What Size Skid Steer Is Right For Your Business?


A skid steer is a big investment, but when you find the right size and components, this versatile machine is a worthwhile investment. To make sure you get the greatest value from this purchase, start with a plan. Get a handle on the range of tasks you'll need this equipment to tackle. Then consider the following factors in determining which size skid steer is right for your needs.

Size and Horsepower

It turns out, bigger isn’t always better. If you’re looking for a machine that is highly maneuverable, a smaller option may be a better selection. Think through your typical job requirements and site dimensions. Are you utilizing the equipment for road building, navigating tight spaces between buildings, or need to reach a load into a high-side dump truck? You'll want to select the size best suited to your typical jobs. From time to time, you may need something bigger or smaller, but you can always rent equipment for specialized jobs. 

Keep in mind, bigger equipment means heavier loads for any trailer transporting your machinery to your job site. Watch Department of Transportation regulations for weight restrictions that may impact your total cost.

Consider size in terms of a skid steer’s frame, rated operating capacity (ROC) and horsepower. The ROC describes the size load you’re able to lift prior to tipping. As ROC increases, so does horsepower. For John Deere construction equipment, for example, you’ll see skid steer horsepower ranging across the following:

  • Small frame skid steer – 1,750 lbs., under 50 hp
  • Medium frame skid steer – 1,750-2,200 lbs., 50-70 hp
  • Large frame skid steer –2,200 lbs. and up, over 70 hp

Small Frame Skid Steers
The smallest framed skid steers, like the John Deere 312GR, are ideal for applications including interior demolition, landscaping, underground construction, and any projects that require navigating between houses or around tight corners. The small frame also makes it a good option for contractors who typically work on shorter jobs and need to transport equipment from site to site frequently.

Medium Frame Skid Steers
Most contractors end up buying a medium size skid steer as it offers plenty of power for most construction jobs. The John Deere 320 specs, for example, boasts net power of 49.4 kW (66 hp) with a width of only 69.2 inches.

Large Frame Skid Steers
For the most heavy duty applications, large frame skid steers like the John Deere 330, are the right choice. These machines can tackle grading, excavation, drilling, large scale demolition jobs, and more with the right attachments.

Radial vs. Vertical Lift

Again, the task at hand will determine whether you need a radial or vertical lift skid steer. Radial lifts are the best option when your priority is digging, or work done lower to the ground. Vertical lifts are the best option for lifting and placing tasks, performed at or above eye level.

Hydraulics and Attachments

There are plenty of options when it comes to attachments: from buckets to backhoes, brush cutters to stump grinders, and more. The weight of the attachments you’ll be using, and the frequency of use, will impact the size equipment you need and the flow of the hydraulics running your attachments.

The auxiliary hydraulic flow is the number to watch. If you’re planning to get frequent use out of your attachment, high-flow hydraulics will help you to get more out of your horsepower.

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