Mini Excavator vs. Skid Steer: Which Should I Choose?

The right equipment can make a difference in a project. When taking large-scale tasks at any work site, there is […]


The right equipment can make a difference in a project. When taking large-scale tasks at any work site, there is a common question: a mini excavator vs a skid steer, which one should I choose?

Choosing the right compact equipment can greatly enhance your productivity, and save money and time. Both mini excavators and mini skid steers are versatile. Facing the decision between a mini excavator and a skid steer, you need to weigh their respective advantages and applications.

What Is a Mini Excavator?

Small excavators are designed to be small and lightweight for easy movement in tight spaces. The movements of the machine’s arm and bucket are controlled by hydraulic power. Moreover, their hydraulic arm is useful for different tasks like digging holes or collecting soil into piles during gardening.

Advantages of mini excavators

Power-to-size ratio

Although small, mini excavators are mighty with engines that can go from 25 to 35 horsepower. They have an effective power-size ratio, allowing for handling big tasks without causing harm on weak surfaces.

Manage various terrains

Mini excavators, having either robust tracks or durable wheels, can move along unstable, rough, and smooth lands. They are best for use on delicate ground where they won’t cause much disturbance.

360-degree rotating cabs

The rotating cab is a very noticeable characteristic of mini excavators. It offers the operator a full 360-degree view of the work site, guaranteeing task safety and accuracy.

Boleo mini excavator

Mini Excavator Applications


Mini excavators are built for digging tasks. They can do detailed excavation work and are useful in trenching, foundation digging, and utility installation.


They are superb at light destruction, shifting materials around, and taking out tree stumps. Because they are small in size, these machines can go into tight spaces and complete tasks with tiny disruptions.


Additionally, these machines are useful in landscaping. For example, they can be used for digging ponds, creating garden beds, and shaping terrain.

Pros and cons of mini excavators


  • Ideal for small-scale projects requiring precision and control.
  • Compact size allows access to tight and confined spaces.
  • Versatile with a range of attachments for different tasks.
  • Lower environmental impact due to lighter weight and lower ground pressure.


  • Limited reach and lifting capacity compared to larger excavators.
  • May require additional attachments for specific tasks, incurring extra costs.
  • Maintenance can be more complex and costly due to specialized parts.
  • Not suited for heavy-duty tasks that require more power and reach.

Attachments for Mini Excavator


Mini excavator bucket

The usual attachments for digging, grading, and moving materials. The bucket design might be a clamshell type for general digging or it could have features like ribs and teeth if more abrasive materials are being handled.


A thumb attachment is like a hydraulic clamp that can be added to the bucket of an excavator. This device is especially handy for jobs needing careful handling like arranging materials or placing big items correctly.

Flail mower

This connection is made for clearing land and managing vegetation. It has a row of rotating hammers or blades that slice through grass, bushes, and little trees.

Flail mowers might be used to keep up rights-of-way, clear building spots, or handle places where plants have grown too much.


Mini excavator grapple

A grapple is an attachment used in sorting and handling bulk materials. It works similarly to a mechanical hand, having many tines or fingers that can close around objects to pick them up.

Grapples are helpful when it comes to waste handling, recycling, as well as moving big-sized or unevenly shaped items.


This is a trailer made for moving small excavators. These kinds of trailers are used by contractors who want to transport their equipment easily from one workplace or task location to another quickly and effectively.

The attachment might have extra details like ramps or spots so you can tie things down for easier loading and unloading.

What Is a Mini Skid Steer?

A mini skid steer can be described as a small, versatile machine often found in construction, landscaping and different industries. The term “mini” signifies it being smaller and lighter compared to full-sized models. Hence, it often appears in work sites where larger skid steers may face difficulty accessing.

Mini skid steer

Mini skid steers in tight spaces

Skid steers are recognized for their work in limited areas. They can move sideways at one spot, making them great for use in city settings, indoor construction sites or any small space situation.

Efficiency and adaptability

Similar to mini excavators, the small size of mini skid steers enhances their efficiency. They can accomplish diverse assignments rapidly and are simple to move. Their adaptability is also boosted by the numerous attachments that can be used with them.

Applications of Mini Skid Steers


Mini skid steers are frequently employed in landscaping jobs for digging, lifting, and transporting materials. Their attachments also solve particular problems in landscaping.

Material handling

When fitted with proper attachments, mini skid steers are capable of efficiently removing snow from sidewalks and parking lots. Additionally, they can load and unload construction materials in work zones or other similar sites.

Demolition and cleanup

Their smallness and strength make mini skid steers good for destruction jobs and cleaning up tasks. They can also break concrete, along with other things, by using a hydraulic hammer accessory.

Pros and Cons of Skid Steers


  • With multiple attachments, skid steers can perform a wide range of tasks.
  • They are designed for environments with limited space.
  • When the work is not too big, skid steers can usually be more affordable.
  • Their compact size makes them easy to transport to different job sites.


  • Skid steers may not handle lifting work as efficiently as bigger loaders. In some heavy-duty tasks, this could be a constraint.
  • Using a skid steer for long hours can induce fatigue because of the small cab and continuous control input needed.
  • Some extra attachments might increase the total expense.

Mini Skid Steer Attachments

Pallet Forks

Pallet forks can convert a mini skid steer into a machine for handling materials. These are utilized to lift, shift and stack pallets loaded with goods in storehouses, retail outlets and building areas.


An auger attachment essentially functions like a helical screw. It is employed to bore into the earth or shift different substances.

In landscaping or construction projects, for instance, an auger might be employed to create holes needed when planting trees or setting up fence posts among other things.


Mini skid steer with a bucket

These are for digging, grading, and handling materials. They come in different sizes and shapes to match various tasks.


A grapple of mini skid steers

A grapple attachment works similarly to a mechanical hand, having several tines that can shut around and catch hold of items. Grapples are helpful for recycling tasks, clearing land and demolishing jobs.

Which One Should I Choose?

Although mini excavators and mini skid steers are both compact construction machines, they still serve different purposes and have distinct characteristics.

Design and mobility

Mini Excavators have a tracked or wheeled undercarriage, with a fixed or swing boom and dipper stick for digging. They are mostly used for tasks such as digging, lifting, and grading.

On the other hand, mini skid steers have a small and tough frame with wheels or tracks, making them nimble in confined areas.


Mini Excavators are good for digging, trenching, and breaking through hard surfaces. In addition to buckets, they can add a hammer, a ripper, or an auger.

Mini Skid Steers can handle lifting, loading, drilling, and sweeping tasks along with light digging.

Ground pressure

Mini Excavators usually have a greater ground pressure since they are designed with tracks. This feature is good for irregular or soft grounds, but not so much on paved surfaces.

Mini Skid Steers are smaller in size and often have lower ground pressure, which makes them suitable for paved areas without causing harm.

Operational environment

For jobs outdoors that need digging or handling of heavy materials, Mini Excavators are a better option.

Little Skid Steers can work in both inside and outside settings, so they are more flexible for different locations.

Size and weight

Even though mini excavators are small in size compared to full-sized excavators, they usually have a greater weight and size than mini skid steers.


Mini skid steers tend to be less costly compared to mini excavators. Generally, one can acquire a mini skid steer at a reasonable price and it provides an economical solution that balances cost with usefulness.


Mini skid steers come with more basic controls and design, which makes them simpler to understand and operate for beginners.

One should also evaluate how comfortable the person operating it is. Meanwhile, safety elements are important as well, such as roll-over protective structure (ROPS) and falling-object protective structures (FOPS).


Hydraulic systems in mini excavators can be more intricate, thus needing increased upkeep and budget for maintenance.

Other Factors to Consider

To perfectly finish your job, here are other factors to consider when deciding between a mini excavator and a mini skid steer.

Project requirements

Determine if the project is mainly digging or trenching, or if it needs a machine for various tasks using different attachments.

Think about the work area’s size and if the machine must move easily in small or narrow spaces.

Assess the land and soil conditions to determine if a mini excavator or a mini skid steer is better for the job.

Check if the ground can carry the weight of the machine and the operator, so it does not cause harm to surfaces.

Matching machine capabilities to project needs

Check if the machine provides enough power and capability for the tasks it will do, like lifting strength or depth of digging.

Think about the different attachments used in the project. Do they fit with what’s needed for this specific work?

Determine if the machine is easy to move from one job site to another.

Assess the fuel efficiency of the machine and expected operating costs to help with project expense management.

Long-term development

Consider how the new machine will fit into your current equipment, and if it complements what is already there.

Think about the kinds of projects in the future and if the machine will be versatile for handling different tasks.

Think about the machine’s possible reselling worth and how fast its value could decrease.

Assess the availability of service and assistance, along with parts and maintenance, for the predicted life span of this machine.

Environmental impact

Make sure the machine meets the emission standards of the area to avoid any limitations on its use.

Consider the noise levels of the machine, particularly for jobs in residential or noise-sensitive zones.

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