Today’s skid steers are not “your father’s Oldsmobile,” so to speak. They’re bigger, more productive and they come with a heck of a lot more features than the machines of yesteryear. The question is, how much do your customers really need from the skid steers they rent from you?
“Customers buying a skid steer for themselves tend to want more bells and whistles,” states Curtis Goettel with Case. “So they’ll go with a higher horsepower and more expensive control systems to make it easier on the operator. If they’re buying it for other people to run, they tend to be more interested in keeping it simple.”
That being said, there are two distinct types of rental customers in the market for skid steers: the smaller contractor/weekend warrior who rents for a day or a week, and the longer-term rental going to bigger contracting firms. “The difference is really obvious in this economy,” says Goettel. “Lots of companies that used to own their skid steers are now renting, and those customers want larger machines with more features.”
Still, the lion’s share of skid steer rentals are the 1,300 to 1,800-pound machines going out for shorter-term periods. “Those machines are easy to operate, easy to fix and hard to break,” says Goettel. “Without a lot of extra features, rental businesses can easily recover their cost.” Larger skid steers, like those with over 2,000 pounds of rated operating capacity, are the ones that tend to be outfitted with the most options.
Back to basics
“In rental, most skid steers are equipped with the basics,” says Kelly Moore at Gehl Co. “They come with the most common type of controls and without too many options.”
There are some features, however, that offer a lot of value, some at very little additional cost. Here’s what most manufacturers listed as “must-have” options for skid steers in rental fleets.
Choice of control patterns
The ability to switch between standard mechanical hand/foot and hands-only H-pattern controls is highly valuable in rental. Customers are often only comfortable using the control pattern they’re used to and do not want to struggle with learning a new one.
Leading skid steer manufacturers today also offer electro-hydraulic (EH) joystick controls that operate in the ISO control pattern, along with packages that allow the customer to switch the controls from standard ISO configuration to an H-pattern configuration.
“Electro-hydraulic joystick controls are very popular with customers looking to reduce operator fatigue by providing low-effort controls for all machine operations right at your finger tips,” states Gregg Zupancic at John Deere.
The cost of adding this feature to your skid steers can be significant, however, but customers who enjoy using equipment and are effective at completing their jobs will be more likely to return to your business to rent again.
“It will cost a few thousand dollars,” Goettel says of EH controls. “On larger machines, it’s a no-brainer, but on smaller machines, there might be a 25-percent overall cost increase.”
Cab enclosures with heat
Most skid steers in rental fleets are spec’ed without cab enclosures, but they’re seen more often in northern states. This option can significantly increase the cost of the unit, but in regions where it gets cold and snowy in the winter, it can be a really attractive option. In warmer climates, it might make sense to choose a cab with air conditioning, but this is a luxury in rental fleets.
“In a really hot climate, you may be able to charge extra on rental fees for offering air-conditioning in skid-steer loaders, and it can help with resale,” notes Greg Rostberg at Bobcat.
Severe-duty/solid flex-style tires
You never know where your customer is going to be using your machine or what for, and tires can be quite costly to replace. With this in mind, it makes sense to choose severe-duty or solid flex-style tires that can’t go flat. Available in different treads to suit various applications, upgrading to this option not only enhances the performance of the skid steer, but also guarantees no downtime due to flats.