April 27 2020 06:00 AM

New compact equipment models provide an array of sizes for any contractor’s needs.

Photo: Caterpillar

Completing a successful landscaping job often means choosing the right equipment for the job. And while mini skid steers and compact loaders can make lots of tasks on the job site run more smoothly, a wider choice of sizes and options are available to landscapers today. We talked to manufacturers to find out what to look for in this year’s models.

Small can be strong

Mini skid steers and compact loaders are by definition on the smaller end of the spectrum, but some new models are aiming for a small frame that can still do the job, says Buck Storlie, product line manager for ASV Holdings Inc., Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

“I think ‘less is more’ is the trend,” Storlie says. “We’re seeing in these mini loaders more lift capacity, more lift height. The focus to be able to more with a mini has definitely been the trend.”

Photo: Vermeer

Manufacturers are continuing to push the envelope in horsepower, ground speed and lift capacity in a piece of equipment that’s the same size or smaller than previous models, Storlie says. Some landscapers are looking to find a niche working in smaller housing developments, and these models open up possibilities to do more with smaller machines and in less time.

Some models remain small, but they’re providing more for contractors with greater capacity, says Kyle Cartwright, marketing manager for dealer business for The Toro Company, Bloomington, Minnesota.

“In the last two years, the rated operating capacity of the compact has been closer or emerging into that skid steer or typical track loader rated operating capacity,” Cartwright says.

By providing more lifting capability in a small frame, these models increase job site efficiency and boost return on investment for the contractor, he says.

Large can be versatile

Some new mini skid steers and loaders are less concerned with staying small, says Brett Newendorp, landscape marketing manager for Vermeer, Pella, Iowa. Newer models are moving past the 36-inch width and pushing weight boundaries toward more full-size machines.

“The most popular models continue to be 25-horsepower machines that can lift nearly 1,000 pounds,” Newendorp says. “As the market has grown, the size category has grown, especially as more and more contractors have had the opportunity to rent the machine first and find out if it works in their desired application.”

Photo: Takeuchi

A larger machine with greater rated operating capacity allows contractors to expand the type and amount of work they can do in the field, says Lee Padgett, product manager at Takeuchi U.S., Pendergrass, Georgia. Also, beyond the actual size of the machines, new attachments are covering a greater range of applications.

“Attachment manufacturers are offering a much broader line of specialized tools for today’s skid steer loaders and compact track loaders,” Padgett says. “This allows operators to keep their machines productive and make money year-round.”

Larger machines could also help landscapers dealing with labor shortages, getting more done with fewer workers, Newendorp says.

What to look for

When purchasing a new mini skid steer or compact loader, make sure you’re choosing the right piece of equipment for the job, especially as size is concerned.

The first consideration for the buyer is the width of the machine, says Storlie. If fitting in backyard gates or between houses is a requirement for your work site, then keeping that to a manageable size is a high priority.

Newendorp says another important point to look for is dealer and network support, making sure someone local is available to help in finding the right gear or ongoing maintenance.

“A contractor should be able to talk with their territory representative about the types of jobs and what they’re expecting their machine to do,” Newendorp says. “It really comes down to knowing what you’re expecting out of the machine.”

The author is editor-in-chief of Irrigation & Green Industry and can be reached at kylebrown@igin.com.