It’s not a matter of IF you get stuck while riding your ATV offroad but WHEN. An electric ATV winch is an indispensable tool which can make the difference between pulling yourself out of a sticky situation or spending the night in the wilderness beside your trusty ATV.
If you’re looking to buy a winch to extract yourself from the next bottomless mud bog, tow another stranded ATV out or simply to plow snow then read on for our detailed comparison chart and in-depth reviews of our top ATV winches for 2020.
Best ATV Winches 2020
A winch is an essential part of offroad ATV riding but buying the wrong one or the cheapest one could leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere with an expensive paperweight bolted to your ATV. While name brands such as Warn have pioneered the ATV winch industry, in recent years a number of competitors have emerged offering exceptional value for not a lot of money. On the flipside there is also more overpriced junk available which should be avoided at all costs. Not to worry though as we’ve done the hard work for you and sorted the winners from the losers.
|Line Speed |
|Superwinch Terra 35 |
|3500 lb||10.8 FPM||Steel Wire 50ft||Check Price on Amazon|
|Warn Vantage 4000||4000 lb||7.3 FPM||Steel Wire 55ft||Check Price on Amazon|
|Superwinch LT3000ATV||3000 lb||4 FPM||Steel Wire 50ft||Check Price on Amazon|
|Warn ProVantage 2500||2500 lb||N/A||Steel Wire 50ft||Check Price on Amazon|
|Superwinch LT4000ATV SR||4000 lb||7.5 FPM||Synthetic |
|Check Price on Amazon|
If these are new terms to you then check out our ATV Winch Guide to learn more.
1. Superwinch Terra 35
If you’re looking for the best ATV winch for the price, you can’t go wrong with the Superwinch Terra 35. Somehow the engineers at Superwinch have managed to design an unbeatable combination of excellent performance and impressive reliability all for an unbeatable “bang for your buck” price. The Terra 35 is around 50% cheaper than the Warn Vantage 4000 and boasts the fastest line speed in our comparison.
Featuring a very capable 3500 lb weight capacity from its 1.6 hp permanent magnet motor, surprisingly quiet and smooth operation, and a heavy duty 4-way roller fairlead, the Terra 35 is a hard act to follow.
Did we mention it comes with everything you need short of the mounting plate specific to your ATV brand/model? Yep, it includes the winch, 50ft steel cable, hook, 10′ wired remote, handlebar mounted thumb switch, solenoid relay, auto reset breaker/fuse, all necessary wiring, nuts & bolts and even comes with cable ties.
The included 10 foot wired remote comes in handy when winching heavy loads such as fallen trees or tree stumps since you have a much better view of what is happening while also staying out of harm’s way. If you plan on plowing snow with your ATV you may want to spend a little extra and opt for the synthetic rope model, the Terra 35 SR. This gives you a lighter and more flexible alternative to the steel cable which can end up kinked or damaged due to the acute bends and awkward angles often experienced when connected to an ATV snow plow. Combined with the included handlebar mounted rocker switch this winch gives you the perfect setup for clearing that overnight snowfall with ease. As far as physical dimensions go, the Terra 35 is fairly compact making it easier to install on ATVs with limited space for a winch.
Now onto the negatives but luckily they are few. The installation instructions aren’t great but that’s not a problem as we’ve found a great ATV winch installation video (for a very similar model) to help guide you through the process:
Also, the circuit breaker assembly is poorly insulated and isn’t fully waterproof. Your choices are either thoroughly wrap it in insulation tape, seal it with heatshrink or buy a higher quality waterproof replacement.
2. Warn Vantage 4000
Warn is likely the most widely known name in ATV winches. Developing the first recreational winch in 1959 and the industry’s first all terrain vehicle (ATV) winch in 1988, Warn deserves its reputation for pioneering specialized off road equipment. While the Vantage line represents their “value” offerings (ProVantage is the premium range) don’t let this deter you, this is a solid and reliable winch.
Boasting the longest-in-class 55ft wire rope, the Vantage 4000 is a solid contender for your hard earned dollars. Comparing the line speed of our top 3 ATV winches for the money with 3000 lb of weight, the Warn Vantage 4000 comes in at 7.3 FPM (feet per minute) which is slower than the Superwinch Terra 35 at 10.8 FPM but faster than the much cheaper Superwinch LT3000ATV’s glacial 4 FPM. Not a critical factor but something to keep in mind when it comes to the speed of winching. The Vantage 4000 also includes a 5 year limited mechanical warranty for added peace of mind.
Rest assured with this much grunt available this winch can definitely handle the heaviest ATVs without hesitation. Note: if you plan on using a snow plow on your ATV or UTV you should look at purchasing a replacement synthetic rope. This is because steel cables tend to kink and fray when pulled around tight bends such as from the winch drum around the lower roller fairlead and straight down to the snow plow winch attachment point.
The negatives are few and far between with this solid unit. A few customers found the included wires were too short but whether this is a problem for you will depend entirely on what brand and model of ATV you are installing it on. The biggest issue that may turn some people off is that Warn’s Vantage range of winches are all made in Asia now. While in this case it does not affect the quality of the product (which is great) it’s something to keep in mind if you wish to buy American Made.
3. Superwinch LT3000ATV
If 3000lb of pulling power is all you need and your budget is limited then take a look at the Superwinch LT3000ATV. We have no idea how Superwinch can offer so much value for such a small investment but here it is (we’re not Superwinch fanboys, honest!).
It includes a rugged all metal 3 stage planetary gear system, 3000lbs of pulling power, a 1.2 HP permanent magnet electric motor, a 50 ft durable wire cable, a solidly constructed 4-way roller fairlead, wiring harness, circuit breaker and a wired hand held remote control with a 12′ wire. The kit even includes a flat, universal mounting plate perfect for attaching to a receiver mount or any acceptable flat surface such as a flat front bumper. Note that you will still likely need to purchase a mounting plate specific to your ATV/UTV model.
Now to the negatives. Just like the Superwinch Terra 35 the LT3000ATV’s circuit breaker is not insulated or waterproof meaning you’ll want to carefully wrap it in insulation tape, seal it with heatshrink or purchase a higher quality waterproof replacement. Another common complaint is while the roller fairlead is solidly constructed, the rollers sometimes do not spin freely meaning the steel cable can wear grooves in the rollers in a short amount of time. Something to keep in mind but not a deal breaker by any means.
The steel rope is just 3/16″ which is thinner than the Terra 35 or Warn Vantage 4000 and a small number of customers have reported fraying and premature wear after limited use. Considering how popular these winches are we would take that with a grain of salt. Lastly, the LT3000ATV boasts a line speed of only 4 FPM (feet per minute) at 3000 lb of pulling force compared to the Terra 35’s claimed line speed of 10.8 FPM at the same 3000lb of pulling force, making the LT3000ATV over 2.5 times slower than the Terra 35.
4. Warn ProVantage 2500
While only offering 2500 lbs of weight capacity, the Warn ProVantage 2500 should not be overlooked. The ProVantage line is Warn’s premium range meaning it includes a limited lifetime mechanical warranty, a 3 year limited electrical warranty and all metal internal gears and housing making this a tough little unit you can depend on for years of abuse. All of this is backed by a company with an excellent reputation for making customers happy.
Other standard features at this price point include a three-stage planetary gear train for smooth, quiet operation, an ergonomic clutch handle for easy cable unwinding, Warn’s patented roller disc brake for excellent control while winching, a fully sealed, weatherproof motor which keeps mud and water out and a mini rocker control switch for use on your handlebars rounds it all out.
5. Superwinch LT4000ATV SR
The Superwinch LT4000ATV is very similar to the LT3000ATV winch reviewed earlier in this comparison. The main difference is the 4000lb load capacity delivered by the 1.4hp permanent magnet motor and the included Dyneema synthetic rope. These features are very impressive given the price point as 4000lb of pulling force is more than enough for any ATV, UTV or side by side.
The synthetic rope is another great addition as it’s much lighter and more flexible making it easier and safer to handle as there is no chance of slicing your bare hands open on a steel cable burr. The roller fairlead found on the steel cable LT3000ATV is also replaced with a polished CNC’d aluminum hawse for friction free contact with the synthetic rope.
Other standard features include a rugged, cut steel 3-stage planetary gear system and an automatic, 100% load holding mechanical and dynamic brake. The kit includes a circuit breaker, wiring harness, handlebar mounted rocker switch and a 12’ long wired handheld remote.
The only complaints customers had included the poorly insulated supplied circuit breaker (also a complaint on the Superwinch LT3000ATV and Terra 35) and lacklustre installation instructions. Neither of these problems are truly deal breakers though. Simply wrap the circuit breaker in insulation tape or purchase a waterproof replacement to minimize the chance of a short in the future. If you are even somewhat mechanically inclined or can use Google or YouTube (“how to wire an ATV winch”) you’ll be home free on the installation front.
That concludes our roundup of the top ATV winches available today. It’s interesting to see how relatively new brands such as Superwinch have been able to muscle in on the ATV winch market and put pressure on more well known and established brand names such as Warn and American made brands such as Ramsey. This is largely due to excellent quality control and smart design practices that allow Superwinch to manufacture all of its range in Asia and hit such competitive price points while continuing to offer solidly built and reliable products. Warn used to manufacture its ATV winches exclusively in the United States, but they have been forced to outsource to Asia in order to remain competitive as more winch brands enter the market.
As a consumer this is great news for you as more competition between winch brands means sharper prices and better value products as manufacturers compete to one-up each other on features and price. Whether you are buying a premium product that supports American jobs or are simply after maximum value for your hard earned dollar there is a winch available that will meet your needs and then some. In conclusion, you can’t go wrong with any of the winches on the list above. You only need to decide on your price point and what features are important to you before making the choice and ordering your new ATV winch.
ATV Winch Guide: Important Things To Know
Install It Yourself Or Let The Dealer Do It?
Buying an ATV winch and the specific mounting block for your ATV brand/model online will save you hundreds of dollars over dealership prices since they often only stock premium brands such as Warn or ATV brand specific winches. Don’t forget the steep installation costs of $200 to $300 which your local dealer will be all too happy to include. If you are even remotely mechanically minded or can follow the fairly simple installation instructions included with your winch or the many “how to” guides available online, you will be able to install it yourself and save hundreds of dollars at the same time.
What Weight Rating Is Right For Me?
If you’ve have a smaller ATV (under 400cc) or a sport quad then a 2000lb or 2500lb winch will be more than adequate. For larger ATVs (over 400cc) you’ll want to step up to a 3000lb or 3500lb winch which will cope with heavier loads without complaint. For UTVs and side by sides you’ll need a winch with some extra grunt so a 4000lb pulling capacity winch is highly recommended.
Wire Cable Or Synthetic Rope?
This choice depends on what you’ll be using your winch for. Both synthetic and wire rope require maintenance and care if you want them to last.
Steel cable, on the other hand, is exceptionally durable making it ideal for both ATV recovery and utility tasks such as removing tree stumps, rocks and more due to its high abrasion resistance. Damage from UV light is also not an issue with steel cable meaning it may be a better option for you if you seldom use your ATV winch. While steel cable weighs considerably more than synthetic rope, it can also corrode over time and develop sharp burrs from improper or careless use.
Careless or improper use may include allowing the cable to tangle when winding back onto the winch drum, repeatedly operating the cable at sharp angles such as with ATV snow plows or looping the cable around trees or rocks and simply hooking the cable back on itself (always use a strap). Because of this we would highly recommend you always use heavy gloves to keep your hands safe whenever handling your steel winch cable. Better safe than sorry, right?
Power Source And Efficiency
Modern ATV winches are all electric – that is to say they attach directly to the battery of your ATV for power. A small number of high end full-size off roading winches are driven via hydraulic power but this type of winch would be overkill for an ATV as winches of this calibre are designed for very heavy loads and extreme operating conditions. If your ATV battery is healthy then an electric ATV winch is completely adequate for use on your ATV, UTV or side by side.
Efficiency is an important part of choosing the right ATV winch. A winch with a motor which requires high amps combined with an old or weak battery is a recipe for disaster. Your battery will end up quickly drained and your ATV or the object you were trying to move won’t have gone far. Rest assured all the winches in our comparison are permanent magnet motors which are more energy efficient than their cheaper and inferior series-wound predecessors.
The only negative to permanent-magnet motors are their tendency to overheat more easily. Taking into account that your ATV winch will only be pulling lighter loads (compared to a truck winch), this minor drawback is not something to worry about.
Deciding what size ATV winch to buy generally comes down to load capacity. The more your ATV, UTV or side by side weighs the higher the load capacity you require in a winch. Aim for a load capacity that is significantly more than the weight of your fully loaded vehicle as you need to account for any added resistance such as that deep mud bog that is halfway up the side of your stuck 4 wheeler.
ATV winches commonly use either mechanical brakes or dynamic brakes. A mechanical brake physically locks the winch drum while dynamic brakes utilize a gear system to stop the drum from rotating. Either system should be more than adequate for ATV winching usage, but keep in mind mechanical brakes are less prone to slipping while holding a heavy load.
While line speed might not seem that important when you’re comparing different ATV winches, once your ATV is buried up to its axles in soft sand or black bog mud that winch drum just cannot turn quickly enough. Don’t let the numbers fool you though as some manufacturers will quote the line speed without any load attached which will make it seem much faster than it really is. We’ve hunted down all the numbers that actually matter and have listed the line speed of every applicable winch in our comparison chart using a 3000 lb weight load.
Now you’re all caught up to speed on the terminology and important specs to look for when choosing an ATV winch. Head back up to the comparison chart and winch reviews to find the perfect winch for you.
Header photo credit: Justin Matley