Your behavior appears to be a little unusual. Please verify that you are not a bot.

Experts share what pros should look for in a track loader purchase

April 3, 2023 -  By
Compact track loaders offer landscape contractors the power of a wheeled loader without the potential drawbacks according to loader experts. (Photo: Yanmar)

Compact track loaders offer landscape contractors the power of a wheeled loader without the potential drawbacks according to loader experts. (Photo: Yanmar)

According to Buck Storlie, compact equipment manager for Yanmar, the compact track loader has quickly unseated skid-steer loaders as the top choice among landscape contractors in the loader market.

“If you go back 10 years, it was almost 100 percent skid-steer loaders,” says Storlie. “Today, nearly four compact track loaders are sold for every wheeled loader. So, there’s a clear trend.”

Storlie and experts from Kioti, Kubota and Home Depot Rental share their opinions on the rise of the compact track loader (CTL) and when a skid-steer loader might still be a solid option.

A good track record

Gerald Corder, product manager of construction equipment at Kubota, tells LM that the No. 1 reason CTLs have overtaken skid-steer loaders is that they are gentler on easily damaged terrain like turf.

“(CTLs) have better flotation over uneven surfaces and do less damage. It’s really what they’re designed for,” he says. “Everything from mud to turf to sand, even down to snowy conditions, if you’ve got the right tracks, you’ll be able to maneuver the machine and get done what you need.”

Corder says a CTL spreads the weight of the machine’s chassis over a broader surface area, making it ideal for contractors working on a residential project that involves work on a customer’s lawn.

A time and a place

Skid-steer loaders still have their place, says Corder. They can be advantageous for contractors who need to move material quickly on surfaces that aren’t easily disturbed, like asphalt, concrete or gravel. 

He also says they are viable machines to use in a warehouse.

Lower upfront and after-purchase costs are potential selling points for a wheeled loader. Storlie estimates they cost around 20 percent less than their tracked counterparts. 

Simplified maintenance is also an important consideration. He says maintenance on CTLs can cost two to three times more than maintenance on a skid-steer loader.

CTL must haves

Jason Boerger, senior product line manager for Kioti, says that when searching for the right CTL, contractors should key in on rated operating capacity and horsepower. They should also consider what jobs they’ll be using the machine for, both at the time of purchase and in the future.

“If you’re mostly scooping and dumping loads without a lot of ground engagement, a larger loader with a larger rated operating capacity will be efficient,” he says. “If you’ve got a variety of tasks, landscape contractors tend to gravitate toward a medium-sized compact track loader for its balance in size and power.”

Popular features included on new CTLs include vertical lift arms, rearview cameras and joystick controls.

“Lift arms are becoming essential, especially if your business loads into dump trucks,” he says. “They allow the operator to load a truck more evenly from one side instead of building dirt ramps and dumping on both sides.”

Rental potential

Renting a machine might make sense for a contractor before committing to a purchase due to the variety of offerings on the market, Boerger says.

Tony English, senior director of merchandising for Home Depot Rental, confirms that CTLs are a popular rental option for contractors. Similarly to the buyer’s market, CTLs have overtaken wheeled loaders as the preferred option. However, the popularity of CTLs, among other factors, means there’s a premium associated with renting a CTL, he adds.

“Tracked units can cost between $40 and $60 more per day than the equivalent wheeled loader,” he says. “That comes back to the premium the manufacturer charges because these machines can be more difficult to manufacture with the additional components in a track. They’re also more costly for us to maintain.”

Rob DiFranco

About the Author:

Rob DiFranco is Landscape Management's associate editor. A 2018 graduate of Kent State University, DiFranco holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. Prior to Landscape Management, DiFranco was a reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio.

Comments are currently closed.