Looking for a winch for your ATV, UTV, or smaller vehicle? Since the possibility of being stuck somewhere is always just around the corner, you still need to get a suitable 4×4 winch for your vehicle, regardless of its size.
In this article, we’ll give you a rundown on the best winches for your small 4x4s and guide you through some vital considerations, before your final decision of choosing a winch.
If you’re looking for winch for your full size SUV, Jeep or Truck, check out our 10,000 to 12,000 lbs Winch Buying Guide.
What to Look for When Buying
With the many kinds of 4×4 winches in the market, it’s easy enough to lose yourself and pick the one that’s seemingly ideal. However, it’s important to note that a 4×4 winch should also exhibit the following features.
- Automatic Load-Holding Brake – When getting a 4×4 winch, check if it consists of an automatic load-holding brake. This feature is very important because it’ll immediately prevent the motor from continuously running in the event that something unexpected happens (i.e. power interruption and other similar problems) that can cause the winch’s wire cable or rope from suddenly letting go of your 4×4, and incur additional damages or expenses. For more information about a load-holding brake, click here.
- Automatic Power Off – Forget to turn your winch off? Look for a winch with an automatic power off function that quickly stops its motor from running for both safety reasons and to spare your battery.
- Waterproof Rating – Just when you thought a waterproofed 4×4 winch simply means being completely protected against water intrusion, well… There’s a catch to it. The truth is, there are different waterproof ratings that determine a 4×4 winch’s resiliency level against water. For instance, when you see a feature stating waterproof IP68-rated, the first number tells the device’s resiliency level on solid objects (i.e. dust, dirt, wires, etc.). While the second number tells its resiliency level on liquids (i.e. water).
SUPERWINCH 4×4 Winch
For the best valued winch, the SUPERWINCH 1130220 LT3000ATV Winch takes the prize.
Superwinch has been around forever and while the warranty isn’t nearly as long as WARN’s, they do stand behind their product for that duration (unlike some of the Chinese branded winches). Superwinch winches also have a decent reputation in the winching space with a fairly low failure rate.
The 1.2 horsepower permanent magnet motor will perform dutifully for most of the needs of your ATV or UTV. Best of all is the price point – they’re generally around a hundred bucks which is comparable to many of the Chinese brands but with better reputation. The WARN VRX 25-S is by far the best quality winch on this list but it’s also 3x the price. For me personally, I’ll go with the $100 Superwinch for my ATVs and UTVs and save the higher performance and more expensive winches for my bigger vehicles.
SUPERWINCH 4×4 Winch Pros & Cons
X-BULL 12V 3000LBS
Taking the award for the top Chinese branded winch is the X-Bull 3000 lbs capacity winch. Yes we have a category just for the Chinese brands.
The X-Bull is a consistently priced at around $100 or below making it an absolute bargain. I’ve had decent luck with X-Bull products but as with many Chinese brands, with the price tag comes many question marks. First, X-Bull claims their 3000 lbs winch is waterproof but they don’t list an IP rating and I’m dubious that $100 winch is in fact waterproof (I haven’t had a chance to test it in water). Next, the warranty is unclear. If you buy it from Amazon you’ll likely get at least a year of support as your negative review is worth replacing the winch, but beyond that is anyone’s guess. But for it performs well in most tests and for $100 it’s a low-risk purchase decision.
There’s other Chinese branded winches that you’ll find for slightly lower prices on Amazon and most likely they’re all coming from the same handful of factories in China. However, many of these brands are fly-by-nights so if you want some compromise between reliability and affordability the X-Bull is a good choice.
X-Bull 3000 lbs Winch Pros & Cons
WARN VRX 25-S 4×4 Winch
The guys at Warn take the top spot for best overall quality winch with the WARN 101020 VRX 25-S Powersports Winch.
Why? First is because its waterproofing component is IP68-rated to ensure that water, moisture, and other harsh elements, stay out and prevent any potential damage on the motor. Many of the other winches on this list are not waterproof or have questionable waterproofness.
Next, Warn’s warranty is unmatched with their lifetime mechanical warranty and 3 year electrical warranty. The other winches on here come with a 1-year warranty or less. However, that warranty comes with a price – the Warn VRX 25-S is about 3x the cost of the other winches on this list.
The VRX comes in a variety of pulling capacities up to 4500 lbs. The 2500 lbs model will be sufficient for most ATV and UTV riders. Our preference is the option with synthetic rope instead of wire cable – it’s worth the few extra bucks.
WARN VRX 4×4 Winch Pros & Cons
As presented above, those are the top 5 4×4 winches for your smaller vehicles which include your ATVs and UTVs. Remember though that getting a 4×4 winch for your smaller vehicles is not an excuse to ditch a picky attitude. Since cruising to your next adventure requires a huge amount of safety precautions, having a 4×4 winch with an automatic load-holding brake, an automatic power off, and a high waterproof rating, is always worth it. Feel free to share your thoughts below.