and you don’t have tilt wheel. So, if you look at a nursery or garden center and you’re just using it to move potted plant material around the property, you don’t really need the hydraulic capacity of the bed,” Gifford says. “In a landscape application, maybe crews are pruning trees and want to (use the UTV) catch brush and get it in the bed. It’s good for that general purpose type of work.”

For a step up in power, Kubota’s X1120 worksite model offers fully hydraulic power steering, Gifford says. “The benefit there is that it has absolutely no steering wheel kickback when you’re going over rough terrain. That really enhances the comfort for the customer. And when you’re in extremely muddy conditions and under payload, the hydraulic (power) really makes it very easy to steer the machine.”

“Our motor can actually vary, so when an operator eases off on it, it will actually expand and change the hydraulic ratio to give the machine more power to make it more efficient during working tasks,” Gifford says.

For crews needing even larger cargo capacity, the Kubota RTV-X1140 offers a cleverly designed, adaptable cargo bed that can convert to second-row seating when not in use for hauling. “You can convert from a 10 cubic foot bed to a 19.1 cubic foot bed in under a minute,” Gifford says.

Kubota also recently introduced a new, gas-powered line of UTVs – its Sidekick series – built for durability plus speed. Faster than Kubota’s diesel models (which top out at around 29 mph), the Sidekick can reach speeds of 40 mph.

“Landscape crews should investigate the tasks that will be performed with a UTV in order to select the right UTV for the job,” says Amy Peyton Vincent, UTV product specialist for Caterpillar.

The company currently offers four UTV models: the CUV82 (2-seat, gas-powered); CUV102 (2-seat, diesel-powered); the CUV85 (5-seat, gas-powered); and the CUV105 (5-seat, diesel-powered).

“Our CAT UTVs are designed to deliver durability, comfort and maintenance simplicity while enjoying a smooth ride on any terrain,” Vincent says. “All four models boast 1,000-pound capacity in the bed and 2,000-pound towing capacity.

The gas models reach speeds over 45 mph and the diesel models can reach 25 mph. Of course, opting for a multi-row UTV allows you to carry around more passengers on the worksite.”

When deciding which UTV is right for your crew, Vincent suggests focusing on three central features: fuel or power type (gas, diesel, or electric); speed required for the job at hand; and preferred rider capacity (one row versus two).

Designed for Work

Photo courtesy of Greenworks

A key part of UTVs’ versatility is their compact size and maneuverability, allowing crews to do jobs even in the tightest of spaces – as well as the flexibility and freedom to cover large properties or fields with ease.

“Our machines are work machines. You can load your chainsaws, your firewood, your hay bales, whatever you need for fixing feces or going out and working in the field, that’s what they’re geared for,” says Joel Hicks, product development manager for KIOTI. “They’re a great fit for any off-road applications. These machines are certainly able to withstand the rigors of the environment and get you where you want to go.”

Currently, KIOTI offers two diesel-powered UTV lines, the MECHRON and the K9, available in multiple models. Both the MECHRON 2240 and the K9 2400 offer 1,598 pounds of payload capacity and 1,300 pounds of towing capacity, but the K9 features a slightly more sporty design.

“The K9 is our newest vehicle. It offers a few upgrades on creature comfort and storage,” Hicks says. “We started shipping those in late spring (2018), and we have seen an uptick in UTV sales since we launched that. That product has been well received by dealers and customers as well.”

Most manufacturers offer a range of add-ons and accessories to increase rider comfort and safety, from glass windshields and windshield wipers to safety lights, backup alarms, roof canopies, head rests, USB ports and more.

Caterpillar UTVs offer behind-seat storage areas, a glove box, dash storage and even cup holders. They also offer as much leg, elbow and headroom for riders in the second row as for those in the front seat, Vincent says.

On CAT UTVs, several safety upgrades come standard, including a horn, three-point seat belts, “certified steel tube ROPS (rollover prevention system), and a display system that includes advanced diagnostics,” Vincent says.

“Using the gas models’ display system, a top speed can be set and locked using the protective password so owners can set exactly how fast they want their machines traveling,” Vincent says.

All these features help ensure crews stay safe and comfortable while on the job – and that the task at hand gets done seamlessly.

“Our machines are really geared toward the work sector,” Hicks says. “They have large beds on them – roughly 59 to 60 inches wide. They have excellent ground clearance. They all have four-wheel drive, independent suspension, rear differential-lock, front-limited slip. They are capable of getting into and out of tight spaces.”

“UTVs combine the benefits of ATVs and pickup trucks into one easy to maneuver vehicle,” Vincent says. “They merge the load hauling and towing capacities crews want with the lightweight, off-road vehicle they need in the field.”

The author is a freelance writer based in Kentucky.