Compact Wheel Loaders vs Skid Steers | Which Machine Is Right for You?
With construction equipment product lines morphing to meet market demand, it can be tougher than ever for contractors to figure out which piece of equipment is really the best choice for their fleet. That’s especially true now, if they’re considering compact wheel loaders and skid steers. Your construction equipment dealership can be their best resource.
One of the greatest assets you have to offer new and existing customers is your product knowledge. Anyone can sell machinery, but customers get the best deal when they get the best advice, not just a good price. Let’s look at how compact wheel loaders and skid steers differ these days, and how your dealership can help prospective buyers choose the machine that will make their company more productive and more profitable.
What is a “compact” wheel loader?
That depends on who you ask. Various OEMs and industry experts say compact is defined by:
- Bucket capacity less than 2 yards
- Bucket capacity of 1 yard or less
- Under 100 hp
- Under 100 hp plus bucket capacity less than 2.35 yards
Obviously, there is some disagreement here. The best advice you can give customers is to focus on what they need to accomplish rather than what to call the equipment.
Compact wheel loader sales have grown steadily in recent years, in large part because they are replacing skid steers for certain applications. Dealers are buying more of them to expand rental fleets, as are independent rental outfits. These machines are gaining in popularity for projects in road construction, recycling, commercial building, agriculture and government use. Nonetheless, skid steers are still the better choice in some instances.
Customers are looking for greater functionality.
They want hydraulic quick couplers that make attachments easier and faster to use. That expands the machine’s versatility and efficiency, in turn reducing jobsite operating costs. They also want hydrostatic drive and other automation features that make machines easier to operate.
Manufacturers say compact wheel loaders are more versatile than ever, offering:
- More efficient engines
- More loading reach
- Greater tipping load
- Faster load-and-carry
- Better visibility
- Longer tire life
- Longer lifespan
- Enhanced operator control and comfort features
But how do compact wheel loaders and skid steers compare on the ground, where it counts? One study compared the two in 10 categories. The results?
- Compact wheel loaders offered clear advantages in bucket capacity, operating costs, speed and operator comfort.
- Skid steers offered clear advantages in initial purchase price, horsepower, maneuverability and attachments.
- They were considered an even match when it came to visibility and loading.
The right machine depends on the company and the work to be done.
Discuss this in detail with your customer. When you understand their company and their jobsite needs, you’ll be able to help them pinpoint the features that matter most. On their own, customers can easily over- or under-estimate needed machine size. You can help them carefully consider:
- Specs such as static tip load and full-turn tip load.
- Machine size (relative to the application), to determine proper bucket size.
- Turning radius – tighter allows work in smaller spaces and greater maneuverability enables more cycles.
- Ground clearance.
- Cab configuration.
- Visibility (direct and camera-supported).
- Warranty coverage.
- Total cost of ownership – naturally, the smaller the machine, the lower the hourly operating cost.
The goal is to get a just-right machine, not one that’s missing needed features or that is burdened with unnecessary overkill. By helping each customer think through the details, you’ll help them make a smart choice between compact wheel loaders and skid steers. That’s the kind of bottom-line help that builds long-term loyalty.