Compact Excavators: Small, yet still hefty enough to get the job done!

Not every excavator is right for every digging and lifting job. No matter what your construction projects are like, productivity and profitability depend on choosing the right machine. Compact excavators in the 3- to 4-ton range have proven to be an ideal choice for a wide range of jobs, thanks to their versatility.

Besides their ability to perform most necessary tasks, they’re easy to transport, highly maneuverable and economical when it comes to fuel.

Right in the middle — the best of both worlds.

The biggest excavators have a too-large footprint or they’re too cumbersome for many job sites. The smallest excavators have limited power to dig and lift. But that sweet spot in the middle pulls it all together.

From their larger cousins, mid-size compact excavators have inherited quick-attach hydraulics, rubber-over-steel tracks that are easy on finished surfaces and enclosed cabs that provide year round comfort for operators. These things improve productivity and save money through extended track life. Mini excavators also now come with technology formerly found only on large models, such as variable work modes and auto-idle. They cost less to maintain than larger excavators and can be a more comfortable fit for operators with less time on the job.

Like their smaller cousins, they bring zero tail swing, backfill blades and a center pivot boom to the job site. Zero tail swing in particular is a real boom to contractors working in tight spaces. Mini excavators have more horsepower, reach, dig depth and bucket breakout force, and they can run a wide variety of attachments including larger size buckets, shortening cycle times to get more work done faster.

They are so powerful and versatile, they’re replacing other types of machinery and even hand tools. For instance instead of an expensive backhoe loader, you might purchase both a mini excavator and a skid steer for about the same amount of money, literally getting two machines for the price of one and expanding your capabilities.

You can use a compact excavator with a hydraulic hammer instead of a jackhammer, dig in spaces that would otherwise require hand digging, drill holes for posts or trees with an auger and use thumbs to place landscape elements – all of which save time and allow you to make more cost-effective use of personnel.

Spec it your way.

Mid-size compact excavators typically come equipped with most-popular standard features, so they don’t have to be customized in order to fit right into your fleet. However, you can also configure them to match your specific performance requirements, further boosting efficiency and cost-effectiveness. To do that, you have to determine what matters most for your operation:

  • For digging, that might be reach, dig depth, breakout force or dump height, all of which relate to arm and stick options. What you choose will also determine which attachments you’ll be able to use. Attachments are available for everything from cutting or breaking to drilling, clamping or moving material and so on. On 3- or 4-ton compact excavators, you can use a hydraulic quick-coupler, but a manual unit might work just as well because many attachments can be positioned by hand.
  • Choose your track system. Steel tracks are toughest and provide most reliable traction on rough terrain. Rubber tracks are kinder to paved or other finished surfaces, and today’s components last longer than rubber tracks of old.
  • Excavators with only a canopy are lighter and less expensive, but enclosed cabs greatly enhance operator experience and productivity.

What does the future hold?

Industry experts predict compact excavators will continue to take center stage, especially where they can be used with skid steers to handle work traditionally handled by backhoes, thanks to greater digging and lifting power. In a business environment where versatile, efficient performance is crucial, wide-ranging capabilities are making these machines increasingly valuable. Will there be a mini excavator in your future fleet?