Wheels or tracks for skid steers, factors to consider, and the final verdict

Wheels or Tracks for Skid Steers?

More and more contractors are choosing skid steer loaders for their operations for a variety of reasons: their compactness, which makes them fantastic for operations in confined spaces; their maneuverability and versatility; their ability to deliver high performance on a range of applications and their relatively low operating costs. However, compact track loaders – though more expensive than skid steers – are still popular in construction, agriculture, and industrial applications. This is because, under certain worksite conditions, tracks may be preferable to wheels.

The alternative is also true – certain jobs are better handled using wheels than tracks. The answer to the question, ‘Wheels or tracks for skid steers?’ really depends on a range of factors, the most important being the application or terrain which the machine will operate on; and specific job site requirements. Careful consideration of these factors must be made before purchasing a skid steer to guarantee maximum return-on-investment (ROI).

Factors to Consider

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Flotation: Does the terrain require exceptional flotation? When it comes to muddy terrains, for example, flotation is of key importance. You want a compact loader that will be able to operate on soft, wet ground conditions like snow and mud without sinking and getting stuck, leading to machine downtime. For such terrains, a tracked machine is the way to go. This is because the tracks offer more ground contact, which reduces ground pressure, effectively distributing the weight of the machine and allowing it to glide over muddy ground.

Traction: Compact tracked loaders are also well suited for those jobs that require increased traction. This is because they offer more contact surface area than tires, allowing the machine better traction on soft, wet ground conditions like snow and mud.

Stability: The wider footprint that tracks provide make them well-suited for operations that require added stability such as operations that involve lifting and handling heavy loads.

Type of Ground Surface: Using tracks on sensitive surfaces like turf is advisable. Landscapers prefer tracked loaders as they produce less ground disturbance than wheeled skid steers. For harder surfaces like concrete and asphalt, wheels are preferable. They are the superior option for operations on hard, even ground as tracks wear out faster on these types of surfaces. For uneven terrains like mud, sand, and snow, tracks outperform tires. On these types of applications, tracks provide more breakout force and support for lifting. On rocky landscapes, tracks wear out fast and a severe-duty skid steer tire would be a much better option.

Cost: When deciding between these two options, you must factor in their costs. What are the initial costs? What are the operating costs? By carefully analyzing the costs of both options, you save yourself a headache and extra costs in the long-run. Typically, tracks cost way more than tires. However, tracks last much longer than tires. Keep in mind that other factors can impact the costs of either option over time including operator technique, type of applications, and underfoot conditions.

Operator Comfort: Tracks offer more ground contact area than tires. This minimizes ground pressure, evenly distributes the weight of the equipment and translates to a smoother ride for the operator.

Speed: For those applications that require higher travel speed, wheeled skid steers are the better option. Repositioning is also much easier and faster with wheeled skid steers than tracked loaders.


For skid steer operators that may occasionally need to operate their equipment on muddy or snowy terrains, over-the-tire (OTT) tracks – which are fitted over the skid steer tires – are a great option. Instead of investing in a separate equipment (a compact track loader) to operate on these terrains, purchasing OTT tracks is a less expensive solution.

There are two main types of OTT tracks for skid steer loaders – steel and rubber OTT tracks. Steel OTT tracks are well-suited for off-road, dirt applications while rubber OTT tracks – which are less damaging to surfaces – can be safely used on improved surfaces.

So what’s the verdict – wheels or tracks?

The type of application determines the option you go with. What’s important is to know the specific job site requirements before choosing between wheels or tracks. Over-the-tire tracks enhance the functionality of a skid steer and are perfect for those contractors who work on a range of terrains and applications. Do your homework – analyze both upfront and operating costs, know the exact requirements of the job – before investing in a compact track loader or a skid steer.

Contact Monster Tires today and we can assist you in making the best purchase decision on what to purchase for your machine.