So you need to dig something, like a foundation or a ditch. It’s a big job, and you obviously need special equipment, but you only need to do it once. Is it worth it to buy a backhoe? Or is there a better option?

Backhoes used to be fairly common, but more often today, people are renting mini-excavators aka “compact excavators.” Both machines are beneficial to complete plenty of tasks, but understanding your jobsite is key when deciding between the two and more and more contractors are opting for the mini excavator rental over owning a 3 point backhoe attachment. Here are the pros and cons.

Backhoe Pros and Cons 

Digging is not the only task that a backhoe is good for, in fact, they have a wide variety of uses.  Construction, small demolition jobs, transporting building material, paving roads, breaking asphalt, landscaping, pushing dirt, plowing snow, and uprooting trees are all jobs that a backhoe can complete. The question you need to ask yourself is “will you need it again?”, when deciding if purchasing one is in your best interest.

Another thing to question is how big your jobs are. There are some cons when comparing a backhoe to a mini excavator, the main one being that the mini excavator is more powerful. A backhoe cannot lift as much weight, has a weaker hydraulics system, and can not dig as deep. They are also larger and more bulky, making them harder to maneuver around farms and jobsites.

A 3 point hitch backhoe equipped tractor also has a front bucket, and can move at a much faster pace around the farm (up to 25 mph).

Mini-Excavator Pros and Cons

Mini excavators move pretty slow. The 3 mph speed is really the only con when you compare the two, and although they may move at a slower pace than a backhoe, and at that glacial speed, transport has to be considered. Driving a mini-excavator to a location on your property is a slow process, unless you have a vehicle and trailer to get it across the fields. You can just drive a tractor where it needs to go.

There are many advantages to renting a mini-excavator:

  • Maneuverability. Mini excavators have a turning range of 360 degrees, while backhoes have a turning range of 200 degrees. The extra maneuverability arguably makes up for the lack of speed.
  • Size. The compact size of a mini excavator makes it easy to move through small or crowded spaces on a job site.
  • Weight. This is a lightweight machine that reduces ground damage and track marks to the terrain you are working on.
  • Storage. Renting a mini excavator eliminates the need for space to store it.
  • Power. When it comes to lifting and demolition, the mini excavator can handle much more than the backhoe.
  • Price. A mini excavator rental is much cheaper than buying a backhoe attachment, especially if you only need it for a one-time use. You’ll typically find a 3 point backhoe for sale at prices up to $8,000, so unless you are using it often, it really makes no sense.

Bottom Line

Whether you buy a backhoe for your tractor or go for a mini excavator rental depends on the future – and on the past. If you have a lot of digging in your future, it’s more cost-efficient and convenient to own the equipment, especially if you already have a tractor big enough to handle the work you need to accomplish.

If this is a one-time thing, or your next job is far in the future, renting a mini-excavator is cheaper and more efficient – and it eliminates the need to upgrade your tractor if you lack the horsepower.

Kubota tractor and excavator image source: