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Bulldozer vs. Excavator: Which One Do I Need?

Bulldozer vs. Excavator: Which One Do I Need?

Bulldozers and excavators are two types of heavy equipment used in material handling, earthmoving, and land clearing tasks on construction sites, but they each meet different needs. Skilled operators use bulldozers to push and level earth, using front-facing blades or other modifications, and they use excavators to dig to greater depths and transport materials.

Both vehicles have the versatility to help with multiple types of jobs in several different settings, but whether they’re needed in the construction industry, forestry, or landscaping, each piece of equipment is better suited for one task over another.

In this guide, we go over what bulldozers and excavators do and when you might need to use one or the other.

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Bulldozers vs. Excavators

Though these heavy-duty machines can be used for similar tasks, bulldozers and excavators are different vehicles. Here are some of the key similarities and differences between them.

Bulldozer Excavator
Feature The flat blade is used for pushing materials and leveling land. The bucket is used to dig and move materials.
Terrain Wheel dozers work best on flat, solid surfaces.  Tracks allow excavators to operate on uneven terrain.
 Uses Clears land, digs shallow ground, grades land, creates slopes Digs deep holes, used in demolition, works well for mining projects, less expensive to rent than a bulldozer

Bulldozer Applications

On jobsites, bulldozers can:

  • Clear land: The main purpose of a bulldozer is clearing land. It does this using its front blade. Different types of bulldozer blades are designed for different materials and purposes. Though excavators can also push material out of the way, they aren’t designed to do it on a large scale like bulldozers are.
  • Dig shallow ground: While they aren’t ideal for substantial digging, a bulldozer can be used to dig very shallow holes or ditches if needed. But they’re more often used for filling holes to create more even surfaces.
  • Grade land: Bulldozers are graders, meaning they can grade or level land. In some cases, using a bulldozer alongside an excavator makes it easier to both grade land as well as move a lot of ground.

Excavator Applications

On jobsites, excavators can:

  • Dig deep holes: Excavators, also known as diggers, have greater digging mobility and power compared to bulldozers, which makes excavators the superior choice if digging trenches, creating holes, or moving waste is part of your project.
  • Demolish land: Excavators are used in construction projects for building as well as demolition due to their digging and drilling capabilities.
  • Work well for mining projects: Excavators work well for mining projects or other heavy-duty construction projects because of their capacity to lift heavy debris and ground.

Types of Bulldozers

Consider the common types of bulldozers and how they’re used to see if any of these work best for the tasks you need to accomplish:

types of bulldozers

  • Crawler bulldozer: Instead of a conventional dozer blade, crawlers are typically designed with a heavy front plate that can move and push heavy materials. They work well on difficult surfaces like fields or irregular land.
  • Mini bulldozer: The small size of mini bulldozers makes them easier to control and maneuver, making them ideal for work in small and narrow sites or residential areas.
  • Wheel bulldozer: Wheel dozers can easily maneuver over softer surfaces and are great for leveling and clearing land. They work well in stadiums and other spacious grounds.

Types of Excavators

To understand the scope of options to choose from, consider how these common types of excavators might be used on your jobsite:

types of excavators

  • Crawler excavator: Crawler excavators run on tracks instead of wheels, making them great for heavy duty projects like grading land, mining, and digging trenches.
  • Dragline excavator: A larger type of excavator, draglines use a rope system for road excavations and other large-scale projects.
  • Long reach excavator: Long reach excavators have a long arm and boom which helps them handle heavy-duty projects and operate in hard-to-reach locations.
  • Skid steer excavator: Skid steer excavators are wheeled and easy to maneuver, making them great for narrow or small areas and in residential areas for removing debris or digging pools.
  • Suction excavator: Suction excavators, also known as vacuum excavators, use a water jet to loosen the ground and then vacuum it up, making them especially useful for underground applications or digging projects.

Which One Should I Choose?

Now that you know the differences between these two types of heavy equipment, you may still wonder how best to narrow down which one you need. Basically, if you need to clear land, you’ll probably want a bulldozer. If you need to dig, you’ll probably want an excavator. If your earthmoving needs are more complex, you might still need one or the other, or a combination of the two.

Use these basic considerations to help you decide which piece of equipment you need.

Choose a Bulldozer When:

  • Clearing land is needed.
  • Extensive digging isn’t required.
  • Grading or creating slopes is needed.
  • A more expensive rental isn’t a concern.

Choose an Excavator When:

  • Digging is a top priority.
  • Demolishing land is needed.
  • Heavy-duty or mining projects are involved.
  • The expense is a large concern.

Consider a Backhoe When You Need Both an Excavator and a Bulldozer

If your project has needs that a bulldozer or excavator alone can’t fill, you might want to consider using other construction equipment, like a backhoe. A backhoe is basically a combination of an excavator and a bulldozer, having some of the same abilities as each.

Here’s when you might want to consider a backhoe:

  • Digging is a top priority.
  • Onsite grading is needed.
  • Project is small scale.
  • Your budget is small.

Whether you need a bulldozer, an excavator, or another piece of equipment, BigRentz has you covered. With a wide variety of heavy machinery for every job, we have the equipment for all your project’s needs.

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