Compact Excavators Noted For Practicality, Flexibility

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | February 2011, Vol. 66 No. 2

The availability of cabs with heat, A/C, radios, heated seats and suspension seats all allow for increased operator comfort, which means they spend more time in the seat working and making money.

We estimate that as many as one-third of all compact excavators are rental units. Rentals are a very important source of business for equipment dealers.

John Deere/Hitachi, Mark Wall, product marketing manager: While compact excavators have been popular in Europe and Japan for many years, North American contractors have only begun to realize the usefulness of the machine in the past 10 years. As a result, compact excavators have enjoyed above average growth in the construction market over the last decade. In the early 2000s, a significant portion of the compact excavator market was in the rental channel, as contractors experimented with the tool in various applications. As contractors discovered the usefulness and increased the utilization, ownership has increased.

Compact excavators are a great tool for the underground utility market. Residential installers have learned that compact excavators are great at trenching in utilities. In addition to compact size and easy transportability, numerous features on compact excavators lend themselves to utility applications, including boom swing for numerous digging angles, especially next to foundations; rubber undercarriage to prevent damage to lawns, asphalt and concrete; zero-tail-swing configuration for digging next to buildings and other surface improvements without damaging the wall or the machine; availability of multiple bucket widths for each situation; an auxiliary hydraulic feature that will enable multiple attachments like, breakers, augers and compactors; and great reliability and productivity.

Three to four metric ton models have become the most popular sizes in North America.


As contractors discovered the versatility of compact excavators and their popularity increased, they requested updates, especially in the area of ease of use. During the last model update, Deere and Hitachi introduced many features into the compact excavator that traditionally had only been found on larger machines. Examples include auto idle to reduce engine RPMs when machine is not in use; auto shifting from low speed to high speed; optional cab with standard heater and A/C, and suspension seats. Models with 131/2 feet digging depths that help increase productivity.

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