Costs of Owning and Operating Compact Wheel Loaders

have proven their worth to contractors of all types. But what does it really cost to own and operate one? And how do they compare to a skid steer?

Skid steer loaders are versatile – typically smaller, less expensive up front and more maneuverable than compact wheel loaders. They require more power to get the job done, but they’re more maneuverable and can turn in place, so they’re a better “fit” for tight spaces.

Compact wheel loaders are usually cheaper to operate and maintain. They can travel faster, so they’re more efficient for load and carry jobs. Ultimately, your total cost of ownership will depend on the brand and model you purchase plus how and where you operate your machine.

If you’re considering purchasing some new equipment, here are important cost-drivers you’ll want to investigate before making your decision.

Ownership costs.

  • Purchase price – options can add up, so it’s important to consider what features come standard versus what will cost extra.
  • Financing and interest costs – your dealer may be able to help you trim these costs.
  • Lifespan. Compact wheel loaders are built tougher, so they last longer – as a general rule, you can assume 6000-8000 hours versus about 5000 hours max for a skid steer. That means you can amortize your TCO for a wheel loader over a longer period.
  • Resale or residual value when you’re ready to move on. Your dealer can advise about this, too.

Operating costs.

  • Average hours per year – equipment used at a landscape supply yard or for general construction tasks may work fewer hours than machines at a recycling or agricultural operation.
  • Fuel usage per hour – government standards and your wallet are both demanding greater fuel efficiency. Although compact wheel loaders are larger and heavier than skid steers, they can be significantly more fuel-efficient because it doesn’t take as much power to muscle them around. And again, more grueling jobs will use up more fuel.
  • Tire costs and lifespan. Skid steers are harder on tires for obvious reasons. If you invest in specialty tires for either type of machine, the cost will likely rise accordingly, but specialty tires are designed to reduce risk of flats and therefore expensive down time. Just as with the loader itself, saving money up front can wind up costing your more down the road.
  • Preventive maintenance and consumables – even small savings here can add up handsomely over the life of the machine. Today’s equipment features longer-life lubricants and parts, which can dramatically lower your TCO.
  • Wear and tear. At some point, you’ll probably have to repair or replace the digging parts of your machine – bucket cutting edge and related hardware — as well as cylinders. The length and coverage of your warranty can substantially affect your costs here.

You can work out a pretty accurate cost-per-hour figure by simply adding up your expected costs and dividing by the total number of life-hours you expect to get from the machine. The best news is that constantly evolving technology innovations have produced tremendous across-the-board improvements in performance efficiency and cost savings for wheel loaders as well as other types of construction equipment.

Compact wheel loaders can be impressively cost-efficient. But with so many variables affecting your results, it’s a good idea to consult with a reputable dealer before making any decisions. They’re intimately familiar with the equipment, and they understand your operational needs, so they can steer you in the right direction. So to speak.