The Most Popular Compact Wheel Loaders on the Market in 2024

John Deere wheel loader

Compact wheel loaders are impressive machines. They’re built to conquer all sorts of applications — whether you’re a landscaper hauling rocks, a contractor moving dirt or a snow removal specialist clearing a parking lot at 5 a.m. These hard-working compact machines are designed with huge benefits such as comfort, visibility, power and more, so it makes total sense they’re gaining popularity.

“The compact wheel loader industry has really been growing in North America in the last decade as customers realize the value these machines can bring to their business,” says Robert Southerland, Caterpillar’s compact wheel loader product consultant for North America. “We see this continuing as machines need to be more versatile and cover more jobs. Not many machines out there do that as well as a compact wheel loader.”

Curious which wheel loaders are making their mark on jobsites? We asked manufacturers to narrow down their most popular machines. Let’s roll…

John Deere

John Deere’s compact wheel loader lineup includes six models which are divided into two categories based on its tiering strategy. The company’s G-tier machines — the 184 G, 204 G and 304 G — offer customers a rugged and reliable solution at a lower price point. John Deere’s P-tier machines, the 244 P, 324 P and 344 P, make up the second group and feature its Articulation Plus system that combines 30 degrees of articulation with 10 degrees of rear wheel steering.

“Our Articulation Plus wheel loaders are particularly popular, especially the 324 P,” says Emily Pagura, John Deere’s solutions marketing manager. “Articulation Plus enables higher lift capacity because the machine doesn’t have to articulate as much to achieve its tightest turning radius. The 324 P is also available with standard Z-bar linkage or high-lift that gives you an extra 1 ft, 5 in. of vertical reach. This reach, coupled with excellent maneuverability and stability, is great for customers who need the additional reach for stacking or loading material but require a compact machine to be able to turn around in tight spaces like aisles, sheds or barns.”

Another highlight of the 324 P includes its attachment versatility thanks to features like high-flow hydraulics, attachment assist controls and John Deere’s quick-coupler. High-flow hydraulics are ideal for customers who need to run more powerful attachments such as larger augers and snowblowers. Pagura explains that attachment assist controls include a three-pin electrical connection, throttle lock and creep control that help make running powered attachments like snowblowers and brooms easier on the operator.

Caterpillar

Cat-908-CWL

Equipment titan Caterpillar’s Next Gen 906, 907 and 908 compact wheel loaders boast an all-new Cat C2.8 engine with 10 percent more torque, as well as a completely redesigned cab with improved visibility, seat mounted controls and automatic temperature controls. The machines offer features like wheel torque control and programmable kickouts, as well as an optional 25 mph top speed with shift on-the-go transmission. When surveying the trio, Southerland points to the 908 as the company’s most popular selling machine in North America.

“The 908 compact wheel loader really seems to hit the sweet spot for capacity versus size,” he says. “The skid steer coupler, along with optional 32-gpm high flow, makes this a super versatile machine that can run a variety of tools from multipurpose buckets to cold planners. The 908 also has a high-lift option that boasts a 12-ft, 9-in. B-pin height. Add in the optional reversing fan and now you have a true agricultural machine.”

Southerland adds the 908 is a popular choice among contractors, landscapers and waste customers. Snow removal professionals also like the 908’s 25-mph optional top speed and its ability to handle large snow tools — increasing the machine’s versatility even further.

Kubota

Kubota wheel loader

Better visibility. Enhanced comfort. Power and productivity. All of these are attributes of Kubota’s highly versatile R Series lineup, which consists of the R430, R540 and R640. When looking at the company’s next generation R540 and R640 wheel loaders, landscape, residential and commercial construction operators can reap the benefits of improved visibility, enhanced operator comfort and increased performance. They also have the option of two basic platform options — open canopy (ROPS) and enclosed cab models. Bill Holton, Kubota’s product manager of construction equipment, leans to the R640 as the company’s most popular model.

“With 64 hp to handle the tough day-to-day work, the travel speed and ground clearance gets you around the jobsite with power, control and ease of operation,” he says. “The R640 compact wheel loader with an enclosed cab is perfect for around the jobsite or around the farm. With a hinge pin height of 10 ft, 8 in., loading bulk material into trucks or trailers is a breeze. Contractors, landscapers, even the rental yards, trust the rugged dependability of the Kubota R Series wheel loader.”

Other impressive stats of the R640 include an operating weight of 11,563 lbs, a maximum breakout force of 9,869 lbs and 8,161 lbs of lifting capacity. The R640 wheel loader also includes a wide range of comfort features such as a reconfigured console and switch layout to the right side of the cabin — giving operators more foot and leg room.

Bobcat

Bobcat’s new L95 wheel loader

From landscaping and nursery work to construction and agriculture, Bobcat’s three high-performing and versatile compact wheel loaders are ready to tackle any task. These three models — the L65, L85 and L95 — provide impressive lifting capabilities, high maneuverability and swift travel speeds. While the L65 and L85 have been popular choices among a diverse customer base since they came to market in 2021, Jamison Wood, Bobcat product development specialist, says the new L95 is already gaining a fan following.

“The L95, our largest and most powerful CWL, has just recently been brought to market and is already a popular choice,” he says. “Because it maintains nearly the same maneuverability as our smaller CWLs, yet offers more power, more standard bucket capacity and increased rated operating capacity, we believe the L95 will lead sales of these versatile machines.”

Other benefits of the L95 include a tight turning radius, fast cycle times, low ground pressure and standard high-flow hydraulics. Attachment versatility is another perk of the L95.

“Bobcat CWLs offer owners and operators a multi-tool solution to complete a wide range of tasks, made possible with the Power Bob-Tach attachment mounting system which comes standard with each machine,” says Wood. “The Bob-Tach system allows operators to share select attachments with other Bobcat equipment for even greater versatility and profitability. Compatible attachments include buckets, forks, angle brooms, snow pushers, grapples, snowblowers and augers.”

Yanmar Compact Equipment North America

With models ranging from 39 to 100 hp, Yanmar’s compact wheel loader lineup has something for everyone. The company currently offers five models — the V4-7, V8, V10, V12 and the newly-released V7 — all backed with a three-year/3,000-hour warranty. While the V7 is currently making headlines (see sidebar), CWL Product Manager Frank Gangi points to the V10 model as Yanmar’s most popular wheel loader based on its versatility, comfort and size.

“The V10 is a great all-purpose machine with the power to tackle many jobs and the reliability to keep working day after day,” he says. “Customers enjoy the comfortable cab and the effortless, intuitive controls. The V10 is easy to operate, with excellent visibility all around. Contractors, landscape yards and municipalities all find the V10 to be a versatile machine, capable of doing many jobs quickly and efficiently.”

Gangi adds the V10 is the ideal machine for many applications, such as rental and snow removal, with its powerful 72-hp Yanmar engine, 22-mph travel speed and 20-gpm hydraulic performance.

Volvo Construction Equipment

Volvo’s L35 wheel loader

Volvo CE’s range of compact wheel loaders includes eight models — six conventional (64 to 117 hp) and two electric (33 to 40 kWh). Despite their smaller design, these machines are known for exceptional cab comfort and offer plenty of power and versatility. Product Manager Darren Ashton explains Volvo’s compact wheel loader line is built to help contractors get multiple jobs done using fewer machines and with engines made to lower fuel consumption. Or in the case of its electric models, batteries that eliminate it entirely. Easy-to-use Volvo attachment brackets also make attachment changes on the company’s wheel loaders much more efficient.

So which Volvo model is catching the most eyes these days? Ashton looks to the L35 wheel loader for its maneuverability and fast cycle times.

“The Volvo L35 features an articulated oscillating joint and 100 percent differential locks that give it outstanding traction for short-cycle loading applications,” he says. “For waste and recycling transfer stations, this helps decrease tire wear and reduces other maintenance needs. The L35 also features a portal axle design that gives it industry-leading ground clearance, allowing it to work on many rough terrain construction and landscaping sites where similarly sized models can’t. And with a 100-hour lift frame greasing interval and easily accessed service points, routine maintenance is fast and easy.”

Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas

There are five models in Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas’ compact wheel loader roster, and as Product Manager Matt Koester puts it, this lineup is a “culmination of many generations of development that provide simple operation, high reliability and ease of maintenance.” While the company covers a range of size options from the 24-hp, 0.5-cu-yd ZW30-5B up to the 101-hp, 2-cu-yd ZW120-6, Koester says the 66-hp, 1.2-cu-yd ZW80-5B model is very popular due to its size, performance and productivity.

“The ZW80-5B is positioned well in the marketplace to displace skid steer loaders in specific applications where productivity and efficiency are key,” he says. “The 1- to 1.5-cu-yd wheel loaders are gaining popularity in North America due to many customer benefits, including: improved visibility around the machine; easier ingress and egress; enhanced comfort with roomy cabs; higher operating speeds; and more.”

Another benefit of Hitachi’s machines, like the ZW80-5B, is their articulated design and ability to handle a wider range of terrain than a skid steer. Thanks to the articulated design, higher ground clearance and limited slip differentials, the machines are easier on the ground and reduce turf damage. Koester adds the limited slip differentials also help reinforce simplicity of operation.

Mecalac

European manufacturer Mecalac has a diverse portfolio of loaders — we’re talking various styles of machines including swing, articulating, telescopic and more. But it’s the company’s traditional articulating wheel loader, the AX1000, that’s the biggest seller in North America. The AX1000 features a 1.3-cu-yd bucket capacity, 19-mph travel speed, intuitive controls and a mono boom design that allows better visibility that’s great for loading. Another perk is the AX1000 was designed using Mecalac’s “two feet on the ground” philosophy.

“Anything you would need to check on a regular basis is done with your two feet on the ground,” says Geoffrey Andrews, regional sales representative for Mecalac North America. “That’s becoming more and more important because any time you’re forced to climb onto a machine to service it, you’re generating a risk — a risk of injury — which can result in downtime and loss of money. So, having your two feet on the ground to do those checks is meant to keep the unit up and running as long as possible and as safely as possible.”

Andrews adds that the AX1000 is powered by a fuel-efficient 2.9-liter Deutz engine that’s reliable, quiet and uses no DEF or a diesel particulate filter.

Yanmar’s Frank Gangi Details the V7 Compact Wheel Loader

The new Yanmar V7 wheel loader

The new 47.6-hp V7 fills the gap in the Yanmar wheel loader line between the V4-7 and the V8 and features a low operating weight, comfortable cab area and high bucket capacity. The 9,370-lb machine’s compact design, intuitive controls and high travel speeds maximize performance and efficiency for operators in landscaping, rental, municipalities, snow removal and other applications. It features an impressive 0.92-cu-yd standard bucket capacity for its weight. An optional light material bucket brings that bucket capacity to more than a full cubic yard with each scoop, further improving productivity. The V7 also includes a powerful Stage V compliant Yanmar engine allowing for a lifting capacity of 7,981 lbf. The V7 features ±40 degrees of articulation and ±10 degrees of oscillation. The machine includes a newly designed articulation oscillation joint allowing oscillation in the center of the wheel loader instead of the rear. This maximizes ground contact with all four wheels for optimal tractive force.

Pam Kleineke is managing editor of Compact Equipment.