Skid Steer Lifting Capacity

Skid steer lifting a full bucket of dirt

The rated operating capacity “ROC” of a skid steer loader determines the weight of the material load it can carry safely before the risk of tipping increases. This ROC, also known as ‘lift capacity,’ is benchmarked at half the tipping load. 

Skid Steer models and sizes will have unique but broadly applicable operating weights depending on their size and class. This is one of the most critical pieces of information to know about skid steer loaders before selecting the best skid steer for you and your job.

Remember that the weight of attachments like buckets counts towards calculating how many pounds your machines can lift.

What Skid Steer Has The Highest-Rated Operating Capacity?

The largest skid steer loader on the market as of 2022 is the Gehl V420, released in 2018. It boasts a 142 horsepower engine with an operating weight of 4,200 lbs. The Gehl V420 is also large, even in its class, at an operating height of 187 inches with a 54-inch wheelbase. This system will be able to handle the biggest jobs and heavy loads.

skid steer lifting a barrel with a tree boom

How Many Pounds Can a Skid Steer Lift?

3,500 lbs is a mid-range capacity for skid steers. Generally, their range across sizes and models is between 1,250 to 4,000 lbs.

Selecting The Right Skid Steer Loader for Each Application

When selecting brands like John Deere or Bobcat or small frames on up to larger models with more horsepower and a higher tipping load, there are many factors to consider. Lifting capacities are determined by the machine’s weight and sometimes by design features incorporated into models such as the Bobcat counterweight.

But you’re here to learn about what rated operating capacity will facilitate the most work on your job site while ensuring the safety of your operators.

Where You Work Matters

First, let’s take it back to your job site. Beyond the standard rated operating capacity of any given model based on its weight, the terrain and type of ground you will be working on should be considered. Remember that the tipping load is the maximum weight you can have in the bucket or other attachment before tipping. The ROC is half of that weight. It is not safe to be lifting right up to that line. Other variables affect the weight of materials you can safely load and dump. For example, uneven terrain or difficult ground like mud or snow reduces your skid steer’s tipping load, potentially affecting your operator’s productivity and safety if they were to perform jobs as if the ROC were that of a system on dry and even ground. When working in difficult conditions, using a vehicle with higher lift capacities may be appropriate.

bobcat bucket full of rocks and dirt

Do Wheels or Tracks Make a Difference to Rated Operating Capacity?

Yes, they do. Tracks provide higher operating capacity versus (comparably sized frame) wheel units due to their more stable footprint. This allows the impact on ROC from conditions like uneven terrain in the example above to be mitigated. Tracks are helpful when operating in a-typical conditions, such as snow.

What are Compact Track Loaders?

Compact track loaders are small frame machines well suited for soft or easily disturbed terrain that traditional wheels or even conventional track skid steers might make too much of a mess on. Grass in a landscaping job or non-destructive maintenance, for example. These are smaller machines with lower volume buckets that sacrifice some speed, some size, and some productivity for versatility and stability.

Vertical lift vs. Radial lift

How does a skid steer lift precisely? Vertical or radial (also called linear) lifting is two types that may appear similar to the untrained eye and have overlapping capabilities but have some different strengths and applications.

Vertical-lift machines generally have more power and flexibility. They are best suited for material handling applications, such as unloading pallets or stacked construction supplies off a truck or elevated surface.

Radial-arm skid steers are good for excavation, leveling the ground, and digging below grade, and they have a bit longer reach.

Both styles are effective at most tasks, but maximum productivity for any job is usually found on the margins.

cat skid steer moving rocks to build a base layer

Bobcat vs. John Deere, How Much Can Each Lift?

Bobcat and John Deere are two of the most iconic construction and agricultural equipment manufacturers. Both companies produce top-of-the-line equipment, including skid steers across the size and power spectrum.

Bobcat is the most recognizable and iconic skid steer brand, the company that created the concept of this machine. To this day, Bobcat produces some of the best and most powerful skid steer loaders in various sizes and models.

One such model is the Bobcat® 850. It offers powerful lift capacity and a 12-foot vertical lift, the tallest vertical lift on the market. A streamlined design with fewer features and fewer accessories makes it easier to use and more affordable than the previous model.

Likewise, John Deere skid steers are available in several sizes, including the 10,000 lb John Deere 332 series, boasting a 100 horsepower engine, 11 feet of vertical lift, and a rated operating capacity of 3,600 lbs and additional hydraulic power options.

berlon pallet forks on a new holland skid steer

How Much Can a Skid Steer With Forks Lift?

Skid Steer pallet forks have a broad range of operating weights, keeping with the varying capacity of small frame skid steer up to the large frame. From light-duty attachments coming in around 2500 lbs to standard/medium between 4000-5000 pounds, all the way to heavy-duty attachments up to 10,000 lbs.

It Can Lift, But Can You lift it?

Remember that higher operating capacity means a higher operating weight of the machine and its attachments overall. One of the great advantages of skid steer’s as the equipment is that they are compact and often much easier to transport. A heavier frame model may require a larger truck or trailer to transport. You may lose what you gain in speed from greater loading and bucket capacity on the other end in the higher transport cost.


We’ve gone over the different manufacturers, vertical compared to radial lift, size range, and most importantly, mindfulness of the rated operating capacity and tipping load to keep your supplies, equipment, and your most important asset – the operator in the cab – safe and secure.

If your precise skid steer needs are not yet fully understood, remember that an increase in ROC usually means an increase in weight, meaning an increase in cost and the impact of the machine on your site. Consider rental options when you’re first determining how much you need in each pass of that bucket.

Ryan Genkin
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