Caterpillar makes some of the best front end loaders, also called wheel loaders, in the market. It’s the most popular brand when it comes to wheel loaders.
John Deere also makes some great models with proven reliability. Other trusted wheel loader brands include Komatsu, JCB and Case.
In this post, we compare front end loaders from these brands in terms of technology, ease of use, reliability, and performance.
What You'll Learn Today
- Does It Matter Which Front End Loader Brand I Buy?
- The Best Wheel Loader Brands
- Other Brands
- Verdict: Who Makes The Best Front End Loader?
Does It Matter Which Front End Loader Brand I Buy?
A majority of front end loader brands make good machines, but there are key differences among them when it comes to pricing, variety, performance, longevity and technology.
Depending on what you need a front end loader for and your budget, one brand may be better than another.
Something else to think about is resale value, if you plan to sell the loader after some time. Some brands, like Caterpillar, hold their value better than others.
The Best Wheel Loader Brands
1. Caterpillar Front End Loaders
Caterpillar makes some of the best and most advanced construction and mining equipment in the world.
It’s no wonder Cat front end loaders are some of the most popular. They are particularly known for their reliability and longevity.
Cat wheel loaders also hold their value extremely well, making them great for resale.
Caterpillar sells four categories of wheel loaders:
- Compact wheel loaders
- Small wheel loaders
- Medium wheel loaders
- Large wheel loaders
Compact models include the 903D, 906M, and 910.
The 903D is the smallest Cat wheel loader with a 42 HP engine, a 9,414lb operating weight, and bucket capacity of up to 1.3 cubic yards.
It’s perfect for small jobs around the home or farm.
If you want more power while still enjoying the benefits of a compact front end loader, get the Cat 920. It boasts engine power of 121 HP and bucket capacity of up to 2.5 cubic yards. It weighs 21,742lbs.
In between these two models, there are plenty more options with varying power and capacity.
If you want more power without getting a massive machine, the small loader category has several good options. There’s the 28,193lbs Cat 926M with 168 HP and 6.5 cubic yards of bucket capacity, and the 41,794lbs Cat 938M with 188HP of power and a 6.5 cubic yard bucket.
In the medium category, options range from the 225HP Cat 950 GC to the 404HP Cat 982 XE. You can also get some pretty huge buckets, the biggest one being 22 cubic yards (available in the 982 and 982 XE).
The largest Cat wheel loaders are typically used in industrial, infrastructure, and mining operations. One of the biggest ones is the Cat 994K with a massive 1,739 HP engine and a 57 cubic yard bucket. It weighs about a quarter of a ton.
Most farmers, home owners, and contractors will find one of the compact or small Cat front end loaders to be perfect for their needs.
Cat front end loaders feature easy joystick controls, a quick attach coupler for easy switching between implements, power and ride controls, and excellent all-round visibility in the cab.
Some models come with cool tech features like payload weighing, wireless equipment monitoring, and Cat’s DETECT package that uses cameras and sensors to keep the operator aware of their environment.
Maintaining Cat wheel loaders is easy with all the fluids and serviceable components within easy reach.
Cat loaders tend to be more expensive than other brands, but their reliability and durability makes them worth it.
2. Case Front End Loaders
Case offers two types of wheel loaders: compact and full size.
Their compact range consists of the F series models that are designed for a wide range of jobs. The smallest is the 58 HP Case 21F with a lifting capacity of 5,287lbs and an operating weight of 10,913lbs.
The most capable F series Case wheel loader is the 321F with a 74 HP engine, lift capacity of 8,354 lbs, and an operating weight of 13,303lbs.
All F series Case compact wheel loaders feature powerful but efficient Tier 4 engines. These engines are not only better for the environment, they are also easier to maintain and last longer.
The cabs are large and comfortable with almost a 360-degree view for all-round visibility. Additional features like seat air suspension, optional radio, bluetooth and multiple AC vents keep operators comfortable through hours of work.
Controls are easy via the multifunctional joystick. You can also activate a ride control feature that turns the boom cylinders into shock absorbers, making it easier to travel with a loaded bucket.
Case Full Size Wheel Loaders
Case full size front end loaders consist of the new G series models that come with more efficient TIER 4 engines, finer controls, and new technology.
The Case 521G boasts a 142 HP engine and operating weight of 24,203lbs. The Case 1121G tops the full size range with a 345 HP engine and 61,650lbs operating weight.
Case doesn’t have wheel loaders as massive and powerful as those of Caterpillar. They are more suited to farming, construction, utility, waste management, and recycling industries.
Case G series loaders come with the same multifunctional joystick as the F series compact models.
Unlike the smaller models though, the larger loaders also include a large touchscreen that gives you access to more controls including boom and bucket responsiveness and power mode selection.
Similar to some Caterpillar models, Case G series wheel loaders include payload weighing so you know how much weight you are lifting and loading into trucks.
Other features we love include remote diagnostics and the integrated tire pressure monitoring system.
3. Komatsu Front End Loaders
Komatsu makes rugged and powerful wheel loaders, similar to Caterpillar. Although Komatsu doesn’t offer the same wide range of models as Cat, you can still get a mid size loader or a massive machine meant for use on a quarry or mine.
Komatsu sells only mid-size and large front end loaders.
The smallest model in their lineup is the Komatsu WA200-8 with a 126 HP engine, an operating weight of 26,489 lbs, and a bucket capacity of 3.1 cubic yards.
The largest mid-size model is the Komatsu WA320-8 with a 165 HP engine, an operating weight of 34,987 lbs, and a bucket capacity of 4.2 cubic yards.
Komatsu’s large wheel loaders start at 191 HP and 4.3 cubic yard capacity (the WA380-8) and top out at an impressive 2,300 HP and 53 cubic yard capacity (the WE2350).
But unless you are going mining or quarrying, the mid size models are adequate for most farmers, contractors, and homeowners.
Inside the cab of Komatsu front end loaders, it’s pretty comfortable. You can adjust the seat, tilt the steering, and some models even come with a heated seat.
Controls are available via a mono lever and various switches and buttons scattered about the cab. You can control speed, traction and suspension. There’s a monitor with all the info you need, and a rear view screen that you can keep on all the time or only when going into reverse.
Komatsu loaders are not as high tech as Case wheel loaders, but they have everything you need for most applications.
4. John Deere
John Deere front end loaders are reliable, easy to service, and they hold their value well over the years. They are available in three classes: compact, mid-sized, and large wheel loaders.
JD compact wheel loaders are perfect for light work and tight spaces. The smallest option is the 204L with a 61 HP engine, 11,806 lbs operating weight, and a 1.4 cubic yard bucket.
The largest compact wheel loader is the John Deere 344L with a 103 HP engine, 19,533 lbs operating weight, and a 2.6 cubic yard bucket.
The mid size wheel loaders offer more power and capacity. The 444 P-Tier loader has a 124 HP engine, 25,814 lbs operating weight, and a 4.5 cubic yard bucket capacity.
If you want even more power in a relatively small loader, get the 724 P-Tier wheel loader with 268 HP and a 5 cubic yard bucket.
The large John Deere front end loaders are not quite as massive as those from Komatsu and Cat, but they still have impressive power and performance figures.
The largest of them is the 944K Hybrid Wheel Loader with a 536 HP engine, a 10 cubic yard bucket, and 124,614 lbs operating weight.
The 944K’s hybrid drive train is unique in that it’s the only one we’ve come across that combines conventional diesel power with electric power.
It doesn’t store electric power in a battery. It works by capturing power from regenerative braking, and using it to power the hydraulic system.
This improves performance and reduces fuel consumption.
All JD front end loaders feature modern controls that are easy and intuitive to operate.
The most important functions have been integrated into a single joystick or lever, and additional features are available on other switches and buttons placed around the spacious cab.
Additional features available on specific models include rimpull control (slip prevention), versatile seat adjustments, heated/cooled seat, and large monitor.
5. JCB Front End Loaders
JCB focuses on compact and midsize front end loaders. Their largest model features a modest 258 HP engine, which is similar to some small and mid-size Cat and Komatsu loaders.
The most compact JCB front end loader is the JCB 407 AGRI with a 68 HP engine, a bucket capacity of 1 cubic yard, and operating weight of 11,162 lbs. It’s just a step up from a skid steer.
It’s perfect for home owners and farmers who want a machine with more power and versatility, that’s also compact enough to navigate tight spaces like sheds and stalls.
The JCB 457 offers the best performance and capacity. It has a 258 HP engine, a 4.6 cubic yard bucket and 44,428 lbs operating weight.
JCB wheel loader cabs have most of the modern controls and comforts available in other brands including single lever or joystick controls, return to dig function, speed control and traction control.
If you don’t find what you are looking for among the above five brands, there are many other trusted brands that make high quality and reliable front end loaders.
These include Volvo, Hyundai, Bobcat (they make compact wheel loaders), and Hitachi.
Just make sure that there’s a dealer nearby specializing in a particular brand for servicing, repair and advice.
Verdict: Who Makes The Best Front End Loader?
The best front end loader depends on your work needs and budget.
If you want a heavy duty and rugged loader with guaranteed reliability, Caterpillar and Komatsu are great choices.
If you want a front end loader with lots of options and cool features, John Deere and Case have some great models.
If you want an affordable compact or midsize front end loader for your home, farm, or contractor work, JCB is one of the best brands.
When deciding which brand to go with, compare the prices of different models, find a model with the best performance and power you can get for your money, and make sure you have easy access to a dealer.