There are a lot of great options out there if you are looking at entry level ATV's, no matter what your budget is. What exactly is an entry level quad? As far as I'm concerned, an entry level unit is one suitable for smaller riders without tons of riding experience. In other words, you can toss out the 400 and 500cc models. Plus, for this article I will not be mentioning those clearly made for kids, in the 90cc range. If you are looking to buy a new or used four wheeler for a teenager or small adult, you will want to check out some of these types. You could also consider Chinese 4 wheelers.
This is THE entry level quad. All others are listed in random order. The Blaster was physically smaller than most other adult ATV's. It was made until 2006. The engine was an incredibly snappy 200cc two stroke that was easily modified into a speed machine. Many people did modify them, which is part of the reason they become so popular. With only a couple hundred bucks in mods you could have a machine practically race worthy. Even when ridden stock, it could achieve speeds no other 200cc engine could touch. So popular was the Yamaha Blaster that you can still find entire sites and forums dedicated to them. You can pick up a used one in fair condition, several years old mind you, for around $1,000 or a little more. Best of all, you can find Yamaha repair manuals free online.
Yamaha Raptor 250
Any 14, 15, 16, or 17 year old would LOVE one of these four wheelers. This size Raptor has only been around for a few years now, since they took over the spot of the Blaster in 2006. The unit is fairly small physically, like most sport quads, making it lightweight and relatively easy to handle. The engine is a four stroke, but provides good speed and power for takeoff. The body style of the Raptor is so well liked, that virtually every Chinese ATV maker copied the basic look. I suppose, depending on the size of the person, you could throw the Raptor 350 in the same category. For that matter, you might want to check out the Yamaha Raptor lineup.
Polaris Phoenix 200
I've always been fond of this little 4 wheeler. It's been around for a few years now and it just really appeals to me more each time I see it. This is a sporty looking quad with a 196cc engine. It's not overly fast, but it will take a teenager up and down the trails pretty fast. Its styling is topnotch, as far as I'm concerned. You can buy one of these new or used, since they are still being made by Polaris. You won't pay too much for a new one compared to many other entry level quads. These could be considered kids four wheelers as well, depending on the size of your child.
I really like this quad, too. The Suzuki Ozark is just a smaller version of the big quads. It's more of a utility quad than a sport quad, but it looks sleek. The 246cc engine is much snappier than you would expect for a four stroke. A friend of mine has one and it really never fails to surprise me at just how versatile it is. From the woods to the field to the trail, it does everything the big ones do. Suzuki is still making this gem, so if you have a teenager in mind for one, be sure to check them out. I know I would have loved one when I was a teen.
Can-Am (BRP) Rally 200
They don't make this little entry level quad anymore. What a shame. This was a 200 class unit, with a 176cc engine. It was only a little smaller than most of the full/mid size ATV's in the lineup. The speed this thing could get was incredibly. While I've never ridden one or known anyone personally that owned one, I've read many reports online of people getting 45-50 miles per hour out of them. That type of speed is stellar for a motor that size. Unlike so many other makers, Can-Am didn't skimp on the width of the machine. The wheelbase was still nice and wide. If you find one of these, get it. Can-Am makes high end machines that generally outperform other brands.
You can still buy one of these things new if you want. Like most other engines on Can-Am ATV's, this one generally outperforms others in the same class. I love the look of the DS lineup, including the 250. The classic Bombardier/Can-Am yellow is always easily recognizable. Your teen child or young/small adult would love one of these and could probably ride it straight into adulthood without issue. At least you would know it wouldn't be outgrown in a year. An average size adult could be happy with this quad for general riding.
Unlike so many of the other entry level ATV's on the market, this one isn't going through an identity crisis. So many of the others are sport models that really don't quite deliver the punch a sporty ATV should. Do you know why you won't have that problem with the Bayou? It's a purely utility four wheeler. This one can be used on the farm, the trail or in the woods. Complete with better than expected cargo racks, this quad is ready to go to work. The 228cc motor will keep a smallish person happy overall with this four wheeler. It's not the fastest in the group, so you won't be playing real four wheeler racing games, but it's probably the closest one to dear old dad's utility four wheeler.
For me, Honda is becoming an afterthought. They are still considered the benchmark in reliability, but with almost no major changes (like independent rear suspension), the entire lineup is getting stale. Still, Honda quads get the job done and this quad is no exception. It's pretty snappy. You could also check out old Honda 350cc four wheelers.
Really Old Machines
Back in the day, they were just made with a smaller chassis than they are today. Plus, the engines were generally smaller. For example the old Suzuki 125 was a full size machine in the early to mid 80's, but would be considered by most to be a kids quad today. For this reason, going older makes sense. Honda, Yamaha, Polaris, and everyone else made 4 wheelers 250cc or less. You can still find them out there if you just keep your eyes open. Just check online and in the papers and you're sure to find a winner. You might even want to check out ATC three wheelers for sale.