What is the right skid steer for you? It depends. Skid Steer loaders come in various weight and sizes, and this article can help you determine which is best suited to the needs of your job site and the demands of your projects.
Skid Steer Widths
- Small frame skid steers (under 50 horsepower) are often about 3 feet wide. For example, the Bobcat S70 is 35.5″ wide.
- Medium-frame skid steers (50 to 70 horsepower) are often 5 to 5.5 feet wide. For example, the Bobcat T550 is 5.57 feet wide.
- Large-frame skid steers (Over 70 Horsepower) are usually around 6 feet wide. For instance, a Bobcat S770 is just under 6 feet wide.
The Three Sizes of Skid Steer Frames
Skid Steer frames can be broken down into three models: small, medium, and large.
Small-frame skid steers can be any machine with a Rated Operating Capacity (ROC) of less than 1000 lbs. of torque or a total horsepower of 50 or less.
Medium-frame models are machines with a ROC range between 1,750 and 2200 lbs or 50 – 70 horsepower.
Large frame skid steers have a ROC range of more than 2,200 lbs and a maximum power output of 7o horsepower or more.
The number of inches determines the Skid Steer width at the wheelbase. You’ll find a width at the wheels or tracks between 28 for small skid steer models and up to 72 inches on some large skid steer models.
Each brand will come with unique measurements. For example, different models of Bobcat skid steer range from 1.5 meters at the tracks on the S450 to 1.8 meters on the S770.
Small Frame Skid Steers
A compact and lightweight skid steer is perfect for use in tight spaces, such as interior demolition, landscaping, underground construction, sidewalk snow clearing, and any construction project in which it must be used indoors.
The small frame skid steer dimension makes it a suitable option for contractors who generally work on shorter tasks and must move the machinery frequently between job sites.
Medium Frame Skid Steers
Most construction companies choose a medium-frame skid steer because it provides ample strength to do most construction tasks effectively.
A medium frame skid steer loader is a reliable all-purpose piece of equipment, including for many small landscaping jobs. It has a good width that usually fits through a standard residential yard gate.
Large frame Skid Steers
A large-frame skid steer model often becomes necessary for the biggest construction jobs. They weigh 2200 lb and up and operate at over 70hp.
This machine can tackle grading, excavation and drilling work, large-scale demolitions, and more. If the size of your job site is manageable, this machine can improve the speed of your work with its greater power and lift capacity.
Size and Horsepower
Bigger is only sometimes better. For greater maneuverability, it might be better to buy a smaller machine. How compact are your job sites? The power for digging large and heavy volumes of material will only do you a little good if you can access the material in the first place.
If you need something larger on a case-by-case basis beyond what your in-house skid steer can perform, equipment rental as needed is a better option than committing to a machine whose typical capacities are outside your needs.
Larger equipment also means heavier loads for trailers that deliver the equipment to the job site. Additional transportation equipment may be required to move a skid larger than your needs.
Consider the Attachments and Their Capacity as well
Remember that the skid steer is often only as good as the attachment you use with it. Vertical and radial measurements appropriate for the model and track width of your system must be taken into account, as well as the hydraulics.
How Wide Should My Skid Steer Bucket Be?
A skid steer bucket can range in size from 52 inches to 130 inches, increasing in width by six inches. First, you must determine an appropriate bucket size relative to the wheel base. Your bucket should be at least the width of the wheels or tracks with a bit of extra space.
Operating Weight & Bucket Capacity
Bucket and attachment dimensions should be chosen based on the purpose of use and compatibility with their host machines. Many manufacturers produce heavy-weight, heavy-duty, low-profile buckets.
Tipping load and rated operating capacity
The tipping load on a skid steer loader is the maximum weight your skid steer can carry without the risk of tipping over.
While there is some variation in opinion on what this is, a safe and conservative assumption is 35% of the weight of the skid steer loader itself. However, some will cite up to 50%. Half the weight of the skid steer should be considered an absolute maximum, not for day-to-day use.
If the material you need to consistently lift is heavier, go with a larger machine. Lower operating weight means a lower rated operating capacity (ROC), defined as 50% of the tipping load. To find skid steer ROC, take the machine’s weight divided by two, then that number divided by two. Remember to include the weight of the operator (driver) and fuel as well!
How to Choose the Best Skid Steer Loader for the Job?
Be sure to consider the operating weight, combability of the hydraulic system flow, and your bucket or attachment capacity relative to the track width and machine/operator weight.
The most dominant factor when deciding how wide, heavy, and powerful of a skid steer loader to use is the physical constraints of your job site.
A medium-frame skid steer loader is a good multi-purpose tool for a range of maneuvering constraints from narrow to none.
A small frame is best in the most compact job sites, such as indoors.
Large frame machines deliver the speed and power of heavy machinery to lift large volumes of sand, snow, dirt, or debris when working in the great unconstrained outdoors.