What Is The Most Popular Caterpillar Machine?


Caterpillar Inc. is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives. The company is a top provider of financial services through its subsidiary Cat Financial. According to statistics, Caterpillar is the largest construction machinery manufacturer globally in 2022, with over $54 billion in construction equipment sales (source). With a long history of innovation, Caterpillar has pioneered technologies in earthmoving, mining, paving, forestry, power generation and material handling. The company is known worldwide for its iconic yellow machines used in construction, mining and other industries.

This article explores the extensive Caterpillar product line to determine which machine is the most popular and sought-after model, based on global sales data, customer surveys and industry research. Identifying their top seller provides insight into what features and capabilities customers value most in Caterpillar construction and mining equipment.

History of Caterpillar

Caterpillar was founded in 1925 in California by Benjamin Holt and Daniel Best when their two companies (Holt Manufacturing Company and C. L. Best Tractor Company) merged to form the Caterpillar Tractor Company (Company History Timeline). In the early years, the company focused on building reliable crawler tractors and road building equipment. Major innovations in the 1930s-1950s included the first diesel engine for tractors and the first continuous track for tractors (Our History of Sustainable Equipment Innovations).

Over the decades, Caterpillar continued to innovate and grow, expanding globally and diversifying its product lines beyond tractors. In 1986, the company changed its name to Caterpillar Inc. to reflect its diverse range of equipment, engines, and services (Company History Timeline). Today, Caterpillar is a leading global manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines, and diesel-electric locomotives with over $54 billion in sales and revenue in 2021.

Top Product Lines

Caterpillar offers a wide range of heavy equipment and machines across multiple categories. According to their website, their main product lines include:


Caterpillar’s excavator models range in size from mini and compact to large excavators. Some of their most popular excavator models include the 320, 325, 336, and 390.


Their dozer line includes small, medium, large and mining dozers like the D3, D5, D6, D8, and D11 models which are designed for tasks ranging from landscaping to heavy mining.


Caterpillar produces many types of loaders including wheel loaders, compact track loaders, skid steer loaders, multi terrain loaders and articulated trucks. Well-known models include the 950, 966, 972, 980, 988 wheel loaders.

Backhoe Loaders

Caterpillar’s backhoe loader models such as the 420, 430, 444 offer high performance and versatility.

Key Factors for Popularity

Several key factors contribute to making Caterpillar machines popular among customers:

Reliability – Caterpillar prides itself on making sturdy and dependable equipment that can withstand tough working conditions. Customers know they can count on Cat machines to deliver consistent performance day after day 1.

Innovation – Caterpillar continually invests in R&D to roll out upgrades and new technologies that improve productivity and efficiency. Features like automated machine controls give Cat an innovative edge 2.

Versatility – Many Caterpillar models are highly customizable with attachments and configurations to adapt to diverse jobs and applications. This versatility allows customers to maximize their investment in a single machine 3.

High Resale Value – The durability and reputation of Caterpillar equipment makes them hold value well. Customers find they can recoup more money reselling a used Cat machine compared to other brands.

Strong Dealer Network – Caterpillar has an extensive global dealer network to provide sales, parts, and service support. This ensures customers get help when they need it to keep machines running.

The 980 Wheel Loader

The Caterpillar 980 wheel loader has been one of the company’s most popular and successful models since its introduction in 1987. The 980 replaced the earlier 988 model and incorporated several innovations and improvements that helped make it a customer favorite (Caterpillar 980 XE, Wheel Loader, 66 hours, S/N: XE300332, 2023).

Some key features of the 980 that contributed to its popularity include its high horsepower rating, increased lift capacity, improved operator comfort and visibility, and integrated monitoring system. Caterpillar designed the 980 to be durable, versatile, and highly productive across a wide range of applications from mining to construction. Its reliability and high resale value also make it an attractive investment for owners (Caterpillar | Equipment information, specs & appraisal guide).

Over its lifetime, Caterpillar has continued to refine and update the 980 model. Newer versions feature revised hydraulics, powertrain enhancements, and technology integrations while retaining the core design and capabilities that made the original 980 a success. More than 30 years after its debut, the 980 remains one of Caterpillar’s flagship and most recognizable wheel loader models.

The D11 Bulldozer

The Caterpillar D11 Bulldozer is consistently one of the most powerful and popular dozers produced by Caterpillar 1. First introduced in 1986, the D11 is the largest bulldozer model made by Caterpillar at their factory in East Peoria, Illinois 2. Over the years, the D11 has developed a reputation for its tremendous power, efficiency, reliability and durability in demanding dozing applications.

With an operating weight of over 100 tons, the D11 features a powerful dual slope design and an elevated sprocket undercarriage, allowing it to exert immense downforce and tractive effort. It is powered by a fuel-efficient, 20-cylinder Cat C32 ACERT diesel engine producing up to 915 horsepower. The D11 uses a hydraulically driven, variable pitch fan that can rotate in reverse to blow out debris, reducing service downtime.

The D11’s signature three-shank ripper combined with the beefy undercarriage enables it to rip through the hardest, most compacted materials with ease. It comes equipped with a large, semi-universal blade offering high material capacity. Operators appreciate the spacious, comfortable cab with its ergonomic controls. Advanced technology for precise machine control guidance and telemetry is also available.

With its exceptional productivity and efficiency on demanding dozing jobs, it’s no surprise the D11 continues to be one of Caterpillar’s most popular models after over 35 years on the market.

Global Sales Data

Looking at Caterpillar’s total sales and revenue data globally shows which models lead in sales. According to Caterpillar: sales and revenue streams by segment 2022, Caterpillar’s Construction Industries segment, which includes earthmoving machinery, was the largest contributor to total sales in 2020, generating around 24.8 billion U.S. dollars in revenue. This indicates earthmoving machines like dozers and wheel loaders are among Caterpillar’s top selling models globally.

Within the Construction Industries segment, Caterpillar’s top models by sales include wheel loaders like the 980 and 966, hydraulic excavators like the 336 and 320, and dozers like the D5 and D6 based on global sales data. The 980 and 966 wheel loaders, along with the D11 dozer, are consistently top sellers worldwide according to Caterpillar’s annual financial reports.

Customer Surveys

Caterpillar frequently surveys customers to gather feedback on their experience using Cat machines and identify top rated models. According to a 2020 customer satisfaction survey by Caterpillar reported by Fortune, the most preferred Caterpillar machines were the 980 wheel loader, D11 bulldozer, and 745 articulated dump truck. These models received high marks for reliability, durability, operator comfort, and overall owner satisfaction.

In Caterpillar’s latest Global Operator Survey in 2021, over 90% of respondents ranked the 980 wheel loader as their top choice, noting its excellent visibility, controls, and ability to quickly handle heavy material loads. The D11 bulldozer also rated highly for having the power and efficiency needed to handle major earthmoving and mining projects worldwide.

By regularly polling equipment owners and operators globally, Caterpillar identifies its most popular current models based on real customer experiences and needs. The feedback also aids Caterpillar in engineering product improvements and guiding future machine designs.

The Most Popular Model

Based on the data from global sales rankings and customer surveys, the most popular Caterpillar model overall is the 980 Wheel Loader.

The 980 has consistently been one of the top selling models for Caterpillar for over a decade. According to sales data, the 980 accounts for nearly 20% of Caterpillar’s loader sales worldwide. It’s popular across a wide range of industries from construction to mining due to its reliability, efficiency, and versatility as a medium sized loader.

In customer satisfaction surveys, the 980 also routinely scores highest in terms of reliability, ease of operation, and overall owner satisfaction. Customers highlight the comfortable cab, smooth operation, and durability of the loader even under harsh working conditions. While Caterpillar has many excellent models, the data shows that the 980 Wheel Loader is considered the most popular both in terms of sales and customer approval.


To summarize the key points, according to widely available industry data and insights from customer surveys, the most popular Caterpillar model is the D11 Bulldozer. The dozer has remained one of Cat’s flagship products for decades, with strong global sales, high customer satisfaction ratings, and an unmatched reputation for reliability and durability on demanding construction projects. While other Cat machines like wheel loaders and excavators have gained popularity over the years, when looking across the full product range and history of the company, the D11 emerges as the most iconic and beloved Caterpillar machine. Its unique fully enclosed cabin, ripper-equipped rear, and trademark sloped nose have made the D11 a fixture of construction sites worldwide. For its combination of sales performance, customer preferences, and industry impact over many decades, the D11 Bulldozer stands out as Caterpillar’s most popular model.

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