Finding your fit

Features - Equipment

Product managers give some insight on what you should consider when buying or renting a skid-steer.


Buying or renting a skid-steer can be a daunting task. With so many manufacturers offering so many different attributes on their pieces of equipment, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. To give you a hand the next time you need to invest in a skid-steer, we spoke with some product managers who gave us tips on the finer points of skid-steer shopping.
It may seem obvious, but before shopping, make sure you have a clear understanding on how the equipment will be used – what kind of work you’ll be doing, what kind of material you’ll be moving and how long you’ll be running the machine.

“The best advice I can give contractors is to have a very thorough understanding of the types of work they do, their needs for the machine, and what it will be doing,” says Mike Fitzgerald, loader product specialist for Bobcat Co. “Then they can come in and look for a machine that has the proper rated operating capacity, horsepower and physical size, as well as which options they require.”

Kelly Morris, product manager for Mustang skid-steer loaders, says potential buyers need to take into consideration the controls on a machine, and should invest in one that their workers have familiarity.

“It’s like a guy buying a car,” Morris says. “If you had always had an automatic transmission, that’s what you are going to get. If you had some driving of a car with a manual, well then a manual would be an option for you.”

One of your biggest decisions is whether you want a vertical or radial lift machine, says Curtis Goettel, marketing manager for Case Construction Equipment.

“The vertical machine essentially lifts the bucket straight up and down on the machine,” Goettel says. “When it’s all the way at the top, it gives you a little more reach. So, when you’re doing a lot of loading high trucks with mulch or a lot of lift and carry – you’re running over to this pile, picking up a pile of mulch and dumping it in a truck – verticals are better suited for that.”

Goettel says if you’re doing a lot of digging, prying and pushing with rocks or concrete – construction type work – radial machines are stronger in that application because the bucket comes up in a semi-circle – the higher it gets, it pulls back over the cab.

"It only has a single point of attachment, but because it only has a single point of attachment to the chassis, it’s tied directly to the chassis,” Goettel says. “So when you’re in a pushing and digging application, you’re pushing and digging with the whole machine not just with the arms.”

Another thing to remember is that the biggest piece of equipment isn’t always what you might need.

“A lot of people take the attack of, ‘I’ll take the biggest thing made,’ whether they need it or not,” Goettel says. “A lot of times, it’s a lot smarter to get a machine that will do what you want it to do. But don’t get too much machine. Instead take that money that you would be spending on a higher horsepower and bigger machine and spend it on getting the options that will make what you’re doing with it easier.”

That could be buying a hydraulic coupler or investing money in better tires.

When renting, contractors need to consider the place they are buying from, says Kevin Coleman, senior project engineer, compact loaders for Caterpillar.

“More established rental locations will offer higher quality equipment and work tools that have been well maintained and will provide reliable operation for the duration of the rental period.” Coleman says. “These locations often have a broader selection of rental machine models and work tools to choose from which will help provide the ‘best fit’ for a customer’s needs.”

Jamie Wright, product manager for Terex Construction Americas, says  specifically when renting, contractors  need to match the size of the loader to the task.

“Renting a larger unit than needed can result in additional rental and fuel consumption costs, and the larger unit could be less productive because it may not be as efficient or as nimble at performing smaller tasks,” Wright says. “Renting a unit that is too small for a job can overextend the limitations of the loader, which can result in unsafe operating conditions, and that may cost renters more in rental charges for extra days needed on the job to complete the task.”