Skid Steers vs. Compact Track Loaders
July 11, 2021
Much ink has been spilled over the years detailing the pros and cons of skid steers and compact track loaders. But know this: Both types of machine dig, grade, move materials, run attachments and load trucks. Either can be used in any application and users are constantly finding new ways to use them. In other words, it’s not so much which machine has the best specs. It’s how you use it and which machine will make you the most profit. It's also a matter of knowing the relative strengths and weaknesses of each machine. The market tells tales CTLs and skid steers switched market positions in the past decade, and CTLs are now by far the dominant machine. Financed sales in 2020 saw a 78% CTL/22% skid steer split, according to EDA, a sister division of Equipment World. CTLs turf-friendly low ground pressure positives come at a price, however. CTLs are typically around 12% to 20% higher than a skid steer. One of the things you're paying for with a CTL is heft. CTLs are heavier and because of this, they can push off better and they can lift more. With two long tracks on the ground, they offer more traction, which can be used for more efficient dozing. The weight, the width of the undercarriage and the track length also help stabilize a CTL, particularly on slopes. They deliver a smoother ride, it’s more comfortable there's better material retention in the bucket. That stability has brought CTLs to the attention of nontraditional users, such as paving contractors who use them for tasks such as sweeping up millings, running a broom attachment or a cold-planning attachment. Then there are the CTLs’ turf-friendliness and all-weather capabilities. You can operate in most conditions -- including spring mud -- while skid steers are more limited. Skid steer benefits While CTLs may be the first choice of landscapers and the darlings of the construction world these days, that’s not to say you should just ignore the many merits of a skid steer. First, as we've already mentioned, they are less expensive and that 12% to 20% price differential can be deciding factor especially to someone just starting out. Skid steers also cost less to maintain. A set of four new tires might set you back $1,200 to $2,000, compared to around $3,500 for a new set of tracks. This can be especially important in harsh applications like recycling, scrap yards and demolition where the lives of tracks and tires are shorter than average. And with a CTL, you will eventually have undercarriage maintenance to contend with, which adds to the owning and operating costs. You can also move a lot faster in a skid steer. Top travel speeds hit close to 12 mph. CTLs at best top out at around 9 mph. And skid steers counter-rotate much easier, giving you better maneuverability in tight spaces. In other words, if you’re in a hurry or on a crowded site, the skid steer is your run-and-gun choice.