On The Level: Skid Steer or Compact Wheel Loader for Landscaping
On The Level: Skid Steer or Compact Wheel Loader for Landscaping

How to Choose Between a Skid Steer or Compact Wheel Loader for Your Landscape Business

Landscapers have a big choice to make when looking at new compact equipment - skid steer or compact wheel loader? We're here to help. Check out this guide for how to make new equipment decisions for your landscaping business. 

You need a new wheeled machine for your landscaping business – how do you choose what size or type of equipment is best? There are several differences, and many similarities, between skid steers and compact wheel loaders. Here are a few questions to help you make the right equipment decisions for your business.

Skid Steer or Compact Wheel Loader for Landscaping
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Skid Steer or Compact Wheel Loader for Landscaping

How Big is Your Working Space?

Is your work primarily taking place in tight spaces, such as in downtown areas in large cities? Or are doing most of your work in open spaces for residential or commercial developments or landscape supply yards? 

Start with your space dimensions and compare machine specs – if you can’t fit a compact wheel loader within your working space, then you need to look at skid steer loaders to determine which model is the best fit for the work you do. Also remember that a compact wheel loader requires a three-point turn to turn around, while a skid steer can turn on its own center. 

What Kind of Work Are You Doing?

The first thing to consider after the machine size is ground disturbance. A skid steer will drag the tires when turning and has the potential to tear up the ground, where a compact wheel loader articulates and therefore leaves a smaller chance of ground disturbance.

Now let’s talk about what you’ll be doing with your equipment. For example, if you’ll be using a variety of hydromechanical tools you may want to consider a skid steer loader. If you’ll mostly be using buckets and forks, then a compact wheel loader is a great choice.

A skid steer may give you more versatility for a wide variety of landscaping tasks. These machines offer more power and more control, resulting in better performance with more complex attachments, whether it’s using an auger, power box rake, or leveraging Smart Attachments.

Compact wheel loaders offer higher carrying capacity and higher travel speed than skid steers (23 mph vs. 11 mph respectively). So if you find that you’ll need to lift and/or transport larger loads like trees and heavy palletized material, or if you have need to road the machine frequently within a development or between parking lots then you may find the compact wheel loader to be a better choice.

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What Materials Are You Handling?

Bucket shapes are different for skid steer loaders and compact wheel loaders because they’re optimized for each machine’s capability. If you're moving the same material with each machine, you'll notice the bucket size can be much larger on a compact wheel loader. This, again, comes down to machine capability. Compact wheel loaders will increase your load carrying capacity by up to 70%.

How High Do You Need to Load?

Are you primarily working at ground level, doing work like soil prep, using a power box rake or an auger, or trenching? Or are you frequently loading or unloading pallets, placing irrigation pipes, or loading haul trucks with dirt or snow during the winter months?

Remember to take lift height into consideration if you’ll be lifting or loading materials frequently. A compact wheel loader will have an advantage on lift height as well as visibility. The higher seating position of a compact wheel loader gives you a different perspective of the job site than the enclosed cab of a skid steer loader. 

What is Total Cost of Ownership?

The great news is that maintenance costs for skid steers and compact wheel loaders are about the same. Both are typically utility based machine. Cat® skid steer and compact wheel loaders run the same engine and have the same oil change intervals.

At Caterpillar, we focus on service access, long life coolant, and long life hydraulic oil to give our customers the lowest maintenance cost and longest service intervals possible, because we know you have a job to do, and deadlines to meet.

Once you work through these questions and considerations, contact your local Cat dealer to request a demo and get a closer look at each machine. Either way you go, we’re ready to support your equipment needs and have industry specialists on hand to help you make the best decision for your business.