Compact Wheel Loader or Skid Steer Loader: Choosing the Best Machine for Your Application

by New member CompactLoader on ‎10-04-2016 11:12 AM

feb_clayton2016_046.jpgBoth 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:

  • Lift capacity
  • Lift height
  • Breakout force
  • Hydraulic horsepower (flow and pressure)
  • Visibility
  • Machine weight
  • Machine transportation requirements
  • Machine dimensions (height, width, length)
  • Tire life
  • Fuel consumption
  • Ground disturbance
  • Maintenance access
  • Ease of entry and exit from the machine
  • Ground clearance
  • Travel speed
  • Ease of operation
  • Resale value

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?

by Spragues Backhoe
on ‎10-19-2016 07:28 PM

A Cat Skid Steer is the next piece of equipment on our list to buy!

by New member callmejacklogan
on ‎09-02-2018 02:11 PM

I prefer a Cat Skid Steer more than any other machine. It is because of the sharp and hardy equipment that it posses. Moreover, it is probably the hardest vehicle I have ever come with.

Thanks and Regards, Jack Logan

About the Author
  • 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."
  • My passion is in storytelling and thought leadership, helping people connect with the brands they love and helping brands connect with their audiences. At Caterpillar, I get to work with a variety of industries and customer solutions, supporting our customers who are making huge impacts in our world every day. It's not just about the yellow iron - it's about understanding the problems our customers face, and being a part of the total solution.
  • 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.
  • I am a Marketing Communications Specialist for Caterpillar with over twelve years of experience marketing the Cat brand to customers in Latin and North America. My goal is to arm customers with the information needed to make well informed purchase decisions; to maximize the value of Cat machines by using an array of Cat Work Tool attachments; and to minimize the total cost of ownership by using Cat parts and Cat Dealer service.
  • I am an expert Operator and Application Specialist for Caterpillar concentrating on products used in the construction trades industry. I operate, evaluate and train on Cat machines and Work Tool Attachments worldwide. I have a Degree in Agricultural Engineering, Craftsman Certified and was named Apprentice of the Year 1981 at the University of East Anglia, UK.
  • I am the National Association Manager for Caterpillar and have responsibility for customer associations and partnerships in multiple industries for Caterpillar. I have 12 years of experience at Caterpillar, and have spent most of those years in the field with dealers and customers around North America. I have always had a passion for equipment and find myself fortunate to be able to work with dealers and customers almost every day.
  • I am a Product Application Specialist with 16 years of experience in the industry. As a Building Construction Products Global Trainer, I focus on training dealers and customers on machines, attachments and applications as it relates to the construction, agriculture and landscaping segments.
  • I have been with Caterpillar for more than eight years, working in various roles including a materials engineer, a filters product manager and my current position as a parts consultant. My job allows me the opportunity to work with Cat dealers and customers providing insight on how the use of quality filters and fluids results in better equipment performance and lower owning and operating costs.
  • I am a marketing and sales support professional for Caterpillar. In this role, I work with our marketing and customer service teams to support or dealers and customers, concentrating on our Small Wheel Loader, Skid Steer Loader, Mini Excavator and Dozer product groups. The exchange of ideas, information and opinions about equipment and how it’s used in various industries on forums such as this blog helps me fulfill my role at Caterpillar to the best of my ability.
  • I am the commercial/market consulting expert for all Caterpillar tires and rims with 14 years of experience. I provide guidance in the harsher work environments of mining and industrial/waste applications. Our goal is to turn our dealers and customers into knowledgeable and trusted resources with respect to tires and rims. Our group offers training, technical support and resources to develop a level of expertise within the Caterpillar value stream that is ordinarily reserved for tire companies and local tire service providers. Ultimately, we want to provide our customers with a total Cat solution from the ground up.
  • I am a Sales Support Manager for Cat Financial and have responsibility for ensuring that the right financial products are available to Cat customers who purchase, lease or rent to own. 8 of my 10 years with Caterpillar Financial have allowed customer and/or dealer interaction as part of my daily responsibilities including over 3.5 years as a Territory Manager. I take personal satisfaction in finding financial solutions that work for our customers and CAT dealers.
  • I’m a Telehandler Product Application Specialist for Caterpillar in North and South America. I have 13 years of experience, including roles in the field as a dealer service operations and technical support representative, and as a distributor business model consultant. My telehandler passion and focus is working with dealers and customers to maximize the versatility of the product through machine and operator training.
  • I am a Product and Application Specialist with over 35 years experience at Caterpillar. I focus on helping you to determine the best Cat machines, work tool attachments, and services for you to use in the building and general construction, landscaping, specialty trades, and agricultural industries.
  • I am a Senior Regional Insurance Marketing Manager with 16 years’ experience at Caterpillar Financial Insurance Services. I have the opportunity to work with 18 North American dealers providing risk management products and services that helps the Caterpillar Enterprise ( Caterpillar, Dealers and Customers) manage their business risk. Caterpillar Financial Insurance Services offers Extended Protection Plans for machines and engines, Physical Damage Insurance, Inventory Protection Plans, Dealer Property and Casualty, Risk Management, Marine Transit Insurance and Dealer Bonds.
  • Jeff Brown is a marketing professional for Caterpillar Skid Steer, Multi Terrain and Compact Track Loaders. Over Jeff's 12 years in the industry, he has visited with and studied the needs of customers across landscaping, construction, and agriculture segments. Delivering innovative solutions that solve customer's problems is Jeff's main focus.
  • 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.
  • I am a Filter and Fluid Marketing Consultant with over 14 years experience working at Caterpillar. My focus is to ensure customers understand the importance of using superior filtration and lubrication products in their equipment.
  • I am a Sales Support Manager with over nine years of experience in a variety of roles with Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation. Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to gain experience in matching financial products and tailoring funding strategies to the specific needs of customers. This includes more than three years as a Territory Manager in Seattle partnered with N C Machinery, an authorized Cat dealer covering the states of Washington and Alaska.

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