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Bobcat Offers Helpful Hints for Skid Steer Shoppers

Wed April 12, 2000 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Skid steer loader buyers have never had so many choices from so many manufacturers. At the same time, they’ve never had to sort through so many different, and sometimes conflicting, product claims. Differences can significantly affect the performance and profitability of a skid steer loader.

“When comparing different brands of skid steer loaders, look at more than just product features,” said Lynn Roesler, Bobcat skid steer loader product manager. “Look at the whole package — the product’s reputation for reliability and durability, the range and availability of attachments and the dealer’s ability to support you with readily available parts and knowledgeable technicians.”

When looking to purchase a skid steer loader, buyers should consider several factors including size, versatility, performance, comfort and convenience, serviceability and durability.


The dimensions of work areas — access points, passage ways and actual job-site space — may limit the physical size of a skid steer loader. If the work space is limited, the height and width of a loader, its weight or turning radius may be important considerations.

Dumping height and reach can be another key measurement. If users are loading 10-wheel dump trucks, they need a machine that can clear the sideboards and empty the bucket into the middle of the box. Size of the workload also can be important. Jobs that involve a lot of loading, heavy lifting or excavating in tough soils call for a machine with enough power and capacity to match the task.


A skid steer loader can do much more than excavate and load dirt with a bucket or lift and carry other materials with pallet forks. Attachments enable operators to use a loader for a broad range of jobs, like digging trenches, sweeping parking lots and raking and tilling landscapes. Some attachments are hydraulically powered and require auxiliary hydraulics or even high-flow hydraulics. When choosing a skid steer loader, potential buyers should consider how attachments could expand the use of a loader and what attachments are available for a particular loader model.


Skid steer loader buyers should also consider the machine’s performance features. One measure of a skid steer loader’s performance is rated operating capacity, which refers to the safe load-lifting ability of a loader. The higher the rated operating capacity the heavier the load a skid steer loader can lift and carry safely.

Rated operating capacity is affected by several factors besides engine power. A heavier machine, for example, can more safely lift a heavier load than a lighter machine with the same engine size. A longer wheelbase on a skid steer loader also can increase its rated operating capacity. A vertical lift path keeps the load closer to the machine, so a loader with this lift pattern can more safely lift more than an identical loader with a radius lift path. The vertical lift path also gives users more reach for loading into truck boxes.

There’s More to Performance Than Horsepower

“The horsepower rating of a skid steer loader’s engine, by itself, isn’t an accurate way to compare one loader’s performance to another,” said Roesler. “A loader with a high-horsepower engine could be wasting time, fuel and money if that extra power is being used to spin the wheels rather than to dig or push dirt. A bigger engine also requires a bigger radiator, which requires a bigger frame. That, in turn, can limit the areas where the loader can work.”

Maneuverability is another performance factor to consider. For instance, the compact Bobcat 751 and 753 loaders, with their conventional wheelbases, can turn in a tighter circle than the longer-wheelbase Bobcat 763 and 773 loaders. The longer wheelbase, on the other hand, provides a smoother ride.

Soil and surface conditions of the work site may also influence the choice of loaders. Loose sand and muddy soils can stop a skid-steer loader; however, there are equipment options to compensate.

For instance, users can fit after-market steel tracks over the tires of their loaders, or take advantage of dedicated tracked machines like the new Bobcat 864 G series compact track loader which features dedicated rubber tracks to extend working seasons and maintain low ground pressure.

Comfort and Convenience

As skid steer loader popularity grows, so does The number of hours a day an operator spends in the machine. When considering purchasing a skid steer loader, buyers should look at the loader’s comfort and convenience features.

For example, operators should check how easy it is to enter and exit the cab; if there is enough room inside the cab to operate the machine comfortably; where the control levers, pedals, buttons and switches are located; the amount of back support; how easy is it to operate auxiliary hydraulics; and if the gauges, dials and panel lights are easily readable.

From inside the cab, buyers should check if they can easily see the working edge of the attachments and note the front, corner and rear visibility, as well as the view of the rear tires and bucket placement during operation. Buyers also should check the sound level from inside the cab.

Operator comfort and convenience details matter to users who spend hours in their loaders. Users now have options such as a large cab openings for easy entry and exit; rear-pivot seatbars; ergonomic armrests; adjustable, full-suspension seats; enclosed cabs with full-view front doors; and heater and factory-installed air-conditioning units.


To keep a machine running smoothly, skid steer loaders need to be regularly serviced. Therefore, serviceability is an important issue. Some skid-steer loaders have service and maintenance items on both sides of the engine. As a result, some maintenance checks can be difficult and time-consuming and, therefore, may end up getting skipped or overlooked.

Bobcat loaders are the only equipment of their class with a transversely mounted engine. All routine service and maintenance items, like the engine oil dipstick, fuel injection pump and coolant overflow bottle, are on one side of the engine and the tailgate swings open so operators can easily see and reach them.


It is extremely important to compare the size and weight of loader components, the way the machines are put together and other features that can minimize downtime and repair costs.

Durability and craftsmanship — two factors that are sometimes overlooked by buyers — are critical to offering users the lowest long-term cost.

Considering the Purchase

In addition to these factors, operators should also look at the dealer support, security features, financing options, resale value and warranty agreements.

“Rather than focusing on the price of a skid-steer loader, look at what you’re getting for your money,” Roesler suggested. “These qualities range from the latest technological advancements in performance, comfort and convenience, to strong dealer support and high resale value.”

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