Parents walk into dealerships across the country looking to buy ATV’s for their children. When approached buy a salesman and they ask to be shown an ATV for their 8 year old son, they are told they cannot buy an ATV for any child under the age of 12. This law was enacted for the safety of children and is based on the size of the ATV. Major manufacturers like Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Polaris have warning labels on every ATV clearly stating the age recommendations for that particular model ATV. With a handful of products available for children from the age of 12 to 16, the majority of ATV’s are recommended for those 16 years and older.
Parents are often angered when they are told they “cannot” purchase the ATV once they have told any employee of the dealership that the child is under age 9. They often leave and go to another dealership and when asked, they lie about the riders’ age in order to buy the vehicle. Some parents go so far as to tell dealerships that they will just lie at another dealer, in an effort to get that dealership to sell them the vehicle, but they are still turned away. One of the reasons for the dealership’s insistence on following this law is the number of “secret shoppers” that work for both the manufacturers and the government. A dealer could lose his license and/or his franchise for knowingly selling an ATV when the rider is under the recommended age.
While some people think this is too much government interference, there are valid reasons for these age restrictions. Often parents feel four wheels are better than two, yet what they don’t realize is that the smallest of ATV’s weighs over 250 pounds. Even with the proper gear on, this is an obstacle no small child can overcome or push off him or herself in the event of an accident. And, although the child may be physically large enough to operate the ATV, there is a level of maturity and judgment involved in safely riding an adult sized all-terrain vehicle. Since this law was enacted, there was a significant decrease in accidents among children on ATV’s. On the surface it may appear as a law created to ban children from riding ATV’s, but instead, it is an effort to create awareness to parents why young children should not ride adult size ATV’s.
An alternative, often recommended by dealers, is a dirt bike that fits the size and experience of any age child. The smaller dirt bikes come with cut off switches, restrictors and other features that can be adjusted as the child gains experience. The middle size dirt bikes come with semi-automatic clutches that allow the child to learn how to properly use a clutch on something they can handle, as opposed to a 500+ pound utility ATV with a manual 5 speed transmission.
So, before you put your child on an ATV that may be labeled as too large for him, or leave a dealership angry because they won’t sell you what you want, realize that there are legitimate reasons for both. It’s ultimately the parent’s decision, but a little bit of knowledge can go a long way, knowledge a parent is entitled too when they are making the decision to purchase something for their child.
Have you ever had an experience with a dealership that wouldn’t sell you an ATV for your child? Did you buy the ATV somewhere else? Or did you bring home a shiny new dirt bike? We’d love to hear your story.