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Wheeled Skid Steers vs. Tracked Skid Steers

Let the job conditions guide your decision.

Skid steers are the Swiss Army knives of construction machines. With the right size skid steer and the right attachment, you can perform just about any materials handling, loading, grading or digging job in just about any environment.

When renting a skid steer, aside from choosing a size and any attachments, you’ll need to decide whether you’re better off with a wheeled skid steer or a tracked skid steer, aka compact track loader. The decision will come down to the surface and terrain you’ll be working on. 

Wheeled skid steers

Wheeled skid steers work well on level, developed surfaces, such as hard-packed dirt, asphalt or concrete. They move much faster on these surfaces than tracked skid steers and can therefore cover more ground in less time. 

Wheeled skid steers are typically better on landscaped surfaces, which tracked skid steers can rip up, according to Scott Hill, an inside sales representative for United Rentals.

Try to use a wheeled skid steer on a muddy surface, however, and it could sink in. Use it on hilly terrain and it could slide. Use it on a rough surface and you could easily pop a tire.

Tracked skid steers

Tracked skid steers have broader weight distribution and therefore lower weight transfer to the ground, making them ideal for wet, muddy or snowy ground, loose gravel and loose sand. Instead of sinking into soft surfaces, they “float” over them. The extra ground contact and lower center of gravity holds them steadier on slopes. They also turn around within their own footprint (as do wheeled skid steers).

“It’s like operating a tank,” said Hill. “Tracked skid steers can go dang near anywhere.” 

Tracked skid steers offer a smoother ride compared with wheeled skid steers, provide more breakout and lifting force on soft surfaces, and won’t compact the ground. But think twice before using one on concrete or asphalt. “It can tear up that type of surface because the track is really aggressive,” said Hill.

Tracked skid steers require more maintenance and cleaning than wheeled skid steers, a consideration if you’re buying instead of renting. They also cost more.

The bottom line: Neither machine is better than the other. It’s a question of matching the machine to the job. A good rental equipment provider can guide you in choosing the right skid steer for your needs.

To rent a skid steer from United Rentals, visit your local branch or check out the skid steers in the online catalog

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