Skid Steer Vs Front End Loader

Skid Steers vs. Front End Loaders: What's Best for Your Job Site?

Skid steer loaders and front end loaders are pivotal pieces of equipment in construction, landscaping, and several other industries. Though they may look alike to the untrained eye, their capabilities, uses, and benefits vary significantly. Read on to learn how these machines differ and how to select the right one for your specific needs.


What are Skid Steers and Front Loaders? An Overview

Skid Steer Loader

A Skid Steer Loader — often referred to as a "skid steer", "Bobcat", "skiddie", "posi-track" or a "track loader" — is a compact, highly manoeuvrable machine. Its small frame enables it to operate in tight spaces. Skid steers typically feature a diesel engine and a hydraulic system that can accommodate a huge variety of attachments like buckets, forks, and augers. They are either track-mounted (posi-track) or wheel-mounted. The wheel-mounted variants tend to be able to move around faster and with a greater turning circle, whereas the track-mounted ones are best on uneven or loose ground. 


Front End Loaders

A Front End Loader — sometimes referred to as a "FEL", "loader" or "ITC" (integrated tool carrier) — is bulkier with a longer frame and a front-mounted bucket that has a substantially larger capacity than the bucket on a skid steer. Similar to skid steers, they too have a diesel engine and hydraulic system but are larger and more powerful in their lifting breakout force. 

However, they are less flexible and capable of only a small range of earthmoving tasks (mostly associated with materials handling). They excel in heavy-duty applications like mining and quarrying, as well as civil and commercial construction and landscaping. You won't see a front end loader on a residential site, but you will often see skid steers.


Comparing Skid Steers and Front Loaders

Size and Agility

Skid Steers: Ideal for cramped spaces, tight access residential jobs and manoeuvring around obstacles.

Front End Loaders: Best for large, open areas where their greater power and larger bucket sizes can be fully utilized to move bulk materials.


Range of Attachments

Skid Steers: Known for versatility. Incredible range of attachments from buckets, to snow blowers and mowers.  

Front Loaders: Primarily use larger, more powerful buckets or scoops. Limited in versatility but excel in heavy-duty materials handling tasks. 


Maintenance Requirements

Skid Steers: Generally, easier and less expensive to maintain due to fewer moving parts. 

Front Loaders: More complex, heavier, harder to mobilise and likely to be costly in terms of maintenance and operation.


Typical Applications

Skid Steers: Used in a variety of sectors like commercial construction, landscaping, agriculture, and residential construction.  Heavily utilised in detailed earthworks applications, earthmoving, civil and commercial job sites, land clearingtrenching, road stabilisation and many more.

Front Loaders: Predominantly found doing stockpile management in mining and heavy construction, quarry supplies and landscaping supplies, you will also find them as a workhorse machine in the fleets of bulk haulage contractors, doing bulk earthworks, and managing materials in industrial settings. They are also used in large-scale agriculture, the management of dumps and tip sites, as well as larger-scale landscaping.


Why Choose a Skid Steer?

Manoeuvrability: Exceptional in tight spaces thanks to its small turning radius in the wheel-mounted model.

Traction: The track-mounted variants (posi-tracks) are great on loose ground, wet ground or uncompacted aggregates.

Versatility: Quick attachment changes make it suitable for varied tasks. A huge number of attachments make it the most versatile earthmover on the market.

Lower Operational Costs: Generally cheaper to run and maintain, easier to service.


Why Opt for a Front Loader?

Lifting & Material Capacity: Can handle heavier loads efficiently. Some have bucket capacities exceeding 3m3.

Reach: Superior in reaching high places, so ideal for loading tippers or articulated dump trucks with materials at pace.

Simplicity: Just handles materials well. Can be adapted with palette forks and converted into an integrated tool carrier (ITC).


Cost Considerations

Skid Steers

Buying a Skid Steer: New models range from $20,000 to $70,000, while used ones can start at $10,000. Additional attachments can be purchased alongside or can be hired later. 

Hiring a Skid Steer: Hiring a small skid steer starts as low as $85 an hour for dry hire, and up to $145 an hour for wet hire. Hiring a larger skid steer is more like $105 an hour for dry hire, and $165 an hour for wet hire. Read our comprehensive rates guide here. 

Front End Loaders

Buying a Front End Loader: Expect to pay anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 for new front loaders, while used models can start at $15,000. 

Hiring a Front End LoaderRead our comprehensive rates and hire guide on loaders here.  Cost to hire a loader start at about $100 an hour on dry hire for the small ones, and range right up to about $200 an hour on wet hire for the large track loader variants.  

The only way to get an accurate hire quote on a skid steer or front end loader is to use our Get a Quote feature that sends your enquiry to everyone with a skid steer in your local area.


Making the Right Hire Choice: Skid Steer or Front Loader?

The ideal machine for your job site depends on your project's specific requirements. Ask yourself:

  • What is my access like? Is it tight or not? If tight, choose a skid steer.
  • What is the compaction level of the ground? If loose, choose a skid steer.
  • How many materials am I moving? If a lot, choose a loader.
  • How fast do I have to move it? If fast, choose a loader.
  • What trucks are carrying the loads? If it's anything bigger than a small tipper, choose a loader.
  • Do I need to dig down or lift materials up? If digging down, probably choose an excavator.
  • Can I afford to mobilise a bigger machine on a float to my job? If a small job, choose a skid steer.

If you're confused, call iseekplant. We are the professionals in the construction or equipment rental sector, and can further help you in making an informed decision tailored to your needs.

Call 1300 691 912 or email our Seeker Success team at