Growing up, one of my best friends’ family owned a Bobcat dealership. With an almost unlimited assortment of skid loaders I was lucky enough to have plenty of experience whipping those machines around well before I was driving a car. So I knew from an early age how awesome these things are. I also know that every green industry owner has dreamed of owning his own fleet of skid loaders on frequent occasions.
These machines are the work horses for most green industry businesses. They can save time and labor, but if you buy the wrong tractor, you could be in for a world of hurt. There are many considerations to keep in mind while you’re looking for the right skid; here are a few of the most important.
Before you go out and buy the best deal you can find on a Bobcat or any of the like, think about what you’re going to be using it for and how much performance you need. Often the cheapest deal will be the most expensive in the long run. It can be tough to choose the right machine mainly because if you pick something with high hours and a lot of power, you can bet your ass there will be a lot of maintenance and lost production. Likewise, if you choose a machine too small you will be suffering from the same maintenance issues because the loader will be pushed to its limit on each job.
Your best bet is to find a certified product with low hours (ideally with some kind of warranty left on it) and adequate lifting capacity to service your needs.
What’s worse than having your machine in the shop for a day? Having it in the shop all week. No matter what you end up purchasing, I promise there will be days when the skid is on the injured reserve list. So make sure there is a dealer in the area whose service department has easy access to parts and knowledgeable mechanics.
Accessibility on the Job Site
Many contractors who own bigger machines also own mini-excavators just in case they encounter properties that don’t allow for an 84.4” wide loader. Just as important as getting it in the backyard is its ability to load your trucks and trailers. Make sure the hinge point of the bucket is at least 10-12” higher than sideboards of your beds.
Forks, Buckets, Tires or Tracks. Know what you need to have in your arsenal and find a seller who has taken good care of their equipment. Welding a cracked bucket is no cheap expenditure, and waiting for the metal shop to patch up your bucket can take time and cost hundreds in rental fees.
If you plan on upgrading again in a few years, make sure you purchase a popular product that will hold its value down the road. Like vehicles, the brand and model will impact how quickly the value depreciates.
All things considered, your skid can and most likely will be the most important piece of equipment your landscaping business owns. No amount of back labor can compete with the raw power these machines bring to the table. Be sure to research this investment or you will be kicking yourself in the future.