Skid Steer vs. Mini Excavator (2023 Comparison)
Some of the most important jobs of a construction engineer include clearing areas of land and keeping the construction site as organized as possible. Unfortunately, these tasks are challenging, so you need specialized machines for them.
Two options that easily come to mind when thinking about compact construction equipment are skid steers and mini excavators.
However, you want one that saves time and money and is as efficient as possible for the project you’re handling. Hence, the need to learn everything you can about both machines.
The choice becomes even more crucial when you factor in long-term usage.
Here’s a detailed article reviewing the common uses of both machines and how to select the best for your needs.
Skid Steer Overview
Otherwise known as a skid loader, a skid steer is a compact, versatile construction machine that offers all-around functionality in construction sites, from digging to pulling, pushing, and lifting.
The machine’s ability to work with several different attachments has earned it the nickname “Swiss Army Knife.” In addition to being compact and agile, skid steers are also popular for their lightweight designs and maneuverability.
While operating this machine, the driver has independent control over each side of the wheels. Thus, they can control each side of the wheel speed separately.
Speeding the wheel on one side and slowing the wheel on the other side turns the machine toward the faster wheels.
The best way to think of skid steers as powerful construction equipment with multiple attachments that sets them apart in construction sites.
On average, skid steer loaders come with 50-70 HP engines.
Skid Steer Uses
Skid steers are mostly known for the variety of attachment options they offer. So, it’s not surprising to learn that they are very versatile equipment.
However, what are their most common uses? Let’s review some of them.
Mention skid steers to most construction engineers, and the first thing that’ll probably come to their minds is property demolition. Skid steers work for both internal and external demolition.
They feature a unique turning mechanism that makes for easier turns, even in very tight spaces. Fortunately, this is the sort of feature that makes internal demolition a breeze.
You won’t have to struggle with the possibility of touching other properties during the process.
Add their unique turning ability to their compact sizes, and you can tell just how controllable this machine can be.
Another popular use of skid steers in construction sites is for excavation projects. Skid steers have the right designs to handle most earthmoving tasks.
So construction engineers typically opt for them whenever they want to handle tasks such as digging, trenching, and excavation.
Skid steers can work with so many attachments designed for this purpose. However, it’s essential to get one that suits your needs.
Some examples of skid steer attachments that work for earthmoving tasks include trenches, backhoes, wheel saws, and augers.
The versatility of skid steers means there’ll always be a need for them on the construction site. So, you’ll still be using it long after you’re done with your earthmoving task.
You’ve probably also seen neighbors and colleagues use skid steers for snow clearance. Buckets are standard attachments for skid steers.
The buckets are built to handle tasks that involve lifting and moving. They’re also great for snow clearance.
So if you constantly have to deal with piles of snow on your driveway or job site, perhaps you should consider buying a skid steer.
Besides, some skid steers have cabs to protect you from falling snow when handling such tasks.
You can also use advanced snow-clearing attachments like snow blades and snow blowers for moments of intense snow.
Agriculturists are discovering more ways they can use skid steers in agriculture. Besides, compact skid steers are generally cheaper than most farm tractors, so it’s not surprising that medium-scale farmers opt for them.
By now, you probably already know how versatile a skid steer can be. It is very compatible with most attachments needed for farming.
Even the standard bucket attachment on most skid steers can be used to clean barns and stables.
You just need to know the proper attachment for your project, and you’re good to go.
Grading and Backfilling
We’ve talked so much about the versatility of skid steers. But one other area that this machine stands out in is in design.
Their unique design makes them excellent for tasks like hole filling, aeration, and ground leveling. The bucket attachment makes such tasks a breeze.
But it’s also okay to get specialized attachments for such tasks. Attachments like rakes and grading bars easily come to mind when thinking about these tasks.
Fortunately, skid steers are compatible with these attachments, making them a one-size-fits-all machine in most construction sites.
Besides, operators use the attachments to scoop up rocks during ground leveling projects without leaving big trenches behind.
Mini excavators or compact excavators are wheeled or tracked vehicles with an approximate operating weight between 0.7 and 8.5 tonnes.
They are small hydraulic excavators valued for their maneuverability. Like compact skid steers, they can function within tight or narrow spaces where larger excavators cannot.
They are generally built to feature a standard backfill blade abs an independent boom swing.
One area where mini excavators differ from other construction equipment is their working mechanism. It works and functions through the transfer of hydraulic fluid.
The machine’s work group and blade are activated when hydraulic fluid acts upon the hydraulic cylinders, while slew and travel functions are activated by hydraulic fluids acting upon hydraulic motors.
Uses of a Mini Excavator
Most construction engineers will use mini excavators for light demos, stump removal, material handling, landscaping, and other construction projects.
The size and capability of mini excavators may limit the projects they can take on, but that doesn’t make them any less versatile.
That said, here are some of the common jobs you can use a mini excavator for.
Contractors rank high among mini excavator users because of the machine’s ability to handle most construction tasks. For example, mini excavators will dig out ditches and trenches with ease.
Mini excavators are especially useful for performing these tasks in tight spaces or delicate surfaces that can’t carry standard-sized excavators.
Mini excavators can move construction materials around the job site. Add that to how easy it is to operate the machine, and you can tell why it’s a staple in most construction sites.
Besides, you can also add an array of construction capabilities by adding attachments to the machine.
Mini excavators are popular for landscaping projects because of their weight and versatility. The compact size of mini excavators makes them perfect for working on lawns on delicate surfaces.
Besides, landscapers can use them for different tasks. They just need the right attachments, and they’ll be good to go.
Some of the popular landscaping tasks you can use a mini excavator for include:
- Tree planting and removal
- Moving debris away from construction sites
- Tearing down small structures like decks and sheds.
- Mowing, raking, and removal of grass from construction sites.
Maintenance and utility tasks
Mini excavators can also be used for some kinds of utility and maintenance work. They typically cost less than standard-sized excavators but can accomplish similar tasks.
So, it makes sense to opt for mini excavators if these are the jobs you intend to use them for.
In addition to being able to dig trenches for sewer lines, mini excavators are also useful for cleaning jobs. So you can plow snow or sweep large areas of land.
We’ll love the idea of having a pool or a spa right outside our home. Years ago, it cost an arm to hire pool installation companies for this service. However, that era has passed.
These days, construction equipment like mini excavators have made the process simpler and cheaper. Pool/spa installers no longer have to spend several weeks on the project.
Some homeowners don’t even call installers for these services anymore. They just get a mini excavator and use it to handle property enhancement projects that once seemed impossible.
Skid Steers Vs. Mini Excavators: Which Should You Choose
Both skid steers and mini excavators are useful machines in construction sites. Both machines are very versatile, so they can handle most construction tasks effectively.
But what happens when you can’t buy the two? Which should you choose over the other? Here are some factors that should influence your decision of what to choose between a skid steer and a mini excavator.
1. What is the project?
The project is the most crucial determinant of which machine you should opt for. It’s what determines the task you’ll need to finish.
Will the project require you to demolish an existing part of the house? If yes, a mini excavator is a perfect tool for you. It is designed to make demolition and hauling tasks easier and more efficient.
However, a skid steer is the best option to buy if the project requires you to perform landscaping renovations.
Skid steers with HD rubber tracks will travel lightly over the ground without causing damage to your lawns.
2. Available Space
Before deciding what’s best for you, it’s also important to consider space. Some houses do not have enough space for certain machines to operate.
If you’re performing the renovation in a very tight space, without enough room to reverse your machine or move it forward, you should consider using a mini excavator.
Mini excavators often feature a cab and boom that can swing 180 degrees, so the machine can remain stationary while rotating the bucket and other attachments to their best working positions.
3. Does the job involve any deep digging or drilling?
Different home renovation projects require different levels of trench digging and auger drilling.
Fortunately, mini excavators and skid steer loaders will do well for projects requiring breaking up large rocks or digging deep trenches.
Both machines are compatible with several different attachments, so it’s not surprising that they can easily accomplish these tasks.
However, you must also consider the amount of maneuverable space available. Both tasks require a good level of maneuverability, so mini excavators will always win in tighter spaces.
4. Does it involve any heavy lifting?
Both skid steers and mini excavators are useful for lifting materials like gravel, sand, loose stones, etc., from construction sites.
However, skid steers typically excel more in these tasks because of their ability to lift a wide range of heavy material in tight spaces.
Another significant consideration is how far you’d want to move the material. If you’re moving most materials to the other side of a trench, mini excavators will do the job better.
5. Ground Conditions
Home renovation can happen at any time. Many people seeking home renovation won’t be able to wait until summer when the weather is dry and sunny.
So, you must consider the ground condition of the project area. Is it muddy, sandy, or snowy? It makes sense to consider how well your machine can maneuver these adverse surfaces before taking the job.
Skid steers easily win in this scenario because it has the traction to grip and glide over such surfaces.
Conclusion: Skid Steer vs. Mini Excavator
The debate about which is better between skid steers and mini excavators is one that we expect to continue.
Both machines are versatile pieces of construction equipment with tons of important uses. However, each one has its best areas of functionality.
So if you can’t buy the two, it makes sense to buy one that suits your job best. Our detailed review of both machines, their common uses, and their differences should give you an idea of which machine you should buy for your project.