Mini Excavator Vs Skid Steer: Which Is Right for Your Project?

Posted on Wednesday, May 15, 2024

When it comes to construction and landscaping projects, having the right equipment can make all the difference in efficiency and success. Whether you’re an experienced construction worker or a DIY project enthusiast, you’re likely familiar with two popular equipment rentals for completing various jobs and tasks: Mini excavators and skid steers.

While both machines offer operators features and functionality, one machine will probably suit your project better than the other. But how do you know which machine is the right choice for your project?

This guide breaks down the differences and considerations to help you make an informed decision about your next project.

What is a Mini Excavator?

As the name suggests, a mini excavator is a smaller version of a standard-sized excavator. It typically features a cab for the operator that can rotate 360 degrees, tracks or wheels that provide mobility, and an arm that can be outfitted with various attachments, like a bucket, breaker, auger, and many more.


You can use a mini excavator for a large number of projects and jobs, including:

  • Digging trenches for utilities
  • Excavating foundations for small structure construction
  • Landscaping projects
  • Demolishing small structures
  • Breaking up asphalt
  • Grading and leveling
  • Installing utilities

Mini Excavator Pros

Mini excavators offer several benefits and advantages, such as:

  • Versatility
  • Efficient work cycles
  • Reduced ground impact
  • Cost-effective excavator for rent
  • Excellent maneuverability in confined spaces
  • Precise digging capabilities
  • Wide range of attachment options
  • Suitable for both indoor and outdoor projects
  • Capable of digging up to about 15 feet depending on the model

Mini Excavator Cons

While the cons will vary from one operator and project to another, some potential cons of mini excavators include:

  • Limited power
  • Limited lifting capacity
  • Small operator cabin
  • Slower travel speeds
  • Limited visibility
  • Not road-friendly
  • Not ideal for larger, heavy-duty projects or those on loose terrain

What Is a Skid Steer?

A skid steer, also known as a skid loader, is a small, wheeled, engine-powered machine with a loader arm at the front. Its wheels turn independently, allowing it to “skid” and maneuver sharply and turn within its footprint.


You can use a skid steer for a large number of projects and jobs, such as:

  • Loading and transporting materials
  • Grading and leveling
  • Removing brush and snow
  • Cleaning and prepping sites
  • Landscaping and gardening
  • Demolishing small structures

Skid Steer Pros

Skid steers offer several benefits and advantages, including:

  • Hauling and pushing materials
  • Wide variety of available attachments
  • A clear view of the attachment and work area
  • They can move efficiently around job sites
  • Exceptional maneuverability
  • High lifting capacity
  • Can be operated with minimal training

Skid Steer Cons

Again, the cons will vary from one operator and project to another, but some potential cons of skid steers include:

  • Limited digging depth
  • Less precise digging
  • Potential for ground damage
  • Less stable on uneven terrain

What are the Differences Between Mini Excavators and Skid Steers?

What are the differences between mini excavators and skid steers? You can learn about the key differences in the sections below.


While both mini excavators and skid steers are compact, their mobility differs. Mini excavators are equipped with tracks, which provide better traction on uneven terrain and make them suitable for rougher surfaces. Skid steers, on the other hand, are equipped with wheels, which offer greater speed and agility on flat surfaces. In addition, mini excavators excel in tight spaces, while skid steers can cover ground quickly.


When it comes to digging capabilities, mini excavators reign supreme for precise depth control. Their hydraulic systems allow for controlled digging in tight spaces with minimal disturbance to surrounding areas. Skid steers, while versatile and capable of handling light digging tasks, are not as precise and are better suited for tasks that require less depth.

Versatility and Attachments

Both machines offer versatility through a wide range of attachments. Mini excavators can be equipped with buckets, augers, hydraulic breakers, and more, expanding their capabilities for various tasks.

Skid steers, however, offer a wider range of attachments and also have the edge in terms of attachment compatibility. For example, attachment options include buckets, forks, grapples, and even hydraulic hammers.

How to Choose Between a Mini Excavator and a Skid Steer

Ultimately, the best choice depends on your specific project requirements. If you’re unsure, consider consulting with a construction equipment rental company like The Equipment Source to discuss your needs and explore which option is best for your project.

Consider these factors when making your decision:

What Is the Primary Task?

Assess the main job or task of your project. If precise excavation or trenching is the primary requirement, a mini excavator may be the better choice. But for tasks such as material handling, grading, or snow removal, a skid steer might be more suitable.

What is the Workspace Size?

Next, evaluate the size and accessibility of your workspace. Mini excavators are ideal for confined areas or indoor projects where maneuverability is crucial. Skid steers, with their tight turning radius, are better suited for larger outdoor spaces.

What Is Your Budget?

Finally, consider your budget and project requirements. While both machines have upfront costs, you also need to factor in fuel and attachment expenses. That being said, skid steers generally have a lower initial cost than mini excavators.

Rent a Mini Excavator or Skid Steer From Equipment Source

Are you itching to get your next project moving? Do you need help determining if a skid steer or a mini excavator is the right earth-moving equipment rental for your next project?

Whether you know what equipment you need to reserve or would like to discuss your options with The Equipment Source team, give us a call or stop by one of our eight stores, like our location in Naples, Florida. Together, we can help you figure out which machine is the right choice for your project goals, requirements, and circumstances.


Can you dig with a mini skid steer?

Yes, you can dig with a mini skid steer—but a mini excavator will allow for more precise excavation and deeper digging depths.

What are the limitations of a mini excavator?

Mini excavators are limited in horsepower levels, lifting capacity, cab size, travel speed, visibility, and the overall size of projects (For instance., mini excavators aren’t as well suited for larger, heavy-duty projects).

What are the pros and cons of a mini excavator?

The pros of a mini excavator include versatility, cycle efficiency, fuel efficiency, maneuverability, reduced ground impact, and cost-effectiveness.

The cons of a mini excavator include limited power, small operator cabs, slower travel speeds, not being road-friendly, and not ideal for larger projects or those on loose terrain.

Are there any mini excavator rentals near me?

With eight locations, we at The Equipment Source are ready to help you access the tools and equipment you need to finish your projects.

Have any questions? Ready to reserve a mini excavator rental and get started on your project? Contact our equipment rental experts today!