If you’re looking to buy a new off-road vehicle for hunting, farming, or just recreational riding with friends and family, two of the most popular choices are the Polaris Ranger and the Polaris General. But with different capabilities and intended uses, how do you decide whether the utility-focused Ranger or the recreation-focused General is the better fit for you?
This in-depth comparison outlines everything you need to know about both Polaris side-by-sides. We’ll cover the key differences in utility vs recreation design, seating, suspension, storage, engine power, and more. You’ll also find an overview of each model’s history, capabilities, ideal use cases, pricing, and strengths.
By the end, you’ll have the information you need to determine if the workhorse Ranger or the off-road excitement of the General is the right choice to get the job done for your needs. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Key Differences Between the Polaris Ranger and General
While both made by industry leader Polaris, there are some notable differences between the Ranger and General lineups:
- Intended use – The Ranger leans more utility, with features aimed at farming, hunting, and commercial jobs. The General focuses more on high-octane recreational enjoyment.
- Seating capacity – The Ranger fits 2-6 passengers, while the General maxes out at 2-4 seats.
- Suspension – The General offers a smoother ride for recreational riding, while the Ranger has a utility-oriented suspension built for work.
- Storage – The Ranger wins out with a larger, more configurable cargo box design.
- Engine power – Both vehicles can be equipped with up to 1000cc engines.
Now let’s take a detailed look at each UTV model…
Polaris Ranger Overview and Capabilities
Polaris first introduced the Ranger in 1997, and over 25 years later, it remains one of their most popular side-by-sides. Built with utility and work in mind, Ranger models come in 2- to 6-seat configurations and have evolved to include variants like the:
- Ranger Crew – For 2+3 or 3+3 seating
- Ranger XP – More recreational-focused
- Ranger Northstar – Special edition for extreme cold
- Ranger Diesel – Diesel engine option
No matter which Ranger you choose, they offer excellent capabilities for:
- Towing – Up to 2,500 lb tow rating depending on model
- Hauling – 1,000+ lb payload capacity
- Accessories – Cargo beds, winches, plows, and more
The Ranger really shines for farm work, commercial applications, ranching, hunting trips, and any tasks that require a utility vehicle to get the job done. The diesel models like the Ranger XP 1000 EPS Diesel are built for seriously heavy-duty work.
Overall if you need an ATV with versatility, cargo space, and rugged capability, it’s hard to beat the classic Polaris Ranger.
Polaris General Overview and Capabilities
Polaris launched the General line in 2015 to enter the recreational side-by-side market. While more focused on fun than utility, the General still offers excellent performance:
- 2 and 4 seat models – Unlike the Ranger, no 6 seat configuration
- 75+ HP engine – Up to 113 HP on the 1000 models
- Sporty handling – Lower center of gravity than Ranger
- Smooth ride suspension – Dialed in for trails and dunes
Some of the most popular General models include:
- General 1000 EPS Premium – Upgraded 4-seater with bags of features
- General XP 1000 Deluxe – Comfort and tech extras like Bluetooth
- General XP 4 1000 – 4-seat configuration
The General excels when you want a thrilling, comfortable ride for:
- Trail riding – Eats up rough terrain on backcountry trails
- Dunes – Performance suspension soaks up bumps and jumps
- Mudding – Strong engine and handling for the sloppiest mud pits
- Recreational property – Perfect for acreage maintenance and exploration
Basically if you prioritize recreational enjoyment over utility, the Polaris General delivers excitement in spades.
Comparing Key Specs on the Ranger and General
Now that we’ve covered the general differences, let’s dig into some key specifications to see how these two Polaris side-by-sides stack up:
- Engine – Both offer single and twin cylinder options from 500cc to 1000cc. The 999cc engines hit 113 HP on the General.
- Transmission – Smoother clutch feel on the General but both use an efficient PVT system.
- Turning Radius – Around 12ft on the Ranger, closer to 15ft on the General.
- Ground Clearance – Models like the Ranger XP 1000 offer up to 12in clearance for work sites. General tends to be lower.
- Fuel Capacity – 9-10 gallon capacity is standard on both models.
- Towing – Up to 2500lb on the Ranger but lower ratings on recreation-focused General.
- Accessories – Both have a huge range of accessories for customization.
As expected, the Ranger edges out on utility specs, while the General prioritizes rider experience.
Ride Quality and Handling Comparison
Aside from the specs, one of the biggest differences comes down to ride quality and handling:
- Suspension – The General has more plush, adjustable shocks dialed in for smooth recreational riding. The Ranger has a stiffer utility suspension built for work sites.
- Rough Terrain – Superior suspension gives the General an edge over bumps and ruts, but the Ranger still fares well with its ground clearance.
- Steering/Handling – Tight turning radius on the Ranger makes navigating narrow spaces easy. The General offers a sportier, more nimble feel.
- Comfort – Again the General is tough to beat thanks to its plush shocks and lower center of gravity. But the Ranger remains a smooth ride over long miles.
So while the Ranger can hold its own off-road, the General certainly provides a more enjoyable experience on bumpy trails.
Passenger Space and Ergonomics
Another key difference is passenger capacity and comfort:
- Seats – The Ranger fits up to 6 passengers with bench seats. The General tops out at 4 seats in individual bucket configuration.
- Space – Models like the Ranger Crew XP 4 1000 Premium offer excellent leg room. The General has less overall space but more individualized seats.
- Comfort – Again the plush General seats edge out the Ranger‘s backless bench seats. But both offer decent comfort for long rides.
- Access – The Ranger can be easier to get in and out of thanks to the open bench design and higher ground clearance.
So if you need room for up to 6, the Ranger has more usable space. But for individualized comfort, the General seats win out.
Cargo and Hauling Comparison
Cargo capacity and towing ability is arguably where the Ranger shows its utility roots the strongest:
- Cargo Box – More than double the size at around 50in x 60in x 12in for some Ranger models. Easily configured with dividers and accessories.
- Payload – Up to 1500lb+ capacity on Ranger models. Around 1000lb on the General.
- Towing – Up to 2500lb tow rating on Ranger depending on model. Around 1500lb limit on most Generals.
- Accessories – Endless accessories like bed extenders available for the Ranger to customize cargo space.
So if you need serious cargo and towing abilities, the Polaris Ranger really can’t be beat. But the General still offers decent utility space for recreational tasks.
Technology Features and Upgrades
Polaris loads both models with technology features to enhance the ride:
- Infotainment – Large touchscreen dash on premium trims with Bluetooth, GPS nav, and vehicle data.
- Audio – High-end stereo systems and weatherproof speakers available.
- Phone – Bluetooth smartphone connection for music and calls.
- Displays – Digital dashboard provides speed, diagnostics, and environmental readouts.
- Upgrades – Options like LED headlights, backup cameras, and heated seats.
While base models are simpler, higher-end versions of both the Ranger and General boast an impressive slate of tech upgrades.
Safety Features and Protection
Of course with any side-by-side, safety should also be considered:
- Seat belts – Available 3-point safety belts and shoulder restraints for all passengers.
- Roll cage – Reinforced steel cage frame protects occupants in the event of a rollover.
- Lighting – Bright LED headlights plus brake and hazard lights come standard.
- Reflectors/Flags – Help make the vehicle more visible.
- Nets – Side occupant nets provide additional protection from brush and debris.
- Upgrades – Add-ons like rearview cameras and proximity sensors available.
Both Polaris models check the box for critical safety features during on- and off-road driving.
Cost Considerations Between the Two
When it comes to price tag, here’s how the MSRP stacks up for entry-level models:
- Ranger 500: Around $11,000
- Ranger 1000: Around $16,000
- General 600: Around $13,000
- General 1000: Around $20,000
The Ranger tends to be a bit more affordable at the low end, while the General commands more for its recreational performance. Of course prices can rise quickly for premium packages and accessories.
Overall the General tops out as the pricier model, but both UTVs hit a wide range of budgets.
Summary: Which Is the Better Buy?
So when all is said and done, which comes out as the better buy? Here are some final considerations:
- The Polaris Ranger is the winner for utility needs like farming, hauling, and work sites. Unmatched cargo space, towing, and configuration options make it the perfect utility machine.
- For recreation and trail riding, the Polaris General takes the crown. Superior suspension, handling, ergonomics, and passenger comfort put the thrill in thrill seeking.
- Shoppers wanting versatility could go either way. Higher end Ranger models like the XP 1000 have great performance, while the General still enables decent utility space.
- Budget is a factor. With working models starting under $12K, the Ranger can be more affordable. But used and entry models still put the General within reach.
At the end of the day, analyzing your needs and intended use case will determine if the utility-focused Ranger or the recreation-focused General is the better fit. Both are incredible machines originating from the same Polaris pedigree.
Hopefully this detailed comparison gives you a clear sense of the strengths of both UTV models. Whichever you choose, just get out and enjoy the ride!
Whether you’re working or playing, the Polaris Ranger and Polaris General represent two of the best side-by-side options on the market. We’ve covered all the key differences in utility design vs recreation, seating configurations, cargo space, ride handling, and more.
If you have any other questions as you evaluate and compare these amazing Polaris UTVs, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m happy to provide any guidance or additional details to help you land on the perfect ride. Feel free to contact me if you need any other information related to Polaris, Polaris Ranger, Polaris General, Ranger, General, or finding the ideal side-by-side.
Safe travels and enjoy the ride!