What I Wish Everyone Knew About Cheap Small Excavators


Cheap Small Excavators

Excavators, sometimes called diggers, are heavy construction equipment used to dig and move large amounts of soil, rock, debris, and other materials. They are an essential tool for many construction and demolition projects. Small excavators typically weigh under 10 tons and are highly versatile machines suitable for use in tight spaces.

When searching for an affordable small excavator, also referred to as mini excavators or compact excavators, it can be difficult to know what to look for. There are many factors to consider including size, features, brand reliability and of course, price. This blog post shares my insight into buying cheap small excavators based on over 10 years in the industry.

I’ve organized the information into sections below on key considerations when evaluating bargain mini excavators for purchase or rental. My goal is to educate readers on how to determine true value and get the optimal equipment for your unique needs – without breaking the bank!

What Size Do You Need?

Small excavators range in weight from about 1-10 tons. The lighter, more compact models maneuver well for small residential jobs while the heavier end of the range takes on more demanding commercial projects. Consider what types of spaces you’ll be working in and how much power is required to efficiently perform the digging tasks at hand.

Excavator ClassApprox. WeightBest Suited For
Micro/Mini<6 tonsAccessing very confined spaces like small backyards
Compact6-10 tonsResidential jobs; some commercial
Medium10-25 tonsLarger commercial jobs
Full-Sized25+ tonsHeavy duty commercial/civil projects

When looking at cheap small excavators, compact models less than 10 tons are likely to fit the bill without sacrificing quality.

Key Features to Evaluate

While a bargain model may seem appealing initially, the lack of certain features could hinder productivity and performance. Don’t compromise on these must-haves:

  • Bucket Types – Look for multiple bucket options like ditching, grading and clam shells. This expands the machines versatility onsite.
  • Boom Swing – Models with 360 degree boom swings provide the most flexibility.
  • Tracks vs. Wheels – Tracks excel on uneven terrain and are better for digging while wheels simplify transport between sites. Consider your typical ground surface.
  • Auxiliary Hydraulics – Needed to power attachments like breakers and augers.
  • 2-Speed Travel – The option to switch between high and low gear improves tractability and safety.
  • ROPS/FOPS Canopies – These protective structures are vital for operator safety. Don’t overlook them!

Now let’s review top budget-friendly compact excavator models…

Top Brands for Cheap Small Excavators

Industry leaders like Caterpillar and Komatsu dominate the excavator market. However, their smaller utility models often come with premium pricing. Luckily, other manufactures offer additional options for price-conscious buyers without sacrificing too much performance.

Takeuchi and Bobcat models represent cost-effective picks for small excavators without breaking the bank. I’ve had great experiences getting years of productivity out of both brands. While resale value takes a bit of a hit compared to Cat and Komatsu, the upfront savings are significant – over $15,000 in some cases!

What to Budget for a Mini Excavator

Dragline Excavators

When calculating the investment in a small excavator, look beyond just the sticker price. Also factor in:

  • Transportation – Trucking equipment to your yard
  • Maintenance & Repairs – Regular upkeep is crucial
  • Insurance – Protect your asset with full coverage
  • Fuel – Gasoline for engine, hydraulic fluids
  • Storage – Secure garage or facility

Budgeting an additional 25-35% annually on top of the purchase price covers these ownership costs. Don’t overlook expenses beyond the machine itself when shopping for a bargain!

Should You Buy New or Used Equipment?

This is a common dilemma facing anyone in the market for an affordable small excavator. Let’s compare the pros and cons:

New EquipmentUsed Equipment
CostHigher upfront priceSave 20-40% buying used
FeaturesLatest technology & safety upgradesPotential missing accessories
WarrantiesFull product warranty from OEMNo or limited warranty coverage
MaintenanceLittle required initiallyMay have undocumented issues
FinancingAttractive new equipment financing rates availableTypically must pay cash

If budget is your top concern, buying a used compact excavator 3-5 years old with documented service history is the way to go. Just be diligent inspecting any machine before purchasing to avoid inheriting someone else’s problems down the road. Consider bringing in a trusted mechanic to review prior to finalizing a used equipment sale.


What’s the difference between mini and compact excavators?

The main difference boils down to size and strength. Mini excavators weigh under 6 tons making them better for accessing confined spaces. Compact excavators range from 6-10 tons with more power for demanding tasks.

What jobs are small excavators good for?

Typical applications include:

  • Trenching
  • Site clean-up
  • Hole digging
  • Landscaping
  • Forestry mulching
  • Demolition
  • Guiding drainage work

How long should a compact excavator last?

With proper maintenance and care, expect to get 8,000-12,000 hours from a compact excavator over 10-15 years. Keep up on fluids, filters and grease to maximize longevity.

Can a cheap excavator still be high quality?

Absolutely! While industry leaders like Caterpillar and Komatsu tend to command premium pricing, other trusted brands like Takeuchi and Bobcat deliver impressively reliable excavators on a budget. Focus more on reputation and features vs just a name brand.

What attachments can I use with a small excavator?

The most popular attachments to expand capability include:

  • Augers
  • Breakers
  • Grapples
  • Thumbs
  • Hydraulic hammers

Just ensure your excavator model has auxiliary hydraulics to power attachments. Compatibility can vary between brands.


I hope this guide has shed some light on finding cheap small excavators that still deliver robust performance. Focusing on size requirements, must-have features and total cost of ownership will lead you to the best value compact excavator for tackling your projects, whether buying new or used. Brands like Takeuchi and Bobcat offer budget-friendly alternatives to premium Cat and Komatsu models worth strong consideration.

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