Skid-Steers Proves that Sometimes Smaller is Better
Although skid-steer buyers often tend toward larger models, more than 60,000 mini skid-steer loaders were sold throughout the world in 2011, according to recent industry estimates. And nearly 34,000 of those machines were put to work right here in the United States.
What do those buyers know that you don't?
The mini-skid steer loader offers great advantages to contractors, landscapers, and a wide range of utility-related businesses by providing a nearly comparable level of output in comparison to its larger counterpart. And more importantly, it can be added to your operation for a considerably smaller capital investment. As shortages in the manual labor pool reportedly continue to grow, these labor-saving machines provide a strong ROI within a relatively short time-period.
Models with a rated operating capacity (ROC) in the range of 1,751 to 2,200 lbs continue to be the most popular. With standards established by SAE international, ROC is typically calculated at 50 percent of tipping load. Although the rising popularity of this size category is coming at the expense of smaller machines, with an ROC ranging between 1,600 to 700 lbs, they still account for about 30 percent of the market. As one of our skid-steer dealers recently said, "these smaller models remain very potent machines in applications where compact size, easy transport, and affordability count." And here's why.
Benefits of a mini skid-steer loader
Also known as compact utility loaders or compact tool carriers, a wide range of modern mini-skids are available with a high-flow, auxiliary-hydraulic system. This enables them to handle an equally-diverse selection of serious attachments including hydraulic hammers, cold planers, and snow blowers.
The one thing to be aware of when considering add-ons for a mini-skid is the tool's hydraulic requirements (flow and pressure), especially when matching it to a machine on the smaller end of the spectrum. Typically, a powered attachment is built to accommodate a range of flows and pressures, which broadens its application. Just be sure not to use attachments that require more hydraulic horsepower than your machine can deliver.
Calculating Hydraulic Horsepower
If a manufacturer rates powered attachments by the hydraulic horsepower required to operate them efficiently, you can determine if your skid-steer is up to the task with the following formula. (This formula gives a theoretical or "ballpark" figure, since it does not take into account the pump's volumetric efficiency.)
- HHP = (F)(P)/1714
- HHP = machine's theoretical hydraulic horsepower
- F = machine's maximum hydraulic flow (gpm)
- P = machine's hydraulic relief pressure (psi)
- 1714 = constant
Auxiliary-hydraulic controls may permit the operator to either meter flow to attachments for more precise tool movement or lock the system in a continuous-flow mode. Proportional (metering) control systems are optional (and very worthwhile) when you're after more exact attachment control.
Size, maneuverability, and design refinement
For the most part, all the features you'll find on larger skid-steers are available on smaller units. And the machine is far easier to navigate in enclosed spaces during interior demolition, residential construction, and similar applications.
In addition to its compact size, the mini skid-steer includes a few recent enhancements in design to facilitate operator comfort. These include:
- Noise reduction. Though it's still a good idea to wear ear protection when operating any heavy machinery, today's smaller skid-steer is quieter, thanks to innovations such as hydraulically-driven cooling fans.
- Logical cab design. The interior has greater overall volume to comfortably fit boots, elbows, and hats. And the compartment generally provides better visibility too after remaking the cab with fewer impediments to good sight lines as well as rethinking the shape of lift arms.
- Ergonomic controls. With enhancements like keyless start to simplify operation and prevent theft, the layout of the instrument panel enables better operation by closely monitoring and interacting with your machine. Plus, many models now include joystick control that places all operational functions at your fingertips as well as a variety of steering- and loader-control systems that allow personalized operator preferences.
|Average Skid-Steer Costs|
|Capacity (lb.)||Avg. List Price||Hourly Cost|
|1,600 to 1,351||$22,600||$23|
|1,350 to 1,251||$20,500||$22|
|1,250 to 976||$17,650||$18|
|975 to 701||$16,000||$17|
|700 & less||$14,500||$16|
|Source: EquipmentWatch.com, phone: 800/669-3282 |
|Model||Std. ROC (lb.)||Opt. ROC**(lb.)||Hinge-Pin Height (in.)***||Std. Operating Weight (lb.)||HP (Net)|
|* Vertical-lift loader path|
|*** Boom fully raised|
|** With weight kit|
|**** Optional turbo-diesel|
|High-flow hydraulics available|
|Gehl 4640+||1,500||1,650||115.5||6,200||46 / 60****|
|Komatsu SK815-5+||1,550||1,750||115.0||5,785||47 / 54****|
|New Holland LS140*||1,250||1,400||111.0||4,395||30|
|New Holland LS150*||1,350||1,500||114.3||4,500||36|
|New Holland LS160*||1,500||1,650||115.1||5,534||44|