Skid Steer Vs Tractor – What Are the Differences?

A skid steer and tractor are two of the most common pieces of equipment on a farm. If you are thinking of buying one or the other, which is better? Skid steer vs. tractor – what are the differences?

Skid steers and tractors are agricultural equipment used for a wide range of farm jobs. They differ in versatility, controlling mechanism, horsepower, design, and handling method. Skid steers are multipurpose and easier to handle than tractors. They are also slower than the tractors, and they use electronic dashboards while tractors use traditional handling.

Read on to learn more about a skid steer vs. tractor, some tips for maintaining loaders, and tips for buying the best unit.

Skid Steer Vs Tractor

skid steer vs tractor

The tractor is less versatile and more difficult to manage than the skid steer, but it moves faster than the skid steer. The skid steer uses an electronic dashboard, while tractors use the outmoded handling methodology. The attachments for skid steers are easy to put in and get it off, which is difficult for the tractor.

The skid steer and tractor are excellent farm companions to do the various farm tasks and large-scale constructions. What is the difference between a skid steer and tractor? See the many reasons below.

1. Horsepower

The skid steer average horsepower ranges from 40 to 75 depending on the type of skid steer. It can be as low as 18 and as high as 75. For example, a 3024D model of caterpillar skid steer has an engine output of 18, while a 308E2 VAB has 65hp.

Below 50 Horsepower

The below 50 hp are designed for small frame skid steers that are good for project site improvement, underground construction, and digging.

Demolition of a building’s interior is one good task where this machine with horsepower below 50 excels. This is because it is compact, so it works in tight spaces using a powerful hydraulic that can break concrete structures.

50-70 Horsepower

These models are the most preferred skid steers because of their stability. Machines belonging to this horsepower range are medium size. These skid steers allow the attachments of many implements that can perform heavier tasks not tackled by the lower horsepower.

Similar to skid steers, with below 50 horsepower, they can work in tight areas as well.

Over 70 Horsepower

These are large framed skid and steers that handle large-scale tasks. These tasks can be road building, heavy lifting, extensive excavation tasks, and large construction jobs.

The power allows the machine to lift the heaviest loads like debris, bricks, and construction materials. The tractors’ horsepower could go as high as 150 and beyond. You have to select whichever can do the task at hand.

15 to 20 Horsepower

Tractors with this horsepower range are enough horsepower for lawn or garden tractors that can handle pulling small trailers or carts. These are sufficient for plowing light snow and carrying a small volume of debris.

25 to 35 Horsepower

The tractors with this horsepower range are for lawns or home gardens. However, they are used more in the cultivation of small farms with the appropriate implements. This power range is for subcompact tractors.

40 to 50 Horsepower

Tasks like plowing fields, baling small square hay are possible with this horsepower range. It can pull a Wagon and heavy work on soil in small amounts. The skid steers of this range move at a slower pace.

60 to 90 Horsepower

A farmer or landowner can practically do any task with this level of horsepower. Baling hay for large bales is just one task that a tractor with this horsepower can do.

100 to 150 Horsepower

This type of tractor with 100 to 150 horsepower can manage all the heaviest farm tasks. Tractors of this range are for large-scale farming, such as working on 20 acres of land. Farmers of small-scale may not maximize the use of this tractor.

2. Versatility

Skid steers are flexible. They adapt to a variety of farm jobs. They can be utilized as, digging tools especially underneath structures where large boom cannot reach. These are also used in the following activities:

  • Cultivation,
  • Loading,
  • Shifting,
  • Hauling,
  • Clearing and leveling,
  • Lifting,
  • Grading,
  • Debris removal,
  • Demolition,
  • Overhead work, and
  • Landscaping.

They can be equipped with brush cutters, backhoes, mulching or raking attachments, and other implements as may be needed for the tasks.

On the other hand, the tractors’ flexibility is limited. They cannot do all that the skid steers do. The tractors can be your tool in mowing, land clearing, lifting heavy things, plowing, snow clearing, and cultivating agricultural land.

3. Task Functionality

Loading and Dumping Tasks

For skid steer, you need to attach a backhoe and then the loader to load and dump. Also, switching the backhoe and loader may be easy but doing this consumes time that you can use for other equally important tasks.

The backhoe and loader are built-in in the tractor. You need not be switching attachments and save time.

Capability to Accept Attachments

The skid steers have full capability to accept attachments for almost any task.

On the other hand, tractors carry on the front and back several attachments that the skid steers cannot because of their size.

4. Mobility

When you work between sites, moving from one job location to the others takes more time with the skid steers’ speed.

The tractor can be a quicker vehicle to move from one site to the next and back.

5. Cost

The skid steers are expensive than the tractors. Naturally, the costs of the attachments are high. This condition means you need more investment with a skid steer. Prices of skid steers are from $7,500 to a high of $65,000. The costs are dependent on the brand, size, and make.

The tractors weigh less and are cheaper. The attachments for the tractors are less expensive as well. The cost ranges from $10,000 to as much as $60,000. It varies based on brand, makes, and size.

These are skid steer and tractors that are capable of performing low side tasks.

6. Weight

Since the Skid steer loaders are heavy, they cause more ground disturbance.

On the other hand, the compact tractors weigh less, so it does not disturb the ground much. The landscapers prefer the tractors to skid steers because of that reason.

7. Display and Alert Board

The skid steers have an advanced display with three components and features of the display window:

  • The Dedicated Alert indicators found beside the display window
  • Soft input keys composed of 6 input keys found below the advanced display
  • The display window shows the monitoring indicators, welcome sign, and all the menu and adjustments.

On the other hand, some tractors still use the traditional method of handling. Some more advanced tractors use smartphones to monitor information, such as diagnostic codes, fuel level, engine hours, maintenance information, and interval.

8. Regeneration

The stick steers have cooling packs that prevent the machine from overheating to allow continuing work without having to allot time for the regeneration process.

Cooling packs are components missing on tractors. When the tractors overheat, work has to stop for some time to allow the machine to cool down before they resume work again. This situation hampers continuing work while you lose valuable time for more farm work.

9. Attachments

Putting on and off the attachments for skid steer do not need assistance because they are easy to install. Easy outfitting of skid steers is vital to help the older farmers.

Meanwhile, tractors’ attachments are not that easy to get on and off.

Again, skid steer vs. tractor – what are the differences? Skid steers are easier to handle and have more uses than a tractor. Skid steers are also slower than the tractors, and they use electronic dashboards while tractors use traditional handling.

Similarities Between a Skid Steer and Tractor

tractor vs skid steer

The following are the similarities between skid steer and tractors:

1. Usage

The skid steers and tractors are both agricultural and construction machines. They have options for attachments for the different tasks they are required to do.

2. Design and Sizes

Skid steers and tractors have varied designs and sizes to fit the requirements of all types of users. Some loaders service the basic farm jobs, mid for medium-scale tasks, and high for large scale jobs. The classifications determine the uses of the skid steers and tractors.

3. Capabilities

They both have options for attachments to perform the tasks assigned to them.

Tips on What to Look for When Buying a Tractor or Skid Steer

Whether it is a skid steer or a tractor, ensure that you consider the following tips:

1. Decide Whether the Loader You Want to Buy Is New or Used

First, decide if you go for a new or used one. Your choice of which option to take affects your other decisions and the acquisition process. Before you commit, study each option. There is plenty of literature for each. Educating yourself about these options prevents regrets and more problems later.

If you fail to decide early on then, you will encounter many issues and experience indecisiveness repeatedly along the way.

2. Purchase from a Trusted Dealer or Seller

Whether it is new or used, get it from a trusted dealer who can give you valuable advice. You can also get it from an individual seller that you can trust.

3. Go for User-Friendly Machine

Consider a driver-friendly machine that provides comfort to the driver, supports good visibility, safety, and efficiency.

4. Check Out the Operating Capability and Protective Gear

Ensure that the horsepower is enough for the task. Also, check lift capacity, stability, traction, the size of the bucket, and that it comes with protective gears.

5. Consider Service-Friendly Machine

Check if the machine supports the accessibility of maintenance points. It will reduce service time which you can allocate for other important tasks.

How to Maintain Your Skid Steer or Tractor

difference between a skid steer and tractor

1. Ensure Observance of Recommended Maintenance Schedule

Strictly follow the recommended schedule by the manufacturer. Failure to adhere to this schedule will place your loader on the dangerous side.

2. Regular inspection

Check the overall condition of your machine regularly by looking into each component. It is easy to spot neglected cabs, but there are car illnesses that are well-hidden, so beware of them.

3. Check the Engine

Determine an engine problem by checking if the smoke emitted is black, white, or blue smoke colors. If any of these colors appear, there is something wrong with the Engine. There is a need then to have your cab serviced by a professional repairman.

Do not entrust the repair to an amateur or untrustworthy repairman or repair shop. You may end up spending more because the repair was haphazard.

4. Check Oil Level and Pivot Pin

Ensure that the pivot pins are working well to handle the impact while at work. You have to grease the pivot pins well. If the pivot pins are not well-greased, the loader will suffer.

Check also the oil level of your loader to ensure that it is within the required amount of oil.

5. Test Drive the Loader

By test driving the skid steer or the tractor, you can ensure that there are no issues. You can immediately spot a problem when controls are unresponsive. Check that the brakes are working. Also, check for unusual sounds. These sounds mean failure of some components of the loader.

A regular test drive helps you pinpoint issues early on to resolve these before they become worst. When these problems become big, these can entail major repair that may cost a fortune.

Conclusion – Tractor vs Skid Steer

The differences and similarities of skid steers and tractors are on the classification of usage. Some are good enough for backyard gardening or small tasks, others for medium scale tasks, and still some for large scale tasks. But they are both useful in any job site with specific tasks to perform.

Weight, designs, sizes, and other indicators determined the other differences between the skid steers and the tractors. The skid steers and tractors are both options that you can choose. To determine which one to buy, you have to identify what task you want to accomplish, its scope, and its urgency.