Is A John Deere Gator Considered An ATV? [Differences & Similarities]

There are three categories of John Deere Gator models: The Work Series, Mid-Size Crossover XUVs, and Full-Size Crossover XUVs. In addition, there are multiple UTVs in each of the three categories based on different levels of luxury. 

Although John Deere Gators may be referred to as ATVs, they are a distinct and separate type of all-terrain vehicle. Gators fall under the term UTV because they are Utility Task Vehicles, basically a combination of an ATV and a vehicle capable of carrying loads and is helpful as a tool rather than a toy. 

There are more subtle differences between the two types of vehicles as well. John Deere Gators started off at the Work Series level, and each succeeding Gator has been followed up with newer, more refined. 

Indeed, more luxurious models until the line between what is utility and what is fun got blurred. 

Differences Between ATVs and UTVs


ATVs are far more simplified than their UTV cousins and are defined as “All-Terrain Vehicles” for a very good reason. The best ATVs can go almost anywhere and tackle any terrain but are usually best suited for a single rider.

  • Some of the best ATVs can get up to 90mph
  • You steer using handlebars.
  • Mostly, all ATVs are open, with no top
  • Designed to tackle tough terrain
  • Most ATVs are designed for a single rider

ATVs are typically faster and more maneuverable than their UTV counterparts. In addition, they can get into places that a UTV can’t, as they are lighter in weight and designed for navigating terrain substantially more rigid than what you would encounter in a UTV.

The operation of an ATV is a little different as well but will be familiar to those who have ridden motorcycles, bicycles, snowmobiles, or jet skis. ATVs use a simple handlebar steering system with all of the controls on or near the handgrips.

Often, the throttle is operated by the hand, and the clutch is at the feet, with a braking system that is a combination of the two. Of course, automatic ATVs won’t have a shifter at the feet, but that’s where you will typically find it with standard shift ATVs.

ATVs are also open for the most part and simple to jump on and ride off. While you can certainly ride double or even have a third passenger on the back or front, ATVs are at their best and safest with a single rider in the seat. 


UTVs have a rugged framework like ATVs, with a broader body and the capacity to carry more than a single passenger. Therefore, they drive more like you would expect a car to drive like, or even a go-kart. 

  • A typical UTV can hold four people
  • UTVs drive like cars
  • While some UTVs can go pretty fast, they are generally slower than ATVs
  • UTVs have rollover cages and a cabin
  • Some UTVs will have more than four wheels

When it comes to UTVs, it’s like someone got the bright idea to combine all of the features of a golf cart and an ATV and somehow make it work. 

The result was the UTV, which typically has room for multiple passengers and even additional space for hauling things, like a short bed pickup truck. 

They drive almost just like a car, with the expected foot pedals for braking and acceleration and a smaller steering wheel mounted on the dash. For those who have never ridden an ATV or UTV, a UTV will feel right at home. 

UTVs also have cabins, most of which are reinforced into what is essentially a rollover cave. During the winter, you can enclose the cabins with plastic windows and a canvas overhead, which usually comes with the UTV but can be purchased separately. 

Even though UTVs aren’t supposed to be as fast as ATVs (and they aren’t for the most part), they can still get going pretty fast on more open terrain. While UTVs aren’t designed to get down into and churn out of serious mudholes as an ATV can, they are still reliable offroad vehicles. 

Some UTVs even have six tires rather than four, depending on the design. While ATVs are considered recreational, fun vehicles to take out only the trails and explore the unknown, UTVs are more known for being the workhorse around the home. 

John Deere UTVs

As we mentioned above, John Deere manufactures three categories of UTV, and each category has multiple Gator models under their respective umbrellas. 

The Work Series

John Deere’s work series of UTVs has seven Gator models in its lineup. 

These are the smallest UTVs in the John Deere lineup and are comprised of gas, diesel, and electric-powered models. The diesel variations have a max payload of 1,600lbs, while the electric model has the lowest payload capacity at 900lbs. 

There is a lot of variety on offer here, including the various fuel types, with a 2WD and a 4WD design and a single, six-wheel model designed for serious hauling on a tiny frame. The Work Series of UTVs is truly the workhorse of all of the Gators that John Deere offers. 

Mid-Size Crossovers

There are five Gators in the John Deere Mid-Size Crossover Series. 

All the mid-size Gators come with 4WD, a minimum payload capacity of 900lbs, and a maximum payload capacity of 1,500lbs. These models will have no problem navigating rougher terrain than their Work Series counterparts. 

The S4 variations are much larger with more occupant capacity and a thicker, beefier aesthetic. In addition, both S4s can carry a payload capacity of 1,300lbs. 

Full-Size Crossovers

These are the bread and butter UTVs in John Deere’s catalog, and they are about as close to a car as you can get. All but the S4 variations can haul 2,000lbs of cargo, and most can transport up to three or 4-people at a time.

There are 16 full-size crossovers in this category, and they are easily the most expensive of all of the Gator UTVs that John Deere offers. While not all of them offer enough space for four passengers, they’re all designed to carry at least three and in the most comfortable way possible. 

Many of them even come with heating and cooling capabilities, which puts them closer to being an actual car than anything else on the market. In fact, hopping inside one of John Deere’s Full-Size Crossovers will probably feel more like getting into a car than anything else. 


John Ford Gators are not ATVs, but despite their UTV capabilities, they have a lot to offer, even those who may want to purchase one as a recreational vehicle rather than an around the property workhorse. 

While UTVs can’t do some of the things that ATVs are capable of, they are still exceptionally rugged vehicles that are far more comfortable and luxurious than anything you might expect from an ATV.

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