The Differences between Skid-Steer Loaders & Compact Track Loaders

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These two are one of the most popular pieces of machinery in the construction industry. Skid-steer loaders and compact track loaders have so much in common operationally—they can do basically the same basic tasks such as digging, moving materials, loading trucks, and grading.

In fact, choosing them for that kind of jobs isn’t about which machine has the best specifications. But rather how you will use it and which machine is a better cost-efficient option for different types of scenarios. Looking at it this way will help you sort out their major differences that can help you decide which to choose in tougher and more difficult projects. With Melbourne excavator hire such a popular choice for most types of property and civil developments, here’s a look at the benefits of these two types of machinery:


Perhaps the most distinct difference between the two is how they move. Skid-steer loaders have wheels which makes them more maneuverable, mobile, and faster because wheels allow zero swing radius, make abrupt tight turns, and require less torque to move. At level ground, skid-steer loaders are superior to compact track loaders in terms of movement. 

Compact track loaders on the other hand are designed to operate in more challenging terrains such as slopes, hills, and under-developed areas. Their tracks provide better traction for uphill and downhill movement, as well as sustained moving and pushing materials.

Operational Range

Because skid-steer loaders have wheels, they are limited to operate mostly on developed ground such as concrete or asphalt. Although they can operate on rocky or under-developed surfaces, they run the risk of premature wheel damage due to wear and tear, thus reducing the machine’s operational lifespan.

Compact track loaders can operate basically on all types of terrains, thanks to their tracks. Tracks offer exceptional mobility and stability on uneven ground, as well as provide sufficient traction needed for sloped terrain operations. Their weight is also spread evenly on the tracks which allows them to operate on sensitive and unstable soils.  

Therefore, this makes compact track loaders perfectly suited for grading, backfilling, leaving no noticeable soil tracks, and going where skid-steer loaders cannot.


Under normal situations, compact track loaders are generally much more stable due to its ability to spread its weight evenly on the tracks. On average, they only cause as much as 6psi of pressure onto the soil when operational as compared to 35psi for skid-steer loaders.

Thereby allowing them to operate much safer on unstable ground conditions such as muddy soils, sand, and snow. In essence, the ability of compact track loaders to move in sloped areas and unstable ground conditions make them ideal for projects located in under-developed areas.


Under normal circumstances, skid-steer loaders are usually much cheaper in maintenance costs because of lesser wear on the wheels. Tracks on the other hand require consistent maintenance checks due to its many parts and the very nature of terrain they are commonly used for.

In projects where challenging terrain is an issue, compact track loaders have cheaper operational costs because they operate more efficiently performance-wise, which reduces downtime and help finish the project in a timely manner.

In relatively flat ground, skid-steer loaders operate more efficiently due to its superior mobility and maneuverability. Skid-steer loaders are usually cheaper for most projects, but the overall costs still depend on the nature of project and application.

With excavators being relatively low cost and easy to rent, mini excavator hire in Melbourne is a popular choice to cover a wider range of jobs than a skid-steer loader.


At best, skid-steer loaders can hit close to 12mph while compact track loaders top around 9mph in relatively flat ground. This makes skid-steers a superior choice in long, horizontal projects where earth-moving and loading trucks make the bulk of the scope of works.

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