How to choose between a skid-steer and a track loader
Maintaining your land for generations to come requires the right equipment. A staple for hay baling, hauling and material handling, a loader can provide tremendous return on investment and value on your acreage—and with all the available attachments, there’s almost no task that can’t be made easier or more efficient on your acreage.
With the variety of equipment choices on the market, especially with skid-steer (wheeled) and track loader (tracked) models, making a purchase decision can feel overwhelming.
However, following these tips will help you determine the right machine for your needs.
Your most common applications
While skid-steer loaders and compact track loaders share many of the same strengths (material moving and hauling power, maneuverability, and attachment compatibility to name just a few), there are some key points of differentiation where each machine type excels.
Track loaders: Thanks to low ground pressure and additional ground contact area compared to skid-steer loaders, compact track loaders minimize ground disturbance and provide excellent traction in hilly and/or muddy conditions. This allows acreage owners increased movement over their land without the worry of needing to re-sod or re-plant an area due to surface damage.
This is due to tracks being flat and evenly distributing the machine’s weight. Compact track loaders will save you time during site cleanup for landscaping jobs, or other tasks on grassy areas. They deliver a smooth ride, are comfortable to operate and retention material better in the bucket.
Skid steer loaders: All that said, the skid-steer loader can typically move faster than a compact-track loader thanks to its lighter weight and wheeled design. In general, skid steer loaders can also rotate easily and this allows for good maneuverability in tight spaces.
We recommend evaluating all the work you are currently doing on your acreage – caring for your land and your livestock certainly, but also any other creative projects you are wishing to undertake in the future.
Understand your total cost of ownership
Considering upfront and short-term costs, a skid steer loader may look like the more economical choice. Overall, the initial purchase price of a compact track loader is higher than a comparably-sized skid steer loader.
That said, looking at long-term costs, tracks last several hundred hours longer than skid-steer tires in comparable operating situations. With proper use, routine maintenance and care, the track loader can be a sound financial choice in the long run.
In terms of time investment, skid steers and track loaders require virtually the same commitment to preventative maintenance. The only differentiating part is tires versus tracks, and both of those should be checked on a regular basis—tire pressure on skid steers, track tension and adjustment on track loaders.
Advantages and disadvantages aside, the decision of skid steer or track loader is one that’s individualized, and boils down to your unique operation and your tasks.
Talk to your dealer
From a manufacturer’s perspective, you can tackle tough jobs, day after day, with either a skid-steer loader or a compact-track loader. Both types of machines are workhorses designed to help you do more for your acreage.
The experts at your Bobcat dealership will be happy to help you analyze your needs to determine the best solution for you. They can also work with you on potential rental solutions so you can try before you commit.
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