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Renting vs Buying a Skid Steer Loader (Plus Rental Checklist)

November 9, 2021

Renting vs Buying a Skid Steer Loader (Plus Rental Checklist)

Should you buy or rent a skid steer?

Many business owners like you find themselves in the dilemma of buying vs renting a skid steer. It is one of those situations where one solution does not fit all. The right decision depends on various factors specific to your situation including type of job, business financials, and jobsite conditions. We will evaluate the vital parameters in this guide to help you can make an informed decision. We will cover tips on how to rent the right skid steer to get your work done.

Renting vs Buying

1.Job Duration and Frequency

For how long and how often you need the skid steer is the #1 factor in determining whether to rent or buy a skid steer loader. Below are the questions you need to ask yourself to ascertain what suits your needs the best:

Do I need a skid steer as specialized equipment for a one-off job?

Do I need skid steer for a short-term project?

Do I need a skid steer just this one time as it is not a recurring work?

Do I need this equipment to fulfill increased seasonal demand?

If your answer to one or more of these questions is ‘YES’, then renting may be the most feasible solution for you. Along with the loader, you can also rent the necessary attachments to tackle the job efficiently. To sum it up- for non-frequent and short-term projects, renting a skid steer or a track loader can help you accomplish the job without having to worry about upfront cost, and maintenance costs.

The tipping point for transitioning from a rental to purchase would be when there is a long-term project or several smaller projects on the horizon. You could explore used skid steer options if you have more work coming your way but want to reduce the upfront investment.

2.Current & Future Business Situation

Purchasing equipment is a major investment decision for your business. You need to thoroughly evaluate the current financial situation of your business to see if you have the capital to purchase the loader. If you have the capital, or can finance the cost of a machine, you need to ask yourself if buying a skid steer is the right decision for your business.

Think long-term and evaluate your business outlook over next couple of quarters or years. If you foresee an increased inflow of jobs where you may need a skid steer, you might be better off buying one. Owning this versatile piece of equipment can, in fact, help you secure more work. As mentioned earlier, based on your needs, you could either look for a used skid steer or a new skid steer.

3.Job Location

If the job site is far away from your business, you may consider renting an equipment locally. Compare the cost of transporting your skid steer from your business location to the job location vs the cost of renting a local machine. You should also factor in the wear and tear that your equipment might undergo during the transport as it will ultimately add up to your maintenance costs.

4.Type of Work

If you need a skid steer loader or a track loader with latest features and technology to effectively do your job, you can rent one that matches your needs. Look for a latest model machine with the features that you are looking for. Purchasing a latest model may be an expensive option and a used one may not have the required specs, so going with rental skid steer may be a good idea.


Most new skid steers would have a lead time associated with them which may not be workable for you if you have an urgent requirement. In such a case, you could rent equipment for a bridge period while your equipment arrives, or you could use a rental skid steer for the full length of the job. Since you have the flexibility to rent by an hour, day, week, or months, you can rent the loader for a short time and then extend contract later if it works for you.

6.Cost of Renting vs Buying

Cost of renting or buying ties-back to point #1 as it largely depends on the frequency and duration of the jobs where you need a skid steer or a track loader. While there is no upfront cost when you are renting, it may quickly become an expensive option if you are renting too often.

If the math for your rental looks like the formula below, it might be worthwhile considering the purchase option.

Yearly Rental Payments > Total of Monthly Installments (when buying)

In this case, you will need to plan out your finances to account for upfront investment and maintenance costs but in the long run, your skid steer should be able to pay for itself.

Below is quick comparison of benefits of renting vs buying to help you make a decision that is a winner for your situation.

Benefits of Renting Benefits of Buying
Zero to low upfront cost More economic in long-term if frequency of using the equipment is high
Almost zero lead time You can pursue more work opportunities due to availability of equipment
Maintenance handled by the rental company You can get high residual value from a well-maintained equipment
You can get latest equipment with modern features Possible tax benefits
Wider range of equipment to choose from as budget restriction is not significant Flexibility in scheduling jobs and increased ability to react to unexpected changes in projects
Option to rent an equipment closer to your job site Consistent fleet with known costs
Flexibility in fleet size and equipment type

How to Choose a Rental Skid Steer

If you determine that renting a skid steer is the right option for you then you must find an option that meets your needs. Below are the essential tips from our experts at Westerra Equipment to help you carefully evaluate your options.

Wheeled or Tracked Loader

The Skid steer loader is often used as an umbrella term for skid steers and compact track loaders as both the machines offer similar capabilities. However, there are a few differences between the two, the most significant one being– skid steers come with tires/wheels and track loaders come with tracks. Each one of these is designed to deliver best results on certain surfaces.

If you are looking to use the loader on harder surfaces like concrete or asphalt, then you might be better off renting a skid steer. You run a risk of damaging the surfaces and the tracks if you choose to use a track loader on hard surfaces. On the other hand, you should rent a compact track loader (CTL) if you are going to do more heavy-duty work in areas with softer grounds including muddy, snowy, or sandy terrains.

Skid Steer Loader vs Compact Track Loader Comparison
Parameter Skid-Steer Track-Loader
Paved Surfaces Suitable Can cause damage to the surface
Softer surfaces like mud and swamp Not ideal as traction is low Works great because of higher traction
Weight Lighter; easy to transport and less damaging on hard surfaces Heavier; costlier to transport
Lifting Capacity & Break-out Force Lower Higher
Travel Speed Higher top travel speeds Lower Speed
Rental rates (for similar capacity) Lower Higher

Be sure to discuss the worksite condition with the rental company to select the right type and model of the compact loader as it can have a significant impact on your project success.

Skid Steer Attachment Rental

Skid steers and track loaders are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment and one of the main reasons for it is the availability of a wide range of attachments for them. You can find an attachment for your skid steer to handle almost any job, be it- material handling, digging, snow clearing or wood chipping. You don’t necessarily need to own any or all these attachments. Depending on the job at hand, just rent the right attachment and get going.

Equipment Condition & Features

Prepare a list of specifications and features that are a must-have for the work that you need to accomplish with the rental skid steer. It could be anything- ranging from a specific lift-arm design to heating and air-condition system in the cab, be sure not to compromise on crucial parameters. Rental equipment companies can often make the right equipment available for your needs if you discuss it with them.

Similarly, you need to ensure that you are getting the loader which is in a good shape and will give you a smooth run during the rental period. If possible, you or your technician should inspect the equipment before putting money on the table.

Equipment Capacity

When renting, you have the flexibility to choose just the right size of the loader to complete a particular project. Analyze what is the maximum load you would be required to lift for a particular project and then select the equipment that would be suited for it. Renting a higher capacity than what you need means less maneuverability due to increased sized. Also, renting a smaller size might affect your overall project productivity.

Whether you are renting or buying a skid steer, it is always a good idea to spend enough time and effort in choosing the right equipment. If you have questions or concerns about renting a compact loader, get help from our experts. They can help you select the equipment which is most suitable for you application and build a flexible rental plan that works for you