Wheel loaders vs. skidsteers

Wheel loaders vs. skidsteers

This question has ignited some discussion in recent years, and it will continue to do so more and more. Compact wheelloaders are becoming ‘big’ in the US, the country of skidsteers and… skidsteers. Since we started offering our compact wheelloaders in the US, pretty much every person seeing them has asked this; compact wheelloader vs. skidsteer: how does it compare? Time to clear things up.


It may look like a skidsteer and a wheel-loader in the same weight/horsepower class perform the same, but they don’t. Why is this?

When looking at lift capacity and tipping loads, a wheel-loader outperforms a skidsteer.  A wheelloader has its weight centered in back in the machine. Above that, it often uses a ‘Z-kinematics’ boom, which gives a wheel-loader incredible tilt-back power. That’s why they require less horsepower and hydraulic power to lift a 1000 lbs. rock than a skidsteer does.
When you compare specifications of skidsteers and wheel loaders, you will see that skidsteers with lift capacities comparable to that of wheel-loaders are heavier and have a larger engine. This results in skidsteers in having larger hydraulic pumps and work outputs, often starting at 15 GPM (standard) to 35 GPM (hi-flow). A side-effect of this is that American attachment manufacturers often build their hydraulically powered attachments to require a higher GPM/PSI output than wheel-loaders can manage. When buying hydraulically powered attachments like sweepers or snowblowers, be sure that your machine can handle them and vice versa.

Operator comfort

Underestimated but very important. Wheel-loaders are generally preferred over skidsteers when looking at operator comfort. It starts with entering the machine. In order to start operating a skidsteer, you literally have to climb into the cab. Then get ready for a bumpy ride; they aren’t particularly comfy when driving over rough terrain.  For obvious reasons, visibility is limited in a skidsteer. When carrying two bales, all visibility to the front is gone as well.

Compare this to a wheelloader: hop on & drive within seconds, excellent rough terrain handling,  and 360 degree view. Wheeled loaders are also faster than skidsteers, which often have a top speed of 12 mp/h.

Pricing & efficiency

On average, compact wheelloaders have 10-20% higher purchasing cost than skidsteers. Be sure to match a wheel loader and a skidsteer based on their capabilities. Ask us if you have trouble comparing machines.
When looking at operating costs, a wheel loader gives you an advantage. A set of skidsteer tires goes for about 1000 hours, whereas  wheel loader tires go for more than 3000 hours! Fuel consumption is much higher on a skidsteer, because it requires much more power to do the same things.


Safety features are important factor for buyers. When looking at stability, the skidsteer has the advantage. When operated incorrectly a compact wheelloader has the risk of falling on its side. To prevent this, the wheelloaders we sell have wider tires which greatly reduce the risk of falling over. Visibility is also a great safety-factor for loader operators and bystanders. A wheelloader has a 360 degree field of view. A skidsteer only has open view in front of the operator.


You could say the ability of a skidsteer to do a 180 degree turn on the spot is impressive, but this comes at a cost. It will rip up the soil on which you’re driving. Landscapers dislike this feature. For some it might come as an advantage, if they’re prepared to pay for a few sets of tires during a skidsteer’s lifetime. The wheel-loader causes no turf damage. Above that, they’re faster: skidsteers need to make a full stop to turn while compact wheelloaders’ articulated steering causes the wheels to follow up on each other.

Found this interesting? There are more articles on this topic: