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Shopping Guide: How to Choose a Skid-steer

Skid-steer loaders can be found on almost any interior or exterior job site, performing a myriad of tasks with various attachments. Because they are manufactured in an array of sizes and have a multitude of attachment options and operating features, it’s important to match the skid-steer to the required tasks and your job site.

What is a skid-steer?

With built-in versatility, compactness and maneuverability, a skid-steer loader is the proverbial workhorse of the job site, particularly in tight areas that are difficult for traditional equipment to reach. Because a skid-steer accommodates various attachments, it can easily transition to perform many necessary tasks, from earth moving and landscaping to dumping, hauling, and more. In addition, skid-steers come in different sizes and capacities for loads, and they offer a range of features that can include lights, larger tires, rear-view camera technology, and more.

How does a skid-steer work?

The skid-steer loader is powered by an efficient diesel engine on each side of the machine and a set of hydraulic pumps which power the wheels and the work tools. The wheels have a fixed orientation, so they cannot turn. Instead, the driver operates the wheels at different speeds, so the fixed wheels are skidded across the ground as the machine is steered (thus the name “skid-steer”). This type of design allows the skid-steer to operate and turn in tight spaces.

What is a skid-steer used for?

Skid-steers make work on almost any job site more efficient because their versatility helps meet ever-evolving needs. They and their attachments are engineered to support routines as well as highly specific tasks in a multitude of industries. Those tasks include:

  • Cleanup: Snow removal, brush clearing, sweeping, dozing
  • Construction: Demolition, cutting, trenching, excavating, tilling
  • Road/concrete repair: Milling, planing, mixing
  • Landscaping: Finish grading, backfilling, raking, forking, site leveling, stump grinding
  • Material handling: Pallet lifting, truck loading, grappling, stockpiling

How to choose a skid-steer

To choose the best skid-steer for your operation or job site, first think about the work environment where you intend to use the skidsteer. Will it need to work inside or outside, in small spaces or large? Will it need to work on flat or hilly terrain? Will it need to be used from time-to-time or on a constant basis? The experts at Sunbelt Rentals can help guide you through the process to find the right skidsteer to meet your needs.

What should I look for in a skidsteer?

To determine the best skidsteer for your needs, consider the following criteria:

  • Size: With the many frame sizes available, it is important to choose the skidsteer size based upon the size of the environment you need it to work in and the type of work you need it to do. A smaller skidsteer will work well if you must work in a tight environment, like small city streets or narrow warehouse aisles. A larger skidsteer would be more appropriate for work on a farm or a park system. Any size skidsteer is heavy, so you must also consider how or if you will need to haul the skidsteer.
  • Horsepower and torque: Consider both horsepower (capable speed) and torque (force) when deciding on the right skidsteer for your needs. Power equals traction and horsepower determines how fast you will be able to get your job done with a skidsteer. Horsepower also indicates cycle time speed and the ability of the machine to get to and maintain required pressure and flows. Horsepower also helps with multifunction, such as driving and lifting at the same time. On the other side of the equation, high-torque machines allow you to run the skidsteer engine at lower speeds and gain better fuel efficiency.
  • Lift: Skidsteers can lift either radially or vertically, so you should choose your skidsteer for the type of lifting work you need it to do. If you plan to use it to do mostly eye-level or lower work, like dozing or digging, a radial lift model is best. If you plan to use it to reach high spaces easily or for material handling, like lifting and placing pallets, a vertical lift would work better.
  • Attachments: It’s important to carefully choose the skidsteer attachments that will be right for your particular job. Not every attachment works with every skidsteer. Durability is also key, as is the amount of hydraulic power needed by the attachment. 
  • Hydraulics: The hydraulics system runs the skidsteer and the auxiliary hydraulics system is what works the skidsteer attachments. Smaller skidsteers can work efficiently with standard hydraulics. But medium- or large-sized skidsteers often require higher-flow hydraulics in order to use larger and more powerful attachments. A standard flow auxiliary hydraulics system comes on all skid-steers. There are certain types of attachments that require a high-flow hydraulic system, such as snow blowers and chippers. 
  • Rated operating capacity: By understanding the capacity the skid-steer is rated for, you will better understand what attachments can – and cannot – be used efficiently.
  • Price: Skid-steers can be expensive. For many businesses, renting the skid-steer and attachments that are right for the job at hand makes fiscal sense. When you rent a skid-steer from Sunbelt Rentals, you can choose the exact machine and attachments for your needs and be assured that the equipment is in top condition. We deliver and also provide the OSHA-required safety training necessary for you and your team to safely operate your equipment.
  • Brand: You’ll find a wide selection of skid-steer brands to choose from. While their standard and optional features may seem the same, there are important differences to be aware of when you review specification sheets. These differences can include emissions ratings, cabin design, and control setup.

H2: Rent a skid-steer from Sunbelt

No matter the job, you’ll find the best skid-steer to meet your needs at Sunbelt Rentals. See our selection of skid-steer loadersride-on skid-steer loaders and skid-steer attachments, all backed by our 24/7 service and support.  

Look to Sunbelt Rentals for these brands:

  • Toro
  • Vermeer
  • Bobcat
  • John Deere

Looking to rent a skid-steer? View our product guide.


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