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How To Choose the Right Excavator for Your Job Site

Tue February 06, 2024 - National Edition #4
Bobcat


Excavator sizes vary by brand, with size categories ranging from compact (or mini) all the way to large excavators. Each size category offers unique advantages and is suited for different types of projects. Furthermore, the availability of a wide array of attachments enhances the excavator's versatility for tasks in construction, landscaping, utilities and more.
Photo courtesy of Bobcat
Excavator sizes vary by brand, with size categories ranging from compact (or mini) all the way to large excavators. Each size category offers unique advantages and is suited for different types of projects. Furthermore, the availability of a wide array of attachments enhances the excavator's versatility for tasks in construction, landscaping, utilities and more.

Excavators are essential pieces of machinery on many job sites, offering versatility and power for a wide range of projects.

The machine's ability to perform both the smallest and largest of tasks translates to project and cost efficiency. However, with various sizes and features available, selecting the right excavator for your specific needs can be challenging.

So, how do you make sure you're choosing the right one for your next job?

Excavator sizes vary by brand, with size categories ranging from compact (or mini) all the way to large excavators. Each size category offers unique advantages and is suited for different types of projects. Furthermore, the availability of a wide array of attachments enhances the excavator's versatility for tasks in construction, landscaping, utilities and more.

However, the option-rich environment can make it hard to choose the right one. Where do you begin and what are some key factors for every operator to consider?

Power, Performance

When choosing an excavator, operators should consider factors such as the depth of their digs, their lifting requirements, and the hydraulic power and horsepower needed for the job.

While smaller by design, compact excavators are designed for performance. Bobcat's compact excavator lineup can dig through difficult ground conditions with powerful hydraulics and fast cycle times — this is when horsepower, rated lift capacity, digging force and dig depth really come into play.

If greater digging and lifting capacity are necessary, selecting a larger excavator may be a better option. Larger excavators' powerful hydraulics, increased torque and greater lift capacities boost productivity and reduce cycle times. This makes large excavators an ideal option for large-scale demolition, truck loading, commercial construction projects, pipeline installation and more.

Also consider the breakout forces and reach needed for the job. Bobcat offers three arm options on select models including standard arm, long arm or extendable arm. Standard arm gives you maximum breakout force and lifting ability. Long arm is best if you need more reach and dig depth to minimize repositioning of the machine.

Extendable arm gives operators the best of both worlds — power and lifting performance when it's retracted combined with the ability to extend the machine's dig depth and reach when it's needed.

Job Site Location, Space

What are the terrain and space constraints of your job? These factors will help you de-termine what size excavator is suited for your project. It's also important to consider po-tential obstacles and hazards that you'll need to avoid: Will there be trees? Fiber optic or utility lines? Residential or commercial buildings?

These questions will help you select the excavator that has the mobility and features needed for the job.

Smaller models within the compact category, such as Bobcat's E10 and E20, provide precision and power without sacrificing maneuverability in confined spaces. For example, the E10 offers a retracted 28-in. track width, allowing it to easily navigate through narrower openings and operate in tighter conditions. Pair that with lift capacity of 965 lbs., and this machine becomes a powerful tool on ultra-compact job sites.

Beyond size, tail swing is another factor operators should consider as they evaluate their job site and potential space limitations. Tail swing is the rear overhang of the house (the house contains the operator's cab, engine, hydraulic pump and distribution components) as it rotates on the undercarriage.

There are three main categories:

  • Conventional tail swing is ideal for gaining additional lift capacity but can limit working in tight spaces. Typically, the rear of the cab protrudes 10 to 24 in. beyond the width of the compact excavator tracks.
  • Minimal tail swing makes it easier to work in tight spaces. The rear of the house protrudes just slightly — up to 6 in. — over the tracks.
  • Zero tail swing means the rear of the house doesn't project beyond the tracks. Depending on the make and model of your machine, the zero tail swing design allows the operator greater flexibility to slew and deposit material without concern of inadvertently contacting surrounding objects.
Transportation, Storage

The weight and size of your machine impacts how you will transport the excavator to and from job sites. Compact excavators are easier to transport and store given their smaller size. If you need to move the equipment to and from multiple locations or have limited storage space on the job site, the compact excavator will allow you to do so with more ease.

When it comes to transportation, compact excavators can be transported on smaller trailers, while larger equipment will need a trailer with a higher weight rating. If you're used to towing your compact excavator with a pick-up truck, you'll need to evaluate your hauling solution for larger excavator sizes. A transport vehicle's load rating can be found on its identification plate or in the equipment owner's manual if you are unsure how much you can safety tow and haul.

Always check federal, state and local laws and regulations regarding weight, width, length and height of a load before transporting your machine. Special approvals or per-mits may be required for oversize loads along your planned route.

Budget

Finally, one of the most important considerations is the cost of a machine. Generally, the larger the excavator, the higher the cost. Depending on how long you need an excavator, renting might make the most sense. Consider your usage duration, storage space, fleet expansion plans and maintenance capabilities to make an informed decision based on long-term considerations.

Compact excavators offer the power and versatility to accomplish a wide range of jobs.

At Bobcat, many of our excavator models can be configured with industry-exclusive features — including the unique ProClamp system, Hydraulic X-Change mounting system, extendable arm and depth check system — allowing you to push your performance and productivity to new levels.

Selecting the best excavator for your needs and whether you're better off owning or renting requires due diligence. Once you've worked through key considerations and have made an informed decision, operators can enhance job site productivity and achieve new levels of efficiency.




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