Top Tips for Excavator Shoppers

Top Tips for Excavator Shoppers
50G excavator from John Deere

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Investing in a new excavator is not a simple decision. But it’s much less painful if you have a list of needs — and wants — established before you start the search. Doug Fellner, co-owner of Fellner Soil & Septic Service Inc. in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., has machinery big and small. 

The first thing he considers before shopping is what he intends to do with the excavator. For instance, you should know how deep you need to dig, and where you’ll be using the machine. A zero-swing tail, for example, is ideal for work between buildings or other tight spaces. 

Check the specs

Make sure the seat is large enough and the cab is comfortable. “That means a lot,” Fellner says. “If you can’t move your feet around, and you feel like you’re stuck in a bottle, it’s not fun all day.” 

Look at the cab door. If you leave it open, does it make the cab wider and restrict the space the machine will fit in? Check the decibel number for the cab. With the engine at full power and the doors and windows closed, can you talk on your phone or hear a radio? 

Check lift capacity, breakout force at the bucket, and how far you can reach. Also, can the excavator reach out, swing, and not tip when using a full bucket of the size you use on the job? 

Fellner has a 36-inch bucket perfect for digging trenches, but one of his three mini-excavators can be slightly unstable with this bucket attached and loaded. Can the machine simultaneously lift, turn, and crawl, or will you lose a little time because the machine doesn’t have that much power? 

Bells and whistles

Next, consider what else you may want your excavator to do. With so many attachments available it’s easy to double or triple the basic price of a mini-excavator, Fellner says. 

“Another key thing is the machine’s performance if you’re running attachments,” he says. 

If you want to use a hydraulic hammer, or anything else, make sure the fluid flow matches the demand of the accessory. Word of warning: Be careful not to buy a machine so powerful that it will destroy your current accessories. You can save money by buying a new machine with an attachment point to fit accessories you already own. 

Many large excavators are designed for attachment capability, but it’s worth considering whether you need them. Running accessory hydraulic lines all the way down the boom adds about $10,000 to the price, Fellner warns.

Whether you’re looking for a heavy-duty trench digger or mining-duty earthmover, here are a few options to narrow you search. 

  • The DX225LC-3 excavator from Doosan Infracore America Corporation features a 167 hp engine, paired with power modes that provide ideal performance and fast workgroup speeds for heavy-duty work. Its four work modes, including digging, breaker, shear and lifting, allow maximum efficiency and fuel economy.
  • The 9A construction-class excavator from Hyundai Construction Equipment Americas is available in operating weights ranging from 55,560 to 86,200 pounds, making it ideal for midsize excavating projects, road and utility work and demolition. In the production class category, 108,420- and 114,820-pound models are available.
  • TMX mini-excavators from Innovative Equipment feature a quick-hitch system that can be hooked behind a standard 1/2-ton pickup, van or light-duty tow vehicle. They eliminate tracks by utilizing zero-turn technology for access to tight locations and lawns. Weighing only 2,941 pounds, they feature an 8-foot digging depth and 6,600-pound digging force.
  • The 50G excavator from John Deere features a 36 hp, 26.8 kW engine and a cab design that improves visibility and operator comfort. Its door design improves entry and visibility to the left-hand side of the machine. It also widens the opening for cab entry.
  • The 48,500-pound, midsize SK210LC crawler excavator from Kobelco Construction Machinery USA has a 157 hp Tier IV Hino engine with three push-button operating modes: H for heavy, S for standard and ECO for reduced fuel consumption. It has a digging force of 28,880 pounds, dig depth of 22 feet and 1.05 cubic yard bucket.
  • The ECR58D short-swing compact excavator from Volvo Construction Equipment features automatic two-speed travel and hydraulic travel pedals. Featuring a narrow body design and centrally positioned boom, its rear swings within its track shoe, allowing operators to work extremely close to other objects without risk of collision. 

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