Bobcat is the most popular skid steer brand. So popular that many people refer to skid steers generally as Bobcats. But it’s not the only high quality and reliable skid steer in the market. Other proven brands include Caterpillar, JCB, Case, John Deere, New Holland and Kubota.
These are companies that make lots of other heavy equipment, so they know a thing or two about making a capable, easy to operate, and long lasting skid steer.
Read on to learn more about the best skid steer brands and key differences between them.
What You'll Learn Today
Bobcats were the first skid steers to be introduced into the market in 1960. Since then, the brand has remained the most popular in the United States.
Today, Bobcat sells a wide variety of skid steers ranging from compact models for backyard work to larger models that can do some serious lifting, or digging.
These modern skid steers focus on improved durability, user-friendly controls, efficient engines, and increased work capability.
Their smallest option is the S70, which measures just 3 feet wide and 6 feet tall. It’s perfect for small spaces, doorways, alleys, and corridors.
The S70 features a 23.5HP engine, a rated operating capacity of 760lbs, and a standard flow of 9.8 GPM.
On the other end is the powerful Bobcat S850 with a 100HP engine, operating capacity of 3,950lbs, and a high flow of 36.6 GPM.
In between there are plenty of choices including the 55HP/1,790lbs S510 and the 68HP/2,300lbs S64.
With the exception of the S70, all these models feature joystick controls and two speed settings. Some of the models include traditional foot pedals as well as lever controls.
Some of the models also come with a remote control system that lets you control the skid steer without an operator in the cab.
Bobcat has a new skid steer lineup out, called the R series. These are more powerful tracked skid steers.
They range from the 68HP/2,150lbs T62 to the 74HP/2,900lbs T76. You can choose between models with a radial lift (great for low to the ground work like digging, grading, excavating etc.) and those with vertical lift (great for lifting heavy loads up high).
To go along with their skid steers, Bobcat sells a wide range of attachments designed for different models.
Caterpillar doesn’t sell as many skid steers as Bobcat, but the few they have cover a wide range of work needs.
The 226D3 is their smallest skid steer with a 67.1HP engine, operating capacity of 1,550lbs, and a high flow of 26 GPM. It’s significantly more capable than Bobcat’s smallest model.
Caterpillar’s top end model is also more powerful than Bobcat’s most capable model. The Cat 272D3 XE has a 110HP engine and operating capacity of 3,700lbs.
All Cat skid steers come with two speed options and selectable joystick controls. You can also opt for additional advanced features like self-levelling and return to dig.
In addition to the wheeled skid steers, Caterpillar also has a number of compact track loaders.
CAT and Bobcat are some of the most reliable and durable skid steers. They rarely have downtime and are easy to service. On the downside, they are usually the most expensive brands.
But if you plan to sell them later, they both hold their value very well.
Skid Steers are not John Deere’s biggest sellers. So they don’t have as much variety as other brands.
Currently, there are six JD skid steers.
Their smallest model, the 316GR, is fairly powerful. It has 65HP and 1,750lbs operating capacity. Their biggest model, the 332G, has 100HP and 3,600lbs operating capacity.
The limited variety is a disadvantage for those who are looking for a compact and affordable skid steer. The most affordable JD skid steer starts at almost $42,000.
But if you want a big burly skid steer, John Deere is a great choice.
Some of their models have radial lift geometry and others feature vertical lift with higher operating capacity.
Different controls are available in different models. Some have standard lever controls, others have selectable joystick controls, and their premium models include foot, joystick and H pattern controls.
We haven’t seen major complaints from owners of John Deere skid steers. These machines run reliably for years with just the regular servicing required. And because dealers are so easily available all over the country, any major repairs are done quickly.
Case sells skid loaders in two categories: B series and Alpha series wheeled loaders. Both these categories are also available with tracked loaders.
Similar to Bobcat, Case has a skid steer for every need. The SR130 with 45HP and the SR160B with 57HP are perfect for small jobs. The 84HP SV340B and SV340 are more suited to big jobs requiring a lot of power.
In between, there are plenty of other options to meet your specific needs.
The B series and Alpha series skid steers are pretty similar in terms of power and capability. The main difference is that the newer B series features better technology, improved cab comfort and easier to use controls.
The electro-hydraulic controls of the B series Case skid steers provide more precision and versatility. You can choose between H pattern and joystick controls.
You can also control the speed of the machine and the attachment separately, again giving you more control.
All Case skid steers run on efficient and environmentally friendly Tier 4 Final engines.
Overall, the biggest reason to get a Case skid steer is their controls. Even the older Alpha series provides a ton of options including H and ISO controls, speed control and memory presets that store preferred settings for different operators.
Case skid steers are not quite as solid as Cat skid steers, but they hold up well to thousands of hours of use. You may need to service it a bit more often than you would a Cat model, so make sure you have a good dealer nearby.
JCB skid steers stand out from the pack with their single boom design. Instead of twin arms protruding from both sides of the cab, there’s just one arm on the right side.
The biggest advantage of this design is safety. Most skid steers have the door at the front, and you have to awkwardly climb over attachments to get into the cab.
JCB skid steers have the door on the left side, since there’s no arm in the way. So you never have to climb over the boom or under a raised boom to get into the cab.
The single arm design also provides much better visibility all round compared to other brands.
It also makes for a simpler design and fewer parts, making JCB skid steers more reliable and easier to service.
You might be worried that the single arm is not as rigid or as strong as twin arms. That’s not the case.
In fact, JCB says that their single Powerboom has 20% more steel than twin arms. JCB skid steers are just as capable as any other skid steer.
For simplicity, all JCB skid steers use the same 74HP JCB EcoMAX engine. What varies between the models is the size of the platform and operating capacity.
The JCB 215 has a 2,112 lb operating capacity, the JCB 270 has 2,723 lb capacity, and the JCB 300 3,186 lb.
JCB is the only company to make skid steers with telescopic booms that provide further reach and height than other skid steers. There’s the smaller 2TS platform and the larger 3TS platform.
Overall, JCB makes some of the best skid steers. They are powerful, the cabs are comfortable, and they come with modern controls and options.
But there are two downsides: there aren’t many models to choose from (especially for those who want a smaller skid steer) and the available models are pricey.
If you don’t like any of the above brands, there are several other companies that make high quality skid steers.
They include Kubota, New Holland, Wacker and Takeuchi.
While these brands are great, they are not as popular as the ones we’ve included above. So dealers and parts may be harder to come by. But if you can find a dealer near you, you can get a good bargain on one of these skid steers.
Verdict: Who Makes The Best Skid Steer
In our opinion, Bobcat makes the best skid steers. They have plenty of options, their machines are reliable, they offer modern controls, and you can easily find a dealer near you.
But you can’t go wrong with a Caterpillar, Case, John Deere or JCB skid steer. They all offer different options and advantages.
Caterpillar makes solid skid steers that need minimal maintenance and last forever, John Deere has some great heavy duty skid steers, Case offers the best skid steer controls in the market, and JCB’s single arm design provides a new and better way to operate a skid steer.