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Skid Steers vs. Compact Track Loaders

Skid Steer Loaders (SSLs) and Compact Track Loaders (CTLs) have a lot in common—and a lot different. Today, we’ll be talking about the differences between them and helping you make the best decision for your farm and/or job.

Let’s start by talking about what these pieces of equipment are and what they do.



Both loaders are compact machines with two arms that can raise and lower and an attachment plate on the end that can rotate vertically. Most modern models have fully enclosed cabs with heat and a/c to protect the operator. The drivetrain is hydrostatic on both, with each side having an independent motor that allows the loader to pivot in place like a zero-turn mower. Both types of loaders have the same attachment plate which allows for a variety of attachments including but not limited to bale spears, pallet forks, buckets, mulchers, brooms, hammers, and snow blowers.

Skid Steer Loader

A skid steer loader is a small loader that has arms in front and two sets of wheels (left and right); the wheels on each side are operated separately. This makes them highly maneuverable. Occasionally, you can find a skid steer with tracks. They are engine-driven, and the modern models have fully enclosed cabs to protect the operator. The arms in front go up and down and can support a variety of equipment attachments, such as buckets and forks.

Compact Track Loader

A compact track loader is slightly larger than a SSL and has two tracks (left and right) instead of wheels and have similar capabilities to skid steer loaders. However they are able to handle slopes and rough terrain better than skid steers.



The most obvious difference between SSLs and CTLs is the tires vs the tracks. But there are a few more considerations as a result that are important when deciding which one to buy.

So, what’s the difference between a track loader and a skid loader?



SSLs are definitely more maneuverable; their wheels allow them to move faster one hard terrain. However, the tracks on CTLs make them great on uneven terrain and slopes.

Of the two, CTLs are better at pushing loads.


Tires vs Tracks

The tires on the SSL make them best on smooth hard surfaces like asphalt, concrete, etc. On soft terrain they will sink more easily than tracked machines.

The tracks on the CTLs make them best on slopes and softer surfaces. However, hard surfaces can be torn up by the large tracks. If a single section of a track is damaged, the entire track must be replaced, they cannot be removed in sections.



When it comes to comparing the stability of track vs wheeled skid steers, there’s no contest. CTLs are more stable all around. They can carry heavier loads over more treacherous surfaces, and they don’t tip over easily.

However, if the worksite is usually on even ground, you may not need to take this into consideration. It depends on your particular situation.



Initially, SSLs are cheaper (about 30%), but upkeep and maintenance are going to depend on a lot of factors:

  • Tires are cheaper to replace than tracks.
  • Tracks are known to tear up surfaces like concrete and asphalt, resulting in repair costs after the fact.
  • CTLs can work in muddy conditions, reducing weather delays.

So, it’s important to think through all the factors that go into the repair and upkeep that will be required for your jobs.

If you have questions about brands and models after reading the differences above, contact the experts at Agriteer. We are familiar with all and carry new and used SSLs and CTLs.



When you decide which piece of equipment to buy, you should be aware of the pros and cons of each.

  • Better on hard surfaces
  • Tires are cheaper than tracks
  • Higher top speed than tracked units
  • Better on soft surfaces
  • Less likely to sink into soft surfaces or compact the ground
  • More stable on rough terrain
  • Tires wear out faster than tracks
  • Compact the ground due to higher ground pressure
  • More expensive initial cost and maintenance
  • Lower top speed than wheeled units



In the skid steer vs track loader debate, it’s important to purchase what is right for your job(s) right now and in the future. The right equipment for the right job is what Agriteer is all about!

We have an excellent selection of used skid steers, from top brands. Check them out or shop other used farm equipment any time online.


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