Both skid steer loaders and compact wheel loaders can serve as vital assets to your equipment fleet. It’s all a matter of deciding which machine(s) best suits your needs, and offers you the lowest total cost of ownership. It is always important to carefully consider the type of machine(s), as well as the machine configuration you need to get the job done.
Deciding Between a Skid Steer Loader and Compact Wheel Loader
While skid steer loaders are the more popular machines in North America and tend to have a lower initial purchase price, in certain applications a compact wheel loader may make the most sense. Some items to consider when deciding between the two machines include:
Hydraulic horsepower (flow and pressure)
Machine transportation requirements
Machine dimensions (height, width, length)
Ease of entry and exit from the machine
Ease of operation
Evaluating Machine Specs
So you’ve decided to purchase or rent a compact wheel loader or skid steer loader—now it’s time to select the machine configuration you need. Since loading material is often the primary function of any wheeled loader, the first spec to consider is typically the machine’s tip load and/or rated operating capacity (ROC). Here’s how the machine configurations break down:
On a compact wheel loader, the full turn tip load (FTTL) defines the amount of bucket material weight it will take for the machine to tip over when the loader arms are fully extended in a level position with the machine fully articulated.
On a skid steer loader, since the machine doesn’t articulate, the tip load (TL) is measured with the loader arms at a raised and level position.
The ROC, also known as the safe working load, is half of the FTTL or TL and can tell you how much the machine can safely lift.
For example, if you need to be able to lift 3,000 pounds of material in the bucket, you want to select a machine with a 6,000 pound FTTL/TL, thus a 3,000 pound ROC.
Note: Something to keep in mind with lift capacity is that a machine with a higher engine horsepower doesn’t necessarily translate to a higher tip load.
Dimensional and weight requirements are also important factors to consider, especially for transportation purposes. For instance, if you need to transport the machine to various job sites on a trailer, you need to ensure that you do not exceed the weight limit that your vehicle can safely tow (i.e., truck, trailer and wheel loader weight combined). Height and width of the machine also come into play to make sure you will be able to properly maneuver the equipment within the constraints of the working environment.
Finally, another specification to evaluate is the machine’s hydraulic horsepower. This becomes especially important if you are utilizing certain attachments that require higher hydraulic flow, such as a cold planer. If this is the case, select a compact wheel loader or skid steer loader with a high flow option so you can operate these attachments at optimal performance.
As you can see, there is a lot to consider when selecting between a skid steer or compact wheel loader. To learn more, contact your local Cat® dealer or visit us online.
We’d like to hear about your machine selection and spec’ing process.
Are you currently deciding between purchasing or renting a skid steer loader or compact wheel loader? If so, which factors are most important to your decision?
Have you ever owned or operated a compact wheel loader or skid steer loader? In your opinion, what advantages do they offer? Disadvantages?
What machine configurations are most important to you and your business or operation needs?
What type of resources have you used in the past to spec your machines? Which ones have been most helpful?
What type of resources do you wish were available to you to help spec your machines?
I’m an Attachments Product Application & Sales Support Specialist for Caterpillar in North America. I have been with Caterpillar for five years including roles in the field as a dealer sales support representative and marketing support in the skid steer and small wheel loader product groups. I graduated from Iowa State University with degrees in Agricultural Business and Economics. Our goal is to provide a full portfolio of attachments for our customers to be more productive and versatile with their machines.
I am an Industry and Application Rep for Caterpillar. I graduated from NC State with a dual degree in Agriculture Business Management and Agriculture Science, concentrating in Leadership and Environmental Technologies. I focus primarily on the relationships between customers, dealers, and the product specialists for the Building Construction Products division. Growing up on a tobacco and beef cattle farm, I have several years of machine operation experience and agricultural knowledge. Thomas Jefferson said it best in that, "Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness."
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I’m a Compact Wheel Loader Product Application Specialist for Caterpillar in North America. I have 11 years of experience, including roles in the field as a dealer technical support representative, and as a distributor business model consultant. I graduated from North Carolina State University with a Mechanical Engineering Degree, and wanted a job where I didn't have to sit in front of a computer all day. This job allows me to get out and get my hands dirty, with the goal of providing solutions to customers’ machine needs.
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I am a North American Product and Application Specialist for Caterpillar. In this role, I have had the opportunity to represent Caterpillar at various trade shows and train customers on new Small Wheel Loader content. I graduated from Purdue University in 2001 with a Mechanical Engineering degree and have spent the past 15 years with Caterpillar in various engineering roles. Growing up in the Mid-West, I have always loved the cold and the unique activities winter enables. Unfortunately, I had to give those up when I moved to North Carolina. I don't care what people say, you never get used to a hot climate.
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