It wasn’t long ago that you either had a shovel or a very large loader, but nothing in between. Today, a vast selection of innovative skid-steer, compact track loader, all-wheel steer and mini track loaders can add efficiency and versatility to a variety of projects. Whether you are planning a purchase or trying to match an existing machine to a particular project, there are several variables to consider.
For those unsure what those factors are or how to evaluate them, choosing the right compact loader can be challenging. Does it need to work well in tight jobsites? Does it need extra traction for pushing piles on soft or muddy ground? Will material be loaded into a truck, requiring extra lift and reach? Will it be accessing gated areas or backfilling footings?
Answering these questions and achieving the best fit for an operation starts with an understanding of the primary types of compact loaders, as well as the features and attachments that can help tailor the machine to jobsites and tasks.
These five steps can help narrow down the choices.
There are four different types of compact loaders, each designed to provide varying levels of power, lifting capacity and mobility.
Due to their tires, skid-steer and all-wheel steer loaders have mobility and wear advantages on paved surfaces. This makes them the preferred choice for many demolition, renovation and snow removal applications. Solid tire option is available for applications such as demolition and recycling.
Because compact track loaders have more area in contact with the surface, they can provide greater pushing and digging power.
A compact track loader will dig and load more material in the same amount of time, or the same amount of material in less time, due to superior traction capabilities.
In many parts of North America, a compact track loader will add months to the typical contractor’s working year because of its ability to float on wet, muddy ground.
When it comes to lift-arm design, most manufacturers offer a choice between loaders with a radius- or vertical-lift path design.
If lifting and loading of high-sided trucks is not necessary, it is less expensive to purchase a radius-lift-path machine. However, while vertical-lift-path machines have a higher initial cost, they usually command higher prices at resale time.
The other factor in lifting performance is the compact loader’s rated operating capacity (commonly referred to as ROC). Excavating and landscaping contractors generally need compact loaders with higher rated operating capacities because they move a lot of dirt, aggregate and other heavy loads. General contractors, on the other hand, may prefer a smaller, more versatile machine that can work in tight areas.
If most of your work is done in an existing development or on paved or improved surfaces, skid-steer loaders are the best choice. Not only do they have a lower initial cost for the same size machine, but they have lower ownership costs. While rubber tracks should last about twice as long as tires with proper operation, tires still cost considerably less.
Utilization is key with any compact loader because the more frequently you use it to fit your job applications and the more attachments you can put on it, the faster you realize a return on your investment. A key financial advantage of owning a compact loader is that with the purchase or rental of several different attachments, you can build a higher utilization rate compared to operating and maintaining several different pieces of dedicated equipment.