Used Skid Steer Loaders

Used Skid Steers Deliver Better Value for Certain Applications

Used equipment, especially when it comes to skid steer loaders, often represents a better deal in comparison to a new machine. This is especially true for smaller businesses, those with budget limitations, and operations that only plan on using the skid steer part time or less. With a lower up-front cost, these machines provide better value through a lower cost of ownership over time.

When shopping for a used skid steer among name brands, you can expect to pay:

[table]Brand ,Estimated Cost
John Deere, "$15,000 - $66,000"
New Holland," $15,000 - $60,000"
Bobcat, "$9,250 - $40,500"
Gehl, "$3,750 - $65,000"
Volvo, "$12,000 - $51,000"[/table]
NOTE: The above used skid steer prices reflect the low and high for national averages. But many models are priced in the low- to mid-range of these figures.

Used skid steer checklist

To meet the sizable demand for used Bobcats and similar equipment, most dealers offer a selection of previously-owned models, often at a fraction of the cost of their new counterparts. But before buying, all equipment should be thoroughly inspected by a certified mechanic (yours, not theirs) to ensure it will perform as expected well into the future, minimizing downtime and keeping your business running smoothly.

With that in mind, a few extra steps are necessary when shopping for used skid steers to ensure you’re actually saving money and not just throwing it into a bottomless pit of endless repairs.

Here’s what you (and your mechanic) should be in tune to:

Hours and type of use

Logged hours are one indicator that’s extremely useful in judging the value of a skid steer. High hours on a new machine are a sign that it’s been worked hard in a short period of time. This may indicate that it’s due for costly replacement parts, maintenance, or other repairs. An older machine with low hours may be a better investment.

For comparison, 5 to 6 hours a day is considered full-time use. So a machine that’s been worked only part-time would log about 12 hours per week and just over 600 a year. So a skid steer that’s 10 years old but has less than 4,000 hours on it could be a solid machine.

At the same time, be aware of the type of application the skid steer was used for. There’s a huge difference between basic use around a farm and the heavy-duty abuse a machine can rack up on a construction site. It’s essential that any used equipment you’re considering should have a detailed service record – and especially crucial when considering machines that have come from heavy-duty operations.


Inspect the condition of a skid steer engine by removing the oil cap while it’s running. Look for black smoke. A little after startup isn’t usually a big deal. But if there’s a lot of smoke, it may indicate weak compression which can have a big impact on the performance and cost-effectiveness of the rig.

Also, if possible, pull the injectors and take a compression test. You’re looking for readings between 350 to 420 lbs, with cylinders that are evenly matched. If you get a reading of 375 on one and 410 on another, it’s possible the machine has a problem with fuel injection or may soon develop one, according to skid steer mechanics.

  • BEFORE YOU PURCHASE: Check out the make and model to find out how easy (and expensive) popular components are. Long waits for replacement parts could put a costly damper on your operation.


Kicking the tires isn’t just an expression. The tires on a used skid steer can be an obvious indicator of the amount and type of use the machine has been put through. On average, skid steer tires last for about 500 hours. So if you’re comparing skid steers with only 250 hours and the tires are worn down or, even worse, worn unevenly, this would indicate heavy use. That said, if everything but the tires checks out, it may not be a bad investment.

A new set of tires won’t break the bank, usually costing anywhere from $120 to $600 each. If the skid is on tracks, you’re looking at replacements costs between $1,700 and $4,000. Depending on your budget, you may not want to sink another $2,400 to $4,000 along with the purchase price. But again, for a machine in good condition mechanically, it’s definitely worth considering.

  • BEFORE YOU PURCHASE: Check the exact cost for the type of tires/tracks you’ll need for your particular application. The current tread will eventually wear out and the tires will need to be replaced. Is this a cost you’re OK with once or twice a year?

Visual wear and tear

Walk around the exterior and inspect the skid steer for body damage. Large dents are a red flag, as are loader arms with cracks, bent components, or worn-looking cables. Plus, if the machine is only a few years old but already has a new paint job and new decals, this is another indicator it has seen heavy use and probably won’t be as solid an investment as other models.

Review our skid steer loader guide for more information on the purchasing process.

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