Varied terrain, job site needs and fluctuating demand can make skid-steer purchase decisions a moving target for landscape professionals.
Brant Kukuk, compact equipment product manager for Ditch Witch, says a vital first step in selecting the right skid-steer is considering the tasks the equipment needs to execute.
“With the correct power and attachments, the operator can take a single machine on a job to load, dig or move material with a backhoe attachment,” he says. “They can then switch to a hydraulic power fork to handle materials. Afterward, they can attach a bucket to remove the dirt.”
Kukuk says pros shouldn’t overlook space restrictions on a given job site, especially in residential areas.
“If a landscaper works in residential backyards, they will want to make sure to purchase a machine compact enough to maneuver in those areas, and the machine has the correct dimensions to fit through a fence opening,” he says. “We always like to remind anyone looking to purchase a stand-on skid-steer that their best resource is the experts at the local dealership and rental yard.”
Experts say many organizations opt for skid-steer rentals for financial flexibility. Renting can address seasonal demand for more skid-steers.
“Just as important as the machine you are purchasing is the way you pay for it,” says Luke Gribble, solutions marketing manager with John Deere. “Selecting the right type of financing when you buy new equipment directly impacts your business.”
Operators leaning toward renting skid-steers should evaluate their needs, job site conditions and expected wear on the machine before making a final decision, Gribble adds.
“Renting a machine requires that it be damage-free when returned, which can be a challenge while operating,” he says. “If the machine will only be used seasonally or for specific applications, renting might be a more financially applicable choice.”
Going “too big?”
A common mistake pros make when acquiring skid-steer equipment is buying more machine than what’s actually needed, says Trevor Koolmees, sales manager for Vermeer Environmental Equipment.
“People will start comparing the specs of one model against another and see that a machine may have a higher rated operating capacity, a larger engine or higher auxiliary hydraulics flow that seems pretty impressive in a spec sheet,” he says. “When they get it to the job site, they find they don’t need the extra horsepower or flow for the type of work they are doing.”
Ongoing supply chain shortages and complications seem to drive increased skid-steer rentals, says Koolmees.
“(Skid-steers) will have a residual value for years to come that can be maximized if you buy quality equipment and maintain it well,” he says. “But if a contractor needs a machine less than 25 percent throughout the year, they should consider renting it.”
Mike Fitzgerald, marketing manager for Bobcat, suggests pros plan a machine upgrade schedule to give more clarity on a decision to buy or rent.
“(Landscape professionals) need to ask themselves, ‘Am I just replacing my machine with the current model or do I need to upgrade for size or for power?’” he says. “If they are doing more with their current machine than they’d planned on, or if they plan on doing more with it, that’s a good reason to upgrade to a larger, more powerful skid-steer.”