This wheel loader section is the newest category of the spec guide. We started including compact wheel loaders back in 2016 to showcase this impressive loader tool carrier that beats almost every other compact machine in visibility, speed, tire longevity, fuel efficiency and, well, cost. Compact wheel loaders can go from $30,000 skid-steer-sized models to $100,000 little big loaders (check out an SDLG or larger Cat variant). For the under 100-hp classification, American compact wheel loader sales were nearing 5,000 units in 2018 — an impressive number and another reason we continue to include them. Units can be found operating in everything from dedicated snow removal to do-it-all nursery work.
Let’s recap the sales pitch for compact wheel loaders. For starters, operators sit up higher, giving better visibility to the attachment and job at hand. That means more safety. It’s also much safer to enter and exit the machine than a skid steer or track loader (unless maybe it’s a JCB or Volvo one-armed skid steer), where you must climb over an often dirty and gnarly-looking hydraulic attachment to sit in a moderately comfortable operator’s compartment. Also, compact wheel loaders articulate or use all-wheel drive which is: A) easier on tires; B) easier on turf and other surfaces; and C) better on fuel efficiency. And while compact wheel loaders are typically 20 to 25 percent higher in initial cost than a similar sized skid steer, and definitely lacking in similar hydraulic attachment power, they save up to 30 percent on fuel, and the tires can last up to five times longer.
On the other hand, their size can be a little intimidating. There seems to be no across-the-board definition of a compact wheel loader. Some are categorized by horsepower (typically anything under 80 to 100 hp) and bucket size, which is measured in cubic yards (1 to 3 cu yds). Boasting big ranges of operating weights between 4,000 to 20,000 lbs and lifting capacities from 4,000 to 12,000 lbs, compact wheel loaders can cover a wide range. Luckily, a slew of big brands are releasing lots of cool products in the United States — Caterpillar, Kubota, Hitachi, SDLG, Takeuchi, Wacker Neuson, John Deere, Gehl, Case and Mustang for starters — and you can read about all those product lines in this section.