July 6, 2022

Getting Your First Excavator

Great News! Your micro-business has grown big enough to need its own mini excavator rather than using a rental excavator every time you have a job. Yet what should have been a fun celebration turned complicated when you started looking at the options. So many features from small compact excavators to expensive hydraulic excavators and even larger excavators that drew you in with their abilities. Quickly, you realized that you didn’t have any idea of where to start. As it turns out, buying your first construction vehicle can be complicated. That’s why we have gone through the hard details to find the best options for your business.

What Do You Need

Anytime you buy something new you to to make sure it has the features you need at the price you want. When getting an excavator for a business, the same idea applies. Before you take the time to look at the top excavators in construction, you first need to know what features are most important to you and your business. If the excavator everyone else loves doesn’t have a zero tail swing but you need one, it will be time wasted. To figure these things out, look at what you field of construction you are in and where your sites are. Think back to your sites to make your list. Think about any tight spaces, hot or cold weather, utility work, and region-specific laws and mark those down.

Tight spaces will require a compact excavator with a zero tail swing to keep your other work safe. On the other hand, you might even be able to get away with a skid steer instead. If you have extreme weather, either very hot or very cold, an enclosed cab might be perfect for your operator. Next, if you have utility work to do as well as shallow holes that will need to be dug on a regular basis you might be better going with a ditch witch attachment for a skid steer. Lastly, remembering those regional laws, like the laws in California or Illinois, you need to make sure that the one you choose will pass emissions or another law that is important. Moving on from your needs, what about your wants.

What Do You Want

When you buy a new car, you might need something that has four doors but you might want something that runs on regular gas. Again, buying construction equipment works the same way and in many times the two can blend. Think about the things that you want by thinking back to rentals you have gotten. You might be thinking if you prefer a diesel engine over the other options available. You could have a desire for a construction brand like Kubota or Caterpillar. On the other hand, you could want a brand not associated with construction like Volvo or Hyundai.

Before you move on from thinking about your ideal excavator, think about dump height, travel speed, and operating weight. Especially important, these can very likely split your needs and wants. For example, if you don’t create piles of dirt, dump height might not be a need but it could be a want for your future job sites. Another example, you might need the operating weight to be under a certain weight but want it to be even lower just in case. With the thinking and planning done, where can you start?

Best Excavators From Our Findings

Kubota KX91

Kobota is often called a leader in small tractors and it’s also known that their diesel engines are among the most reliable around. The K-Series of compact excavators follows this trend, especially the KX91! No to mention, with many products made in North America, you will know exactly what you are getting and how great it will be.

The K-Series overall is noted for it’s myriad of features and upgrades from in cabin space to multi-speed driving. Pair this with the ability to custom build exactly what you need, you know can get the most for your money.


The Kubota KX91 is a great place to start your Kubota search. It features auto idling, swivel locking, and an adjustable auxiliary flow. Best of all it starts at just $55,000!

If your budget is smaller, a used excavator might be your best bet. In that case, take a look at the Kubota KX121. This excavator was in production from 1995 to 2005 and many can still be found for resale with little to no problems at all!

Bobcat E35

If you want a little more than the Kubotas can offer, this Bobcat model comes in as an upgrade with a weight of 3.5 to 4 tons depending on model and arm style. With an enclosed heated and cooled cab as well as a 24 to 35 horsepower, this zero tail swing (ZTS) model would be great for small job sites with very hot or cold weather. Not the only option from this brand, we have two more options that feature a higher horsepower on a still compact frame.

Bobcat E42, and Bobcat E50

Still climbing on horsepower, these options have twice the horsepower of the previously mentioned options with a minimal size increase. Each model features a diesel engine, great rubber tracks, and a varable dig depth depending on arm chosen.

The first model, the E42, has an operating weight of just under 5 tons. It offers arm lengths of standard, long or extendable arm which can help you with the extra dig depth you need. It solves your weather problems with an enclosed cab that comes with heating, cooling, and even a radio.

On the other hand, the E50 model is larger, weighing of just over 5 tons. Though it does feature the same interior as the smaller one, it’s good to note that this one has more horsepower and the tail swing is smaller than the other one.

John Deere Compact Models

John Deere may be the best option for tight spaces with the many ZTS models they provide.  Their six compacts range in horsepower from 14.5 to 53 with weights of 3.7k to 13.5k pounds. Also good to note is that from the smallest to the largest model, they have a maximum digging reach of 12 to 25 feet, the most diverse in the list.

Each of these models has the ability to be enclosed and can also come with a heater and an air conditioner. However, it’s also good to note that only the three larger options have the ability to come with Hydraulic angle backfill blades.

In Summary

When looking for an excavator, make sure you check around just as you would for a TV or house. The same as you would when buying a car, don’t forget to test run your preferred excavator to make sure you like it and that it runs the way you want. Also, remember to look into warranties and check dealerships to see which has the best offer.

If you are going used when you make the purchase, look for the history and get as much information on the excavator’s past as you can. As you would when buying a used car, it can be a good idea to get a separate mechanic to check it out before purchase so that you don’t have any surprises later on.

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