How Much Does A Skid Steer Weigh? #Answered

Skid steers are designed to handle digging and excavation work. Different frames provide advantages others cannot, and there isn’t a unit that does everything. Certain projects might require greater power, while others would prioritize efficient movement. It’s important to get the right weight class for your skid steer, as a mismatch could set you back on precious time and money.

Skid Steers have huge weight ranges due to different factors but often fall around the 8,000lbs mark. This weight is needed to properly function at their tasks. Weight also plays a huge part in categorizing your unit’s frame size. Knowing what each frame offers best can help you find the most appropriate skid steer for the job.  

Getting the value too low will detrimentally affect their task performance, but getting it too high could compromise sorely needed mobility. Knowing what skid steer weight is needed will help you plan out projects much more efficiently.

Skid Steer Weight Ranges

skid steer orange

The normal skid steer range falls around 1,500lbs – 12,000lbs (680-5443kg), with the nominal average sitting at a clean 8,000lbs (3628kg). That’s almost 9 times the heaviest type of motorcycle; at the same time, it’s about a thousand pounds shy of a forklift, another piece of heavy machinery, or a 40ft shipping container.

It’s also not the right weight you’ll need. There are a lot of different weight types you need to consider. Mistaking one for another may lead to some serious mix-ups, and could end with your skid steer needlessly out of commission.

Operating Weight

The weights provided here usually don’t include a full tank and their driver. Most skid steers can hold about a hundred liters of fuel. Coupled with the driver’s weight, this could lead to a sizeable difference one shouldn’t neglect to consider.

The operating weight is composed of all necessary fluids, driver, buckets, and counterweights attached to the skid steer. This is the value you need to ensure you can drive the skid steer as is.

Rated Operating Capacity (RCO)

A skid steer’s limit on how much load they can sustain before incurring damages is known as rated operating capacity. This value shares a direct relationship with both the frame and weight of your machine.

Possible damages include hydraulic strain, engine backfires, or the unit falling on its side. Skid steers are relatively speedy for their size. Couple that with their mass, and ignoring rated operating capacity could easily lead to injuries or death on the job.

Tipping Load

white skid steer

As a general rule of thumb, halving RCO provides the tipping load value. This is simply the maximum weight your skid steer can handle without flipping or nosediving on itself.

Bear in mind that this value is subject to change in the presence of additional counterweights. It’s also measured under the assumption the device is set on paved, level ground.

Why Are Skid Steers So Heavy?

Even the smallest skid steers are still heavy machinery units, making generous use of bulky hydraulics and hefty counterweight systems. This ensures their center of gravity is low relative to their size. It also increases their efficiency at transporting heavy loads without tipping over.

A skid steer can be used for many different purposes, but its most common function is digging into compacted material like snow, clay, or dense soil. Counterweights are necessary for them to maintain their balance during the task, and there are even kits in the market that are dedicated to just adding extra weight.

It might seem that reducing the machine’s weight will improve its digging capacity due to less exertion needed to support itself, but doing so would only reduce its grip on the floor. This is especially problematic if your skid steer’s bucket doesn’t even have teeth – it could very well just bounce off the ground rather than carve away at embedded material.

Why Is Weight So Important?

parked skid steer

Only light and medium frames can safely operate on asphalt. A skid steer that’s too light won’t even make a dent in rough, compacted material, whereas one that’s too heavy will be a logistical nightmare maneuvering in certain working environments. Different skid steers serve the function they’re best at and will prove inefficient in roles they aren’t suited for.

The weight of a skid steer will determine where it functions best. This depends on construction scope, but you need to determine the best fit for your needs and limitations. Make sure to have this assessed with professionals to avoid inconveniences down the line.

Skid Steer Frame Classes

Skid steers can best be categorized into three distinct classes. These are utilized in different types of projects scopes and are determined by their base weight and ROC.

Frame Size Operating Weight Rated Operating Capacity Most Common Uses
Small 1500lbs-6000lbs




Interior design, Landscaping
Medium 6000lbs-9000lbs




Diggers in Confined Space
Large 9000lbs+




Dedicated on-site demolition

Small Frame

Smaller-framed skid steers rely on straightforward hydraulic mechanisms and compact designs. These boast unparalleled maneuverability, which makes them great choices for confined spaces. Maintenance is also more manageable than other frame classes due to their relative simplicity.

Small-frame skids are often utilized during landscape development projects or interior renovations. They’re also much easier to transport, and occasionally find use at different elevation levels – a feat far too risky for other frame classes.

Medium Frame

Medium-framed skid steers are a bit more complex, serving as a decent middle ground on both power and mobility. They provide greater strength than smaller frames and can manage situations where the former would prove insufficient.

An example of this would be handling the excavation of dry ground in limited construction space. Smaller models are unlikely to even dent it without some excessive preparations, while the larger models could prove too unwieldy for practical usage.

Medium-framed skid steers can also be driven over asphalt without incurring damages, which is a huge logistical advantage compared to larger frames. Using them in elevated positions does pose some risk, so consider that when deciding on what frame would suit your needs best.

Large Frame

Large-framed skid steers are just one step shy of dedicated demolition machines. They possess most of the power needed for these tasks but are capable of moving through their own power. While nowhere near the level provided by its smaller counterparts, this type of skid steer still maintains crucial maneuverability that allows them to function without too much supervision.

Large frames also permit greater task specialization than the other frames mentioned. Units can be streamlined to function efficiently with different attachments. Large frames provide a greater range of options than their smaller cousins, which are often restricted to digging and landscaping roles.

Final Thoughts

A skid steer’s functionality hinges on finding that sweet spot. Smaller machines can’t generate enough power for certain tasks, while larger ones could end up as needlessly cumbersome obstacles. Make sure you figure out what weight range would work best for your needs, and your construction plans should go off without a hitch.