Track Loader vs. Skid Steer - Which Should You Choose?

Track Loader vs. Skid Steer (2024 Comparison)

Skid steer loaders have remained a staple in construction job sites for decades. Its consistency and versatility in handling most tasks on the construction site make it a vital part of every construction fleet.

This small yet powerful machine offers so many benefits that are hard to ignore. However, a relatively new entrant to the machinery world is the compact track loader.

The similarities in both machines have caused people to naturally wonder which is better for their construction works.

We’ve taken the time to review both construction equipment, and here’s an article reviewing both equipment, their similarities and differences, and which suits which job better.

Compact Track Loader Overview

Compact Track Loader Overview

Even if it’s your first time on a construction site, chances exist that you’ll see a compact track loader. They are versatile machines that can perform most tasks on the construction site.

The versatility of compact track loaders also means that they can be used in various industries like landscaping, forestry, demolition, construction, etc.

They are usually built on the same frame and chassis as skid steers; hence, it’s easy to deduce that they share similarities in their working process.

However, compact track loaders have tracks instead of wheels, making them suitable for sandy, muddy, and rocky terrains. 

Compact track loaders are also compact, and their tracks are made of rubber. Thus, their suitability for working on projects that require minimal ground disturbance.

The machine’s tracks provide the extra floatation it needs to move on sand, mud, snow, loose gravel, etc.

These qualities make it excellent equipment for commercial or residential landscaping jobs that require movements on extra sensitive jobs.

Compact Track Loaders Application 

Compact Track Loaders Application 

From everything we’ve said about compact track loaders, you probably can already tell that it’s a beast on the construction site, with so many uses.

However, it’s also important to know that this machine has other applications outside the construction site. That said, here are some of the most common applications of a compact track loader. 

1. Demolition

This one is pretty apparent, isn’t it? Compact track loaders are excellent for interior and exterior demolitions, especially when you can’t access bigger machines.

Whether for pulling down walls, removing septic tanks, or digging up concrete slabs, you can tell that a compact track loader will handle the job.

You just need to have the right attachments for each job, and you’ll be good to go. 

The factory-fitted bucket will easily work for debris removal and light pushing. However, if you want to do more, you can always fit in different attachments to suit your application. 

2. Driveways, Roadwork, and Pathways

A Track loader is an excellent construction equipment for driveways, roads, and pathways.

You just need the right attachments to do about anything on job sites, from material handling to excavation, surface finishing, and compaction. 

Most construction companies would rather deploy these machinery for construction tasks in residential buildings than go through the stress of moving bigger equipment to job sites. 

3. Digging, Trenching, and Excavation

While these are the basic uses of skid steers, compact track loaders can also do them.

Earthmoving tasks like excavating, trenching, and digging are straightforward. Thus, with the right equipment, you can use a compact track loader to perform any of those tasks. 

Fortunately, attachments like augers, backhoes, wheel saws, and trenchers are compatible with compact track loaders.

Those attachments in your arsenal can make you an indispensable force for digging, trenching, and excavation applications. 

4. Material Handling

Although this is seldom discussed, one of the significant uses of machinery is for material handling.

Whether in construction sites, gardens, or during routine maintenance, you’ll occasionally need to move heavy materials from one point to another.

Compact track loaders come in very handy for such periods. You don’t need to pull another vehicle or equipment to a job site when you have a compact track loader there alone.

Just throw the material into a compact track loader, and you’re good to go. These days, there are specialized attachments designed for the task.

So handling and pulling of material doesn’t have to be complicated.

5. Lawn Mowing and Clearing

Yes, compact track loaders are not designed to finish bowling greens, but they are still versatile and robust enough to remove anything from trees to long grasses.

And their ability to turn on the spot gives them the precision needed for any kind of mowing, with more abilities than tractor attachments and typical ride-on mowers. 

Attachments like augers, blades, and stump grinders combine to make cuttings of any kind possible.

You can also buy an additional rotary brushcutter attachment if you want to deal with tall grasses and shrubs.

Skid Steer Loader Overview

Skid Steer Loader Overview

Here’s another popular construction equipment designed for construction sites. But that’s not to say they don’t work for other applications.

Skid steers are versatile equipment that can be used for almost anything. You just need the right attachments, and you’re good to go.

These days, more people are personalizing the use of skid steers for personal projects, and that’s why you’ll often see them on farms and landscaping sites.

Skid steers are compact, rigid-framed machines that feature lift arms like track loaders.

These lift arms are compatible with buckets, farm tools, and construction attachments, making them one of the most versatile machines on the construction site. 

Skid steers are either wheeled or tracked. However, since we’ve explained track loaders above, we’ve focused this section on wheeled skid steers.

This type of skid steer typically features four wheels, with the pair on each side synchronized to work together and independently of the other side.

This means that the left side can be operated independently of the right side and vice versa. Wheeled skid steers work similarly to tracked skid steers, but the difference is the availability of wheels in this case. 

Skid steers are also known as skid loaders. They feature a unique working mechanism that stands them out from other equipment.

Thus, the machine can move in a skid motion, turning even in the smallest spaces.

Skid Steer Applications

Skid Steer Applications

There’s hardly any construction site where you won’t find skid steers. Their versatility levels mean that they can perform several tasks on construction sites.

But they are also useful for other applications outside the construction site.

The variety of attachment options available for skid steers makes them even more versatile in and outside construction sites.

That said, let’s look at some of the most popular uses of skid steer loaders.

1. Demolition

One look at a skid steer, and you can tell it’s a demolition beast. Skid steers are very effective demolition tools that work for internal and external demolitions.

Their unique turning mechanism makes for the possibility of complete turns even in tiny spaces. This characteristic makes them useful for interior and tight space demolitions.

They are also typically compact and can enter tight locations without affecting other buildings.

For example, you can use them to tear down buildings in a congested neighborhood without affecting other houses.

2. Snow clearing

Outside the construction site, snow clearing ranks high as one of the most popular uses of skid steers. Most skid steers will feature buckets as their standard attachments.

These buckets are helpful for different tasks that involve moving and lifting. Whether on a driveway or job site, you can use these buckets attached to skid steers to lift and move snow build-ups.

Other compatible attachment designs specifically for snow clearance include snow blowers, snow blade, etc. These attachments are recommended for areas prone to intense snow during heavy winter. 

3. Excavation

Skid steers may be relatively compact, but they are monsters when handling earthmoving tasks. In fact, that’s the main reason for their popularity in construction sites.

Operators can customize them for different uses, including digging, trenching, and excavation.

The availability of many attachments designed for these tasks makes for even more versatility on the job site.

Some of the most popular attachments often deployed for earthmoving tasks include trenchers, backhoes, wheel saws, and augers.

You just need to find the right attachments for your specific task, and you’ll be good to go. 

Skid steers are also useful for performing excavation tasks on construction sites. One exciting feature of this machine is that it’ll work perfectly on small and big sites, as long as you can handle the controls effectively. 

4. Grading and Backfilling

The popularity of skid steers is largely due to their unique working mechanism. But there’s more.

Skid steers also feature a unique design that makes them an excellent tool for ground leveling tasks like aeration and hole filling.

The standard bucket attachment works well for these tasks. But you can also purchase specialized equipment to suit different applications.

Attachments like grading bars and rakes offer you the precision you’ll need for these tasks.

Such attachments also make for easier scooping up of rocks when handling ground leveling tasks without leaving big trenches and holes behind after work.

5. Agricultural works 

Although initially designed for the construction site, agriculturists are discovering more uses for skid steers in farmlands.

Skid steers are not just versatile; they are also compatible with most of the attachments needed to handle farm work.

So, depending on what you want to do on your farm, you can just attach the right attachments, and you’ll be good to go.

Besides you can also use the bucket attachment to clean barns and stables.

The key to using a skid steer on your farm is knowing what you want and getting the appropriate attachment.

Track Loader vs. Skid Steer – Key Differences 

Track Loader vs. Skid Steer - Key Differences 

Looking at both machines, it’s easy to assume that the only difference between them is track vs. tire – but there’s more to it, especially when deciding which suits your Jobsite best.

Here are some key areas to note when trying to differentiate between a track loader and a skid steer.

Basics

The first place to look at when deciding whether you need a compact tractor loader or a skid steer is the essential traits and features of each.

Understanding how these features translate into unique benefits in different jobs will help you decide when you need them. 

Both compact track loaders and skid steers are Jobsite proven, with enough power and durability to handle most kinds of jobs.

They also feature exceptional maneuverability that enables them to turn efficiently even in tight spaces with the smallest room for the move. 

However, skid steers are generally lighter than compact track loaders, making them the best choice when transporting the machine across long distances.

It also means you’ll be able to save cost and time while transporting the machine. 

Compact track loaders take the lead when it comes to the operator’s comfort. They feature smoother operations than skid steers making for more forgiving rides.

Once you’ve understood the basics, it becomes easier to understand which you should choose. However, one area you should consider is where you’ll be using the machine.

Location

By now, you already know that each machine is designed to perform better in certain conditions. 

Skid steers and track loaders share several similarities, but they are different in where they should be used. For example, skid steers work better on hard surfaces like asphalt and concrete.

On the other hand, track loaders are not designed for such surfaces. While they may still work on such surfaces, the harshness of the ground is tougher on tracks causing accelerated wear.

Experts also advise against operating compact track loaders on rocky grounds because such sharp or hard objects can cut it damage the tracks.

Notwithstanding, skid steer operators must also be careful in such locations to avoid puncturing their tires. 

It makes sense to also note that compact track loaders will work well in muddy, snowy, and sandy terrains. Unfortunately, skid steers will struggle in such terrains.

Wrapping Things Up – How to Make the Skid Steer vs. Track Loader Choice

Wrapping Things Up - How to Make a Choice

Reviewing the above considerations, it’s easy to see how individualized the choice for a compact track loader or skid steer is. 

If your company spends most of its time working on concrete or asphalt surfaces, it makes sense to go with a skid steer because it guarantees more results in such terrains.

However, if you’ll work more in sandy or uneven terrains or if you’ll do most of your work in rainy or snowy conditions, it’ll make sense to opt for a track loader.

Track loaders may be more expensive than skid steers, but your investment in a track loader for such terrains will pay off in the long run.

FAQ

Which is better track loader or skid steer?

The choice between a track loader and a skid steer depends on the specific application and terrain. Track loaders excel in challenging, uneven, or muddy terrains because they distribute weight over a larger surface area, providing better traction and reduced ground pressure. Skid steers are more maneuverable in tight spaces, making them ideal for construction and landscaping projects where access is restricted. The decision should consider factors like the job site conditions, tasks to be performed, and operator preferences.

What is the difference between skid steer and track?

The primary difference between a skid steer and a track loader is their undercarriage. Skid steers have wheels, while track loaders have tracks similar to a tank. The choice between the two depends on factors like terrain, desired maneuverability, and the specific job requirements.

Are tracks better on skid steer?

Tracks can be advantageous on skid steers when working in challenging conditions, such as soft soil, mud, or snow. They provide better traction and lower ground pressure compared to wheels, making skid steers more capable in adverse environments. However, for tasks in more stable and open areas, skid steers with wheels may offer better maneuverability and speed.

What is a track loader good for?

A track loader is well-suited for various tasks, including earthmoving, excavation, grading, and material handling. They are particularly effective in challenging terrains, such as construction sites with loose or uneven ground, because of their ability to distribute weight over a larger area, reducing ground disturbance. Track loaders are commonly used in construction, agriculture, landscaping, and forestry industries for their versatility and terrain-handling capabilities.