Backhoe vs. Skid Steer

Backhoe vs. Skid Steer (2023 Comparison)

When it comes to adaptability and versatility, both backhoes and skid steers are on top of the list of heavy-duty construction equipment. It’s unsurprising that many construction engineers want these machines on their sites.

The amount of attachments they are compatible with makes them indispensable in construction sites, farms, and home maintenance jobs. But often, people are faced with choosing between both pieces of equipment.

Which should you choose, and why should you choose it? We’ll find out in this article. 

What’s a Backhoe?

What's a Backhoe

Backhoes are slightly different tractors with different structures, functions, and working mechanisms from regular tractors. It comprises a standard tractor base that supports a digging bucket on the end of a jointed two-part arm.

In most situations, the backhoe’s opposite side features a front loader attachment (which qualifies it as a backhoe loader). This means that the seat can turn 360° in different directions, allowing the operator to face the side being used at any time. 

The part of the backhoe that holds the bucket is called a dipper-stick or just a dipper, while the joint area where the backhoe arm meets the tractor is called the boom.

The pivot that connects the dipper with the boom is called the king-post. Backhoes are known for the variety of attachments they can work with. These attachments include hammers, drills, rakes, rippers, and breakers.

You can also replace the front loader with different plows, forklifts, and brooms. Some operators even go as far as using the backhoe as a crane.

Backhoe Uses

Backhoe Uses

Many types of heavy equipment are usable on work sites, from skid steers to mini excavators, caterpillars, Bobcats, and so on. Why should you choose a backhoe?

Backhoes are known for their maneuverability and versatility. They can be used on many sites and can navigate rough terrains.

Their ability to work with many attachments makes them suitable for digging, trenching, backfilling, and loading. They are not just construction equipment, either.

They can also be used for landscaping, paving, and in agriculture. That said, here are some common uses of backhoes.

General construction projects

The first thing that comes to mind when people think about backhoes is construction projects. Many short-term projects on construction sites require different types of equipment.

Of course, you can hire specialized machines for specific projects, but backhoes are very useful for projects where short-term tasks change quickly. You don’t want the confusion of having different construction rentals coming and going every day.

Besides, the overall construction cost can go quickly high because of the rent you’ll pay using these equipment. So, it’s a no-brainer to choose a backhoe since it can handle several different tasks on the construction site. 

Snow removal

Like tractors, backhoes are a popular tool for snow removal. Their large wheels make for smooth movement on snowy grounds. They also typically come with bigger torque and power that allows for easier movement of snow with plow attachments.

Besides, their relatively large cabs would also provide better visibility in all conditions. 

So whether you’re removing snow from your driveway or yard, backhoes are very important equipment. Besides, you can also use them for other tasks, so it’s a win for you from all dimensions. 

Deforestation

Urbanization has been a fascinating part of modernization. Megacities are now being built almost out of nothing. One concept that keeps coming up as humans plan settlements and build cities is deforestation.

It involves uprooting trees and leveling the ground to make it fit for planting new structures. Uprooting trees from forests is surely not easy, and you want to avoid the stress of using manual equipment for it.

Hence, the need for a suitable machine like backhoes. You just have to get the right attachments for it, and you’ll be good to go. It makes the whole process easier and faster with minimal ground disturbance. 

Road leveling

Most times, the next thing town planners think of after deforestation is building good roads and beautiful structures. Backhoes can come in handy for this purpose. In fact, the plow on the opposite end of the bucket is designed for this purpose.

You can drive the vehicle off the backhoe and use the plow to create the appropriate pressure to smoothen uneven surfaces.

Additionally, you can use this piece of equipment to move heavy loads, like rocks, boulders, gravel, and dirt, during the road construction process. So whether you’re building roads or parking lots, backhoes do most of the significant jobs for you.

What is a Skid Steer?

What is a Skid Steer

Skid steers are also called skid loaders. They are compact, versatile construction machines that offer all-around functionality on construction sites. They are used for nearly everything from pulling to pushing, digging, and lifting.

No wonder it’s often referred to as one of the most versatile heavy-duty equipment for construction works. The machine is not just compact and agile but also known for its lightweight design maneuverability. Skid steers work with nearly all kinds of attachments on the construction site.

Thus their ability to do nearly everything. It’s not surprising that building contractors have nicknamed it “The Swiss Army Knife.” 

Another important feature of this machine is its working mechanism. While operating the machine, the driver has independent control over each side of the wheel. So they can control each side of the wheels independently of the other.

To turn, an operator speeds the wheel on one side while slowing down the wheel on the other side. The skid steer then turns to the side with the faster wheelset.  

The best way to think about skid steers is as a one-size-fits-all machine. It’s also useful in agricultural settings and for home improvement tasks. You just need the right attachments, and you’ll be good to go. 

Uses of a Skid Steer

Uses of a Skid Steer

Construction sites are often littered with different kinds of equipment. Some equipment are designed for specialized usage, while others can perform different tasks.

The skid steer loader is one such versatile machine that serves different purposes on the construction site. They’re also known for their ability to navigate rough terrains. That said, here are some common uses of a skid steer machine.

Demolition

One of the most popular tasks in construction sites is demolishing existing structures. While demolition seems simple, you’ll sometimes encounter structures in tightly knit spaces needing demolition.

You’ll need specialized equipment to tear down such structures without affecting neighboring houses. This is where skid steers come into play. Skid steers are usually compact and precise.

These characteristics of a skid steer make it valuable for demo projects in tight spaces. Besides, its unique operating mechanism means that it can turn in tight spaces. So, it makes sense to use it for interior and exterior demolitions. 

Roadwork

Another popular use of skid steers is for road works. Whether it’s the construction of a new road, smoothing rough terrains, or removing damaged roads, skid steers stand out.

They can perform almost all kinds of road-building and maintenance tasks. Once you get attachments like cement mixers or pavement millers for your skid steer, there’ll be no task too difficult for you.

These attachments help with demolition, grading, patching, and patching. Besides, they are also compact, so moving them to the job site will be easy. 

Snow and debris removal

Skid steers are not only useful in construction sites. They can also be bought for home use. There are compact skid steers today that are specially designed for home use.

You can always pull out the machine to clear snow off your yard and driveway. The bucket attachment on the skid steer works for cleaning snow and other debris.

However, if the snow hits harder, you can always use more advanced attachments like snow blowers or snow blades to do the work. Besides, most skid steers come with an operator’s cabin to protect you from the weather. 

Hay handling & feed management

Skid steers are generally faster than tractors and more robust than many agricultural equipment. So if you have a skid steer, you can always use them to improvise when looking for tools that’ll make farm work easier.

Skid steers are becoming more popular among agriculturists because of the range of attachments they work with. They are also cheaper than tractors, so it makes sense to try them.

One of the areas of agriculture where you can use skid steers is for loading and unloading hay. You can also use your skid steer to feed hay to your livestock. 

What about when you need to deliver and disperse feed to different sets of animals in big farmlands? Skid steers still do the job perfectly.

Backhoe vs. Skid Steer: How to Choose

Backhoes and skid steers are both versatile pieces of construction equipment. If we can, we’d recommend buying the two.

But we know how much that can eat into your budget. So, we’ll just show you how to pick the best for your needs. Here are some of the factors that should influence your decision when you want to choose between a backhoe and a skid steer.

1. Size and Jobsite accessibility

The first thing to consider with any heavy-duty machine is how their sizes can affect your work. Backhoes generally fall into the big equipment category because of their sizes. They also have two big buckets at either end of the machine.

While these buckets mean more functionalities, they come at the expense of size, which can be an issue for plumbing and footing contractors. 

Most residential sites are becoming more compact than they used to be, ruling out the convenient use of backhoes and other bulky machinery.

Getting a backhoe into position, finding a suitable place to set the loader bucket, and putting the stabilizer down can be time-consuming, especially if you encounter gravel, lumbers, and other materials on the job site.

On the other hand, skid steers are usually compact and can counter-rotate. Their ability to turn in their tracks makes them the best solution for tight workspaces. 

Winner: Skid steers

2. Weight and flotation

Backhoes are generally heavy, measuring between 13,000 to 16,000 pounds. Skid steers are lighter than this. Some compact loaders even weigh less than half of the above figure.

This can be a crucial difference when working in soft or muddy soils. Yes, backhoes can work in bad conditions, but that will mean leaving skid marks on the job site.

On the other hand, skid steers have minimal ground disturbance and can move through the same spaces without causing issues. The lightweight design of skid steers also means they can be hauled by a half-ton pickup. 

Winner: Skid steers

3. Utilization

Both backhoes and skid steers are excellent machines for working on any site. However, it’s important to note that backhoes are limited in the number of tasks they can handle simultaneously.

Besides, it’s only about half of the machine doing the work. Skid steers with compact excavators are usually more productive because of their ability to handle several tasks at once. So, you can be digging the footer while another part of the machine is placing gravel at the same time.

However, it would help if you also bought the right types of attachments to get this machine working at its best. 

Winner: Skid steers (with the right attachments)

4. Capacity

The weights and size of backhoes naturally show that they can do more at a time. Whether you’re digging or carrying loads, backhoes generally do very well.

A backhoe comfortably carries 1 to 2 cubic yards of material in its bucket. It can also dig deeper than most construction equipment.

Winner: backhoe

5. Attachments

Both backhoes and skid steers are known for the number of attachments they can work with. But which stands out? Some contractors go as far as attaching tool carrier options and flip-over forks on their backhoes.

These attachments mean you can use the machine as an all-in-one rough-terrain forklift and a pipe carrier. But that’s not to say that skid steers don’t do well too.

Skid steers can work with dozens of attachments, including box blades, augers, rakes, mulchers, trenches, etc. 

Winner: Backhoes (carrying capacity)

Compact loaders (versatility).

Conclusion: Backhoe vs. Skid Steer

Conclusion

So, which of these machines is better for your requirements? It ultimately boils down to the tasks being carried out on your job site. It also boils down to your space and the types of attachments you want to use.

Backhoes are usually the best options to turn to when you need greater power and excavation capability for larger jobs. Skid steers are excellent for working in tight construction sites where space is limited. 

So far, we’ve reviewed both machines in this article and their uses. A detailed understanding of each machine and its best areas of application can help you decide which is best for you.

Remember to also think about the right attachments, irrespective of the type of machine you decide to settle with.

FAQ

Which is better skid steer or loader backhoe?

The choice between a skid steer and a loader backhoe depends on the specific tasks and requirements of a job. Skid steers are known for their agility, compact size, and versatility. They are excellent for tasks that require maneuverability and a wide range of attachments, such as grading, landscaping, and material handling. Loader backhoes, on the other hand, are well-suited for tasks that involve both digging and lifting, such as excavation and trenching. The choice between the two ultimately depends on the nature of the work and the attachments needed.

What is the difference between a backhoe and a skid steer?

A backhoe and a skid steer are two distinct types of construction equipment. A backhoe typically consists of a tractor with a loader bucket in the front and a backhoe attachment in the rear for digging. A skid steer is a compact, four-wheel-drive machine with a variety of attachments, including buckets, forks, and hydraulic tools, designed for a wide range of tasks. While both can perform digging, their designs, capabilities, and applications differ significantly.

Is a skid steer a backhoe?

A skid steer is not a backhoe, but it can be equipped with a backhoe attachment, effectively turning it into a machine capable of digging and trenching. Skid steer loaders are designed to be versatile and can accept various attachments, allowing them to perform multiple tasks on a construction site.

What are the disadvantages of a backhoe?

While backhoes are versatile and widely used in construction, they do have limitations. One disadvantage is that they may have a limited reach compared to dedicated excavators, making them less suitable for deep excavation tasks. Additionally, backhoes may not be as efficient at certain tasks as specialized equipment. Finally, their design, with a rear-mounted digging component, can limit visibility for the operator, especially when working in tight spaces.