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Which Should You Choose — Backhoe Rental or Excavator Rental?

    It’s a commonly-asked question among construction managers — should we rent a backhoe or excavator for the upcoming job? Which is better? Backhoes and excavators are very similar (their main function is digging), which can make it difficult to discern which one will work best for you and your crew. As you dive into the details and nuances, though, you’ll see there is certainly a time and place for both.

    The most obvious difference between backhoes and excavators is that backhoes use wheels to move, while excavators have the option of either wheels or tracks. Backhoes are not as powerful as excavators, even mini excavators, and are larger and harder to maneuver — yet they move quicker than excavators, which is a definite advantage. They can travel up to 22 miles per hour, while excavators move at a pace of 4 – 6 miles per hour.

    Here are the factors you should consider before deciding between a backhoe and an excavator.

    Type of tasks

    What do you need to be done on the jobsite? If you’re doing any deep digging, hauling material back and forth across the site, or the project is particularly heavy-duty, go with an excavator. They weigh at least 50% more and have more horsepower to dig with. Excavators start at 96 horsepower on the low end, while backhoes start at 87 horsepower.

    If you’ll be completing a task repeatedly, the excavator might be the right choice, as well. It can rotate 360 degrees while stationary, meaning you don’t have to constantly reposition the unit when digging and dropping material.

    If you’re deciding on a backhoe or excavator for land clearing, a backhoe might be better due to its versatility. Backhoes can take on a variety of attachments, such as rakes, drills, hammers and more. With that extra help, they can be used for digging, light demolition, transporting material, breaking up material, pushing dirt, plowing snow and more.


    Whether you’re working on soft or rugged terrain can greatly influence the type of machinery you bring onto the jobsite. Soft terrain is susceptible to damage, so limiting that should be top-of-mind. For contractors, that means choosing lightweight equipment, or tracked equipment that distributes its weight across a larger surface area. You can choose the smaller unit of the two, which is the backhoe, or choose a tracked mini excavator, which is even smaller yet.

    If the terrain happens to be indoors, among noise regulations or in hard-to-navigate areas, machinery size is another consideration. Mini excavators are perfect for this type of work. If that’s not an option, go with a backhoe.

    Worksite size

    If your work is confined to one area, using an excavator won’t hold you back. If you’re working across multiple sites, though, the excavator’s slow pace will likely be a sticking point. To move it, you’ll need to have the right-sized trailer available, load it onto the trailer, drive the trailer to the next location, then unload the excavator. On top of the inconvenience, some sites have weight restrictions that the truck, trailer and excavator together might not comply with.

    With a backhoe on the other hand, the operator can simply drive it to the next location since it can go up to 22 miles per hour. The ease and simplicity of the backhoe is a no-brainer when you need a machine to move from one place to another.

    Contact your local rental store to secure your backhoe rental or excavator rental today. If you’re undecided on which machine you need, they can help determine the best option for your jobsite. If you’re new to rental, use the store locator above to find a rental company that suits your needs.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Why do people call excavators backhoes?

    The two machines perform very similar duties, making them easy to mix up. The difference lies mostly in the size, as backhoes are smaller and lighter.

    Can a backhoe be used as an excavator?

    Yes, backhoes are perfect to use on small to moderately sized excavating projects. They won’t provide as much digging depth as an excavator, though. Typically, backhoes can dig 12 – 16 feet deep. Excavators can dip up to 26 feet deep, depending on their size and horsepower.

    Are mini excavators stronger than backhoes?

    Oftentimes, yes. Regarding lifting, the mini excavator can handle more weight thanks to its stronger hydraulics system. The argument of a backhoe or mini excavator is much different than that of a full-sized excavator. That’s because mini excavators are more similar in size to backhoes and more often compared side-by-side. The only argument against the mini excavator is that it moves slower. Otherwise, it’s more maneuverable, lightweight, powerful, and cost effective than a backhoe.