Skid Steer vs. Compact Track Loader: Which is Right for You?

If you’re in the market for heavy-duty machinery, you’ve probably come across two big names: skid steers and compact track loaders. Both are fantastic in their own right, but choosing between the two can be like picking your favorite child. So, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty and help you figure out which one is the right fit for you. We’ll be focusing on John Deere models, a brand that’s been a staple in the industry for years.

What’s the Big Deal with Skid Steers?

Skid steers are like the Swiss Army knives of the construction world. These machines are compact, maneuverable, and can handle a ton of different attachments. Whether you’re moving dirt, digging holes, or even breaking concrete, there’s likely a skid steer attachment for that. John Deere offers a range of skid steers like the 312GR and 316GR for lighter tasks and the 330G and 332G for more heavy-duty work. These models come with features like vertical lift for higher reach and radial lift for better digging efficiency.


  • Highly versatile with various attachments
  • Excellent for tight spaces
  • Generally lower initial cost


  • Not great for soft or muddy terrains
  • Can be rough on finished surfaces

Compact Track Loaders: The Underdogs with an Edge

Compact track loaders are somewhat similar to skid steers but come with tracks instead of wheels. This makes them excellent for soft or uneven terrains where skid steers might struggle. John Deere’s compact track loaders, like the 317G and the 333G are designed for optimal pushing and lifting capabilities. These machines are perfect for tasks that require a lot of traction and stability, like grading or slope work.


  • Better traction on soft or uneven terrains
  • Less surface damage
  • Higher resale value


  • Generally more expensive upfront
  • Maintenance of tracks can add up

The Showdown: Skid Steer vs. Compact Track Loader


While both machines are incredibly versatile, skid steers take the cake when it comes to the sheer number of attachments available. However, compact track loaders offer better versatility in terms of the types of terrains they can handle.


Skid steers generally have a lower initial cost and cheaper maintenance. But if you’re looking at long-term investment, compact track loaders tend to have a higher resale value.


If you’re going to be working on soft or uneven terrains, then a compact track loader is your best bet. Skid steers are more suited for hard, stable surfaces.


John Deere’s compact track loaders generally offer a smoother ride than their skid steer counterparts, thanks to their tracked design. This can be a big plus if you’re going to be in the machine for extended periods.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, the “right” machine depends on your specific needs. If you’re looking for something versatile and cost-effective, a skid steer like John Deere’s 312GR or 316GR might be the way to go. But if you need something that can handle a variety of terrains and don’t mind the extra upfront cost, a compact track loader like the 317G or 333G could be your new best friend.

So, take a good look at your project requirements, budget, and preferred working conditions. And hey, you can always head down to a John Deere dealer to get some hands-on experience before making your decision. Happy machine hunting!