Comparing All Skid Steer Brands: Who Makes The Best One?
A staple for almost any construction project, skid steer loaders are one of the most popular machines used on job sites across North America. With the high demand for skid steers comes a wide variety of manufacturers each offering their own assortment of models.
This may create choice overload when looking to buy or rent a skid steer as sometimes too many brands can hinder your decision-making. This blog serves as a guide to skid steer manufacturers, what they offer, and their unique advantages and disadvantages in comparison to others in the industry so you can make sure that your team gets the best machine for the project.
What is a Skid Steer?
Before comparing the brands of skid steers available, let's quickly take a look at the functionality of a skid steer and ensure it's the right piece of equipment for your project. A skid steer can be capable of lifting significant weights, depending on its specs, and its compact size and maneuverability make it an efficient machine for smaller work sites.
There is no shortage of attachments for skid steers, but among the most popular is the bucket attachment. The various attachments help make these machines great for jobs like dozing, grading, digging, lifting, and transporting materials around the job site.
While these machines are valuable tools for many different projects, each model is different. The two most common features that help differentiate between skid steers are their rated operating capacities (ROC) and horsepower (hp). For more information about skid steers, why you should rent them, and specific spec information for some of the brands covered below, visit our blogs on these topics.
Skid Steer Brands
There are so many skid steer manufacturers in the market but this list will focus on the most commonly used brands across North America. We've chosen the following eight brands to include in our comparison.
- John Deere
- New Holland
Credited with creating the world's first skid steer more than 60 years ago, Bobcat is almost synonymous with skid steer in construction and landscaping. Providing the widest range of models on the market with regard to horsepower and ROC, they are the best-selling skid steer manufacturer in the world.
Bobcat offers three series of skid steer loaders, each with unique advantages. Their M2-Series reaches a ROC of 3,950 lbs, on par with the industry best, along with up to 100 hp on their top model. Their largest model also reaches a lift height of 12 feet, while maintaining a compact frame. The M2 models are also fuel-efficient, quiet, and have non-DPF engines.
The M3-Series is a smaller series of loaders with a ROC ranging from 1,370 to 2,101 lbs. While not as equipped for as large a payload as their M2 counterparts, the M3 models offer all-around visibility from the driver's cab, leading maneuverability, and excellent adaptability to a wide variety of attachments, making them an efficient tool on any job site.
Finally, we have Bobcat's R-Series. Calling them the "most capable loaders [they've] ever built", these models provide premium comfort, reduced maintenance, and maximized uptime. With operating capacities approaching 3,000 lbs, the cast-steel lift arms offer added strength while their slim profile enhances visibility.
With three excellent series to choose from, Bobcat is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a skid steer.
One of the most well-known brands in construction, Caterpillar's skid steer loaders do not disappoint. All CAT loaders provide some of the best horsepower-to-operating capacity ratios in the industry. This increased horsepower allows the machine to perform more work, more efficiently and maintain lifts more easily than comparable models from other companies.
Ranging from smaller models with ROCs of under 2,000 lbs to larger models that exceed 3,500 lbs, these skid steers are capable of high performance on a wide variety of projects. Their industry-leading sealed and pressurized cab option provides the operator with a cleaner and quieter environment.
These features and CAT's emphasis on delivering reliable, durable, and efficient machines are just some of what makes Caterpillar the second-best-selling brand on the market. Their models are high-capacity, high-horsepower machines with performance on par with other industry leaders. If you're looking for a loader for your project, you should seriously consider if a CAT skid steer is right for you.
Separating their models between those with a radial lift path and those with a vertical lift path, GEHL provides eight types of skid steers. GEHL skid steers are tough, well-made machines that provide an excellent return to anybody who chooses to use one.
GEHL's radial lift loaders range between operating capacities of 1,049 and 2,600 lbs and their lightest machine is about as small and compact as you'll find. These compact models are easy to transport, versatile, and can perform on all terrains, making them an outstanding choice for smaller job sites and their lower price point will help contractors on smaller budgets.
Although the radial lift models may seem limited in their peak operating capacities, the same cannot be said for the vertical lift loaders. With their largest model having a peak capacity of 3,300 lbs and a reach of over 14 feet, GEHL vertical lift skid steers are ideal for projects where loading trucks play a role.
While GEHL skid steers may not approach the remarkable horsepower of competitors such as CAT or Bobcat, they are highly capable machines. Good for a variety of projects big and small, take a more in-depth look at these models when deciding on your ideal skid steer.
Another well-known brand, CASE is no slouch when it comes to making a quality skid steer. Their B-Series models cover a wide range of operating capacities, from 1,600 to 3,400 lbs, and aim to provide high-powered machines while maintaining low engine emissions.
CASE prides itself on equipping all of its skid steers with industry-leading visibility, including a backup camera and rearview mirror. With simple controls, improved troubleshooting, and a multi-function LED display, these models provide an operating experience that is among the best in the industry.
Similarly to GEHL, the main disadvantage when it comes to CASE skid steers is their horsepower. While still hovering around the industry average, these models peak at 90hp, more than a ten percent drop off from top brands in the field. While this might hold them back from truly competing to be known as the number one skid steer brand, it does not stop them from providing high-quality and reliable models that deserve strong consideration.
The manufacturer on this list with the fewest available models, what JCB skid steers lack in quantity, they more than make up in quality. Ranging from 1,347 to 2,723 lbs in ROC, these machines cover a similar range of abilities to their competitors, even with only four machines.
JCB skid steers' most valuable asset is their horsepower. Industry leaders in this regard, no brand on the market matches the remarkable hp to ROC ratio that JCB manages to meet with every one of their models. This increases the amount of work that these machines can get done on one fuel tank and makes them capable of reaching the required pressures to lift heavy weights more quickly than their competitors across the industry.
Each of JCB's models is a highly capable, multi-purpose machine. From their smallest model with a radial lift path that makes it ideal for tasks such as dumping over walls, to their largest model, an extremely powerful machine that combines strength, durability, and safety, all of these skid steers are high-performing machines. As long as you can find a model that fits the operating capacity you need, you can't go wrong with a JCB.
Providing some of the heaviest models on the market, John Deere skid steers are built tough. Reaching engine powers of 100hp, an operating capacity of 3,600 lbs, and weights of 10,000 lbs, these machines are built to deliver the power and performance that customers have come to expect from any John Deere equipment.
Starting with a minimum ROC of 1,750 lbs, customers searching for a small skid steer to do low-capacity jobs may want to look elsewhere. There are over 100 attachments available for these machines, making them highly adaptable to a variety of projects. Although heavy, John Deere's models are still compact and maneuverable, offering quality performance in tight spaces.
With simple controls, high performance, and an updated cab providing operators with all-day comfort, these models are built for any environment. Whether it's hauling hay on the farm, or digging dirt on the job site, John Deere provides a skid steer that's right for you.
Although not close to being the best-known nor the best-selling brand there is certainly an argument to be made that Manitou skid steers are the most capable machines on the market. Offering the widest range of operating capacity of any brand on the market, these ten models are excellent for jobs of any size.
Starting small, the Manitou 1050 R is a low-hp, low-capacity loader. While limited in its weight-lifting abilities, this compact model is perfect for confined, difficult-to-access spaces. At the upper end of Manitou's ROC range is the 4200 V model. Capable of reaching heights of over 12 feet while lifting loads of 4,200 lbs, this model is easily one of the best on the market for large jobs. The only brand to offer a skid steer with an operating capacity exceeding 4,000 lbs, this machine is an industry leader in ROC while maintaining an excellent hp-to-capacity ratio.
Offering small, large, and everything you could need in between, Manitou skid steers are the most versatile machines in the industry. Whether you need a DIY job done in your backyard or are working on a large commercial job site, you should take Manitou just as seriously as its better-known counterparts.
A popular skid steer option for construction and landscape workers, the New Holland 300 series skid steers are powerful, fuel-efficient machines. Ranging from smaller, more compact frames to larger and heavier loaders, these models cover capacities ranging from 1,600-3,400 lbs.
A noticeable aspect of these skid steers is that they hover right around the industry average across the board. Good but not great in horsepower, operating capacity, lift height, and most other features, New Holland provides a loader that in almost every category is better than most but not entirely on par with industry leaders.
Reliable, well-made, and versatile machines, these models are good options for any digging, demolition, or small-scale job. Though perhaps not the top machines available on the market, New Holland provides contractors with a quality skid steer at a more affordable price than many of its competitors.
Things To Know Before Choosing Your Skid Steer
Although some models stand out above the rest, many of the brands discussed above offer similar capabilities among their skid steer selections. When choosing a skid steer loader for your project, consider the heights you need it to reach, the loads you need it to lift, the terrain you need it to handle, the space you need it to fit, and the attachments available to tailor it to your project. From 760 to 4200 lbs in operating capacity, a skid steer on the market will be perfect for your job site, no matter the size.
The eight manufacturers discussed today were each among the most popular brands in North America, but I want to reiterate that this is NOT a comprehensive list. Volvo, Kubota, Takeuchi, ASV, and other brands also offer their own selections of skid steers and could also be considered in your renting or buying decision.
We have highlighted the most relevant aspects of each brand of skid steer above, but there are many more specifications, features, and attachments that come along with them. Before finalizing your decision, make sure you take an in-depth look at the details of each model to ensure you get the skid steer that's right for you.
Renting A Skid Steer
There are many benefits to renting a skid steer and after reading this far you may be asking yourself how to do just that. On DOZR Marketplace, you can search for models based on the sizes and capacities you need and find prices based on how long you need the skid steer. All you need to do is input your location and when you need it and we will help you find the perfect skid steer for your job site.
Whether renting or buying, finding the right skid steer can help your project run more efficiently and effectively. From Bobcat to GEHL to Manitou, there is no shortage of excellent manufacturers on the market, and you are all but guaranteed to find yourself a high-quality machine that you'll love. Don't miss out, find a great deal on your skid steer today.