Best ATV winch

Recreational Sports

An ATV rider tackles a forest trail.

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Which ATV winch is the best?

The number-one reason for having an ATV winch is to rescue yourself if you get stuck. So you need to be able to depend on it — even though it spends most of its life covered in mud and dirt.

Not sure where to start? Our favorite is the Warn 4,500-Pound ATV Winch. It’s a powerful unit from a manufacturer with an outstanding reputation for reliability, so you know you can trust it to get you out of trouble.

What to know before you buy an ATV winch

Pulling power

Your winch needs to be powerful enough to pull your ATV through mud, over rocks and other challenging terrain. So the force required should be greater than what’s needed simply to shift the weight of your vehicle. The margin that’s usually used is 1.5 times the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), which will be marked in your documentation. So, for example, if your ATV has a GVWR of 2,000 pounds, you want a winch rated for at least 3,000 pounds.

Rope or cable?

Steel cable is going to be stronger than rope, right? Not necessarily. Not only are today’s synthetic ropes capable of handling equal or greater loads, they do less damage in the unlikely event that they do break. That said, steel cable has greater resistance to abrasion, so it may last longer. It’s usually cheaper, too. Of course, synthetic rope won’t rust, so if your ATV spends a lot of time running through water, you’ll want to consider that aspect. It’s important to spend some time thinking about usage. While replacement rope or cable is not particularly expensive, your winch may not be designed to handle the alternative material.

What to look for in a quality ATV winch

Controls can be handlebar mounted, fitted in the ATV’s console, remote or any combination. However, bear in mind that “remote” does not mean wireless; there will still be a cable, so you might want to check length. Electrics for the motor are generally well protected, but an IP rating means they have been independently tested as waterproof — you’re not just taking the maker’s word for it. Circuit breakers are fitted to some winches to stop the motor from burning out if there’s a danger of it overheating.

How much you can expect to spend on an ATV winch

Good entry-level models can be relatively inexpensive, starting at around $100. For top-quality winches, you’ll pay somewhere between $200 for a 2,500-pound model with steel cable and up to $450 for a 4,500-pound model carrying synthetic rope.

ATV winch FAQ

Are ATV winches easy to install?

A. If you understand the electrical system of your ATV, yes. Connections are straightforward. Depending on the winch you buy, you may need a mounting bracket, but attaching it is only a question of tightening up a few nuts and bolts.

What is a fairlead?

A. It’s the guide for the cable or rope. If you’ve got synthetic rope, a static aluminum or steel one (called a hawse) is OK, but if you’re using steel cable you need a roller fairlead, otherwise, the cable will eventually wear a groove and prevent proper winding/unwinding.

What’s the best ATV winch to buy? 

Top ATV winch

Warn’s 4,500-pound ATV Winch

Warn 4,500-pound ATV Winch

What you need to know: This winch has a high-power motor and renowned durability and is available in 2,500-pound and 3,500-pound ratings.

What you’ll love: The tough all-metal construction is rated waterproof to IP68 standard. You have a choice of dash mounted or remote control. There is a mechanical load-holding brake for maximum safety. You have a choice of synthetic rope or steel cable.

What you should consider: The mounting bracket is extra. The length of connecting wires can cause problems.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top ATV winch for the money

Champion’s 3,000-pound ATV Winch Kit

Champion 3,000-pound ATV Winch Kit

What you need to know: This fully featured model from a trusted brand is ideal for smaller vehicles.

What you’ll love: The reliable one-horsepower motor is fitted with 49 feet of steel cable and heavy-duty latched hook. It has a four-way roller fairlead. The mounting bracket is included. It is a great value for the money.

What you should consider: The build quality is inconsistent. Some users question the 3,000-pound rating.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Superwinch’s 3,500-pound ATV Winch

Superwinch 3,500-pound ATV Winch

What you need to know: This midrange model has more than enough power for many and is competitively priced.

What you’ll love: Substantial steel drive gears and bronze bearings should ensure long operating life. Solenoid is sealed to keep out water. It has a handlebar and remote operation with a four-roller fairlead.

What you should consider: There have been some reports of solenoid or winding problems. Some owners are critical of support.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Bob Beacham writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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