Side by Side vs Jeep: Which One Suits Your Off-road Needs?

What comes to mind when you think about buying an off-road vehicle? If you’re like some adventure lovers, you’ll think about a rugged-looking side-by-side. Still, some prefer traversing the rugged terrain with a Jeep.

The truth is that side by sides and Jeeps are adventurous and offer excellent performances. However, they’re unique off-road vehicles with different capabilities. So, should you go for a side-by-side or a Jeep for your off-road needs?

This article takes you through the side by side vs Jeep debate. We’ll provide their differences and similarities to help you choose an off-road vehicle that suits your needs.

Side-by-Side Overview

A side-by-side vehicle (SXS) is a compact off-road vehicle used for recreational purposes. As its name implies, this vehicle has rows of two seats arranged side by side. The driver and passengers sit side by side, enclosed within a roll cage.

SXSs are popular among off-road enthusiasts because they can access areas where SUVs can’t. You can drive them on dirt, gravel, sand, and snow. These vehicles are ideal for hunting, camping, fishing, or exploring the vast rugged terrain.

The good thing about side by sides is their versatility. Besides using them for recreational purposes, they’re ideal for utility purposes around farms and properties. These vehicles are great at hauling and towing farm produce and building materials.

You’ll find some of the highest-quality SXSs from Polaris, Yamaha, Cam-Am Defender, Honda, and Kawasaki.

Jeep Overview

Jeep tops the list when it comes to SUVs with unmatched off-road performance. The Jeep Wrangler is the most popular off-roader for tackling challenging terrains. This SUV came into the market in 1984; since then, it’s been one of the most sought-after off-roaders.

The Wrangler has evolved into four generations, each with unique off-roading capabilities. These generations include the YJ (1986), TJ (1996), JK (2006), and JL (2017).

Unlike SXSs, you can use a Jeep as your daily driver or weekend warrior to tackle the terrains. It has all the technology features in modern cars to ensure safety and convenience. Still, Jeep designed this SUV with a rugged design, making it the king of rough roads.

Side by Side vs Jeep: Comparison

Here’s how these off-road vehicles differ.

Street Legal

One of the most critical factors to consider when comparing SXSs and Jeeps is whether they’re street-legal. You’ll love Jeep because it’s legally allowed on public, paved roads. You can drive your Jeep Wrangler across the streets or states.

If you want to go off-roading, you’ll drive your Jeep on the highway and go on the trail or to the park. So, Jeeps are more versatile regarding public road use and going off-roading.

On the other hand, side by sides might not be street-legal in some states. That means you can’t hop in your SXS, drive on the highway, and go straight to the park. You’ll need a truck or trailer to ferry the SXS to the park.

And if the SXS is street legal, this vehicle can’t travel at high speeds. Moreover, it has various comfort and safety issues, making it a bad choice for driving on highways.

Off-Roading Potential

Both offer excellent off-road performance thanks to their powerful engines and trail assist features. However, the choice depends on your unique needs.

A side-by-side is a compact vehicle that’ll nimbly maneuver through narrow trails or rocky steeps that might bog down a Jeep. Besides, SXSs have more ground clearance, independent suspension, aggressive tires, and better clutching. These features make your SXS more reliable when navigating the plains.

Manufacturers design side by sides to live dangerously. This vehicle will run over bumpy, dusty, or muddy trails and climb steep hills. They don’t easily succumb to scratches or scrapes like Jeeps.

Although armed with powerful engines and massive wheels, you’ll need to go easy on your Jeep. Its paint can come off when driven roughly on rocky or dirty trails. Larger Jeeps, like the Wrangler JK or JL, might struggle to maneuver through tight spaces.


Jeeps are made for comfort, convenience, and speed. Unlike side by sides, Jeep Wranglers have all the modern amenities to offer a laid-back experience when traversing the terrains. Depending on the model, your SUV will have comfy seats, an air conditioner, a fully enclosed cab, power windows, and windshield wipers.

Moreover, you can rely on various technology features such as the infotainment system, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, and backup cameras. All these features guarantee a comfortable and convenient off-road driving experience.

You’ll not find most of these features in a side-by-side. However, you can install after-market parts to boost the rider’s comfort. So, when comparing side by side vs Jeep regarding comfort, Jeep wins hands down.


Both off-road vehicles have unique safety features to ensure better and smoother rides. The good thing about SXSs is that their compact size and user-friendliness make them a perfect choice for beginners. Moreover, these vehicles have better suspensions and aggressive tires to ensure stability.

Side by sides come with safety features like seat belts and roll cages to keep you safe in case of a rollover.

However, Jeeps will beat SXSs regarding safety when off-roading. Since Jeeps are cars, the NHTSA regulates their safety features to ensure on-road and off-road safety. Therefore, your Jeep will have airbags, a fully enclosed cab, safety belts, a robust frame, and many more safety features.


If you’re on a budget looking for an off-road vehicle for your weekend getaways, a side-by-side is your go-to choice. But consider all the above factors before settling on a cheaper SXS.

The truth is that a pricier Jeep will be ideal if you want a comfortable off-roader for daily driving and driving off the beaten paths.

Typically, SXSs are more affordable than Jeeps. A new side-by-side will cost around $10K or less. More advanced SXSs will cost up to $30K.

On the other hand, a brand-new Jeep Wrangler will cost around $31K to over $100K, depending on the model. A used Jeep model will be a true budget buy.

The Verdict

There are several factors to consider when it comes to the side by side vs Jeep debate. While both offer excellent off-road performance, they may differ regarding capabilities. Side by sides are compact and created to conquer the rugged terrains. They can easily go through narrow trails that Jeeps might struggle to conquer.

Jeep can be a better choice if you want a vehicle you can drive to work and use for recreational purposes. This SUV is more comfortable and safer than an SXS when traversing the rugged terrains.