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Choosing right excavator sizes plays a huge role in the success of your project. Get it right, and your project will go more smoothly; get it wrong and it may cost you dearly.

Because excavators as so versatile, they can be used for all kinds of projects like road works, land clearing, digging pools and ponds, house demolition, stump removal and more. It’s the reason they are one of the most common and popular construction machines around—but it also makes it difficult to know which excavator suits your project scope and needs.

How to Choose Excavator Sizes:

  1. Know what work needs to be done
  2. Understand the size, scope and access of the job site
  3. Know how much earth needs to be excavated
  4. Check any other special requirements
  5. Know your excavator sizes & their uses
  6. Decide on hiring vs buying an excavator
  7. Compare brand excavator sizes

Find excavators for sale / hire in Australia here.


1. Know What Work Needs to be Done

What do you need an excavator for? Stump removal? House demolition? Clearing trees? All these jobs can be completed with an excavator, but require different engine power, reach, breakout force and attachments.

Establishing what is needed to complete the job is the first step to choosing the right size excavator and which attachments you may need. At this point you may require an excavator with a quick-attach feature for maximum productivity onsite.

2. Understand The Size, Scope and Access of the Job Site

Similarly to knowing the job, you also need to take into account the scope of the work. Will you clearing a small residential lot or a large commercial lot spanning over acres? Is the site easily accessible, or will you need to organise tight-access mini excavators? Perhaps a knuckle boom excavator will be required for those hard-to-reach places.

3. Know How Much Earth Needs to be Excavated

Knowing the capacity required for your excavator will greatly narrow down your search. In general, the larger the excavator, the greater its bucket capacity.

Having a good understanding of how much needs to be dug and moved will give you a clearer idea on whether it’s worth paying more for a larger excavator for faster completion, or opt for a smaller excavator but extending the job.

4. Check For Any Other Special Requirements

knuckle-boom-excavator

Check for special requirements in case you need a specialised excavator, like this knuckle boom excavator.

While scoping the job, check the terrain for any possible requirements for specialist excavators. Look for things like swamps, steep hills, tight spaces, etc. Specialist excavators can include:

  • Long-reach excavators
  • Knuckle-boom excavators
  • Zero-swing excavators
  • Spider excavators
  • Swamp excavators

5. Know Your Excavator Sizes & Their Uses

When it comes to excavator sizes and their applications, it’s important to get it right. Here’s a quick guide to excavator sizes and their uses.

Mini Excavators

excavator sizes - mini excavator

Mini excavators, also known as compact excavators, are tiny machines built for tight-access spaces and light digging work. Weighing between 0 – 7 tonnes, these excavators are lightweight and therefore do the least damage to fragile infrastructure such as footpaths. They’re also very easy to transport, thanks to their compact size.

Mini excavators are ideal for:

  • Tight-access area work
  • Digging foundations & ponds
  • Drilling & backfilling
  • Levelling ground & removing tree stumps

Small & Medium Size Excavators

medium size excavator

If your job requires a little more capacity, a standard excavator (from 7-50 tonnes) may be a good option. These excavators can cover a wide variety of tasks and jobs. The smaller excavators are ideal for more light, nimble work, while the larger excavators are built for powerful digging jobs.

Standard excavators are ideal for:

  • Building & construction
  • Digging pools
  • Trenching
  • Material handling
  • Dredging
  • Forestry work
  • Demolition

Large Excavators

excavator sizes - large excavator

Large excavators (from 50 – 100 tonne) are the workhorses of the pack. Their built to be strong, solid and with huge horsepower and breakout force. When your project calls for large levels of earthworks, these may be the excavators you need. They are not very maneuverable (for obvious reasons). You will require specialist transport and equipment to get it from site to site.

Large excavators are ideal for:

  • Big construction projects
  • Large-scale commercial earthworks
  • Home demolitions
  • Levelling

Mining Excavators

excavator sizes - mining excavator

And lastly, mining excavators (over 100 tonnes) head up the excavator family. These things are absolute beasts and are used primarily for mining applications, such as surface excavation. Mining excavators are so massive, they require a large amount of level ground to operate on.

6. Decide on hiring vs buying an excavator

If you’re tossing up between hiring or buying an excavator for your project, we’ve put together a quick list of pros and cons that may help you decide. Either way, we have plenty of excavators for sale and excavators for hire on our site.

Benefits Of Hiring An Excavator

  • More flexibility for the job
  • A larger range to choose from
  • No need to store the excavator once the job’s done
  • No ongoing maintenance or insurance
  • Lower initial investment

Benefits Of Buying An Excavator

  • Less risk of breakdowns or maintenance issues
  • Better for long-term projects
  • It’s available to you 24/7
  • You have the option to hire out your equipment yourself
  • Cheaper in the long run
  • Less downtime
  • Can get a return on your investment when you sell it

7. Compare Brand & Excavator Sizes

Brands use different methods to categorise their excavators, which can be confusing when you’re trying to research the right one. Check out these top 10 excavator brands, or take a look at our quick-reference table to see which brands offer which types of excavators, how many models, and their horsepower range*.  We have grouped them by brand and excavator size/weight.

 

Mini
(0-7T)
Small
(7-20T)
Medium
(20-50T)
Large
(50-100T)
Mining
(100+T)
Caterpillar 20 Models
13 – 44 HP
7 Models
65 – 117 HP
13 Models
212 – 352 HP
3 Models
311 – 524 HP
Komatsu 5 Models
15 – 38 HP
9 Models
66 – 121 HP
18 Models

138 – 359 HP

3 Models
429 – 487 HP
7 Models
672 – 4,020 HP
CASE 6 Models
16 – 64 HP
5 Models
50 – 123 HP
8 Models
159 – 362 HP
Kubota 12 Models

10 – 47 HP

Volvo 5 Models
16 – 50 HP
8 Models
58 – 172
8 Models
165 – 355 HP
2 Models
516 – 603 HP
JCB 7 Models
12 – 47 HP
5 Models
47 – 108 HP
7 Models
179 – 281 HP
Yanmar 9 Models

12 – 44 HP

3 Models

56 – 72 HP

Kobelco 20 Models

10 –  38 HP

13 Models

56 – 104 HP

23 Models

158 – 363 HP

Wacker Neuson 10 Models

12 – 48 HP

4 Models
48 – 73 HP   

Did this article help you choose the right excavator? Let us know your thoughts below!

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*Data is correct at time of publishing, sourced directly from OEM websites for new excavator equipment ranges.

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