Wheels or Tracks: What to Consider when Deciding between a Skid Steer or Compact Track Loader
Kubota | October 9, 2017

The 2016 compact track loader market delivered results of more than 13 percent over the previous year; both of Kubota’s models, the SVL75-2 and the SVL95-2s, exceeded expectations as well. The fact that the skid steer market was down almost 6 percent is ample evidence to suggest that some buyers are opting for tracks rather than wheels.

For the second consecutive year, skid steer sale volume was lower than compact track loaders industrywide. Gains on specific markets for compact track loaders over skid steers can be seen in residential construction and agriculture. However, both of these markets still need wheeled vehicles because wheeled units are a better choice for hard or aggressive surfaces. There is a price gap for similarly sized wheel and track units, favoring the wheel units. Kubota offers two models in each product line, covering the largest portion of each market.

Though the migration to compact track loaders continues, there are several applications for which skid steers are better suited than compact track loaders. Kubota offers two skid steer models and two wheel models, along with a good complement of compact excavators to satisfy a range of needs. The two main variables to consider include:

Job surface. Harder and abrasive surfaces are not very rubber track friendly, therefore the rubber tire machine versus the rubber track machine is better suited for those conditions.

Ground disturbance. Consider the application where ground disturbance may be important. Nurseries and golf courses, for example, lend themselves to rubber tracks where the lower ground pressure would cause less ground disturbance. On the other hand, highway roads and bridges where road speed and the use of grinding attachments are essential, it is the wheel machine that should be considered first.

It’s important to understand that track units are more expensive, albeit that gap is lower than it used to be. Customers should also be careful to choose the correct machine size. Unlike wheel units, CTLs are rated at 35 percent of tipping load, although most manufacturers list both 35 percent and 50 percent of tipping load, so make sure you read the right value. Contractors should expect that maintaining a CTL takes a little more time and effort than a wheel unit with proper daily cleaning of the undercarriage. Most importantly, I always stress to those looking to make a purchase, make sure you get everything you need from the start. We continue to enhance our product offering with new features including a high flow option on our SVL75-2 compact track loader and seven new attachments including 4-in-1 buckets, a skid grader, scrap grapples, root grapples, and a 4-inch rotary cutter.