Mini excavators are gaining popularity in the construction industry for their compact size and versatility. These machines can be used for a variety of earthmoving projects, from landscaping and gardening to trenching and grading. If you’re in the market for a new mini excavator, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.
The key to choosing the best mini excavator is understanding which size and features match your project. But with numerous models available weighing anywhere from under 1,000 pounds to over 8,000, it can be hard to know which one is best.
To help you decide, we’ll cover the top-rated mini excavators on the market and go over their key advantages.
Best Overall: Yanmar ViO35-6A
Thanks to its zero tail swing capabilities and fuel-efficient Tier 4 engine, Yanmar’s ViO35-6A compact excavator is one of the most popular models on the market. The ViO35-6A offers 20% less fuel consumption than older models, and it has ECO and auto-deceleration modes. This, along with its quick coupler system and easy-access engine compartment, makes it a good choice for those looking for increased efficiency.
This model has a max digging depth of 11.25 feet and 24.4 horsepower. With an operating weight of 8,214 pounds, it’s small enough to navigate through compact worksites while still being able to take on a variety of landscaping, utility and construction tasks.
Key Advantage: Tier 4 engine with increased fuel efficiency
Best Budget Option: Bobcat E26
While the Bobcat E26 isn’t the cheapest mini excavator available, it can help you get the most out of your money. This mid-range machine costs significantly less than larger models (around $40,000) while still offering many of the same features and attachment options. It accommodates everything from augers and breakers to grapples and grading blades, making it a versatile option that can save you from paying for extra equipment you don’t need.
Because Bobcat optimized the controls, weight and body of this model for the rental market, it’s also a dependable option for those looking to save money through renting. Opting for a used model can also help bring down costs even further.
Key Advantage: Includes Cylinder-Inside-Boom workgroup to add protection against bucket collision
Best Mini Household Excavator: Kubota K0008-3
The Kubota K0008-3 is a popular choice for people who want a dependable household excavator that’s easy to transport and store. It has a maximum width of less than 3 feet, and the track frame and blade are adjustable to allow it to fit through doorways easily. Its compact size and 2,200-pound operating weight make it a useful tool for landscaping and indoor tasks that require a smaller machine.
Key Advantage: Adjustable blade and track width allow it to fit through doorways
Best Electric Mini Excavator: Volvo ECR25
Electric construction equipment is quickly gaining traction as an eco-friendly alternative to diesel-fueled machines. To help keep up with growing demand, many equipment manufacturers are developing electric mini excavators to add to their fleets of EVs. The Volvo ECR25 is the first in a new line of mini excavators powered by a 24 horsepower electric motor and a 48 volt battery.
This machine has an operating weight of 6,129 pounds and can run for up to four hours on a single charge. While it is not yet available for purchase, you can prebook it on the Volvo CE website.
Key Advantage: Fully electric
Best Mini Excavator for Small Projects: Komatsu PCO1-1
Weighing in at roughly 840 pounds, the Komatsu PCO1-1 currently holds the top spot for the world’s smallest mini excavator. This tiny machine offers 3.5 horsepower and a max digging depth of 3.5 feet, and it’s just 2 feet wide. While it can only handle smaller jobs, it’s perfect for yard work, pipe laying and confined urban construction projects.
If you live in the U.S., the PCO1-1 is not available on Komatsu’s website and you may need to purchase a used model from a third-party retailer. Fortunately, Bobcat, Volvo and Yanmar also offer lightweight models that serve a similar purpose.
Key Advantage: Very compact and lightweight
Best Customizable Option: John Deere 35G
John Deere’s G-series mini excavators offer a wide range of customization options to ensure that you get the perfect machine for your job. The G-series can accommodate multiple attachments, and they range in size from the 1,720-pound 17G to the 60G weighing in at 6,145 pounds.
The 35G is a great option for both customization and ease of use. It can easily switch between excavator- and backhoe-style controls and automatically slows down when taking on heavier loads. The cab is also designed with larger windows for better visibility, making it easy to navigate and switch between tasks.
Key Advantage: Multiple attachment and customizable elements
5 Factors To Consider When Choosing a Mini Excavator
It’s encouraging to see so many new mini excavators entering the market, but a wider selection comes with more choices. If you aren’t sure which model is right for you, consider the following factors before deciding.
In a perfect world, project owners wouldn’t have to worry about cost when choosing the best equipment for their job. Unfortunately, prices can be a deciding — and sometimes limiting — factor that should be carefully considered before purchasing. Consider obtaining multiple quotes from equipment retailers to ensure that your mini excavator matches your project and budget. It can be tempting to go for the cheapest option, but you’ll save money in the long run by choosing a model that fits all of your needs.
Mini excavators are compact by design, but some are larger than others. If your project requires a higher lifting capacity or extra attachments, you may want to consider a larger model. That said, larger machines require more storage space and bigger trailers, so you may need to choose a smaller size if you have limited space.
Mini excavators can accommodate a variety of attachments, but some models have more options than others. If your job requires a specific attachment, you’ll need to ensure that your chosen machine is compatible. Smaller models often have more limited attachment options due to their lower operating capacities. If your project requires multiple attachments, you may need to consider a larger machine with more horsepower.
4. Type of Boom
Mini excavators are typically equipped with a fixed, knuckle or swing boom, and it’s important to know the difference between them before you purchase. A swing boom is the most common, using a horizontal pin to connect the swing frame to the machine. These booms can move up and down and side to side independent of the main house.
Knuckle booms and fixed booms are both mounted directly to the frame. Both types have a main arm that only moves up and down, but knuckle booms have a second piece that uses hydraulics to move left and right. If you need a machine that works in confined spaces, a knuckle or swing boom is likely your best option.
5. Site Layout and Terrain
The size and layout of your site can impact the type of mini excavator you need. If your job site has multiple obstacles or tight spaces, you may need a more compact model or one with zero tail swing. Certain types of terrain may also require a special type of tracks. While most mini excavators come with standard rubber tracks, you may need to opt for metal if your job site has extremely muddy or uneven surfaces.
The best mini excavator for your project ultimately comes down to your preferred size and features. If you need help deciding which is best for your project, reach out to a retailer or equipment rental marketplace for a quote.