The differences between compact articulated loaders and full-sized skid steers

Have you ever wondered what the differences or similarities are between a full-size skid steer and a compact articulated loader? Why should you choose one over the other? Which application does each one work best in?

The truth is that one may be better than the other, depending on the application and jobsite. To help you make an informed decision for your operation, check out some of the differences and similarities between a full-size skid steer and a compact articulated loader.

Telescopic boom

The first aspect to consider between the two kinds of machines is their reach. Compact articulated loaders are equipped with a telescopic boom. The telescopic boom on the Vermeer ATX850 compact articulated loader extends 29.1 in (73.9 cm) for loading materials to a dump height of 117.3 in (297.9 cm) in hinge pin height, while also allowing the unit to have a rated operating capacity of 2,155 lb (977.5 kg). The telescopic boom can also aid in dumping material over the back of a retaining wall or grabbing material over an obstruction. The pin height of the ATX850 can help get the attachment over the side of the dump trailer or reach a high shelf with a pallet fork.

Full-size skid steers, on the other hand, have radial or vertical lift paths without the telescopic functionality.

“With a full-size skid steer, you might end up having to go into the road to reach over the trailer or reach over a fence,” explained Ed Henning, a Vermeer product specialist. “The telescopic boom can allow you to unload or load efficiently, without having to steer into the road.”


Another difference between compact articulated loaders and full-size skid steers is the ability to articulate. Full-size skid steers aren’t able to articulate, which can lead to increased tire wear and fuel consumption as it maneuvers around the jobsite.

For compact articulated loaders, articulation aids in minimizing the ground disturbance and allows the operator to make tight corners to get into a backyard or avoid obstacles in a yard.

“For instance, say that on a landscape jobsite, you have to clear some brush or branches, but there are some trees in the way in front of you,” said Henning. “A compact articulated loader can swing around the trees and grab the brush out of the way, whereas a skid steer would have to drive around the trees to the other side to get to it.”

This articulation method can minimize turf repairs on sensitive ground conditions and help keep fuel consumption and tire wear low.

Weight and speed

Two other features and specs to consider when deciding between a skid steer and compact articulated loader is their weight and speed.

When it comes to weight, the compact articulated loader is lighter compared to others in the same class. For example, the ATX850 is nearly 800-lb (363-kg) lighter than other machines and skid steers that have similar features and specs.

Because of this, compact articulated loaders are also faster than full-size skid steers. The ATX850 can go 17.4 mph (28 km/h) and the next closest machine is 11 mph (17.7 km/h).

“This speed advantage can be really helpful on large jobsites when used as a yard machine,” said Henning. “Operators can make two trips in a compact articulated loader compared to one trip in a skid steer.”

This can maximize productivity and efficiency on the jobsite when it comes to travel speed and transporting dirt or debris. There’s also an option to put it into high gear for traveling and low gear to fill and dump the bucket.

Full-size skid steers have an advantage when it comes to digging at a low height capacity. One of the main ways they’re designed is to dig, and they are very good at ground engagement.


The last main difference between the two machines is their visibility when operating.

Full-size skid steers are designed with the weight in the back and the engine behind the operator. Because of that, the operator needs to turn their head to see behind them, which is why many of these skid steers have backup cameras on them.

“Even though you can see out the sides of a full-size skid steer, the loader arms come down on the sides, which can limit the operator’s visibility,” explained Henning.

Compact articulated loaders, on the other hand, have complete, 360-degree visibility. Operators can see behind them and have visibility on either side since the loader arms aren’t located there. This can help operators avoid any potential hazards and have a clear view of the jobsite around them.

Another aspect to consider is how operators climb in and out of both machines. On a full-size skid steer, operators have to lock the machine and climb out the front. On a compact articulated loader, operators enter and exit from the side, and they don’t have to lock the machine beforehand.

“The side entry can make it convenient for operators to hop in and out quickly to clear something out of the way,” said Henning.


Now that we’ve covered some of the key differences in the machines, let’s focus on a couple similarities.

First, an important thing to keep in mind is that both full-size skid steers and compact articulated loaders are intended to accomplish the same tasks, they just each have a different approach. They also have a wide variety of attachments they can use. Both can be equipped with the same attachment plate and the same authorized attachments to help get the job done.

At the end of the day, both machines are powerful and can lead to operational efficiency. Compact articulated loaders might make more sense, depending on your situation and jobsite needs, or maybe a full-size skid steer might be the better fit. The key is to recognize the certain applications that either machine will shine more in, and then adjust appropriately.

For more information on Vermeer compact articulated loaders, contact your local dealer today.

MultiOne SRL Corporation reserves the right to make changes in engineering, design and specifications; add improvements; or discontinue manufacturing at any time without notice or obligation.

Equipment shown is for illustrative purposes only and may display optional accessories or components specific to their global region. Please contact your local Vermeer dealer for more information on machine specifications.

Vermeer and the Vermeer logo are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries. © 2021 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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