Best ATV/UTV Winches To Invest Your Money

Is an ATV winch necessary? Definitely.  An ATV winch will help you to haul loads and at the same time, get you out of various tough situations that you might find yourself in. If you don’t have a winch, it could be difficult as well as complicated to pull your ATV which is stuck from the mud, or it could be that, the hill before you are too steep for your ATV to climb.

When in the market, you will be able to come across various ATV winches and choosing the best out of the many can be very complicated. You need not to worry as I am here to assist in making the process easier for you. You will know what to consider before removing your money and placing it in whatever ATV winch that will meet your specification.

Top Best 6 ATV/UTV Winches on Amazon:

#1. Smittybilt Synthetic Rope Winch – 10000 lb Load Capacity

#2. 3500 lbs Superwinch 1135220 Terra 35

#3. WARN 89020 Winch – 2000 lb Capacity – Vantage 2000 Winch

#4. Champion 4500 lb UTV/ATV Winch Kit - Wireless

#5. Bravex Electric 12V 3500 lb Single Line WaterProof Winch for ATV UTV Boat

#6. Viper Midnight 4500 lb UTV/ATV Winch Kit with a Synthetic Rope, 50 feet

Best ATV/UTV Winches Reviews

I can attest to the functionality and reliability of this particular winch since I have personally used it. So if you are a serious offloader, the Smittybilt Synthetic rope 98510 might be what you should purchase. Though it might be expensive, it is worth all the money you will invest in it. From its wide range of features to its quality which is of high standards, getting this product might make you have a companion who will be able to pull you out of all kinds of situations which are sticky while out there in the woods.

It has a motor which is a potent, gear system which is a sophisticated and long synthetic line. It is powered by a 6.6 HP motor which produces a maximum of 10,000 pounds. Its quality assurance is backed by a list of warranties which comes with this particular product.

Features that should make you go for the product include:

  • Its 99 pounds weight
  • It is a weatherproof winch
  • It comes with a lifetime warranty on the mechanical and a 5-year warranty on the electricals.
  • It can pull a maximum of 10,000 pounds which is equivalent to 4,535kgs
  • The cable diameter is 3/8 inches with its length being 98.5 inches long
  • It comes with a 6 HP series wound motor
  • It has a black textured finish to protect it from harmful UV rays and corrosion.
  • It has a remote control switch that has a 12-foot working radius
  • The braking system is automatic out of drum type
  • It is a 3 stage planetary gear system
  • It has a sliding ring gear clutch
  • The gear ratio is 218:1

When I saw my dad purchase this particular winch, I had my reservation about it. To me, it seemed like it will be too inexpensive to work as well as the other super winch which I have for my Jeep. It is a winch which is very affordable for a winch in its class that is rated up to 3500 pounds and that is what made me be very skeptical. I asked my dad if I could try it out to erase my doubts because he was all praises about it.

When he bought it, it came packaged with all the mounting hardware. When I tried to fix it, I was surprised at how fast I could do the fixing up to my ATV. I liked how safe the winch is built to feel. It has a dynamic braking and mechanical load holding which serves as a backup in case there is power failure which I found to be a great idea by the manufacturer.

I was also surprised by the ergonomic free spool control that this unit has. It is like this particular winch is equipped with all the failsafe you could ever encounter, and that is what made me feel that you will never get it wrong with it.

Though it looks small, it is strong. I used it for 7 different times and it ran seamlessly. I won’t be shocked it could be able to pull even more weight than the one indicated by the manufacturer.  It has strong power in a small case.

Its size makes it great for even the smallest ATV you might be having. My ATV is average size and it worked well.  To say the least, this winch is portable, easy and safe for beginners, and has one of the highest pulling capacities for a winch as compact as it is.

It is the perfect combination of weight capacity, price, and size. It is a winch which is all round great and it is one that I would strongly recommend for anyone who is not yet sure what kind of winch they are looking for in the market. I consider it to be one size fit it all types of the winch.

Features that should make you go for the product include:

  • It operates with magnet motors which are sealed
  • Toggle switch which is user-friendly
  • It has a mechanical load holding
  • The hook has a thimble and it is strong and durable
  • The brake is dynamic
  • It has the capacity to load power in and out

3. WARN 89020 Winch – 2000 lb Capacity – Vantage 2000 Winch

It offers more power compared to other competing brands which are within the same capacity. You could consider purchasing it if you have a lighter and smaller ATV, with its power allowing it to compete with a large variety of tasks and be able to complete with ease.

It is a model which is great and I consider it to be an all-round winch as I observed while my friend James was using it when we went out in the woods and got stuck. It offers superior performance at a very affordable price.

It is a unit which has a lot to offer as compared to other competing brands with features such as synthetic rope, smooth planetary gear train, powerful motor, sealed motor and weatherproof.  It also has a corded remote, meaning that, you can operate it remotely while you are in your comfort zone in or out of your ATV.

If you decide that this is your winch of choice, you have an option of choosing between synthetic alternative or a sturdy aircraft steel cable. Its 50 ft is a big advantage as it will enable you to tow without having to struggle mounting it.

It could be one of the best options for trail riders who want a good car recovery which can also be used as a winch for lighter duties.

Features which should make you go for it include:

  • It has a gear train differential planetary
  • The gear ratio is 155:1
  • The fairlead is a roller
  • It contains the power to pull heavy duty in whatever situation you will find yourself in
  • The powder coated fairlead will reduce the wear and tear of your rope
  • It is able to resist corrosion via its resistant finish.
  • It has a sturdy design which is of a unique style

It is a winch which is powered by a 12V battery which enables it to get a maximum power rating of 4500 lb.  I got to use it with my grandpa ATV and I found it to be a good option for rescuing ATV with a power that is very much reliable.

It has planetary gears and the braking system is dynamic, making it operate on a 180:1 gear ratio. It has a cable made from galvanized aircraft grade material that contains a roller fairlead to ensure that you are safe if the cable snaps during operation. It also comes with wireless remote control, a mini rocker switch, mounting channel, and cables.

Its housing has a permanent magnet motor which makes it possible for the winch to get its maximum power. The standard feature that I saw on this unit included a rugged clevis hook and a spooling clutch. According to the user manual, the manufacturer offers a two-year warranty which is limited to parts and bonus accessories.

I got to experience it first hand on one weekend out in the woods and it didn’t disappoint. The features that might make you consider purchasing it include:

  • It has a free spooling clutch and a cum action
  • It has a mounting channel
  • It has a roller fairlead
  • It has a sturdy and strong power contractor which is inbuilt
  • It is has a heavy-duty aircraft cable which is galvanized
  • It has a wireless switch
  • It has a remote system
  • Comes with a 2-year limited manufacturer’s warranty and technical support
  • The efficient and planetary dynamic braking system

5. Bravex Electric 12V 3500 lb Single Line WaterProof Winch for ATV UTV Boat

It is designed to accommodate the needs of basic 4x4. If you need substantial pulling power, this could be the winch to place your money on. It is a winch which was designed to fit most 4x4 vehicles, as well as RVs, trailers, and other sized vehicles.

This unit is easy to use and it can also make it an excellent utility winch. Other features that you will get in the Bravex Electrical 12V include a lever action free spooling clutch which will allow you to disengage the motor and it will ensure that much of the winch rope is drawn out as much as you can.

Features that might make you to purchase this product include:

  • Super protection packaging
  • Has high power motor drive which is steady and strong
  • Durable and great looking
  • Durable dependability due to the all-metal gearing
  • Has a 4-way roller Fairlead which will be able to guide the rope into the drum in an even manner.
  • It has a reliable, smooth and durable three-stage planetary gear train
  • A sensitive remote control
  • Very fast line speeds
  • Superior winching control due to exclusive brake designs
  • Easy installation
  • Anti sediment and waterproof

6. Viper Midnight 4500 lb UTV/ATV Winch Kit with a Synthetic Rope, 50 feet

I escorted my friend Levy to go and purchase a winch two weeks ago and I was shocked when he settled for this particular one. According to me, I didn’t see it be a productive winch as it didn’t look like much. It is important to note that, it is one of the cheapest high capacity among the winches I have reviewed. Most people believe that cheap isn’t good but this one proved otherwise.

I was going to the woods yesterday and I borrowed it from my friend. This winch is flat black and it looks like any piece of equipment which you would use to hitch a trailer too. It doesn’t look like other winches in its design and size. When I got it from my friend, it didn’t feel cheap as it was made of steel and very heavy.

It is a fully sealed winch that comes with a limited lifetime warranty. Though it is not as quiet and fast as some other expensive winches, it is not loud or slow. For the price, it meets its expectations.

I have tried several winches and I was surprised by what great value it turned out to be. It is versatile and you will be able to pull your car with this winch, and thus, I would say that it might say that, with the right mount, it could perform the way you want it to at an affordable price.

Features that might make you decide on this particular winch include:

  • It is easy to use and durable due to its lightweight metal frame
  • It has the capacity to pull out heavy ATVs from muddy situations in the woods
  • It has a motor which is lightweight
  • It doesn’t corrode
  • Its 12V DC motor is sealed with 1.6 HP permanent magnet
  • It has automatic brakes
  • Its gearing ratio is at 136:1
  • It is inexpensive and still powerful
  • The rope which is made of steel is very sturdy
  • The hardware and gears are made of steel

Best ATV/UTV Winches Buying Guide and FAQ

Features of ATV Winches

Some time back, ATV winches were only limited to a single brand name, but not anymore. There are various manufacturers who have joined in producing these great products, and this has greatly raised the standards of this unit, with each coming up with several new technologies and features. Due to this, it is becoming harder every day to select an ATV winch of choice in the market.

Here is a list of some of the things you will need to consider before you settle on the ATV winches of choice.

1. Efficiency and Power Source

Due to the fact that ATV winches are electric, it follows that you will need to attach them to your ATV’s battery in order for them to function. But there are some full sized winches which tend to utilize hydraulic power and they are mostly meant for extreme conditions and full loads. A winch operated on electric is enough to be able to run your UTV or ATV as long as your battery is in good form.

Your ATV motor needs to be efficient because if a winch is inefficient and you combine it with a weak battery, then you are set for disaster. You don’t have to find yourself in a situation where your ATV tries to get you out of a jam and in the process, your battery runs down. You have to compare the type of motor and amp draw.

ATV winches can have permanent magnet or series wound motors. Compared to series wound motors, the permanent magnet motors tend to be more energy efficient. But the downside of the permanent magnet motors is that they easily overheat. And because your ATV winch is made to take care of lighter loads, then it is worth taking the permanent magnet motors.

2. Load Capacity

Load capacity is the main factor you should look out when you are purchasing an ATV winch. If you plan to use your winch for dragging items that are heavy or your ATV is heavy, you will have to consider buying a high capacity load winch. The load capacity that is ideal should be more than that of the weight of your load due to resistance compensation. You need to note that, ATV winches are available with a load rating between 1500lbs to 4000lbs.

3. Brakes of the ATV Winch

There are two types of brakes on ATV winches: mechanical and dynamic brakes. If you get one with a mechanical brake, it locks the drum while the dynamic one utilizes the gear system to ensure that the winch drum is moving. Whatever the system, it needs to be sufficient to enable ATV winching operation, although for mechanical brakes, when holding the load, it is likely they will be able to slip.

4. Line Speed on ATV Winches

Although in the beginning, it might not look like it is a crucial factor when you are doing comparisons between ATV winches, when you get stuck, the winch drum might not turn as fast as you want it to. If you compare manufacturers of ATV winches’ line speeds, you will find that each has a varying number.

5. ATV Winch Weight

Just like line speeds, weights come in as a matter of convenience. A winch that is lighter becomes more portable as compared to a heavier one, creating less drag on your car when you are driving around with it, and less difficult when it comes to taking it off or on your ATV. If you get a heavy duty winch, it will weigh lower as compared to lower capacity winches. There needs to be a balance between durability, strength, and weight.

Types of ATV Winches 

When you get to the market, you will be able to come across several types of winches. If you have an off-road vehicle, you will be able to find hydraulic and electric winches. For an electric winch, your vehicle’s battery is its power source; all you need to do is to ensure that you hook several wires to the battery and it automatically works for you.

For hydraulic winches, you will have to tap into the hydraulic system in order to power steer the pump. But with ATVs, all you need is to get an electric winch, bearing in mind that, each one of them is unique in its own way.

Power is provided by the winch’s electric motor with a set of gears which are normally referred to as gear train. There are two types of gear trains for electric winches: worm and planetary.

For a planetary gear train, there are several gears in use to enable the winch drum to turn on. The drum turns on faster, which translates to a cable pulling speed faster and this also creates heat.

For a worm gear train, it has two gears. It turns the drum slowly as compared to planetary gear trains which in turn, doesn’t generate enough heat. While the worm gears tend to be slower as compared to the planetary gear train, they are some of the most powerful in the market.

To know how strong a particular winch is, you will need to consider its rated line pull which refers to the maximum amount of weight that the winch can pull safely, according to its manufacturer. If you are in the USA, then you will find that the numbers are in pounds.

Type of line that the winch uses also makes it different from one another. There are winches which use synthetic rope while others use steel cable. If you get a winch that has a synthetic rope, then it tends to be stronger and less dangerous in case it breaks as compared to the cable. But at the same time, you need to note that, synthetic rope wears out faster than cable and can also melt down and splinter. When handling steel cables, it would be best if you put on sturdy gloves.

Different Power Option

The power capacity of your winch is a factor that is very important and thus, most of the brands in the market will release winches which are able to cover the various power option. The power option for the power winches starts from 1,500 pounds with those which are more powerful reaching over 4,000 pounds in their pulling capacity. 

Here are the various power categories that you can pick from

1. 1,500 – 2,500-pound capacity winches

If you have a lighter ATV, then you will need a lower powered model to run it. This particular capacity of power is best suited to small sports ATVs. If you use a 4x4 wheel drive UTV, then this shouldn’t be your option.

In this category, you will find the most affordable winches, smaller in design, and tuck well in the rail frames of the ATV. It will not be a good option for a day to day workhorse solution but as a backup, in case you find yourself in trouble

2. 2,500 – 4,000 Pound Capacity Winches

ATV winches found in this category seem to be more versatile, making this power range the most common one. They are best suitable for pulling jobs and models at the top end of this particular power scale and can easily work with UTVs.

If you have plans to utilize your ATV on sports like deer hunting or construction work, you will require a winch and thus, this particular power range should be able to work well for you.

What to Consider When Buying an ATV Winches

1. Rope or cable

There are pros and cons as far as both rope and cable winch is concerned and thus, you will need to compare them and decide which one will work well for you. When it comes to your ATV getting out of a situation that is sticky, your winch will either have a synthetic rope or a cable.

  • Steel winch cable

Psychologically, when you think of a steel winch cable, it sounds very strong and thus, it can boost your confidence during those time when you find yourself stuck. You will need little daily maintenance and it is normally always best when the pressure is on.

And due to the fact that the metal is a good conductor, it will be able to radiate away faster and thus, enabling you to keep the winch cool. It has a heavy motor, making it be heavy, which in the process, can place a lot of pressure of the front suspension of your ATV. In case the cable snaps mid-winch, the steel can be very dangerous.

  • Synthetic winch rope

When you compare it with the steel winch, a synthetic winch rope is easier and lighter to handle. The synthetic rope doesn’t hold on to kinetic energy and thus, it is not dangerous when it snaps mid winch as it is going to drop instead of whiplashing back

When it comes to being robust, the synthetic rope is not as robust as you will find the steel winch. With time, it is going to wear and tear, become frayed and if it is manufactured from polypropylene, it is likely going to be affected by UV light. Maintenance is needed on a regular basis, drying and cleaning and ensuring that it is spooled correctly. As compared to steel, it is expensive to maintain synthetic winch.

2. Motor

If the motor you have in your winch is not decent, your ATV is going to be problematic. But at the same time, you need to ensure that, it is appropriate and safe to your vehicle’s engine size so that, when the pressure is high, it doesn’t burn out.

3. Pulling Power

It is one of the most important detail that you will need to look out when you are purchasing a winch. The pulling power of your winch needs to be enough for the maximum weight and load of your ATV.

4. Safety

Ensuring that your vehicle together with yourself are safe while you are winching is a very important factor that you will need to consider and that is the main reason why most winches come equipped with safety features such as remote control and overloading indicators. When you have such, it will allow you to create your distance from the ATV in case there is a breakage of the cable or rope.

5. Mounting 

You might fall in love with the looks and the specifications of your potential ATV winch. Ensure that, the fixing is compatible with your kind of vehicle and find out if you want a removable or mounting type. If you go for a removable winch, it is one of the options which is most flexible, but it is possible for you to lose some power as far as the tougher winching jobs are concerned.

Steel Vs Synthetic: What is the Winch Line

With technological advancement, winches have been made to be stronger and faster with each passing year, with the most controversy being in making them from a synthetic rope. If you had your4x4 wheel slide over a cliff, am sure between a synthetic and steel, you will somehow put your trust in the steel winch.

When you compare the synthetic to the steel cable, the synthetic winch is much lighter and easier to handle. This is what has made it be the first priority for recreational off-road enthusiasts as well as professional tow truck operators. Though synthetic winch seems to have more advantages, some people tend to reject it. There are those who argue the merits of both types of winches.

Some Things You Will Need To Consider Before Deciding Which Line Is The Best For You:

  • Strength: In the technological world, it is possible to buy a synthetic winch which is stronger or equal to a steel cable. When a synthetic rope fails, it is not about it being weak, but due to breakdown caused by rubbing or sliding against a surface which was harsh. You will find synthetic ropes coming with a sleeve which enable them to pass through when you drape it over an obstacle. It is possible that you will be limited by the number of obstacles on the path you are winching or the sleeves length. Given the strength of a steel surface, it is capable of handling rougher surfaces better than synthetic.
  • Cost: In the recent past, the winches made of synthetic tend to be more expensive as compared to those made of steel. So if you are on a tight budget and at the same time you require a winch, you can stick with steel as it seems to be affordable. You will need to remember that, if you have to buy a synthetic rope, apart from being expensive, you will need to make a replacement after every few years depending on your usage.

  • Weather Resistance: Direct sunlight and heat are the strongest enemies to the synthetic rope. The fibers are broken down by the UV rays and with time, it will fade and become brittle. With more use in the sandy soil and mud, the rope can be harmed and thus, you will need to put in special care so that, after every serious outing, you ensure that the rope is washed. During winter, the rope is capable of holding water and freezing. With steel, its worst enemy is rust. While it is very hard for it to be damaged by elements, you will have to occasionally inspect it to make sure that, the strands haven’t been compromised. A steel cable should once in a while, be soaked in WD-40.
  • Weight: As compared to steel, synthetic rope seems to be lighter and thus, you will find it easier to free spool and anchor it to your anchor point. Your car will also appreciate the low weight when hauling around. This is an area where the synthetic rope seems to do well as compared to the steel winch. When handling the steel or synthetic, it is recommended that you ensure you are using gloves.

  • Safety: If you have witnessed a rope or winch cable break during operation, you know that it is normally very fast. If not careful,  you can be killed when the steel or rope snaps. Whenever possible, you will need to make use of recovery dampers. When you place a winch weight at the center of the cable, it will ensure that the cable or rope falls on the ground instead of snapping back in whichever direction.

  • Ease of Repair: Most people tend to believe that, it is impossible to repair a broken steel cable while on the trail. As long as you have the proper tools and knowledge, you will be able to DIY the repair. The synthetic rope can easily be mended. While you are doing the repair for the cable or rope on the trail, let it be a temporal fix and replace them as soon as possible.

  • So rope vs cable, which could be the best?

The right line for, you will depend on you. If you are the type who can preserve your rope well by washing it thoroughly after you are from off-road trips and ensuring that it is well protected from the sun, then get the synthetic rope for yourself. But you will have to remember that, the rope breaks at temperatures above 150 degrees.

So when it comes to summer wheeling and hot drums, it can be tough on the fibers.  The best advantage of a synthetic rope is that it is lighter, weighs less and it is easy to handle and that is why it is widely used.

As for the failure rate, more synthetic ropes tend to fail as compared to steel cables, but it doesn’t add that one is better than the other. For strength and simplicity, you are better using steel. If you don’t mind the potential shelling of having to purchase a new rope after a few years and upkeep, then get a synthetic.

Things You Shouldn’t Do When Using a Winch

When using a winch, never assume that you know how to use it. The best is to take your time to ensure that you learn your machine. So when you get your ATV stuck, there are things that you should never do while using a winch.

1. Never use your bare hands to handle the steel wire winch

Ensure that you put on thick gloves when you are winching. And at no given time should you allow the winch cable to slide through your hands even if you have the gloves on. It is possible for the winch to fray and the small steel shreds can push through the gloves and into your hands.

2. Don’t try to hold onto the hook on the winch cable end 

Many manufacturers have a winch hook strap so that, you will be able to keep your hands clear of the hook. At times you might be tempted to hold the hook as the cable gets wounded into the drum of the winch, but if you do that, there is a possibility that you might pinch your fingers in the roller fairlead.

3. Don’t try to tow with the cable of the winch

It is normally hard on the winch bushings and drum. The drum is on the gear drive and when it experiences sudden jerks from the vehicle being towed, it can damage the gearing which is in the winch and on the worst scenario, breaks the drum. This will cost you a lot to repair, something which can be avoided in the first place.

4. A cable should never be wrapped around a tree

If you get stuck and your only surroundings are trees, don’t ever try to wrap the cable around a tree. Instead, pack a strap at least three inches wide and then utilize it to wrap around the tree. Pull yourself out after hooking the winch to the strap. This will ensure that the tree doesn’t experience unnecessary damage.

5. Don’t try to winch in long bursts

When you winch for a short period of time, it helps in avoiding the winch and other electronics from overheating. In order to save your winch for future use, do short pulls of about a minute or less. At the same time, ensure that the ATV is running. When the winch is pulling a heavy load and using a lot of power, it is possible that the battery of the ATV will die very fast. If the engine is not running, this will leave you out of whatever hole you were stuck in but you will get stuck in the woods since the ATV won’t start due to a dead battery.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Does an ATV winch work?

When you are driving off-road and then you suddenly get into a muddy situation, your ATV winch will save you. A four-wheeler or ATV winch works by ensuring that, force is exerted in order for an object to be pulled. The object, in this case, could be your vehicle. It is pulled towards another using a cable.

The object which is lighter with less resistance will have to be tied to an object which is heavier with high resistance. The vehicle will be secured using a winch to an object which is stronger and weighs more than the car.

When you use your ATV winch, its powerful motor will enable it to draw in the winch and your ATV will be able to move towards the anchor point, and your vehicle will come out of its muddy grip.

2. Can you use an ATV winch on a truck?

You will need to use a winch which is appropriate to the size of your vehicle and which will take the strain and some of the gross vehicle weight. You will need to ensure that you check the strength of the mounting, as this might be a weak point when it comes to vehicles which are large.

Always use a winch which is appropriate to your type of vehicle. Whether it is a large truck or an ATV, ensure that the winch will be able to work when you find yourself stuck in the mud.

3. What size synthetic winch rope for ATV?

The shorter synthetic winch rope is better as it tends to decrease your risk of overloading the winch and in the process, damaging it. It is recommended that you use a synthetic rope line which is between 10 and 20 feet shorter as compared to what your original winch came with. To ensure that the length decreases, you can carry a winch extension which is able to provide more versatility during the winching process without the risk of too much of winch drum rope spooling.

4. What is fairlead on a winch?

For the rewinding and smooth running of your new ATV, you will need to have a fairlead. It refers to a guide to ease the winch cable on and off the spool. Fairleads are found in two types: the roller and the plain. The roller is a device that allows the cable to be able to move across the fairlead without having to cause any friction while the plain fairlead refers to a soft metal plate which is able to keep the cable in place.

5. How to install an ATV winch?


There are several features which you need to consider before you settle for an ATV winch. Note that, a free spooling clutch will allow the cable to freely pull from the drum without having to overcome the mechanical resistance by the gears. At the same time, it will allow for a quick release and this saves the winch from fast wear and tear. Get a fairlead that will work for you and consider it as a safety feature which will save your life in case of the cable or rope failing.

The 3500 lbs Superwinch 1135220 Terra 35 makes the grade as my best ATV winches due to its versatility, pulling power and durability at an affordable price. It is a compact and easy to fit unit, and thus a great choice for a wide range of ATV vehicle recovery and it might be your best companion while you are out there in the woods.

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