Anyone in the market for a skid steer loader has expectations for his or her dream machine. Size, lifting force, versatility — these and other criteria (including preferred brand) guide the buyer. As buyers make their purchases, the numbers tell the story about which models in a manufacturer’s lineup are most in demand. Top-sellers are popular for a reason. Following are top-selling models of several major compact equipment manufacturers and possible reasons for the models’ popularity.
Bobcat says the S650 loader is its most sought-after model. The 8,300-lb machine is a vertical-lift loader, as are all the top-sellers in this survey, as material-handling skid steers benefitting from higher lift and dump height are very much in vogue. But a more significant factor in demand for this model is its 74-hp diesel engine.
“This size of loader has traditionally been a popular machine because of its performance in a compact frame without requiring additional emissions components such as diesel exhaust fluid or diesel particulate filters,” says Eric Dahl, Bobcat’s loader product specialist. The under-75-hp feature drives sales of loaders across the industry, an example of how government regulations can shape a market. Buyers also gravitate toward this compact model because it can be utilized in many compact machinery settings including, of course, construction. “The S650 can easily maneuver in tight spaces, whether it be agriculture, utility, buildings and grounds work or in the industrial market segment.”
The loader’s appeal has been enhanced by such features as automatic ride control, which dampens bouncing and reduces material spillage, and Bobcat’s Advanced Control System, which employs a hydrostatic pump to minimize operator effort in moving the loader’s levers. The hydraulic assist can reduce fatigue for operators working a long shift. Bobcat’s familiar white-and-orange skid steer loaders come in various sizes, with the S650 falling midway in the lineup. It thus appeals to buyers who are torn between a high-production model and a smaller utility model and settle for a model in the middle.
John Deere customers, on the other hand, believe bigger is better. “Our large-frame 332G skid steer is very popular with our customers,” says Gregg Zupancic, a product marketing manager at Deere Construction and Forestry. “It’s our biggest skid steer, with more than 3,150 lbs of rated operating capacity.” Zupancic says the 332G’s popularity reflects a shift in the skid steer market. “Lighter machines that have typically functioned in a utility role have been upgraded to fulfill a production role. Contractors find these larger skid steers are transforming the productivity of their jobsites.”
The 332G also blows past the 75-hp threshold for emissions control requirements. Its diesel engine produces nearly 100 hp. “It has horsepower that’s comparable to a small backhoe or crawler dozer yet works comfortably in tight quarters, so operators can accomplish more with less machine. Contractors find they can get a lot of work done at a lower price point.”
The machine’s popularity also may result from lots of input from equipment owners. “The design was inspired by extensive feedback from John Deere customers across multiple industries who said they were looking for more productivity, better visibility and simplified service.” The heavier machine frequently is mated to heavier attachments, such as hydraulic hammers.
Case Construction Equipment straddles the customer spectrum with its SV280. The small loader’s surprisingly big performance — 2,800 lbs of rated operating capacity — is built around best-in-class torque, bucket breakout and hydraulic flow. The loader’s optional high-flow hydraulics can push out 38 gpm with 100 percent efficiency at 3,000 psi. All of this arm strength is available in an easily transportable machine with a 74-hp diesel engine. “The SV280 benefits from the convergence of a lot of the things that contractors are looking for in skid steers today,” says John Dotto, brand marketing manager. “All of these factors have helped grow its popularity.”
The loader is popular across several markets — residential construction, landscaping, agricultural, material handling, Dotto says, “and we’ve seen a significant uptick in its use in snow removal applications.” Common landscaping and construction attachments such as pallet forks and rakes work well on it as do snow plows and blowers. Case ventured onto new ground when it introduced the SV280. It was a new model size for the manufacturer. “Its popularity proved the point about why it was introduced,” Dotto says. “Skid steer buyers were looking for a machine with potential higher return on capital that stayed beneath that 74-hp threshold.”
Caterpillar has a top-selling skid steer that keeps on selling — its 262D. “It has been a top seller for many years,” says Jeff Brown, a Cat product application specialist. “Over the last 12 months, we sold twice as many 262Ds as any other model.” The largest of four Cat skid steers that share a 74-hp engine, the 262D comes with a rated operating capacity of 2,700 lbs.
“Its rated operating capacity makes it capable of lifting most pallet loads,” Brown says. “Compared to smaller machines, the 262D also has high hydraulic horsepower, which is a critical performance measurement. That makes it a great choice for contractors looking to work productively with hydromechanical tools.”
Because the loader’s XPS hydraulic system delivers both high flow and high pressure, it is attractive to contractors wanting to run a wheel saw or a cold planer to mill asphalt and concrete. High hydraulic horsepower in a machine that does not require diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) also makes it popular in rental fleets, according to Brown.
Kubota Tractor Corp. has been around for 45 years, but it too broke new ground when it entered the skid steer market three years ago. Its SSV65 and SSV75 units are selling well, according to Jorge De Hoyos, a Kubota senior product manager, with the larger SSV75 the slightly more popular choice.
“The SSV75 has the heavier lift capacity — 2,690 lbs — and the popular 74-gross-hp rating that keeps it under the emissions threshold,” De Hoyos says, adding that the lower horsepower also means a significantly lower price tag. “The slight sales advantage of the SSV75 has only recently emerged.”
The new product line was engineered “from the ground up, inside and out,” according to De Hoyos. Kubota introduced some fresh solutions, such as a new way for operators to enter a skid steer — by raising a unique slide-up door instead of swinging a typical side-hinged door. “This design allows the door to be opened regardless of how the loader is situated. The operator can enter and exit the machine even when the skid steer is in a tight or difficult position.”
Because Kubota’s new machines have been well-received, the company has now rolled out a line of attachments for them, De Hoyos says. “We believe this is ample evidence that customers are investing more in hydraulic and non-hydraulic attachments for skid steers to minimize their purchases of dedicated equipment to do the same things.”
This pattern of investing in one skid steer loader and mating it with select attachments is an industry-wide strategy. As contractors continue to try to boost production and profit margins by completing more tasks with a single compact machine, the skid steer models in this survey are turning out to be some of their popular choices.
Case Expands Standard Full-Machine Warranty on Skid Steers and Track Loaders
Case Construction Equipment recently announced that it was extending its standard, full-machine warranty on all skid steers and compact track loaders to two years, 2,000 hours (up from one year, 1,000 hours). The new full-machine warranty applies to all models in both product lines, with skid steers ranging in operating capacity from 1,300 up to 3,400 lbs and compact track loaders rated from 2,700 up to 3,800 lbs. “The new standard warranty reflects several enhancements made to the product line to improve performance and reliability,” says John Dotto, brand marketing manager, Case Construction Equipment. “It signals our commitment to quality as we continue to evolve both product lines.” For more info, visit casece.com.