Written By
Published Jan. 28, 2019

Who doesn’t love the challenge of rough terrain that tests you and your ATV? But when things get sticky you need the right tool to get your four-wheeler out of trouble. Our review of the best ATV winches aims to take up the slack when it comes to picking the winching wonder for the job.

From super heavyweights that can pull off-road monsters to portable units that are ideal for every day, you need a winch that matches the weight of your all-terrain vehicle no matter how tough, rough, or muddy the ground is under your tires.

So, check out our list of great performing ATV winches and find your next off-road gadget that will totally take the strain.

Related Post: Best Off Road 4×4 Vehicles

The Best ATV Winch

A mid-weight member of the Superwinch Terra range, this compact ATV winch has sufficient pulling power to get you out of most sticky situations.

Durable and portable, the Terra has been designed for tough terrain with the specs and build to get you out of trouble. At 1.6 horsepower, the engine is big enough and provides 3,500-pound pull capacity, plus its low amp motor is kind to your vehicle’s battery. You’ll need a separate winch mount kit, but the Terra 35 has been designed to be compatible with most four bolt kits out there.

Key Features
  • 3,500-pound pull capacity
  • Battery-friendly 1.6 horsepower motor
  • Weather protected circuit breaker
Specification
  • Brand Superwinch
  • Model 1135220
  • Weight 20.1 pounds

Coming in at 500 pounds less than its Superwinch stablemate on our list, the LT 3000 still packs a decent pulling capacity punch. The beauty of this smart winch is that is compact yet easily takes on the larger winching bad boys. This is a fantastic four-wheeler winch for a long road journey; you can choose to permanently fix or use as a temporary winch – the only trade-off is slightly less power on the pull.

Constructed with a low amp, permanent magnet 12V motor protected by a circuit breaker, the LT3000 gives a performance you can rely on for casual use and reassures if you are looking for a smaller winch unit. Store in the back of your ATV or UTV and you know you have the right back up if you find yourself stuck in an off-road situation.

Key Features
  • 3,000-pound pull capacity
  • Roller fairlead and mounting plate
  • Mechanical and dynamic brake
Specification
  • Brand Superwinch
  • Model 1130220
  • Weight 19.84 pounds

With a maximum 3,000-pound pulling power, the Champion is a good value winching workhorse to have as a back-up on your everyday commute and occasional off-road route. With a 1.3 HP DC motor, it packs a surprisingly decent power punch, making it a good option for light use with mainstream ATVs.  Neat and compact, the steel winch cable gives 49 feet in extension and is easily spooled thanks to the built-in roller fairlead to make deploying and then packing away a breeze. It is also acceptably quiet as it works hard to get your ATV out of trouble.

The three-stage planetary gear system along with the free-spooling clutch and handlebar-mounted remote control offer good control while winching. One of the lower-priced ATV winches in our review, we think the Champion offers great value when it comes to its durability and overall core winching power.

Key Features
  • 3,000-pound pull capacity
  • 49 ft  super duty aircraft cable
  • dynamic braking system
Specification
  • Brand Champion Power Equipment
  • Model 13004
  • Weight 22 pounds

One of the cheapest in our best ATV winch list, there’s nothing budget about the Bear Claw. It gives an impressive 3,100 pounds of pulling power all in a compact and tough package that’s low amp and low noise. From outdoor gear specialists Extreme Max, this little dynamo of an ATV winch includes a dynamic braking system incorporated into the gear box and motor, which are both sealed for optimum water-resistant performance, while the triple planetary gear box offers extra pull when you really need it. There are also some nice additional touches such as the snatch block as well as a free-spool option.

Installation is easy with color-coded wiring, although it does need a winching mount, but its four-bolt mounting system is a universal fit for most brands. If you are looking for a value quad winch that packs a punch when pulling the typical ATV, then this is the one for you.

Key Features
  • 3,100-pound pulling capacity
  • 45' steel cable and roller fairlead
  • Triple planetary gear box
Specification
  • Brand Extreme Max
  • Model 5600.3072
  • Weight 21.8 pounds

A nicely balanced midweight machine, with a pulling capacity of 3,500 pounds, the Bravex is a strong and steady ATV winch that can also step it up for larger or more awkward vehicles such as snow-plows. Plus, it has a wireless remote meaning you have full control, while staying out of the ‘danger’ zone.  And its waterproofing credentials means it’s a good option for boats too.

This is a solid entry level winch that can really step up its game for 4×4, ATV and UTV owners who like to play dirty and need to know they can get out of trouble.  And with its slick roller fairlead, tough steel winch cable and all-metal three-stage planetary gear train, the winching experience should be a smooth one. The electric motor is also deceptively powerful, at 1.5hp, it offers fast line speeds, tempered by a quality braking system meaning you have all the control.

Key Features
  • 3,500-pound pull capacity
  • 4-Way roller fairlead
  • Wireless remote control
Specification
  • Brand Bravex
  • Weight 18.74 pounds

We go back to motorsports specialists WARN for the next ATV winch in our ‘best of…’ review, with the lighter-weight 2000 that comes at a nicely compact price. With the build quality and styling you would expect from WARN, the 2000 has been designed to fit in tight spots and makes mounting easier. With a 1.6 horsepower permanent magnet DC motor, it does have one of the lowest pulling powers in our best ATV winch list, but 2,000 pounds should still be sufficient for your average everyday ATV. At 35 feet, the wire rope on this WARN winch is also a tad on the shorter side but it spools and releases smoothly via the hawse fairlead and is safely controlled via a corded remote.

Solidly constructed and easy to install, the WARN 2000 is a quality compact winch at a great price. Definitely one for keeping at the back of your ATV or truck…just in case.

Key Features
  • Maximum pull capacity of 2,000 pounds
  • 1.6 HP permanent magnet motor
  • 12-volt power for portability
Specification
  • Brand Warn
  • Model 92000
  • Weight 19.4 pounds

Now here’s a synthetic winch rope kit that we have to say looks rather after-dark cool and with an acceptable 3,000 pound pulling capacity, it’s a good bet for having ready in your off-road vehicle, whatever the time of day. It’s a bit less is more when it comes to spec – no remote control option and the motor is rated at 1.1 horse power, so one of the smallest in our best ATV winch review – but it is a good, affordable winch that will work with arrange of off-road vehicles. At 50ft, the synthetic winching rope is also a decent length to get you out of trouble in a ditch and the steel gears and fittings will keep the running smooth and secure.

Designed for the road rider who occasionally ventures off track, this is a durable and easy to use ATV winch that it is best suited for less extreme winching situations. In short, this is the ideal quad winch choice to have in the back of your everyday truck as a standby.

Key Features
  • 3,000 pound pulling power capacity
  • 50ft Black Synthetic Rope
  • Mechanical load holding and dynamic brake
Specification
  • Brand MotoAlliance
  • Weight 20 pounds

The power-loading beast in our best ATV winch review, the Badland pulls a super-impressive 12,000 pounds, making it the ultimate in all-vehicle winching machines.

As you’d expect for such a powerhouse, the Badland is not cheap but it can take whatever you throw at it and has the pulling power to move anything from trucks to SUVs without breaking a sweat.

Key Features
  • A super-strong 12,000 pound pulling capacity
  • Aircraft grade 65ft steel cable
  • Automatic load-holding brake
Specification
  • Brand Badland
  • Weight 93.2 pounds

This is a robust powerhouse of a compact ATV winch that has your back on the toughest of off-road adventures. It certainly has some serious pulling power – while not the beast that is the Badland, the X-Bull heaves a mighty 4,500 pounds, making it a great priced go-to for serious winching situations. And it’s a super-hardy machine too, with serious weather, corrosion and moisture resistant credentials.

We also like the fact that it comes with a mounting plate, a choice of wired and wireless remote control and a high strength steel cable to keep you and your beloved ATV steady as you regain your all-terrain feet.  But with all this pulling power this four wheeler winch is a tad on the heavy side, so make sure your ATV can take its weight.

Key Features
  • An impressive 4,5000 pound pulling capacity
  • Bonus winch mounting plate
  • Wire and wireless remote control
Specification
  • Brand X-BULL
  • Weight 27.7 pounds

The first of the two winches from off-road motorsports specialists WARN to feature in our best ATV winch review, the Vantage is a nice piece of kit at a good price point.

Great for smaller ATVs and drivers who want to play hard, this quality WARN winch offers durability, reliability, and performance with 2,000 pounds of pulling power, all in a neat, user-friendly package.

Key Features
  • Pulling power of 2,000 pounds
  • Differential planetary gear train
  • Permanent magnet motor
Specification
  • Brand Warn
  • Model 89020
  • Weight 20.5 pounds

Best ATV Winch Buying Guide & FAQ

From its power size to how it will actually fix onto your vehicle, there’s some serious stuff to consider when buying the right ATV winch. We’ve checked out the features to look out for plus hopefully answered all your winching questions so you can confidently buy the best ATV winch for you.

winch hook

What to Consider When Buying an ATV Winch 

  • Rope or cable

There are pros and cons to both synthetic winch rope or steel winch cable. See our FAQ section below for more guidance to help you make your choice.

  • Motor

Without a decent motor in your winch, your ATV isn’t going to go anywhere! But it also needs to be safe and appropriate to your vehicle’s engine size, so not to burn out when the pressure is really on.

  • Pulling power

This is one of the most important details to check as the pulling power of your new winch needs to be sufficient for the maximum load and weight of your ATV.

  • Safety

Keeping you and your vehicle safe while winching is a key point to consider, with most winches coming complete with a host safety features, including overloading indicators and remote control. This allows you to be at a distance from your ATV in case the rope or cable breaks.

  • Mounting

Ok, so you like the look and spec of your potential new ATV winch… so where is it going to go? Do the fixings work with your particular vehicle and is it a permanent mounting or removable? A removable winch is the most flexible option, but you may lose some power when it comes to the tougher winching jobs.

How to Install an ATV Winch

Always follow the installation instructions for your specific ATV winch to make sure you get that bad boy working in the way that it should.

It’s most likely you will need a mounting plate on your ATV to fix on your winch. These typically fix to your bumper, just make sure the winch rope or steel winch cable has an unobstructed path when you need to spool it out. Your winching mechanism will then need its relay box or contactor setting up and its control switches connecting.

Types of ATV Winches

There are basically two types of ATV winch – electric and hydraulic.  Hydraulic winches work by hooking into the hydraulic system of a power-steering pump. Most winches opt for electrical as it’s the most convenient for virtually all situations, hook up to the ATV’s battery and you’re good to go.

Steel vs. Synthetic: Which Winch Line to Choose

When it comes to a line tough enough to get your ATV out of a sticky situation, your winch will either have a cable that’s steel or synthetic rope.

Both types have their pros and cons, so it’s down to personal preference, how much you will use it and how much you are willing to spend. To help, here’s the lowdown on each:

  • Steel winch cable

Psychologically, steel just sounds stronger, so for those really tricky times, can be a real confidence booster. And quite rightly too – hardwearing, steel needs little ongoing maintenance and is good to go when the pressure is on. And, with metal being a great conductor, it radiates heat away quickly so you can keep your winching cool. But it is heavy and coupled with a heavy motor, can put stress on your ATV’s front suspension. And steel can be dangerously uncontrollable if the cable snaps mid-winch.

  • Synthetic winch rope

Compared to a steel winch cable, a synthetic rope will be significantly lighter and easier to handle. It is also safer – as a synthetic rope doesn’t hold on to kinetic energy, should it snap mid-winch it will drop rather than whiplashing back, which a steel cable has the potential to do. However, a synthetic winch rope is not as robust as steel; it will fray over time with wear and tear and if made from polypropylene, can also be affected by UV light. It needs to be maintained – cleaning and drying, spooling correctly etc – and can also be more expensive than its steel alternative.

How to Use an ATV Winch

You never think you’re going to need a four-wheeler winch until you get stuck, which is never the best time to start getting out the instruction manual. It’s a good idea to run through the basics of deploying and using your ATV winch as a dry run so that when things get hairy, you don’t get stuck yourself on what to do.

As a quick guide to good ATV winch use – attach your winch to your vehicle in line with its instructions, then use the control to turn the drum in reverse so that enough line (cable or rope) feeds out. The cable will have a winch hook at the end of it for you to attach securely to another vehicle or alternative fixed anchor point. Once the line is secure and straight and the area is cleared, engage your winch to create initial tension in the line and to start the move, and then begin reeling in. Go slow and steady until your ATV is out of its sticky situation. Give the winch line a little more slack, before removing it from the anchor point, and carefully wind back in.

Best ATV Winch FAQ: 

Q: How does an ATV winch work?

Your ATV winch is your go-to hero when you’re are driving off road and suddenly get that sinking feeling as you find yourself into a bit of a muddy situation. An ATV or four wheeler winch works by exerting force to pull one object – i.e., your vehicle – towards another using a cable. The lightest object with the least resistance will move so you will need to secure your vehicle via the winch to an object with a greater mass to get it moving. By using your ATV winch, the powerful motor will draw in the cable and your beloved ATV should move towards the anchor point, releasing your vehicle from its muddy grip.

Q: What size ATV winch do I need?

The size of winch is dependent on the size of your vehicle and how much weight it will need to pull.  As a guide it should be between 1,500 and 5,0000 pounds but to be sure, always go for an ATV winch that can pull at least 1.5 times the maximum loaded weight of your four-wheel drive. The typical terrain can also be a factor to consider, eg. marshy, as you may need extra pulling power on top.

Q: Can I use an ATV winch on a truck?

You should always use a winch that’s appropriate to the size of your vehicle and can take the strain – and then some – of its gross vehicle weight. You should also check the strength of the mounting as this could be a weak point for a larger vehicle. We say better safe than sorry and always use the winch that is appropriate for your vehicle – whether it is an ATV or a larger truck. When stuck in the mud, you have enough to worry about!

Q: What is the gross vehicle weight?

The gross vehicle weight – also known as its GVW – is how much your vehicle actually weighs and is not to be confused with its GVWR, or gross vehicle weight rating. Both weights are important when picking the best ATV winch for your vehicle and also to ensure you don’t dangerously overweight the winch when using it. The GVWR is the maximum operating weight of your vehicle as outlined by its manufacturer, and includes its chassis, body, engine, fuel, accessories, driver, passengers and cargo…but excludes any trailers.  In short, it is the maximum total weight limit for your car or truck to be driven safely and should never be exceeded. You can usually find the GVWR on a label on the inside of your door frame, in your car manual or check online. A good rule of thumb when it comes to winching your ATV is that your winch needs to be rated to one and a half times the vehicle’s maximum loaded weight.

Q: What is fairlead on a Winch?

For the smooth running (and re-winding) of your new ATV winch, it will need to have a fairlead, which is a guide to ease the winch cable on and off the spool. There are two basic types of winch fairlead – the plain and the roller. The plain fairlead is a soft metal plate to keep the cable in place while the roller is a device which allows the cable to move across the fairlead without friction. Related Posts: Best Come Along Winches and Best Synthetic Winch Ropes car winch

Our Top Pick

The Superwinch Terra 35 makes the grade as our best ATV winch Top Pick thanks to its versatility, durability and pulling power, all without breaking the bank. A compact and easy to fit unit, the Terra 35 is a great choice for a wide range of ATV vehicle recovery and is a reliable companion when you go off-road.

Sources:

  1. How ATV Winches Work – howstuffworks
  2. How to Use a Winch – wikiHow
  3. How to Prepare Your ATV for Mudding – wikiHow

MORE TO READ