If you’re in the market for a new utility terrain vehicle (UTV), two of the biggest names you’ll encounter are Can-Am and Polaris. But which brand makes the best UTVs?
This in-depth Can-Am vs Polaris comparison will help you decide which models are right for your needs and budget in 2023. We’ll cover the key differences in performance, features, reliability and more to determine the pros and cons of Can-Am and Polaris UTVs.
Table of Contents
A Brief History of Can-Am and Polaris UTVs
Can-Am entered the UTV market in 2005 with the release of the Outlander series. Early Can-Am UTVs like the Outlander and Renegade models were designed for recreation and trail riding.
Polaris debuted their first UTV, the Ranger, back in 1998. It was originally built as a utility vehicle for hunters, farmers and ranchers. Polaris later introduced the RZR line in 2007 to compete with sportier recreational UTVs.
Over the years, both brands have continued to expand their UTV families. Can-Am now produces the Defender utility side-by-side along with the Maverick sport model. Polaris’ offerings include the General recreation-utility UTV and the high performance RZR family.
Can-Am UTV Model Lineup
Can-Am’s current UTV lineup includes three model families:
- Outlander: The Outlander series ranges from 400 to 1000 cc engines and comes in 2-seat and MAX models with room for 4. Outlanders offer great value combined with proven Can-Am reliability.
- Renegade: Similar to the Outlander, the Renegade series scales from 500 to 1000 cc powerplants. It comes tuned for recreational sport riding on trails.
- Maverick: The Maverick family represents Can-Am’s high-performance sport UTVs. The Maverick X3 is their flagship with big horsepower and premium suspension.
- Defender: As Can-Am’s utility side-by-side, the Defender is built for work with options like the HD10, Cab, and MAX models for increased payload and passenger capacity.
No matter your needs, Can-Am has a UTV optimized for work or play. They offer options with extended wheelbase, rear engine layouts, and cab enclosures for protection from the elements.
Polaris UTV Model Lineup
The current Polaris UTV lineup includes:
- Ranger: The Ranger is Polaris’ utility side-by-side designed for farms, ranches and worksites. Available in 2-seat and CREW versions.
- General: A crossover between work and recreation, the 4-seat General models have some of the best payload and towing capacities.
- RZR: As the industry’s first recreational sport UTV, RZR models like the RZR Pro XP optimize power and suspension for dune running and trail riding.
- Sportsman: The Sportsman lineup ranges from entry-level to specialty recreation UTVs great for exploring backcountry trails.
Similar to Can-Am, Polaris has options for all types of UTV use ranging from the Sportsman XP 1000 trail machine to the compact Ranger 150 utility model. The RZR family represents their highest performance sport UTVs.
Build Quality and Durability Comparison
Both Can-Am and Polaris build their UTVs using quality materials and components. They include features like:
- Steel Frames: Providing rigidity and impact protection for the cabin and drivetrain components.
- Body Plastic: Injection molded TPO plastic resists dents and helps shed mud and debris.
- Automotive-Grade Fittings: Like greaseable ball joints and sealed electrical connections.
- Heavy-Duty Parts: Such as thick A-arms, oversized axles, and robust drivetrain parts which stand up to hardcore off-road use.
In terms of construction and durability, Can-Am and Polaris are closely matched. Some owners report Polaris models having better overall fit and finish compared to pre-2020 Can-Ams. But Can-Am has stepped up quality control in recent years.
Both brands rigorously test their vehicles in extreme environments far beyond what any owner will subject them to. Overall, you can expect a Can-Am or Polaris UTV to last for thousands of hours if properly maintained.
Suspension Design Comparison
A UTV’s suspension plays a crucial role in how it handles different terrain. There are some key differences between Can-Am and Polaris suspension designs:
- Trailing Arms: Can-Am uses a 5-link trailing arm rear suspension for controlled stability and a smoother ride. Models like the Defender also have softer springs for improved comfort.
- Double A-Arms: Polaris utilizes double A-arm front and rear suspension for precision handling and increased articulation off-road. This system provides greater high-speed control.
- FOX Shocks: On high-end models, both brands partner with FOX for premium adjustable shocks with ample damping and rebound tuning range.
- Long Travel: Maverick and RZR sport UTVs offer over 20 inches of wheel travel to glide over rough terrain and absorb big hits.
- Ground Clearance: Can-Am Defender models excel here with up to 15 inches for traversing rocks, ruts and mud pits .
For casual trail riding and utility use, Can-Am’s trailing arm design offers a more compliant ride. Polaris delivers sharper handling and sportier feel from its double A-arms.
Engine Performance Showdown
When it comes to power and acceleration, Can-Am and Polaris UTV engines help their respective models top the charts:
- Horsepower: RZR turbocharged engines put out up to 200 hp. Models like the Maverick X3 Turbo RR keep pace with 172 hp.
- Displacement: Polaris offers 850 to 999 cc powerplants. Can-Am spans 400 to 976 cc engines depending on the UTV.
- Torque: Can-Am’s 976 cc triple-cylinder peaks at 90 lb-ft torque for explosive thrust. Polaris 850 cc twins generate up to 79 lb-ft for potent acceleration.
- Turbos: Both have forced induction options. Turbocharged Maverick and RZR models generate huge power for dune running and high-speed trail use.
- Responsiveness: Electronic fuel injection and specialized ECU mapping gives both instant throttle response with very little lag.
For high performance sport UTV applications, the Maverick X3 RS Turbo RR and RZR Pro R Turbo R trade blows. But in stock form, Polaris RZR turbo models produce more peak hp.
Technology and Feature Comparison
Today’s UTVs come loaded with amenities and tech to enhance the riding experience:
- Touchscreen Displays: Can-Am’s 7.6″ Digitally Encoded Security System (DESS) and Polaris’ 7″ Ride Command system offer control of lights, 4WD, and vehicle info.
- Bluetooth and Audio: Stream music and make hands-free calls through the Can-Am’s LinQ system or Ride Command’s Rockford audio.
- Vehicle Diagnostics: Onboard computers monitor coolant temp, horn, lights, battery voltage and more. Diagnose issues quickly.
- Smart Storage: Rear cargo beds have drain plugs, cargo dividers, and tie-downs. Cab models add versatile interior storage for gear.
- Accessories: From windshields to winches, each brand offers hundreds of accessories to customize your machine.
Can-Am’s LinQ system for swapping cargo racks and boxes is one standout feature. But Polaris matches most bells and whistles found on competitive models. You get ample tech either way.
Ride Comfort and Ergonomics
Beyond performance, a UTV needs to provide an enjoyable and comfortable ride. Here’s how Can-Am and Polaris stack up for long days on the trail:
- Seating: Both offer contoured, bolstered seats wrapped in durable vinyl. Taller occupants may prefer the headroom in Can-Am’s Defender models.
- Passenger Room: There’s ample space for rider and passenger on all two-seat UTVs. Polaris General models accommodate up to six occupants comfortably.
- Cab Comfort: Can-Am’s Defender Cab models excel at climate and sound isolation so riders stay comfortable in any weather.
- Entry and Exit: Low side rail height combined with angled footrests make it easy to get in and out of any Can-Am or Polaris side-by-side.
- Controls Layout: Hand controls like the gear shifter, parking brake and drive mode switches are intuitively placed within easy reach.
For all day rides across rough backcountry trails, Can-Am’s plush suspension tuning combined with the Defender Cab’s comfort make it a top choice. But even the sportiest Polaris RZRs offer reliable comfort for long days on the go.
Handling and Control Comparison
A UTV’s handling capabilities and precision steering are vital for navigating rugged landscapes. Here’s how Can-Am and Polaris models differ:
- Suspension Design: As mentioned earlier, Can-Am’s trailing arm smooths out bumps while Polaris’ double A-arms offer sharper turn-in and response.
- Steering Feedback: All models have responsive power steering. At speed, Polaris RZRs generally provide more feedback and tighter control through corners.
- High Speed Stability: Polaris’ longer wheelbase paired with Walker Evans shocks keeps RZR platforms stable at 70+ mph speeds.
- Rock Crawling: The Defender’s ample articulation and ground clearance gives it the edge for picking your line over boulders and big obstacles.
- Maneuverability: For tight trails with lots of trees, the Defender and RZR models offer snappy low-speed handling thanks to short turning radius.
While Polaris RZRs excel at high-speed handling, the Can-Am Defender is tough to beat when negotiating rocky terrain and tight trails thanks to its geometry.
Costs and Value Comparison
With top speed, power and premium suspension, Polaris and Can-Am UTVs carry higher price tags than entry-level recreational models. Here’s how prices stack up:
- Base Model MSRP: Can-Am Defender starts around $12,000. Polaris Ranger models start around $13,000.
- High-End Models: A decked out Maverick X3 RR Turbo runs $35,000+. Polaris RZR Pro R Turbo R similarly costs $36,000+.
- Used Prices: Depending on miles and condition, used Can-Am Defenders run $8,000 to $18,000. Used RZRs cost $10,000 to $25,000.
- Resale Value: Well maintained Can-Am and Polaris models see slightly above average resale value retention around 45-50% after 5 years.
- Maintenance: Both have similar maintenance costs following proper service intervals. Expect around $300 for an annual service.
Dollar-for-dollar Can-Am UTVs can offer more value compared to Polaris in some segments. But you can’t go wrong investing in either brand since they hold value well over time.
Reliability Reputation and Customer Support
Reliability is another critical factor when choosing a UTV brand. Here’s how Can-Am and Polaris stack up:
- Reviews: Owners praise Can-Am’s easy starting, longevity of parts, and low maintenance costs outside of fluids, filters and tires. Common Polaris complaints relate to electrical gremlins and failing drive belts.
- Warranty: Can-Am provides a 6-month factory warranty that can be extended to 12 months. Polaris matches that with 6 months factory that extends to 12 months with registration.
- Customer Support: Both companies have an extensive dealer network to help with servicing and warranty repairs. Wait times for parts exchanges are comparable.
- Racing: In off-road racing, Polaris RZR teams dominate events like the Mint 400 and Vegas to Reno. This proven durability reflects in production models.
While exceptional, Polaris reliability still lags slightly behind Can-Am according to most owner reviews. But both UTVs deliver miles of trouble-free operation when properly maintained.
Which Brand is Best for Different Riders?
With Can-Am and Polaris covering the spectrum of UTV categories, which brand suits your needs?
Best UTV for Trail Riding
For casual, recreational trail riding, Can-Am’s Outlander family is tough to beat. Its supple suspension smooths out bumps and blast ruts for a comfortable ride mile after mile. Outlanders also come with ample power and cargo carrying capacity for adventure.
Best High Performance Sport UTV
If you want blistering speed over any terrain, Polaris RZR models are the top picks. Turbocharged RZR variants like the RZR Pro R deliver incredible acceleration along with race-tuned handling. The RZR Pro XP also impresses with plush ride quality.
Most Affordable UTV
For shoppers on a budget, the Can-Am Outlander 400 offers amazing value. With 28 hp, generous cargo room and Can-Am’s reputation for reliability, the entry-level Outlander 400 costs thousands less than the competition without sacrificing quality.
Best Utility UTV for Farms/Ranches
Can-Am’s Defender PRO HD10 provides an impressive 3,000 pound tow rating and 1,000 pound cargo bed capacity. Combined with cab options, huge aftermarket support and collection of attachments, it’s the ultimate ranch workhorse.
Conclusion – Which Brand is Best in 2023?
When comparing Polaris vs Can-Am UTVs, both manufacturers produce incredible machines spanning all categories and price points.
Polaris RZRs are the undisputed leader for high speed dune running and hard enduro riding with their potent turbo engines and precision handling. Their build quality and reliability continue improving each model year.
But for the widest model range, exceptional comfort, and best overall value, we give Can-Am the slight edge in 2023. From the entry-level Outlander 400 to the Defender PRO HD10 workhorse to the blistering Maverick X3 Turbo RR – Can-Am simply can’t be beat for diversity and quality across multiple UTV segments.
Whichever brand you choose, follow proper maintenance and both Can-Am and Polaris UTVs will provide years of off-road fun. Consider test driving models from each lineup to see which best fits your needs and budget.