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Compact Wheel Loaders vs. Skid Steer Loaders

Buying equipment is never an easy task, especially for contractors considering whether to purchase a skid steer loader (SSL) versus a compact wheel loader (CWL). There are many key considerations for making this decision; applications, lifecycles, ground considerations, performance, attachments, and many others. Here is a helpful guide to help alleviate those worries.

The most obvious considerations for a contractor before buying a SSL or CWL is to first know how the machine will be used, how often tasks will be performed, and how much time will be spent performing the tasks.

While the initial cost is higher for a CWL, one key advantage is the low cost of operation and increased productivity found in many applications. SSLs are more versatile, but CWLs excel at loading and moving material day in and day out. CWLs use a smaller engine to do similar work, which can result in fuel savings of up to 30 percent. SSLs not only feature a bigger engine, but also they are also hard on tires and can wear out the tires much faster than CWLs. Additionally, CWLs are built with stronger frames, more durable components and a higher lifecycle than a SSL. An owner may keep a typical SSL for four to six years, whereas a CWL often lasts eight to 10 years for an owner that uses their machine around 1,000 hours a year.

More attachments are available for SSLs, which are better adapted to operating attachments with higher hydraulic flow demands due to their higher horsepower (hp) engines, but this in turn requires higher fuel consumption. While CWLs operate clamping and positioning attachments with ease, attachments with extremely high flow requirements may not be ideal for use on a CWL depending on the application.

Contractors know what type of environment they work in each day. SSLs work well in tight applications because of the machine’s ability to counter rotate and maneuver around obstacles and feature lower cab height for working under obstacles. CWLs can also operate in unique applications and the design and configuration lend the machines to be an optimal choice when working in congested environments like industrial areas or in areas with vehicular traffic.

Ground conditions are another aspect when considering the two machines. SSLs are limited to hard ground and can damage sensitive surfaces if the operator isn’t careful. Their ground clearance is limited in comparison to the CWL and the shorter wheel base of the SSLs creates a rougher ride for the operator and the material being handled. CWLs reduce the change of damage to sensitive surfaces, whether they are hard (finished concrete, streets) or soft (turf, graded areas). This is accomplished with their articulated steering instead of skidding the tire across the surface like a SSL.

Transportation is much easier with a SSL for trailering – CWLs are longer and may be heavier depending on the configuration. However, one distinct advantage to the CWL is higher transport speed, allowing the operator to drive quicker to each site.

Another major factor is how much the contractor loads material throughout the day. If their task is primarily loading day to day, the CWL is the best bet from a productivity and cost per hour/cost per material moved standpoint. CWLs are better adapted for continuous use on a repetitive task.

To reiterate, the benefits of using a SSL are lower initial cost, higher horsepower, higher hydraulic horsepower, more attachment versatility, ease of transportation and they are more widely available. The benefits of using a CWL are visibility, productivity, reduced fuel consumption, longer tire life, lower cost of operation, and higher travel speeds.

Before making a buying decision between the two, a contractor should make sure to consider all the variables. Combining these considerations into the decision-making, allows the contractor to properly select the right unit for the job.


Compact Wheel Loaders vs. Skid Steer Loaders

Buying equipment is never an easy task, especially for contractors considering whether to purchase a skid steer loader (SSL) versus a compact wheel loader (CWL).


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