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Bobcat (Skid Steer) vs. a Tractor | Choosing the Right Tool

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So, you need a tractor, but you’re torn between a Bobcat (Skid Steer) or a Tractor. Which should you choose? Both machines have pros and cons, but if we break it down further, you’ll see that they excel in different areas.

Bobcats are typically better than tractors for most jobs. A skid steer is usually better in tight spots since it’s more maneuverable than a tractor. They’re also commonly lighter than tractors and better for versatile jobs. However, tractors are more stable and suited for heavy lifting. 

Each of these tools has its unique advantages. In this article, I’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of both so you can decide which is the best tool for your next job.

Pros of a Bobcat (Skid Steer)

White Skid Steer

The Bobcat is a skid steer loader that’s perfect for any task, but what are the advantages of using it over a Tractor? To compare, let’s look at how they stack up against one another.

Bobcats or skid steers are small, agile loaders. Their range of motion is more limited than a digger or forklift, but they can get into tighter spaces and provide excellent maneuverability. Skid steers are also smaller and less expensive to purchase and maintain.

Skid steer loaders are popular because they have excellent performance options at an affordable price point. They cut your costs since they can do multiple jobs without buying additional attachments and make your work faster with superior maneuverability than larger equipment like tractors.

How Skid Steers Work

Skid steers also have a two-part power system. The first is a motor that runs on gasoline or diesel fuel and drives the wheels of the skid steer loader via a gearbox. The second part is an electric drive motor that powers the hydraulics to lift, lower, tilt and swivel the bucket for positioning. 

Bobcats and other skid steers are commonly used for: 

  • Loading/unloading trucks
  • Digging trenches
  • Landscaping
  • Snow removal
  • Mowing grass
  • Landscaping
  • Transporting materials around construction sites
  • General excavating/landscaping work, etc. 

Bobcats are smaller than most tractors, but you can still use them for the same jobs that a tractor would do. The only thing they aren’t commonly used for is tilling or plowing.

A skid steer loader can lift, dump, rotate, and even dig into the terrain with its bucket. That’s because it gets power from both an electric motor and a separate diesel or gasoline motor. 

Bobcats are very versatile in what they can do; however, there are certain things they cannot do easily. Skid steers cannot till or plow because the buckets don’t have enough weight to break up dirt or push it around. Due to this fact, people use skid steers less when working in large areas.

However, one thing to keep in mind about skid steers is that they are smaller than tractors. That means they can get into places where a tractor would not fit. These vehicles also use less fuel and are easier to handle for most people.

Benefits of Skid Steers

The benefits of skid steers are that they can be used on rugged terrain and climb over rocks, trees, etc. They are also straightforward to use for most people because of their streamlined controls.

Skid Steers Are Lighter

Skid steers are lighter than tractors. They do not require a lot of power to lift and carry things. That makes them ideal for indoor use, even in places with no hydraulic hookup, such as inside warehouses or garages.

Tractors are heavier than skid steers and can be more complicated to operate. They require more power and larger tires, making transporting them from place to place a challenge. However, they can hold far more weight than skid steers, and many tractors also have backhoes that make work on hard surfaces easier.

Skid Steers are Easier To Transport

Skid steers are easier to transport than tractors. They can be pulled behind a truck and driven to whatever location is needed, whereas it would be challenging to haul a tractor in the same way. Their compactness makes them ideal for landscaping professionals who often need to move from job site to job site each day.

Tractors are more challenging to transport than skid steers due to their large size. They require trailers or flatbeds for transportation, which means they cannot simply be hooked up to a truck and towed wherever they are needed next. 

Skid Steers Have More Versatility

A significant benefit is how versatile skid steers are. They can move through different terrains with ease and lift whatever is necessary onto the bucket, making them great for landscaping tasks. 

A typical job for this machine is lifting pallets off of trucks. It may seem like this would not be strenuous enough to be considered a job; however, it can be cumbersome and require strength to lift the pallets.

Bobcats can perform a wide array of tasks for landscaping, grading, and excavation projects that may require greater mobility than what is available with larger equipment. 

Bobcat Skid Steer vehicles are also more maneuverable when working in wet or flooded areas.

Skid Steers Offer Greater Visibility

Bobcats offer greater visibility as they are open on all sides, unlike tractors.

With Bobcats, the bucket gives the worker greater visibility of their surroundings by eliminating the materials in their way. Visibility is increased because of the open design of Bobcat loaders as opposed to the enclosure on a tractor.

Skid Steers are Better for Sand and Gravel Work

Operators who work in sand and gravel can utilize their skid steers much more efficiently than tractors because they don’t bog down and spin like tractors and ATVs. 

The open ground clearance gives them greater access to materials that need excavation or separation, which is impossible with an enclosed machine because it will have difficulty operating in loose soils.

Skid Steers are Great on Rough Terrain

Bobcats are ideal for rough terrain where larger machines would struggle to go. 

A Bobcat’s ability to go where other vehicles can’t is arguably its best feature. Bobcats shine in undeveloped land, even if it’s an area where other faced-type equipment would have trouble going because of limited ground clearance.

These machines are small and agile, with a turning radius of about 10 feet (3 meters). This smaller size makes it easy to work in tighter quarters, allowing users to complete intricate tasks in areas where larger equipment would have difficulty maneuvering.

Skid Steers Have More Speed and Better Maneuverability

Operators can execute jobs more quickly than on larger equipment because Bobcats operate at speeds up to 12 miles (19 km) per hour. 

This speed helps operators be more productive when completing jobs while preventing unnecessary damage to landscapes or sensitive materials that need processing, such as concrete or asphalt.

Bobcats offer the best weight-to-power ratio for skid steers with a compact design and powerful engine configuration. 

Skid Steers are Less Expensive 

Another benefit is that skid steers are more affordable than tractors. Their cost makes them appealing to small businesses or even homeowners who need something simple to work with around the yard or house. 

Bobcat-brand skid steers typically cost more than their counterparts but have a more efficient power-to-weight ratio which means even though they weigh less, they are still powerful enough to run the same jobs as a tractor.

The cost of a new Bobcat skid steer ranges from $25,000 – $65,000, based on size, specifications, and features.

Pros of Tractors

Youth-Standing-in-Front-of-a-Farming-Tractor

Tractors are large farm vehicles used to pull or otherwise maneuver agricultural machinery. People use them for various purposes, including seeding, planting, and harvesting.

Tractors are designed with high power, lift capacity, and stability in mind. They are large machines with significant strength that can do larger jobs faster or more efficiently than their skid steer loader counterparts.

How Tractors Work

Tractors work by using one or two hydraulic motors to turn the wheels, rotating the implement. These implements are very heavy-duty and sturdy so if you’re planning on having this type of machine do your dirty work, take caution when letting it do its job unsupervised.

A tractor’s broad base provides superior stability, especially when lifting or shifting weighty payloads. 

The downside is that since they are so big and powerful, they cannot fit into tight spaces as efficiently as their skid steer loader counterparts. 

Remember to always take extra safety precautions when operating large equipment like tractors. No one wants to get run down by one of these beasts!

Benefits of Tractors

The benefits of tractors over skid steers are that they’re slower than skid steers, which allows you more time to react while driving. 

They also provide more power and stability when operating larger payloads, so if you need to haul heavy stones, logs, or even megaliths, a tractor will do the job without too much trouble.

Tractors Offer More Stability

Tractors offer stability when operating heavy payloads, helpful in transporting cargo without much drama. They also provide better traction than skid steers, so if you need to plow snow on a hill (or anywhere else), a tractor will get the job done.

This stability makes tractors better for larger jobs where strength is more important. A tractor will do the job more reliably if you need to get a large load from point A to point B without dropping it or having something go wrong.

Tractors also allow for the processing of heavier objects, such as boulders, that would stop a skid steer in its tracks. This heft makes them excellent tools if you want to transport other vehicles, large farm equipment, or trailers full of heavy mud, rocks, or construction materials– anything with a weighty punch. 

Tractors Come in a Wide Range of Sizes

Tractors come in a wide range of sizes. 

There are the average-sized mid-sized tractors, about 100 horsepower and 2,000 pounds (907 kg) or so, but there are also compact utility tractors, 50 horsepower, 1,000 pounds (454 kg), and large implements (300+ horsepower). Size can be an essential factor in determining whether you need a skid steer or a tractor. 

Tractors can haul massive amounts of material, making them ideal for people who often have to transport bulky, weighty materials. 

Power and Durability

Tractors and skid steers both have strengths and weaknesses in power and durability. 

Tractors typically boast more horsepower and larger engines than their skid steer counterparts, which means they’re better able to plow through the rough ground or pull lots of weight.

Additionally, tractors tend to hold up better over time since people don’t zip around on rough terrain in them. 

Tractors also don’t depend on the engine itself as much for power either. Instead, most tractor engines are secondary to an onboard hydraulic system responsible for moving all the equipment hooked up to the machine. 

Skid steers are powered by electric motors responsible for powering the wheels and manipulating their attachments.

Here’s a YouTube video that details the differences between two comparable models: 

S 150 Bobcat Brand Skid Steer8000 Series Mahindra Tractor
Length 11 ft (3 m)14 ft (4 m)
Width5.5 ft (1.7 m)7 ft (2 m)
Lift Capability 7.2 ft (2.2 m)9.25 ft (2.82 m)
Turning Radius 6.8 ft (2.1 m)15.4 ft (4.7 m)
Horsepower 4691.5
Lift Capacity1500 lbs (680.4 kg)5500 lbs (2494.8 kg)
Weight6000 lbs (2,721.5 kg)8587 lbs (3,894.9 kg)
Price$30,000+ New$59,380 New

Tractor vs. Skid Steer Lift Capacity

The lift capacity of a skid steer is around 4000 pounds (1814 kg). Tractors are heavier than skid steers in general, with their average lifting capacity at about 5000 to 6000 pounds (2268-2722 kg). Some larger models can handle up to 10,000 pounds (4,535 kg).

This difference in weight corresponds with the fact that tractors aren’t always equipped with forks or other attachments that require more power to move. 

With higher weights comes increased stability too. Since tractors don’t need to rely on an onboard engine for power, they’re often seen as more reliable and able-bodied machines for heavy hauling work.

Bobcat skid steer pushing an old tractor

Can a Skid Steer Clear Land?

A tractor’s weight and power make it better suited for land clearing than a skid steer. A skid steer’s lifting capacity is around 4000 pounds (1814 kg), which falls short compared to the 5000-6000 lbs (2268-2722 kg) of a tractor.

A skid steer can clear land, but a tractor is more likely to handle the job. Tractors can perform heavy-duty tasks because of their size, weight, and power. Therefore, they are better at clearing land than skid steer loaders.

It’s easy for people to assume that since a small machine like a skid steer can do some things that bigger machines cannot, then they’re equipped to take on any job that comes their way. 

Small machines have a reputation for being versatile and powerful enough for various jobs outside of landscaping and construction work.

With larger weights comes stability and the power needed to move objects like rocks or trees. Tractors are also often seen as more reliable machines because they don’t rely on an onboard engine. 

Skid steers can’t lift objects with nearly the same weight and mobility that a tractor can handle, making them less ideal for land clearing.

Can You Farm With a Skid Steer?

Most agricultural machinery works under the principle that more weight equals more power. 

You can farm with a skid steer, but it will be time-consuming if your farm is expansive. Small farms are ideal for skid steers. However, tractors are better for large farmland clearing and restoration work. That’s because skid steer loaders can’t carry the same weight as a tractor.

Land clearing with a skid steer would be tedious. Farmers need to remove trees, boulders, stumps, and large roots with heavier equipment. Skid steers aren’t ideal for processing large chunks of material in one piece, so breaking down an entire tree in one piece would take more time in itself.

On the other hand, a tractor could lift an entire tree without requiring you to chop it into pieces. 

Do Skid Steers Have a PTO?

Skid steers do have a PTO, just like a tractor. Some skid steers have more horsepower than others. For this reason, different models have different RPM limits.

Skid steer PTO speeds are not as high as tractors, but they can still tow or push heavy objects.

What Brand of Skid Steer Is Best?

The Bobcat Company manufactures several models of small to mid-sized diesel-powered skid steers, and they deliver high performance and dependability on any job site or farm work area. The skid steer loader lineup also includes electric (battery) and hydraulic (oil) powered units for more challenging tasks.

The best brand of skid steer is Bobcat. Bobcat skid steers are perfect for heavy-duty tasks. Bobcats are made to be reliable, rugged, last for decades, and provide maximum power.

Bobcat is the best skid steer brand, but that doesn’t mean that all other skid steers aren’t quality machines. Other brands like John Deere or Steiner Skid Steers are about as reliable and long-lasting.

Conclusion

Each piece of equipment has its place on a job site when it comes down to it. Tractors tend to be better suited for construction sites that don’t need an abundance of attachments. On the other hand, skid steers are more desirable when speed and quick movements are crucial in landscaping projects or specific construction tasks.

For more, check out How Many Acres Can One Person Farm by Hand? | Key Factors.

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