The New SALs Force: A Complete Overview of the Emerging Small Articulated Loader Market in America

Tracks have taken over the construction industry. Today it feels like every category of equipment comes equipped with a track system instead of wheels. Compact track loaders, fitted with a dedicated undercarriage, are way more popular than wheeled skid steers in 2023. The tracked versions of stand-on and walk-behind tool carriers (like those Toro Dingos) sell way more than wheeled iterations. Pedestrian trenchers are all equipped with tracks today. I sometimes even see rando machines like boom lifts equipped with four independent track systems instead of wheels. Then, of course, mini excavators are just everywhere.

It’s been a hot second since a new wheeled category of equipment caught our collective attention, so it’s been fun to watch the emergence of small articulated loaders or SALs. These machines are ultra compact wheel loaders — maybe the smallest sit-down construction tool carrier on the market — engineered with an articulating frame and the ability to take attachments (often using a universal skid steer/compact track loader quick-attach system).

“Business owners from residential landscaping, nurseries and forestry market segments are turning to small articulated loaders, also known as mini wheel loaders and sub-compact loaders, to expand their capabilities and improve productivity on the jobsite,” explains Ryan Anderson, product manager of subcompact equipment, MTL/SAL, at Case Construction Equipment (a brand that just entered the SAL market in 2023). “Contractors who rely on skid steer loaders or mini track loaders in segments like residential construction, agriculture or demolition can also benefit from small articulated loaders. Small articulated loaders do less turf damage than a skid steer loader and are more suitable for use on hard or paved ground. They can also be more productive than a mini track loader, moving faster from point to point.”

Small articulated loaders offer a lot of the same benefits as their bigger articulating wheel loader cousins when comparing them to competitive “skidding”-type categories of machinery like skid steers, track loaders and stand-on and walk-behind tool carriers, which are often called mini skid steers or mini track loaders. SALs offer a lighter footprint on delicate surfaces, less tire wear and less fuel usage because of articulation, better visibility than traditional American sit-down options like skid steers, faster speeds because of wheels, easy on/off entry and exit with no attachment to walk over and a steering wheel vs. joysticks, which is maybe more approachable for newbies and renters.

Case small articulated loaders

Lots of big-name American brands have gotten into this sector over the last few years. At CONEXPO-CON/AGG in Las Vegas in March (a giant construction-focused tradeshow that only happens every three years), Case showcased its first three models. Vermeer entered the market in 2020 (offering four units today), Morbark debuted the Rayco 1800AWL (articulated wheel loader) in late 2019 and Bobcat launched its two current SAL models, the L23 and the L28, at CONEXPO 2020. These manufacturers see the potential.

“These units make ideal jobsite companions for landscaping and turf tasks,” says Kylle DeMars, senior product specialist at Bobcat Co. “Landscaping projects often require working on delicate or established surfaces, and small articulated loaders are well suited for these work environments. Their rubber tires distribute the machine’s weight evenly, reducing the risk of damaging the ground or leaving noticeable tracks. Small articulated loaders not only excel at landscape jobs, but tree care work as well, making them a practical choice for the weekend warrior and DIY enthusiast looking to take control of their backyard. The L23 and L28 are equipped with steering wheels, making their operation familiar and easy for less-experienced operators.”

With so many competing categories of compact equipment vying for the attention of contractors today, let’s take a look at what makes a small articulated loader so special — their history in the market, major players and products and how to choose a unit.

5 Selling Features of SALs

By Kylle DeMars, Senior Product Specialist at Bobcat Co.

  1. Exceptional lift capacity: Small articulated loaders offer impressive lifting capabilities to improve productivity in tight workspaces. Add an integrated counterweight for optimal lift capacity.
  2. Minimal ground disturbance: SALs feature an articulation joint for tight turns and a light overall footprint to minimize cuts or tears in the turf when turning or hauling a load. This feature makes them a great option on landscaping jobs when compared to a skid steer loader or a compact track loader, as it can reduce time-consuming surface repairs on grass.
  3. Tight-turning radius: An articulation joint enables the rear tires to match the path of the front tires when turning, for a highly nimble machine that navigates around obstacles and works well in tight areas.
  4. Telescoping lift arm: Some units even offer a telescoping lift arm that extends the lifting height for pick-and-place jobs or high dumps.
  5. Ease-of-use: Operators will use travel pedals and a steering wheel to maneuver SALs, making these models especially friendly for first-time users and buyers of compact equipment.

Let’s SAL-y Back a Little

Avant 650articulating wheel loader

European-style small articulated loaders are not new. Companies like Italy’s MultiOne and Finland’s Avant Tecno have been producing these cool articulating tool-carriers since the 1990s, and both brands have been selling the category of equipment to Americans for just as long. Avant alone offers 14 loaders and “over 200 attachments,” explains Beau Slavens, president of Avant Tecno USA.

“Avant has opened a lot of doors for small articulating loaders in many different segments,” he continues. “Tree care is our No. 1 segment, but we have become a big player in snow removal, golf course and property maintenance, construction, landscaping and hardscaping and many more. Because we have so many different models and options, it’s important for contractors to understand how they’re going to use the loader so the dealer can make sure they are getting the right options for them. What specific application will you be using this for? What are you trying to lift? What is your desired lift capacity? Which hydraulic attachments are you interested in utilizing?”

This is all good advice, as Europeans tend to use small articulating loaders in different ways than Americans.

“These machines exist primarily because of agriculture in Europe,” says Geoffrey Andrews, product specialist and regional sales manager at Mecalac, a French-based brand that offers its MCL Series of multipurpose loaders. “We have a lot of old buildings, very tight buildings, and there was a need for these machines to get in and out of tight spots to move product for feeding animals, stall cleaning, general work around the yard. If you’ve ever been to Europe, you’ll see those small units all over family farms.”

A lot of these European brands are working directly with American manufacturers in OEM agreements. The Dutch-based SAL expert Tobroco-Giant started building its Giant wheel loaders for local farms and tree nursery communities way back in 2001. Tobroco is supplying Case with its lineup of small articulated loaders. Italian-based MultiOne manufacturers and brands Vermeer’s line of ATX compact articulated loaders. is a company based in Monroe, Wisconsin, that sells and distributes Intrepid mini articulating loaders built by Belgian manufacturer Knikmops — a family-owned company making units since 1997. distributes three mini loaders from its dealership in Wisconsin.

Vermeer offers extending booms with its ATX lineup

“As opposed to Avant, Vermeer and Bobcat, these Knikmops loaders are all-steel and cab-rear machines, meaning they are set up as a traditional payloader with the operator seated on the rear part of the machine,” says Chris Sleurink, owner of “Another unique feature of these Intrepids is that the engine is located below the operator, as opposed to behind, resulting in almost no tail swing. The only other mini articulating loader in the United States market set up like that is the Giant G1200. The Intrepid KM85 is a unique loader as it’s the narrowest mini articulating loader in the world with a frame width of only 31.5 in.”

The backstory here is that this sector is not new. Contractors can rest reassured they are not jumping into a category that won’t exist in a few years. SALs are just now showing up on dealer lots, but a lot of these units have years of engineering under the hood — in multiple markets that utilize units in a variety of different applications.

SAL Maintenance Tips

By Ryan Anderson, Product Manager at Case Construction Equipment

  • Take time to read the operator’s manual. It’s packed with useful information like service intervals and maintenance that will guide you.
  • Perform daily machine checks before and after operation. This should include checking all the grease points and topping them off, if needed.
  • Take care of the tires and undercarriage with frequent checks, cleanings and responsible operation.
  • Keep a close eye on machine fluids, and make sure any fluids you put into your machine are clean and up to spec — that means making sure your funnel is clean, too.
  • Monitor wear on buckets and other attachments. Excessive wear can impede performance and add stress to your machine.
  • Don’t put off service or repairs. If you spot an issue, let others know immediately so it can be assessed and serviced before a failure occurs.
  • When making repairs, make sure you use OEM parts to ensure reliable operation and longer life.

How Do I Rent or Buy a SAL?

Small articulated loaders are gaining traction with American customers for a variety of reasons — low ground pressure, attachments, speed, fuel costs, price — but one of the major attractions for SALs is that they are the smallest machines on the market today featuring an operator’s seat. These units give pros and even homeowners easy access to backyards and through narrow gates, minimizing ground disturbance along the way. They are easy to transport from jobsite to jobsite on a trailer without a CDL, and they are great for projects that require an operator to easily jump on and off the machine to help with tasks. So, how do you pick one?

For starters, interested parties would need to go through the usual job and jobsite questions: What are you loading and unloading? How much will those materials weigh, and how fast would you like to move it? How high would you like to reach? What surfaces will you be operating on? What size limitations do you have for jobsites? Is there indoor work or do certain projects have noise and emissions restrictions? How often will crews be moving from jobsite to jobsite?

When eyeing a certain unit, ask about specific machine features: How fast is that model? What safety features are available? What type of engine you got there, and what’s the horsepower? What attachments are available? What is the attach and detach process? How much auxiliary hydraulic flow do you need for those attachments? What’s the warranty? How wide and long is that little beast? What does the SAL weigh, and will you need a bigger trailer if you want to transport it with attachments or another machine? Where’s the nearest local dealer? How long does it take to get parts? You get the idea.

Specs and project figures are important data to narrow down a search. Most applications for SALs are project- and bucket-based, so what are the lift height and lift capacity parameters of the job? Popular SAL specs include operating weight, operating capacity (both straight and articulating), tipping load (both straight and articulating), travel speed, auxiliary hydraulic power and fuel tank capacity. Size is a big deal for this category of equipment, so compare width (are the tires wider?), length and height of the unit. Can it fit through a standard 4-ft back gate? These specs may change when adding extras like a rear counterweight or a telescopic boom, both of which are popular options on SALs. Also, don’t forget to ask about boss technology features.

“Vermeer compact articulated loaders feature a self-leveling boom that minimizes joystick corrections, making them well-suited for work in tight spaces,” explains Kyle Newendorp, Vermeer product specialist. “Unlike many competitive units, Vermeer ATXs feature a double H-boom telescopic arm design that resists bending and twisting. These telescoping booms offer horizontal outreach from 35.4 in. to 49.5 in. when extended. The Vermeer compact articulated loader line consists of four models that boast high operating weights ranging from 2,711 lbs to 4,720 lbs and rated operating capacities ranging from 1,343 lbs to 3,285 lbs. All models come with a two-year/1,000-hour standard warranty and three-year/1,000-hour extended service coverage on all hydraulic pumps and wheel drive motors.”

The operator station of small articulating loaders is easily accessible (a solid selling point), so grab a seat and get a vibe for how operation will feel. Because many SALs are so small and aimed at rental, many units will not offer an enclosed cab — just an open-air roll over protection system or ROPS. If heat and air conditioning are a must, search out high-end units and brands that offer that like an Avant Tecno 600 or 800 Series or Mecalac MCL 6 or 8.

“It depends on the horsepower,” says Andrews on climate control. “It depends on the size of the unit. All of our units you can get with cabs, but only some you can get with AC. So, the MCL 2 you can get with a cab. The 4, the 6 and the 8, you can get with cabs as well. Only the 6 and 8 will come with AC because they’ve got the higher horsepower engines.”

Jump in the cab. Dig that seat. A vinyl or cloth suspension seat with lumbar support and limitless adaptability will immediately enhance comfort and probably production. The overall size of the cab is important, including the door openings (enter from both sides), shoulder room and foot and floor space. Check for ample storage. Work the ergonomic controls, adjust the steering wheel, run the joystick for boom and attachment function, fiddle with adjustable arm rests, wrist rests, windows, windshields and climate controls (if you’re lucky enough to have that).

Tips for SAL Load Charts

By Kyle Newendorp, Vermeer Product Specialist

When using a compact articulated loader, it’s important to keep in mind that the actual weight of the object being lifted may be greater than you think. Make sure to consider the weight of the attachment, pallet, rigging and the object itself when calculating the total load to be lifted. As the machine turns, it articulates at the center pivot, which changes its center of gravity and impacts the weight it can handle. The maximum load capacity occurs when the wheels are all in alignment, and the rated operating capacity decreases as the steering wheel is turned and the articulation angle increases.

While telescoping booms allow for more efficient picking up and placing of loads, it’s important to note that the maximum load that can be moved decreases as the boom extends farther from the compact articulated loader. Think of it like this: Lifting a 1,000-lb load at 3 ft would exert 3,000 ft-lbs of force while lifting that same load at 5 ft would exert 5,000 ft-lbs of force. Using a load chart can help you assess the maximum load in any situation, whether the loader is articulated or the boom is extended. Remember, these load charts define a working envelope that keeps the machine within appropriate limits as it articulates, lifts and extends a load outward.

Attachments, Drivetrains and Dealers

Even though SALs are bucket-heavy users, attachments are a big part of the selection process for these tool carriers. Ask about auxiliary hydraulic flow specifications like gallons per minute (gpm) and pressure (psi). Units may also offer rear hydraulic outlets to run attachments off the back like a salt or sand spreader. Implement options range from non-hydraulic attachments like buckets and pallet forks to powered attachments like power rakes and snowblowers. Some manufacturers may offer a high-flow hydraulic option for gnarly attachments like planers and brush cutters, but that’s not super common. Sometimes these attachment setups, many coming from Europe, will use a unique proprietary attachment system but usually manufacturers will also offer options for skid steer- and mini skid steer-type universal quick-attach systems.

“Our small articulated loaders will use CII couplers, making them compatible with a wide range of Case and non-Case attachments,” says Anderson. “Smaller-sized models will be compatible with the same attachment selection as our new mini track loaders, and our larger models will be compatible with skid steer loader and compact track loader attachments. The auxiliary hydraulic systems on our small articulated loaders range from 7.4 gpm and 2,200 psi on small models to 35 gpm and 3,600 psi on larger models. High-flow systems are optional for some models, while others have continuous flow circuits for constantly driven attachments. Case dealers will offer an extensive selection of attachments, including buckets, trenchers, augers, forks, blades, snowblowers, grapples, brush mowers, concrete breakers, soil conditioners, planers and more.”

Compact tool carriers, compact utility loaders, mini skid steers. Whatever you call them, we can all agree these machines pack a lot of productivity in a small package. Learn more about them here!

Drivetrain and operational technologies should also be a careful consideration. Brands put a lot of time into engineering SALs to both have a light footprint and heavy traction, depending on the app, and they will offer cool tech to attract contractors. Bobcat offers two traction modes: high-traction mode for control over rough and slippery terrain or turf-safe mode for the least possible ground disturbance. Vermeer ATX models use four-wheel drive hydrostatic direct-drive motors to reduce ground disturbance while turning + a dynamic blocking system (DBS) and optional torque divider to increase traction in difficult conditions. Avant Tecno’s loaders are equipped with a hydrostatic drive system with a hydraulic drive motor on each wheel. The drive circuit is equipped with valves that allow traction to be controlled in different situations. Just ask your dealer, and they’ll say something like…

“At this time we have just finalized a project to create a dual wheel option for every Intrepid model,” says Sleurink. “When a loader is fitted with duals, eight wheels instead of four wheels are fitted to the hubs. The operator has the option to quickly remove the outer wheels by removing just one large bolt that connects the two wheels together, similar to how the wheels on a Formula One car are mounted. The advantages of dual wheels on mini articulating loaders are better stability as the loader sits wider, the option to make the loader narrower and a further reduction in footprint and surface impact when the outer wheels are installed.”

Clearly, there are a lot of interesting ideas floating around the SAL sector, so a test drive is a must. “It’s important for each dealer to offer onsite demonstrations so that contractors can see the unit in action and operate it for themselves,” suggests Slavens. “It’s also critical to offer low-rate financing and leasing/renting options. At Avant, our in-house team, Avant Tecno Financial Solutions, offers several options for contractors interested in leasing one or purchasing an Avant articulated loader.”

Price, of course, will be a factor. Avant Tecno offers one of the biggest selections on the market. “Our loaders range from $18,000, our smallest base model, to $115,000 for our fully loaded largest model,” says Slavens. The dealer network is an uber important factor when buying machines. With many of these brands being from Europe, a lot of the prominent American brands are touting their dealer infrastructure as one of their biggest selling points.

“Availability is essential, so choosing a model backed by a quality manufacturer with a knowledgeable and reliable dealer network is essential,” says Newendorp. “Choose to engage with a dealer that is more interested in a long-term partnership rather than selling a machine. This approach will help ensure a contractor gets the right type and size machine for their needs and support throughout the service life of that unit.”

Electric SALs Are Here!

Battery-powered construction equipment has arrived, mostly from Europe. With many SAL makers being based in Europe, many brands already have electric units. The Avant e5, which is basically the same model as the Avant 500 Series diesel unit, is equipped with a maintenance-free Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) battery. Avant Tecno also just launched Avant Power, a new subsidiary, which will be manufacturing lithium ion batteries used in Avant’s newest electric loaders.

“Now, we can offer our customers battery packs that are 100 percent suitable for Avant loaders,” says Slavens. “In most cases, it is possible to work the whole day with a fully charged Avant. We believe Avant Power’s batteries will start a new era for electric loaders in terms of capacity, longer operating time, longer operating life, absolute safety, sustainability and affordable pricing.”

Case’s electrified SL22EV is a fully electric model to further build out Case’s approach to EVs. This clean-running machine offers an ideal solution for indoor jobsites or close-quarter outdoor sites where noise and emissions are a critical factor. The SL22EV provides operators a quiet and comfortable loader solution while eliminating emissions and maintenance related to diesel engines. “Our electric model has fast-charging capabilities and can reach full charge in one hour,” says Anderson.

MultiOne offers three models in its EZ Series of lithium ion powered electric loaders, but it doesn’t appear those models are available in the United States yet. It’s only a matter of time. Battery-powered equipment and small articulated loaders are both emerging trends in the U.S. construction equipment market, so expect to see more SALs (electric and beyond) on dealer lots and jobsites in the very near future.

Keith Gribbins is publisher of Compact Equipment.

Intrepid Models from

Intrepid mini articulating wheel loaders

Importer and distributor of mini articulating loaders, has three models of articulating loaders that U.S. contractors should know about. The Intrepid KM85 and Intrepid KM130 Tele are now available alongside the Intrepid KM100 Tele, the latter of which was introduced by the company in 2018. The KM85 is unique as it is the smallest wheel loader of its kind available in the American market, having a service weight just short of 2,000 lbs. The KM130 Tele will come in heavier at 4,000 lbs and is equipped with a telescopic boom. Intrepid loaders are built in Belgium by family-run manufacturer Knikmops. The KM85 comes with a small frame width of 32 in. and 1,000-lb rated operating capacity. It’s equipped with 23-hp D902 Kubota engine, and it’s targeted specifically at those who need the lift performance of mini skid steers but are looking for a turf-friendly and compact alternative. A unique feature of the KM85 is its dual-wheel setup. The KM130 Tele boasts an operating capacity of around 2000 lbs., a four-cylinder Kubota engine and 10.5-ft lift height. For more info, visit