Skid Steers vs Track Loaders
Here’s some helpful advice to make your decision easier.
Skid Steer or Compact Track Loader?
Stuck for which machine to buy? Here’s some helpful advice to make your decision easier.
Skid steer loaders – often also referred to as ‘wheeled skid steers’, ‘compact wheel loaders’ or ‘skid loaders’ – have been a staple machine of the construction industry for decades. Evolving from the skid steer came the compact track loader – itself also known as a ‘tracked skid steer’ or ‘positrack’ – which revolutionised the industry.
Ultimately, the machines offer similar capability in terms of workload, durability, and service life, however they do offer different benefits for different owners and operators. Below is a comparative breakdown of the key features of each machine type:
Track loaders offer exceptional comfort in comparison to skid steers, especially ASV Posi-Track loaders which are designed to offer supreme suspension, shock absorption and overall operator comfort using the unique and patented ‘Posi-Track’ undercarriage system. Wheeled skid steers tend to traverse bumps and uneven surfaces with less smoothness, meaning less comfort for the operator.
Both track loaders and skid steers offer excellent manoeuvrability and tight-access operation, thanks to their ability to turn in place with a tight radius. Ideal for landscaping and residential site clean-ups for this reason, skid steers and track loaders are both excellent options for all construction contractors.
Both skid steers and track loaders are highly manoeuvrable machines in tight access spaces, however also crucial to site accessibility is the machine’s performance in difficult terrain. Track loaders offer better performance in wet, muddy, boggy or slushy conditions, as their tracks are design to offer better flotation and less ground pressure than a skid steer’s tyres.
The machine’s weight is spread across the entire track diameter and length, as opposed to being centred upon the small ground contact area of the 4 tyres on a skid steer. Skid steer tyres do sometimes offer better longevity on hard surfaces like asphalt and pavers, depending on the quality of the tyre versus the quality of the CTL’s tracks.
As a result, operators working often on roads, paved areas and concrete may benefit from a wheeled skid steer.
Ground Disruption & Clearance
Track loaders win this category, as the tracks used on CTLs generally cause less disruption to the ground below, especially soft dirt, sand, mud and grass. ASV Posi-Track loaders are renowned for having the lowest ground pressures of any compact track loader on the market in each size class, with premium tracks engineered for maximum traction, extensive life and minimal ground impact.
Track loaders tend to win the ground clearance category as well, depending on model size and manufacturer. ASV Posi-Track loaders are industry-leaders for ground clearance height compared to any other manufacturer available in Australia – which allows operators to work in areas that other CTLs and skid steers simply cannot. The higher ground clearance also ensures better performance in wet and muddy conditions, reducing the chance of bogging.
Power & Lift
Track loaders and skid steers generally offer similar engine power, lifting capability and tipping loads for each size class. Premium track loaders such as the ASV Posi-Track range do offer exceptional power and performance compared to alternative manufacturers of both track loaders and skid steers.
Always be sure to check and compare the Rated Operating Capacities (35% of tipping load) of all skid steers and track loaders before purchase, as you don’t want to end up with a machine that under-performs on your key lifting tasks.
Cost of Ownership
The big one for most owner-operators – and can be complex to understand. First up, track loaders are generally more expensive than a comparative-spec skid steer to purchase new or used. However, keep in mind that the extra purchase cost of a CTL brings with it the many superior features listed above versus a skid steer: better comfort and accessibility.
The major wear items of skid steers and track loaders are the tyres and tracks, respectively. Tyres are generally significantly cheaper than tracks – however, keep in mind that quality tracks, such as those used on ASV Posi-Track loaders, often last 3 to 5 times longer than standard skid steer tyres. As a result, track loader maintenance costs tend to be similar to skid steers overall, but more sporadic and steeper from a cash-flow perspective.
Preventative maintenance and scheduled service costs are very similar for both skid steers and track loaders, with some models of track loader, such as the ASV Posi-Track range, designed for fast and efficient service to minimise downtime and associated costs.
As a result, the decision on whether to purchase a skid steer versus a track loader come down to personal preference and job requirements – however, its often the case that investing a slightly higher initial purchase outlay in a track loader often ensures overall better performance, comfort and return on investment in the long run.