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Backhoe vs. Mini Excavator: Which Is Best for Your Project?

Backhoe vs. Mini Excavator: Which Is Best for Your Project?

A backhoe and mini excavator are two popular multipurpose excavating machines. Their similar shape, size and features make them nearly interchangeable. However, understanding their key differences and operating capabilities will leave you feeling confident with your choice of excavating equipment.

A backhoe’s dual end attachments — a digging arm in the back and a loader in the front — make it a construction site’s best multitasker. While a mini excavator doesn’t have a back arm, its customizable front arm allows it to compete with a backhoe as a perfectly capable machine.

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Backhoe & Mini Excavator Specs
Weight 15,000 lbs 5,000-14,000 lbs
Engine Power 70-90 hp on average 20-55 hp on average
Rotation Range 200 degrees 360 degrees
Dig Depth 13-15 ft. on average 7-15 ft. on average
Special Feature Front and back arm Small size

What is a backhoe?

A backhoe, also known as a backhoe loader due to its front arm loader attachment, is a versatile piece of equipment best suited for landscaping projects. Backhoes feature a stick, boom and bucket in the back with a hefty loader in the front.

Its size varies depending on the brand and model. This piece of equipment is just small enough to combine the efforts of multiple excavating machines into one. Digging anywhere from 13-15 feet on average, these machines are ideal for moving materials.

What can a backhoe do?

Backhoes excel at a wide range of tasks, and perform especially well in jobs related to landscaping. Backhoe operators can easily move materials like boulders and soil, depending on the operating weight and horsepower of the machine.

If you’ve chosen a backhoe with the proper specifications for the job, you can also complete the following tasks on your own:

  • Digging up a tree
  • Creating a backyard pond
  • Breaking up pavement
  • Building fences
  • Moving hay
  • Removing snow

What is a mini excavator?

Mini excavators are a compact version of an excavator, occasionally small enough to fit through a doorway. Their petite size and versatility make them one of the easiest pieces of excavating machinery to use. Whether you’re digging a hole in your backyard or removing debris from a small demolition, mini excavators can do it all with minimal tracking, noise and hassle.

If you’re interested in renting a mini excavator, it’s important to understand how it differs from its parent machine, the excavator. An excavator weighs around 68,000 pounds and can move nearly five times the weight of a mini excavator. Therefore, a mini excavator is best suited for smaller-sized projects.

What can a mini excavator do?

Don’t let the size of a mini excavator fool you — they can do more than you’d expect. These machines are perfect for small and tight construction sites where bigger machines like tractors or excavators won’t fit. Owning or renting a mini excavator can help you with a variety of projects such as:

  • Clearing vegetation
  • Planting trees
  • Setting posts
  • Clearing trails
  • Irrigating
  • Installing hot tubs


backhoe and mini excavator size

The size of an excavating machine influences the number of tracks, operating weight, potential risks, and dig depth it can handle. Before renting or purchasing a piece of heavy machinery, it’s key to understand the parameters of your project and construction site.

Backhoe Size

A backhoe can dig anywhere from 13-15 feet while weighing around 16,000 pounds on average. It’s not the biggest machine out there, but the front and back end attachments allow it to compete with other powerful machines like full-sized excavators and tractors. Backhoe brands offer a selection of sizes to fit your needs.

Mini Excavator Size

A mini excavator weighs around 5,000-14,000 pounds depending on which model you choose. If you’re looking for excavating equipment that can fit through tight spaces, the mini excavator may be right for you.


Both backhoes and mini excavators can be used for a variety of projects, like backyard projects, professional construction sites, golf courses, parks and more.

Backhoe Versatility

A backhoe’s most impressive and unique feature is its front and back arm. Most machines have a permanent front arm, but this machine has a customizable front and back arm. Backhoes offer a variety of attachments like cold planers, hammers, rippers, thumbs, rear buckets and other useful ends.

Mini Excavator Versatility

Meanwhile, the mini excavator’s small body and weight make it the perfect machine for most construction sites. It may not be able to carry the largest amount of materials, but it can fit through tight spaces all while offering an extensive list of attachments, similar to those of a backhoe.


backhoe and mini excavator rotation

Excavating equipment’s ability to rotate is one of its most popular features because it allows the operator to stay seated inside the cab while operating throughout the construction site. One of the main differentiating features of a backhoe vs. a mini excavator is their rotation ranges.

Backhoe Rotation

While the arm of a backhoe can’t fully rotate, it can rotate 200 degrees. This rotation is large enough to give the operator the ability to pick up, move and demolish materials in and to the sides of the operator’s point of view.

Mini Excavator Rotation

One of the major benefits of a mini excavator is its rotation range of 360 degrees, a complete circle. An operator can use the functions of a mini excavator’s front arm in front, to the sides and behind the operator’s cab.

If you’re in the market for an excavating machine, a backhoe or mini excavator could be the perfect small-to-medium-sized machine for you. Before you choose to rent a backhoe or mini excavator, make sure you understand your project’s site parameters to see which machine is right for you.

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