Guide to Skid Steer Loaders

Guide to Skid Steer Loaders

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There are many reasons you might need a piece of heavy equipment in your business. From executing construction tasks to smoothing and leveling building terrain or roadways to plowing mud and snow off a job site, there are endless ways you can use heavy machinery to help your employees work more efficiently and improve productivity.

Using a skid steer loader, for example, allows you to switch between many different activities in one project to optimize performance and offer a greater variety of jobs. Learn more about skid steer loaders, what type of skid steer loader you should get and how you can use them in your upcoming projects.

What Is a Skid Steer?

A skid steer loader — or skid steer — is a relatively small piece of heavy equipment. Skid steer loaders are similar to mini excavators because they are tracked or wheeled machines that use buckets or attachments for many of the same jobs. This machine comes equipped with either four wheels and two side tracks with independent controls to steer it. Each side has front and back axles that synchronize with each other to create a fixed alignment.

To turn the machines, an operator must accelerate the speed of the wheels on either side, allowing them to drag or skid across the ground while the machine moves in the opposite direction. Essentially, an operator has to steer each side independently from the opposite side because the wheels and tracks have separate engines. This construction equipment is highly versatile, lightweight and maneuverable with hydraulic-power booms to help lift materials for digging, excavation and hammering.

The first skid steer was made in 1958 by brothers Cyril and Louis Keller to help clean out a barn. Today, they are used for much more than cleaning out barns, including many different jobs across several industries.

What Is a Skid Steer Loader Used For?

There are many different jobs you can do with a skid steer. From small-scale projects to larger excavation jobs, you can use a skid steer to speed up the process while lifting and moving materials efficiently. Here are some things a skid steer can do.

Hauling and Handling Material

A skid steer loader can work with certain attachments to haul or stack debris and material for various projects. You can use a skid steer in recycling yards, warehouses and farm buildings to move pallets around or lift items and move them to another location.


A skid steer loader can move landscaping materials, such as topsoil, mulch or sand. You can use a skid steer to prep soil or plant trees in many different farming or agriculture tasks.

A skid steer loader can move landscaping materials, such as topsoil, mulch or sand. You can use a skid steer to prep soil or plant trees in many different farming or agriculture tasks. Other examples of using skid steers for landscaping include:

  • Tilling
  • Chipping wood
  • Grinding stumps
  • Mixing compost or fertilizer in the soil
  • Transporting gravel or landscaping tools

With various attachments, you can easily complete these projects much faster than with traditional manual methods, like using a wheelbarrow.

Cement Work

Skid steers are helpful for mixing, transporting and pumping concrete on a job site when laying down fresh concrete during construction or another type of project. You can also break up existing concrete with special hammer attachments on the skid steer during demolitions or renovations.


With certain attachments, including rippers and wheel saws, a skid steer is capable of excavation work like trenching and digging. Depending on your specific needs, you could also use a backhoe or trencher to dig an entire foundation or build narrow portholes for your project.

Clearing Snow

In severe winter conditions, an operator can use a bucket or snow blade attachment on a skid steer to clear out snow and other debris on the road or a job site.


You can use a skid steer for construction and building work, such as removing pavement or concrete and adding a new foundation for a building or warehouse.

Trenching and Digging

Trenching and digging are some of the most common uses for a skid steer. With digging attachments like augers, backhoes and trench diggers, you can create large and precise holes for any task.


Skid steers are great for use in interior and exterior demolition projects. You can demolish drywall, concrete, flooring and other materials using demolition shears that attach to the skid steer. Thanks to its precision and compact size, a skid steer is ideal for a demolition project in tight spaces, such as tearing down a house or shed in an urban or suburban area.

Grading and Roadwork

You can use skid steers for road building and maintenance tasks. With cement and pavement attachments, you can conduct grading, paving and patching to fill in holes or level out the ground with your skid steer. You can also use a rake, grading bar or bucket attachment to help you with leveling and scooping up rocks and debris without leaving behind big holes.

Wheeled Skid Steer vs. Track Loader

Skid steers come with wheels or tracks to serve specific purposes in particular jobs. Let’s discuss the differences and similarities between these two types of skid steers.

A wheeled skid steer is designed primarily for smaller landscaping and digging functions. This machine runs on four wheels and has two arms that connect to various attachments.

A compact track loader is a type of skid steer that runs on tracks instead of wheels. This skid steer is similar in size to a wheeled skid steer and performs most of the same functions. However, the added traction and heavier weight make it well-suited to travel across uneven or slippery terrain. Track loaders are primarily used for earthmoving, demolition or excavation jobs that require exceptional stability.

Other differences to consider when looking for a skid steer:

  • Terrain: Wheeled skid steers excel on hard, flat surfaces like asphalt or concrete, but not as well on wet surfaces or snow. Track loaders are ideal for undeveloped ground and uneven, slippery terrain or mud.
  • Maneuverability: Though both machines have the same turning capabilities, track loaders might not perform as well in tight spaces and operators often use three-point turns to protect the tracks. Wheeled skid steer loaders are a good option for working with limited space.
  • Speed: Track loaders are not as fast as wheeled skid steers, which can be a problem for longer projects or if you’re running on a tight schedule. Wheeled skid steers are lightweight and fast-moving, allowing you to move through crowded worksites and make sharp turns quickly.
  • Cost: While the cost to rent or purchase a skid steer varies by manufacturer and location, a wheeled skid steer is typically cheaper to rent and maintain than a track loader. Generally, tracks are more expensive to replace than tires, which can lead to higher maintenance costs.
  • Power: Wheeled skid steers can perform heavy-lifting tasks but have reduced traction, making working with high-resistance materials difficult. Track loaders can push and lift more weight and are better suited for jobs that require higher horsepower.
  • Replacements: With track loaders, you need to replace the tracks every so often. You’ll know it’s time to replace the skid steer tracks when there’s exterior damage, such as cracks or exposed cords. While these tracks are more susceptible to damage, you will also have to periodically replace the tires on wheeled skid steers as well.

What Is a Skid Steer Attachment?

A skid steer attachment is a work tool installed on the hydraulic arm of the equipment that often works with many different types of skid steers, such as compact wheel loaders and multi-terrain loaders.

Now that you know some of the jobs you can use a skid steer for, let’s go into further detail about what attachments you can use on a skid steer and what types of projects they can be useful for. A skid steer attachment is a work tool installed on the hydraulic arm of the equipment that often works with many different types of skid steers, such as compact wheel loaders and multi-terrain loaders.

Every attachment serves a unique purpose. From dozing to drilling to earthmoving and excavating, having access to different attachments expands your capabilities — even using only one machine. You can efficiently replace the attachments throughout your project to get more work done with less effort.

When looking at skid steer attachments, it’s best to consult with your dealer and listen to their advice and expert knowledge on which attachments are best for your model and how compatible a tool might be for your specific job.

The most common attachments available for skid steers include:

What Is the Best Skid Steer to Buy?

What Is the Best Skid Steer to Buy? Though there are many different brands and manufacturers available, it's important to evaluate certain factors — whether you're buying a new skid steer or renting one.

When it comes to choosing a skid steer for your next landscaping, construction or agricultural job, there are plenty of options that can fit your needs. Though there are many different brands and manufacturers available, it’s important to evaluate certain factors — whether you’re buying a new skid steer or renting one — including:

  • Brand reputation and user ratings
  • Durability
  • Maintenance records
  • Attachment options
  • Price
  • Service hours

If you’re looking for some of the best skid steers on the market in Central or Northern California, Holt of California can provide an ideal solution. We carry the latest brand-new and pre-owned skid steers to fit your needs and budget — no matter what type of project you’re looking at.

With Holt of California, you can choose from multiple skid steer models, in various sizes and configurations, that come equipped with advanced features to help you complete your projects quickly and efficiently. Our skid steers also comply with California’s emissions standards, ensuring your business has equipment that burns fuel more cleanly.

Whether you use your skid steer for landscaping, construction, demolition or grading, this heavy equipment can boost productivity for your team and provide years of reliable service.

What to Look for When Buying a Skid Steer

While the average life span of a skid steer is around 5,000 hours, there are a few things you’ll want to inquire about when shopping for any piece of heavy equipment. Here are some things to look for when buying a new or pre-owned skid steer.


When looking for what size skid steer you need, there are many options to choose from. Skid steer sizes vary widely in height and operating weight, from around 1,700 to 9,000 pounds. Operating weight on a skid steer means the total weight of the heavy equipment, including the operator and the fuel.

The size you’ll need will depend on the type of work you need it for. If your project requires more heavy lifting, you’ll want a bigger size. If you need a skid steer that can work on a smaller worksite or within tight corners, you’ll want a smaller size. Small, medium or large skid steers each have different horsepower, maneuverability, weight, bucket sizes and power.


When buying or renting a used skid steer, it’s common to do an overall inspection of the interior and exterior before going through with the investment. Conducting a quick visual inspection should include:

  • Looking for any cosmetic damage, such as scratches, dents or rust
  • Checking for leaks
  • Looking at the tires for damage and wear
  • Testing the lights
  • Reviewing the vehicle history
  • Evaluating the service hours on the equipment
  • Looking over the maintenance records to see what repair work has been done

Lifting Capacity

Lifting capacity, also known as the operating load or operating capacity, is the weight a skid steer can lift. Usually, a skid steer with a lower horsepower engine will have a lower lifting capacity, while a higher horsepower engine can lift more weight. Though the size of the engine determines how much weight the model can carry, you’ll also want to look at the torque.

The torque is how the engine turns the crank and is often more important than horsepower because it has to do with how your attachments will operate with the skid steer. It’s also worth noting that maneuverability can decrease as the weight capacity increases, because bigger loads require bigger engines.

Dump Height

Dump height is how high a skid steer loader can lift a given load. If you plan to use a bucket attachment for higher overhead spaces, elevated platforms or to load trucks, you might require a higher dump height. Having the right dump height will prevent the bucket attachment from swinging too far and causing damage.

You’ll want to make sure the dump height is a little higher than what your project requires. For instance, if you need to dump debris into a truck that’s 5 feet high, you’ll want a skid steer with a dump height of at least 7 feet for safety.


Heavy equipment manufacturers must comply with state and federal emissions regulations established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the different tiers of emissions. Heavy equipment with diesel engines must meet the Tier 4 standards for emissions.

Today, most heavy equipment brands ensure their skid steers meet compliance standards without compromising the compact maneuverability of the overall design. Emission regulations are stricter for engines with 75 horsepower and above.

Worksite Requirements

The first thing you’ll want to discuss with your heavy equipment dealer is the environment the skid steer will need to operate in. What type of material will it need to handle or dump? What type of terrain will it have to navigate?

If you need to operate the equipment indoors, such as a farm building or warehouse, it’s a good idea to measure doorways, shelving units, storage containers or any other spaces to ensure the equipment fits.

Find the Right Skid Steer Loader With Holt of California

Performing a manual inspection is routine for anyone looking to rent or buy a new or used piece of heavy equipment. At the same time, getting a skid steer loader from a trusted dealer like Holt of California can give you peace of mind that your machine will work efficiently and properly.

Whether you’re looking for a new, used or rental skid steer loader, Holt of California has many options for you to choose from. Get started by browsing our skid steer loaders and attachments you might need. If you have any questions, contact us to see how we can help you find the right equipment!

Find the Right Skid Steer Loader With Holt of California. Browse equipment.

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