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Skid Steer vs. Bulldozer: What are the Differences?
7 minute read
Kevin Forestell headshot
Kevin Forestell
October 5, 2023

Skid Steer vs. Bulldozer: What are the Differences?

In the dynamic world of construction, choosing the right equipment can be the key to a successful and efficient project. Whether you're starting on a large-scale or small-scale project, the decision between using a skid steer and a bulldozer is essential. This blog aims to provide a comprehensive construction equipment comparison between both machines. Ideally, this will help construction company owners and project managers make informed decisions based on their project requirements.

What is a Skid Steer, and What is it Primarily Used For?

skid steer uses

The skid steer, a compact and versatile machine, has become a staple on construction sites. Available in both tracked and wheeled models, their primary functions include earthmoving, material handling, land clearing, loading, and grading. The compact size of skid steers allows them to navigate tight spaces with ease, making them valuable assets in projects where maneuverability is key. Additionally, the wide range of attachments they can be equipped with heavily enhances their adaptability to various tasks.

What is a Bulldozer, and What is it Primarily Used For?


In contrast, a bulldozer is a powerful machine designed for moving and pushing large amounts of soil and shaping uneven terrain. Their robust build and substantial horsepower make them indispensable for major earthmoving projects. Bulldozers excel in tasks like leveling terrain, pushing soil, land clearing, roadwork, and creating foundations for large constructions. They can be attached with different blade types to accomplish tasks more efficiently.

Skid Steer vs. Bulldozer: What are the Key Differences?

How Do Their Sizes Compare?

One of the primary distinctions between skid steer loaders and bulldozers is their size. Skid steers are compact, nimble machines that can easily navigate through confined spaces. They can be seen on both residential and commercial projects but are normally a complimentary piece on larger projects, not a heavy lifter.

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Bulldozers are larger and suitable for extensive projects where moving significant volumes of material is a requirement. This includes being staples on large commercial land clearing projects, roadwork projects like interstates and highways, and more.

Related: Learn more about both equipment types and their size, power, and capability in our dozer spec guide and skid steer spec guide.

Which One Offers More Versatility?

A key factor to consider when choosing construction equipment is how much they can do. Skid steers are celebrated for their adaptability, thanks to a wide range of attachments available. These attachments enable skid steers to perform various tasks, from digging and lifting to sweeping and snow removal.

In contrast, dozers, while powerful, are more specialized and primarily excel in tasks related to earthmoving. They can be equipped with different bulldozer blades that change how the dirt and materials are pushed. However, beyond moving dirt, grading and leveling, backfilling, and land clearing, bulldozers do not have a wide range of other applications.

Performance and Power: Who Wins?

The battle between performance and power is a central consideration. Bulldozers, with their formidable horsepower and robust build, are unmatched in sheer power for large-scale earthmoving. For example, dozers range anywhere from 65 to 900 hp while skid steers range between 25 to 110 hp. This power, in combination with their much bigger size, gives them much more earthmoving power than skid steers.

However, while skid steers have less power, their agility and versatility can give them the unique upper hand in terms of maneuverability and adaptability. The choice depends on the specific needs of the project and this is why skid steers are seen as a great complimentary piece on many projects.

Related: Read more about the different dozer brands and skid steer brands in construction.

Can You Use a Skid Steer as a Bulldozer?

While a skid steer equipped with a dozer blade attachment can mimic certain bulldozer functions, there are limitations. It's essential to understand that the scale and intensity of tasks achievable by a skid steer are not comparable to a dedicated bulldozer. Consider the following scenarios:

  • Light Grading: Skid steers can handle light grading tasks effectively.

  • Small Earthmoving Projects: For modest earthmoving and land clearing, a skid steer with a dozer blade may suffice.

  • Confined Spaces: Skid steers excel in confined spaces where bulldozers might struggle.

However, for substantial earthmoving projects like commercial land clearing or forestry, a dedicated bulldozer is more efficient due to its power and capacity.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between the Two

bulldozer vs skid steer

What's Your Project's Scale?

The scale of the project is a crucial determinant. For extensive projects involving significant earthmoving, a bulldozer is the most suitable choice. Skid steers, with their compact size, are ideal for smaller tasks or projects where space is limited.

Do You Need Multi-Functionality?

If your project demands versatility and the ability to switch between tasks seamlessly, a skid steer is the answer. The availability of various attachments allows skid steers to transform into different machines for different purposes.

Budget Considerations: Which is More Cost-Effective?

Budget considerations play a vital role in decision-making. While bulldozers might have a higher upfront cost, their specialized nature may be justified for large-scale projects. Skid steers, with their versatility, could potentially offer cost savings for smaller projects that require multiple functions.

In terms of skid steer rental costs, they can range anywhere between $200 to $450 for a day, $700 to $1,300 for a week, and $2,000 to $4,000 for a month. Meanwhile, dozer rental costs can range between $500 to $3,300 for a day, $1,700 to $12,000 for a week, and $5,000 to $40,000 for a week.

Prices for both machines will vary depending on the size of the skid steer or bulldozer, location, and if several attachments are needed.

The Bottom Line: Making Your Decision

In conclusion, the choice between a skid steer and a bulldozer ultimately depends on the specific requirements of your construction project. Both machines have their strengths and weaknesses:

Skid Steer Functionalities and Strengths:

  • Maneuverability in tight spaces.

  • Versatility with a variety of attachments.

  • Cost-effectiveness for smaller projects.

Bulldozer Capabilities and Strengths:

  • Raw power for large-scale earthmoving.

  • Efficiency in extensive projects.

  • Specialized capabilities for specific tasks.

Understanding your project's scale, need for multi-functionality, and budget constraints are crucial steps in making the right choice. By carefully assessing these factors, construction professionals can ensure that they select the equipment that aligns perfectly with the demands of their projects.

If you need a skid steer rental or dozer rental for your next project, you can search the DOZR Marketplace to get local pricing, availability, and more. If you're struggling to make a decision or want to talk through your options more, contact the DOZR sales team and get qualified recommendations from a professional.

Find Your Next Equipment Rental on DOZR
Dozer image
15,000 lbs - 200,000 lbs
Wheel Loader image
1 yds - 7 yrds
Backhoe image
70 HP - 100 HP
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Kevin Forestell headshot
Kevin Forestell
Kevin Forestell is CEO of DOZR and one of the co-founders. Kevin first got started as an entrepreneur when he founded Forestell Landscaping right after graduating from University. His love and passion for the industry and desire to help solve an equipment problem that contractors faced every day is what brought the founding team to start DOZR. Kevin is proud of the level of efficiency brought to the industry through DOZR and hopes that DOZR will help change the standard way equipment is rented.
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