At the moment, the UTV market is characterized by an abundance of manufacturers and models from all over the world – the US, Europe, Japan, China, and India. All of them are competing for their place under the sun and trying to position their product as the ultimate side-by-side. But, probably, none of them are more iconic, legendary, and synonymous with the utility vehicles as John Deere‘s Gator series and Polaris‘ Ranger lineup.
For over two decades these two brands stand at the very top of the industry, particularly when it comes to farming, hunting, construction, property management, or recreational riding. Both series boast a diverse stable of models capable of answering almost anything you may ask of your UTV. They are similar in many aspects but, at the same time, feature some significant differences. We’ll take a closer look at these Gator and Ranger lineups and compare them to see where each one excels.
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Brief Overview and History of Polaris Ranger and John Deere Gator
The first Gator, TH model, was produced way back in 1992 and has marked the start of the revolution in the utility vehicle field. It provided not only perfect work effectiveness but also the durability and simplicity of use. This first model was primarily intended for landscaping chores, yard work, and golf course maintenance. The Gator TH is still in production, although with technological, capacity, and design improvements. Next to these traditional work vehicles, over the years, John Deere expanded the Gator lineup with crossover UTV’s – XUV models which added the off-road capabilities to work productivity. The crown jewels of Gator slate are the high-performance RSX models, geared toward recreational, sport, and trail riding, capable of conquering the toughest terrain and at the respectable speeds.
The Ranger was introduced in 1999, as a 6×6 off-road and utility vehicle, becoming the first side-by-side in Polaris portfolio, mostly known for snowmobiles and ATV’s up to that point. In the following years, Polaris heavily invested in the Ranger’s development, improving the powertrain, suspension, driveability, capacity, and ergonomics with each new model. The current lineup has over 15 different models, featuring compact two-seaters, full-size three-seaters, Crew versions for six passengers, and top of the line Special Edition Rangers for superb performance in extreme conditions.
Comparison: Polaris Ranger vs John Deere Gator
For purposes of this comparison, we divided Polaris Rangers and John Deere Gators into three categories: compact and mid-size; full-size, and high-performance special edition UTVs. We’ll go through all three groups of current 2020 models to see how they stack up against each other.
Compact and Mid-Size UTVs
Polaris Ranger Lineup: 500, 570 Premium, Ranger EV
John Deere Gator Lineup: XUV560E, XUV590E, XUV590M
While they can be used for fun and recreation, the main purpose of UTVs in this category is work. If your needs are hauling various equipment, wood, brush, or your workers from point A to point B, no matter the terrain in between, then these are the vehicles for you. As in the other classes, Polaris Ranger has more powerful engines than its counterpart and is a bit faster to get going, So it has a little more versatility, while John Deere Gator is more focused on tasks that need to be performed.
John Deere Gator XUV560E features 16hp 570cc V-Twin OHV engine and is by far the weakest in this category. It’s more than enough for daily chores on a farm, but if you find yourself in a situation where you’ll need a little more punch and speed from your machine, you’ll probably be better off with some of the other models. Gator XUV590 comes with 32hp Inline Twin OHV engine and is, in that respect, comparable with Ranger 500 which also has 32hp in a somewhat smaller 500cc engine. Ranger 570 is the strongest in the group with its 44 hp 567 ccs single-cylinder engine and many of its owners use it freely for trail and riding through the forest. The only UTV with the electrical engine in this category is the Ranger EV with 30hp single 48-Volt AC-Induction motor.
When it comes to carrying load capabilities all of the vehicles in this group are pretty similar. All six vehicles can handle 500 lbs of load in their cargo bed and tow up to 1500 lbs, which is rather decent for vehicles of this size. Still, Gator has a small advantage here due to the slightly wider of the cargo box, meaning that it can carry a more bulky load. All side-by-sides in this class have beds about 32 inches long and 11.5 inches deep, while the Gator’s box is 47.6 inches wide compared to only 42 inches with Ranger. Of course, capacity is not all about the load a vehicle can carry. Unlike Ranger UTV’s, all Gators in this category have both two and four-seater versions. With four-seaters, rear seats are convertible and that space can be used to provide extra load capacity
The list of manufacturer’s suggested retail prices:
- Polaris Ranger 500 – $9.499
- Polaris Ranger 570 Premium – $11.899
- Polaris Ranger Ranger EV $11.899
- John Deere Gator XUV560E – $8.999
- John Deere Gator XUV590E – $11.299
- John Deere Gator XUV590M – $12.799 (the only difference between XUV590E and XUV590M is that the latter features Electric Power Steering)
Polaris Ranger Lineup: 570 Full-size, 1000, XP 1000 Premium, Crew 570-4, Crew 570-6, Crew 1000, Crew XP 1000 Premium
John Deere Gator Lineup: XUV825E, XUV825M, XUV855E, XUV855M, XUV835E, XUV835M, XUV835M HVAC, XUV865M, XUV865M HVAC
UTVs in this category are capable of both playing hard and working hard. Large storage capacity, ability to carry more people and towing power make them perfect workhorses that can deal with the toughest tasks you may put in front of them be it at the farm, construction site, or hauling full equipment for a hunting party. At the same time, high maneuverability, advanced handling, high ground clearance, and independent dual A-Arm adjustable suspension make the ride even on the most rugged trail and with a full load a comfortable experience. Moreover, Gator models XUV835M HVAC, XUV 865M HVAC include heating and air conditioning, a feature that Polaris Ranger has only on its Northstar models which we have placed in the next category.
The clear advantage in this category is on the Ranger’s side. If the sheer power is what you want, then the Ranger XP 1000 Premium, both normal and Crew version will give you goosebumps. It carries a 999cc Twin-Cylinder engine with a staggering 82hp. Other RAngers are not too far behind. The 570, weakest of the Polaris UTVs here, has a 44hp 567cc Single-Cylinder motor, while regular Ranger 1000 comes with 61hp 999cc Single-Cylinder engine. the only Gators that come even close are XUV825E and XUV835E with 52 and 54hp respectively. On the other hand, unlike its rivals, Gator has some diesel models, namely XUV855 and XUV865 which both have 22.8hp diesel engines. This will provide more durability to your vehicle, but also comes with higher maintenance costs.
Ranger 570 is the weakest link here. It can tow up to 1500lbs and its 800lbs bed load capacity shrinks to even smaller 500lbs with 4-seater version due to the shorter rear box. However, Ranger 1000 and XP 1000 Premium boasts more than a respectable 1000lbs bed and 2500 towing capacity. Gators are somewhere in the middle, with a standard 1000lbs bed load capacity and capability to tow 1500lbs with XUV825 and XUV855, while if you own XUV 835 or XUV865 you can load your trailer a bit more – 2000lbs. Gator three-seaters have extra 16 gallons of enclosed storage, while four-seaters have reversible seats to provide extra cargo room. Another ace up the Ranger’s sleeve is 6 passenger capacity of the Crew versions of Rangers 1000 and XP 1000. It’s perfect for driving workers from one site to another, larger hunting parties, or family trips.
The list of manufacturer’s suggested retail prices:
- Polaris Ranger 570 – $10.499
- Polaris Ranger 1000 – $12.999
- Polaris Ranger XP 1000 Premium – $16.899
- Polaris Ranger Crew 570-4 – $11.399
- Polaris Ranger Crew 570-6 – $12.199
- Polaris Ranger Crew 1000 – $14.399
- Polaris Ranger Crew XP 1000 Premium – $18.099
- John Deere Gator XUV825 – $13.599
- John Deere Gator XUV825M – $15.179
- John Deere Gator XUV855E – $14.699
- John Deere Gator XUV855M – $16.219
- John Deere Gator XUV835E – $14.369
- John Deere Gator XUV835M – $16.569
- John Deere Gator XUV835 Cab – $21.949 (with factory-installed full cabin)
- John Deere Gator XUV835 HVAC – $23.749
- John Deere Gator XUV865E – $15.369
- John Deere Gator XUV865M – $17.669
- John Deere Gator XUV865M Cab – $23.149
- John Deere Gator XUV865M HVAC – $24.949
- John Deere Gator XUV825M S4 – $17.069
- John Deere Gator XUV855M S4 – 18.119
High-Performance Special Edition UTVs
Polaris Ranger Lineup: XP 1000 Northstar, Crew XP 1000 Northstar, XP 1000 High Lifter Edition, XP 1000 Texas Edition
John Deere Gator Lineup: RSX860E, RSX860M
Vehicles in this category are all about performance and top-notch handling of whatever is in front of them. They are built for specific tasks and take no prisoners while fulfilling them. Ranger Northstar version, as its name suggests, excels in toughest conditions and successfully fends off weather elements. As we already mentioned, it features air conditioning, heat, and defrosting along with premium, practically indestructible cabin. The High lifter is specialized for extreme mud conditions and everything on it serves that purpose. including tires, mudding bumpers, powerful engines, and high ground clearance. Gators in this category are dedicated to speed and powering through the trails. With the top speed of 60 mph its capable of easily taking you wherever you want and fast.
All of the Ranger models in this group feature the 999cc 82hp Twin-Cylinder engine. It’s the same one as on the Ranger XP 1000 Premium. It’s the heavy-duty engine that has proven itself time and time again. Gators have a 62hp 839cc V-Twin motor. The vehicle itself is lightweight compared to some of the competitors, making such high speed and spurt possible. Isolated engine mount limits vibration and noise contributing to the more comfortable ride.
Every Ranger here is a hard laborer and each has 1000lbs rear bed capacity and ability to tow up to 2500lbs. Every one of them, except Ranger XP 1000 Northstar can also carry up to six persons, making cargo box capacity even more impressive. On the other side, Gators have kinda sacrificed payload capacity for the speed, and cargo box can carry only up to 500lbs. Still, a powerful engine ensures a towing capacity of up to 1500lbs. The sporty nature of these UTVs means that both of them are only two-seaters.
The list of manufacturer’s suggested retail prices:
- Polaris Ranger XP 1000 NorthStar – $23.999
- Polaris Ranger Crew XP 1000 NorthStar – $26.299
- Polaris Ranger XP 1000 High Lifter Edition – $20.599
- Polaris Ranger XP 1000 Texas Edition – $18.899
- John Deere Gator RSX860E – $11.699
- John Deere Gator RSX860M – $12.899
Which One is the Right One for You?
Deciding which UTV is for you can be tricky, especially if you’re a first-time user. While all of the models above, both Ranger and Gator, are the very top in the UTV world, they don’t come cheap and you don’t want to make a decision you’ll later regret.
If you need a UTV strictly for work purposes, then John Deere is probably a way to go. A bit cheaper than similar Rangers, what they lack in the burst, power, and speed they more than make up for in load capacity, reliability, and ease of use. Gator offers a larger number of additional accessories, especially those that are useful to farmers, read more about affordable UTVs for farm use. Also, maintenance costs are lower, especially with the petrol engine. If besides work you plan to use your side-by-side for offroad adventures, hunting or fishing trips, trail riding with your family, then the Rangers’ versatility should sway you in that way. Unlike Gator, Ranger’s lineup even features a youth UTV model – 150EFI which is perfect for your kid’s first foray into the world of UTVs, read more about youth and kids UTVs.
Furthermore, if you like to look good in your vehicle, Ranger offers a far wider selection of designs and colorways, while all the Gator models are in their standard yellow and green pattern.