Versatility on the job

Features - Design/Build

Compact tractors and skid-steers can make the work you do a lot easier.

July 10, 2014
Holly Hammersmith

Utilizing compact tractors and skid-steers can reduce manual labor and save time on landscaping projects. Because of this, contractors say these pieces of machinery are an irreplaceable tool for their business.

Versatility. Steve Pierson, the owner of Pierson Landscaping, based in Charleston, R.I., describes his compact tractor as a versatile and integral component on any residential landscaping job.

With two employees and revenue around $150,000 annually, Pierson’s company specializes in maintenance and design/build services, while also providing tree care.

Pierson’s Kioti CK25 tractor is still going strong roughly a decade after purchase. “It changed everything,” he said. “Basically it goes on every single job site.”

The compact tractor aids tremendously with moving trees and other large vegetation, Pierson added.

Jeff Steckline is the owner of Rock Solid Landscape, a hardscape and landscape-focused company based in Reno, Nev. He says a skid-steer is helpful on mounding and excavation projects. He has five employees and does residential work exclusively, mostly for high-end customers. Total revenue for Rock Solid Landscape ranges from about $350,000 to $500,000 annually.

Steckline says he uses his skid-steer in any instance where a “big shovel” could be needed. “Anything I can think of that will utilize it and use less labor I use it for,” Steckline says.

Customization. When it comes to selecting special features or add-ons for his Kioti, Pierson says turf tires are essential.

“With the turf tires I can take it virtually on any property and not make a mess of the property, and do very little damage that has to be fixed afterward,” Pierson says.

Both Pierson and Steckline opt for an open cab on their equipment, which is economical and allows easy access to step on and off the machine.

“My guys needed the basics. They needed good quality equipment, they didn’t need the bells and whistles,” Steckline says.

Pierson also avoids many of the bells and whistles. He started with a basic model, but has purchased a variety of attachments for the tractor over the years including a power rake, brush cutter, overseeder, post-hole digger, tractor forks and even a four-in-one bucket.

When researching compact tractors, Pierson says he selected Kioti in part due to having a local dealer. This allows him to easily order new parts and attachments.

Proper maintenance. Steckline’s last skid-steer, also a Bobcat, lasted about 10 years before the motor started to experience operation trouble.

“Typically, if well-maintained, you can get 10,000 hours out of a Bobcat,” he says. “Stay on top of the maintenance. That’s the biggest thing.”

Initially, Steckline chose a service that travelled to Steckline's company to take care of his machine instead of taking it directly to a dealer, thinking it would be more convenient. Unfortunately, the company used cheap materials to service the machine, which cost his business more money in the long run when his compact tractor broke down.

Today, his lead foreman is in charge of the machine. That individual will check the fuel, fluids and air filters, keep track of how long the compact tractor runs every day, and report back to Steckline if there are any maintenance concerns.

Having a smaller operation and seeking a more hands-on approach, Pierson opts to maintain his machine himself. From oil changes to checks on the air and fuel filters, he does it all.

Pierson says just like on a vehicle, he is also conscious to replace any worn or broken parts. “If you can do it yourself you can save quite a bit (of money),” he says. “At least I know how it was done and the quality that was behind it.”

Moving forward, both men say they would buy a compact tractor again and plan to continue using this vital piece of equipment long-term.

“That’s pretty much the one piece of equipment that I would really not want to do without,” Pierson says. “I think as far as one machine, it’s more diversified than others.”

The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.