1. BigRentz
  2. Think Big Blog
  3. Mini Excavator Sizes: Choosing the Right Size for Your Project

Mini Excavator Sizes: Choosing the Right Size for Your Project

Mini Excavator Sizes: Choosing the Right Size for Your Project

Excavators are versatile machines that professionals can use in landscaping and construction applications. However, a standard excavator is a massive machine that often won’t fit in confined workspaces. That’s where the mini excavator comes in.

A mini excavator has a compact design that allows it to navigate and operate within smaller job sites. Even then, mini excavators come in several sizes. Here’s an all-inclusive guide to mini excavator sizes and tips for picking the right size for your next project.

Most Common Mini Excavator Sizes


All excavator sizes are determined by their weight. More specifically, mini excavators are classified as anything under 10 tons (20,000 pounds), but they can run as small as under one ton. When choosing a mini excavator, the weight of the machine ultimately determines its lifting capacity, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that using the largest size will get the job done faster.

Let’s take a closer look at the most common mini excavator sizes and how to effectively use them.

Explore All Mini Excavators

Less Than 1-Ton Mini Excavator (800-1,999 lbs)

A few excavators weigh in at less than a ton, and they can be a great tool for smaller projects. Their compact design makes them easy to maneuver and operate — even in confined spaces. Their limited dimensions make them the ideal machine for a homeowner working on a do-it-yourself landscaping project.

A mini excavator of this size is especially useful for digging trenches for utilities or other similar tasks like laying piping for a sprinkler system. Due to their light operating weight, these excavators do not hold the capacity to rip through rocks and extremely compact surfaces the way an excavator of a higher weight can. If your project requires working in a small space but needs additional power, consider opting for the next size up.

Key takeaway: Mini excavators under one ton are satisfactory tools for smaller projects like yard work on a property with limited space. However, compact surfaces may require a larger excavator.

1- to 2-Ton Mini Excavator (2,000-4,000 lbs)

Mini excavators that weigh between one and two tons are still relatively compact, but they come with some additional power and digging capacity. Most brands have mini excavators in this size, and, for many, it’s the smallest size they offer. Bobcat is one popular brand that offers many different sizes.

Mini excavators in this size range can dig between seven and eight feet, which is ideal for trenching and preparing the ground for the installation of utilities and drainage systems. This size can also operate a grading bucket, which a contractor would use to level the ground for a smooth surface.

Excavators between one and two tons efficiently carry and dump hard-to-carry materials like wood, soil and stone around a job site. For small demolition projects like removing asphalt, an excavator within this size range is sufficient.

Key takeaway: Mini excavators between one and two tons are practical for digging and trenching up to ten feet deep, grading surfaces and demolishing small structures.

3- to 5-Ton Mini Excavator (6,000-10,000 lbs)

While this size of mini excavator remains fairly compact, they offer more power and functionality. Typical jobs for this size excavator are trenching, digging foundations and overall job site preparation.

An excavator of this size can dig trenches between eight and 12 feet — great for contractors who work on pipe or cable installation. The additional power behind this excavator is suitable for digging foundations suitable for homes and other non-commercial structures.

A mini excavator of this size can handle site preparation tasks like clearing out land by moving rubble and plowing snow.

Key takeaway: Three- to five-ton excavators are used in construction for trenching up to 12 feet, digging foundations and clearing out job sites to prepare for further work.

6- to 10-Ton Mini Excavator (12,000-20,000 lbs)

This is the largest size class of excavator you’d still consider compact. If you’re looking for the most power and digging capacity that still fits within a confined work area, consider a larger excavator from this range.

Mini excavators with an operating weight of six to 10 tons can dig up to 15 feet deep, but check the model’s specifications to ensure it fits all your digging needs. Typical jobs for a mini excavator include trenching and backfilling. You can also use this size of mini excavator to dig foundations for homes and smaller commercial buildings.

Other uses for excavators within this size class include demolition projects, clearing heavy materials from worksites and removing stumps and rocks from plots of land.

Key takeaway: Six- to 10-ton excavators can dig up to 15 feet deep and are useful for trenching, backfilling, digging foundations, clearing land and transporting construction materials.

Mini Excavator Specs and Considerations

While all excavators are categorized by weight, there are other specifications to consider before renting a mini excavator. Digging capacity, dimensions and engine power are all important factors to consider when picking the right mini excavator for a project. Here’s a closer look at the eight most common excavator specs.

Operating Weight

Mini excavators are classified by their operating weight. The operating weight is how much a mini excavator weighs while working. The operating weight is determined by calculating the sum of the weight of the machine, an average-sized operator and the fuel that keeps it running.

The operating weight of the machine is essentially the counterweight to the bucket’s load. If a project requires heavy lifting and digging through dense materials, a higher operating weight proves necessary.

Digging Depth

The digging capacity or depth determines how deep an excavator can dig into a surface. For mini excavators, a general rule of thumb is the larger the size, the further it can dig. Of course, the makes and models of excavators differ, so you should always double-check that a machine’s digging specifications will suit your needs.

Overall Dimensions

One of the main reasons anyone operates a mini excavator is due to its compact design that can fit and work within small spaces. That said, mini excavators still come in different shapes and sizes. It’s wise to double-check the measurements of the area you’re working in to ensure the excavator’s height, width and length are the optimal sizes.

Engine Power

Engine power on a mini excavator is typically measured in horsepower (HP) or kilowatts (kW). The engine power rating indicates the amount of power that the engine can generate. The higher the engine power, the more energy it can exert for digging large loads and breaking through compact surfaces.

Bucket Breakout Force

Bucket breakout force is the maximum amount of force that an excavator bucket can exert and is measured in pound-force. Knowing the breakout force of the machine is important because it determines its digging and lifting capacity. Essentially, the higher the breakout force, the better equipped the machine is for handling scooping up large loads.

Arm Reach

The arm’s reach is how far the arm can extend. It may seem like this specification may not be as relevant if you’re working within a small space, but operating an arm that’s too long within a confined work area may be difficult. Always double-check that the arm’s reach of an excavator is long enough to suit your digging and reaching needs, but not so long that it becomes a nuisance to the project.

Swing Space

The swing of a mini excavator refers to the amount of space required for the machine to rotate without hitting any obstacles. When working in tight or confined spaces, it’s considered the boom (the arm) and tail swing of the excavator. Low and zero-swing excavators are available for operating within small spaces.

Dumping Height


The dumping height of an excavator refers to the maximum height the machine’s arm can dump or scoop material from its bucket. The height is determined by measuring the ground to the highest point of the bucket when it’s fully extended and in the dumping position.

Dumping height is an important consideration because it determines the height of the dumpster, truck or other containers that the machine can load or unload.

Mini Excavator FAQ

If you’re still looking for further information on mini excavators, we have you covered. Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about mini excavators and their limitations. You can also learn more about mini excavators in our free e-book guide below.






Download our FREE mini excavator rental guide e-book today!


What Are the Limitations of a Mini Excavator?

While mini excavators are resourceful machines, they have some limitations to keep in mind. Here are some of the most common limitations of a mini excavator:

  • Digging depth and reach: They are typically designed for digging at shallower depths and shorter reaches than larger excavators. This can limit their use in some applications, such as digging deep trenches or reaching over obstacles.
  • Lifting capacity: There’s a lower lifting capacity than larger machines, so they may not be suitable for demolishing and lifting extremely heavy loads.
  • Stability: They are much lighter than their larger equivalents, which can make them less stable on uneven terrain. If a job site requires an excavator to navigate extremely rocky or sloping terrain, a larger machine may be necessary.
  • Fuel capacity: With smaller fuel tanks than larger machines, the running time doesn’t last as long without frequent refueling.

Carefully consider the specific requirements of the job when choosing between a mini excavator or its larger counterpart to ensure that the machine you choose can meet the project’s needs.

What Is the Price of Renting a Mini Excavator?

The cost to rent an excavator depends on the size, term of rental and the city in which you rent. Here are the sizes of mini excavators available for rent and their baseline pricing.

How Much Can You Dig In a Day With a Mini Excavator?

How much a mini excavator can dig in a day depends on several factors, such as the size of the excavator, the soil conditions and the desired depth. As a general rule of thumb, a mini excavator can typically dig between eight to 12 cubic yards of soil per hour, which translates to about 64 to 96 cubic yards of soil per eight-hour day.

We should note that this is a rough estimate and actual productivity may vary depending on the specific conditions of each job site. For a more accurate estimation based on skill level and excavator bucket size, you can do some quick math. First, determine how long it takes for you to complete one cycle, then multiply it by the bucket’s capacity and working hours (you can assume eight hours if you work a typical day shift).

Cycle Time (Bucket Capacity x Working Hours) = One-Day Digging Capacity

What Is an Alternative to a Mini Excavator?


One alternative to a mini excavator is a compact track loader (CTL), also known as a skid steer loader. CTLs can dig, grade, lift, and haul materials. Note that a skid steer does not have the digging depth and capacity of a mini excavator, but attachments like buckets, forks and augers allow them to perform similar tasks to the mini excavator.

A backhoe is another alternative to a mini excavator. Construction professionals will use backhoes for digging, trenching and demolition tasks in construction and landscaping projects. However, backhoes have a shallow digging depth, so consider sticking to an excavator if deep trenching is the goal. Backhoes are also larger and less maneuverable than mini excavators, making them less suitable for working in tight spaces.

Reserve and Rent a Mini Excavator Online

Now that you know and understand the different mini excavator sizes, pick the machine that is right for your project. When it comes to renting construction equipment, there’s no easier way than BigRentz.

Compare and rent a mini excavator online and have it delivered to your job site when you need it. With locations in all 50 states, BigRentz is never too far.


Get the latest from the Think Big Blog delivered to your inbox.

Equipment Rental Guides

Download any of our free rental guides and learn how to pick the right equipment to fit your project needs.