Skid Steer Dealer Comparison: The Best Skid Steer Loader Brands
The cost of a new skid steer loader easily runs into tens of thousands of dollars. Before making this type of investment, it's always a good idea to research your options, both as to brand and dealer.
While it may seem that heavy equipment is heavy equipment, and a dealer is a dealer, there are differences in quality for both. Keep reading to discover what to look for and which features separate the best dealers and equipment from the rest of the pack.
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Comparing Skid Steer Features
There's no denying that, thanks to standard equipment, one skid steer is much like any other. This is because the market as a whole seems to agree that certain features are ideal:
- Tier 4 Final compliant engines (standard as of January 1, 2015)
- Larger, quieter cabs
- Intuitive, ergonomic controls (including joysticks, foot pedals, and levers)
Despite these similarities, however, there are features beyond paint color that set some manufacturers apart.
The cab interior may not seem like a big deal (unless, of course, you're the one operating the skid steer). However, operator comfort and ergonomic controls help reduce fatigue, which increases productivity and improves safety, two big wins on the job site.
Different manufacturers address these issues in their own way. Volvo's C Series recently increased interior space significantly. They've also included storage space (with a built-in 12-volt outlet) that allows the operator to safely tuck away personal items. Finally, they use two instrument consoles that improve visibility while offering easy access to controls.
JCB's skid steer design features a single arm single loader tower, side entry, and no rear torque tube, all of which JCB says lead to visibility 60 percent greater than the competition's dual-arm loaders. Wacker Neuson also extols the virtue of greater visibility, as well as operator comfort. They've built their skid steers with an isolated cab to minimize dust, noise, and vibration, with an HVAC system that minimizes window fogging. You can even choose units with AM/FM radios.
Most operators prefer the controls with which they are familiar and comfortable. In response, manufacturers offer control packages of various designs. Bobcat, for example, offers the following:
- Standard controls: Include dual foot pedals for lift and tilt, and dual steering levers for driving
- Advanced controls: Come with a choice between Standard and H-pattern
- Selectable joystick controls: Joystick control of workgroup functions and ability to use ISO or H pattern
- Radio remote controls: Allows operation outside the machine; requires SJC
Some Kubota skid steer models offer joystick controls, auxiliary electrical switches you can configure, and a dial-type hand throttle that allows consistent engine speed. Models from 2016 and up include an ISO pattern drive and loader control system designed to increase operator comfort and efficiency.
Caterpillar is also offering new and improved control options. Namely, joysticks attached to the armrests. Since the armrests attach to the seats, whenever the seat position changes, the joystick remains at the same relative position. Operators may also adjust armrests and joystick pods independently of the seat for greater comfort.
Choosing a Dealer
Choosing the right dealer is almost as important as choosing the right skid steer loader. This entity determines pricing, training, support, and more through the life of your machine.
Here are the items you should consider:
- Specialty: Award extra points to dealers who specialize in skid steers, as they typically offer better selection and support post-sale.
- Training and safety: Look for manufacturers or dealers that offer training. Popular options include web-based courses and handbooks.
- Financing: Costs range from $15,000 to $60,000 or more, so you may want to consider financing, through the dealer, manufacturer, or your own bank. Compare offers carefully before signing on the dotted line.
- Local EPA regulations: Regulations differ by state, and sometimes by county or city. Look for a dealer that understands EPA regulations in your area to ensure whatever you buy meets them.
When you're comparing quotes, you also want to consider the dealer's answers to the following questions:
- What replacement parts do you keep onsite? If the part has to be ordered, what is the average length of delivery time?
- Do you carry workers' compensation insurance?
- Do you have a guaranteed response time?
- Do you have any onsite skid steer technicians?
- Do you offer job-site service?
- What are your service hours? What happens if repairs are needed outside of service hours?
Pricing often varies widely by dealer, so obtain multiple quotes to ensure you get the best offer. Look carefully at what each quote includes, as well; you want to compare apples to apples. Some dealers include items such as delivery; others offer a quote only for the machine. If you're in the market for a new or used skid steer loader, get a free quote today.