Can-Am and Polaris are both popular types of ATVs; however, there are differences between the two despite their similarities. Both brands have competed over having the top vehicles for the past several decades, but where do they differ?
Can-Am and Polaris are both all-terrain vehicles with impressive top speeds and reliability. In addition, they both are used for recreational purposes and have a similar width, suspension, and engine.
However, Polaris proves to be a more authentic all-terrain vehicle and ideal for going over rough terrain. Meanwhile, Can-Am focuses on having a faster model and increasing speed options.
If you’re interested in learning more about the two-off road vehicles, keep reading to learn about their history, reliability, and whether one is better.
Table of Contents
What is a Can-Am?
Can-Am is a side-by-side or ATV vehicle often used for off-roading. Can-Am has a long list of models, ranging in features, speed, and price. You typically use a Can-Am for recreational purposes.
Can-Am all-terrain vehicles are known for their speed and are equipped with safety features like four-point harnesses for their driver.
In addition, Can-Am vehicles steer similarly to a motorcycle, which the company manufactured initially. If you’ve driven a motorcycle before, you’ll have an easier time driving a Can-Am due to the handlebar steering.
Can-Am models come with an electric start and an MSRP of around $23,000, depending on the model.
History of the Can-Am
Can-Am started as a snowmobile company founded by J. Armand Bombardier. As a teenager in 1922, Bombardier built the first propeller-driven sled, and in 1937, he built the world’s first track-based snowmobile.
He founded Bombardier Recreational Products in 1942; however, Can-Am did not appear until the 1970s. Initially, Can-Am was a motorcycle brand that solely manufactured motocross dirt bikes.
However, in 1987, production stopped for the Can-Am motorcycles, and attention was turned to ATVs. The following year, a prototype of a utility-based ATV, BRP Traxter, was unveiled, and within a year, it was named the ATV of the year by ATV Magazine.
In 2006, the company reverted back to Can-Am and continues to operate that way.
Is the Can-Am Reliable?
Can-Am is considered a reliable brand and slightly sits on top of Polaris for reliability. You can trace common Can-Am issues back to user error, including users locking their engines or burning the belts.
However, one area where Can-Am needs more reliability is the digital key. While the new system helps prevent broken keys and theft, the fob can trap dirt and dust, leading to starting problems.
In addition, you must contact the dealer for key programming, which involves leaving your ATV. Aside from the key issues, Can-Am doesn’t offer fantastic power steering; however, it has improved over time by adding three power steering modes.
Also, users have noticed a change in Can-Am coolant, going from green to orange/pink over the years. The issue is drivers weren’t aware of how to combine the coolants and ended up with sludge that clogs the ATV’s cooling system.
You often hear of complaints regarding Can-Am vehicles overheating, which you can avoid by keeping your radiator clear. Generally, ATV engines run hot, so it’s not an issue specific to Can-Am.
Can-Am offers decent stock brakes, but since they don’t offer longevity, it’s best to upgrade after purchasing your ATV.
Likely the most reliable part of a Can-Am is its Rotax engine, which helps the brand push for power and tech. Can-Am is known for pushing the envelope regarding new products and tech, and while they aren’t all a hit, the brand is constantly trying to evolve and come up with something new.
Top Speed of a Can-Am
The top speed of a Can-Am varies by model, but you usually find ATVs reaching speeds of 80 mph. For example, the newer 2022 Can-Am Maverick X3 Max DS Turbo can hit a top speed of 80 mph, while the Can-Am Commander can reach speeds of 75 mph.
Can-Am vehicles are known for their speed, so if you are looking for fast, you want to check out a Can-Am model.
What are Some Common Can-Am Models?
Here’s a look at common Can-Am models you’ll find during your search. Remember, you want to ensure you find a model that fits your needs, not the needs of your friends.
- 2017 Can-Am Commander Max XT
- Can-Am Commander 1000
- 2018 Can-Am Defender DPS Max
- Cam-Am Maverick Trail 1000 DPS
- Can-Am Maverick X3 Max X rs Turbo R
- 2022 Can-Am Maverick X3 Max DS Turbo
What is a Polaris?
A Polaris is an off-road vehicle used for recreational, utility, and sports purposes. You can find Polaris models in side-by-sides, ATV, or single-seat options. In addition, Polaris makes four-wheelers for children ages six and up that offer a fun, safe way to ride.
Polaris ATVs have straddle seats and handlebars, similar to motorcycles. Polaris vehicles are often used for play or work, but sometimes the lines are blurred where play and work combine.
Regarding ATVs and UTVs, you’ll find five different brands under the Polaris umbrella. Some models offer one or two seats, while others can fit additional passengers.
History of the Polaris
Like Can-Am, Polaris began as a snowmobile company but didn’t enter the scene until 1954. The first Polaris modern-type snowmobile was small and only fit one or two people. It didn’t take long for Polaris and Bombardier to compete.
Polaris focused on a small, sleek vehicle, while Bombardier produced standalone, wind-powered vehicles. Polaris focused on snowmobiles until 1985, when they released the TrailBoss and Scrambler ATC, which some consider the first American-made four-wheelers.
However, once Polaris entered the off-road vehicle game, they were late compared to Honda and other Japanese manufacturers. Polaris introduced the Ranger in 1998 and later added the Ranger RZR in 2008.
Polaris was a game-changer in the ATV world when it produced the RZR, which blew others on the market out of the water. Several years later, they introduced the RZR1000, followed by the RZR Turbo two years after that.
Polaris and Can-AM essentially played a cat-and-mouse game on who could develop the better ATV and still compete on who has a faster vehicle.
Is the Polaris Reliable?
Polaris vehicles have proven themselves to be reliable and offer a durable ride. Although some users are skeptical about its reliability, others appreciate only the required maintenance.
Polaris is ranked the fourth most reliable vehicle, coming immediately behind Can-Am. Reliability can be subjective since ATVs are used for different purposes depending on the rider.
However, Polaris offers a heavy ride, allowing it to take on a lot of damage. In addition, they offer a powerful transmission, and their suspension can carry drivers over rough terrain.
Users also appreciate the comfortable ride Polaris provides and the upgraded brakes in several models.
Polaris provides reliable vehicles that the U.S. Military often used for first response or mission vehicles. Since Polaris vehicles aren’t afraid of damage, they can be used in tough situations where other ATVs fail.
Also, if you want to use an ATV across rough terrain, you will find the Polaris extremely reliable. Compared to the Can-AM, Polaris vehicles offer superior power steering and an overall smooth ride.
Finally, while Polaris doesn’t rank in the top three most reliable ATVs, if you maintain your vehicle and use it accordingly, you can get over ten years of use, which makes the price worth it.
Top Speed of a Polaris
The fastest Polaris model, the RZR Pro R, can reach top speeds of 90 mph, with similar models reaching between 80-85 mph. However, you must have ideal terrain to reach these speeds, and remember to wear safety gear like helmets and goggles.
While Polaris has options with high speeds, it’s not something they are known for, and Can-Am typically beats them in this category.
What are Some Common Polaris Models?
Like Can-Am, there are several common Polaris Models you’ll find when looking for the right ATV. Here’s a sampling of what they have to offer.
- 2017 Polaris General 4
- 2019 Polaris Ranger Crew XP 1000
- Polaris RZR 900 EPS
- 2019 Polaris RZR XP 4 Turbo S
- Polaris RZR Pro R
- Polaris Sportsman XP 1000
Is One Better than the Other?
Deciding whether Polaris or Can-Am is better depends on what’s essential for you in a vehicle. For example, one brand may check all the boxes for your needs and requirements, but it doesn’t for the next guy.
Both brands offer reliable, fast vehicles at comparable prices, making it up to you to decide. In addition, you likely want the vehicle to look attractive, but looks are subjective, so, again, it’s up to the consumer.
However, Polaris offers a superior rpm, an easy entry and exit system, excellent visibility, and reliable brakes. Also, models like the RZR offer a short turning radius, allowing you to handle rough terrain.
On the other hand, Can-Am offers an impressive engine that rivals others on the market. Users also appreciate the aluminum wheels on Can-Am models and comfortable seats with plenty of legroom.
If you decide between the two brands, you must go on personal preference, as they both have pros and cons. While your buddy might prefer one, it doesn’t mean you must stick to that brand. Remember, you’re the one who is going to be driving it.
Finally, it’s essential to understand that each brand has its own set of perks, so you want to look at what’s important to you.
While Can-Am and Polaris ATVs have differences, they are also very similar. While Can-Am is known for fast vehicles, Polaris offers a heavy ride, ensuring you can get through rough terrain.
You will also find the brands comparable in price, and if you decide to buy a used vehicle, ensure you have an inspection conducted. Also, the brands are neck-in-neck for reliability, with most issues being prevented with regular maintenance.
If you are stuck between Can-Am and Polaris, understand they are both excellent brands, and it comes down to personal preference and your needs and requirements. You can’t go wrong with one from either Can-Am or Polaris.
I’m William Guzenski, ASE certified master automobile technician & automotive expert. I love to attend race events and car shows throughout the country. I also loves to travel 40-foot motorhome, exploring abandoned mines and ghost towns. I’m currently building another car for Bonneville Salt Flats and will be campaigning a drag car at several events.