Purchasing an Excavator

How to decide on an Excavator for sale
The excavator chosen needs to have a sufficiently sized bucket, speed and power to deliver

Excavator for sale is the all too frequent advertisement that meets any buyer of new or even second hand equipment. The task of acquiring an excavator is daunting with a long list to tick off if you are to get the best suited machine for the job. It is plagued with several pitfalls from reliability issues to availability off service support.

The fact that excavators today are state-of-the art, using hydraulic power with smaller turning radiuses ideal for tight spaces and intuitive joystick commands makes the task of buying an excavator all the more difficult. Industries like construction, utility, public works, mining, demolition, landscaping and forestry use them quite often to dig the trenches, holes and foundations.

Specs will help you determine if the model you want can actually meet the job requirements, and is actually worth the price.

Also Read: Choosing the right construction excavators in Africa

Engine power
Engine power is closely associated with maximum dig depth, weight and size. All work in tandem to get the job done right. As you make comparisons of machines with similar specifications, it is important to also think about engine type. The type of engine you go with will definitely have an impact on fuel and maintenance costs. Compact: Under 20 tons, 95 – 120 HP, Crawler: 20-40 tons, 150 – 275 HP; Heavy: Above 40 tons, 367 – 532 HP.

Evidently, within each category of excavator, the horsepower varies. By going for an excavator that meets the job requirements with a minimum amount of horsepower, you save money in the long term while at the same time reducing your initial expenditure. It can be quite easy to get sucked into ‘just in case’ scenarios needing greater capability. But unless those scenarios are possible, opting for bigger with more power could be quite disadvantageous.

Dig depth
Maximum dig depth refers to how far down the machine will power the boom and bucket; basically, how deep you can dig a hole or remove materials. A good tip is to use previous jobs to calculate the range of depth so as to identify the lowest and deepest depths and also know how often you dig that deep

Obtaining this information will insulate you from spending extra money on an excavator with excess depth. Dig depth impacts on an excavator price because of the engine power and counterweight necessary to achieve it. For instance, in the case of crawler excavators, dig depth can range from 6 feet to 25 feet, resulting in every foot of added depth; equaling an increase in corresponding price by 8%.

Dump height/bucket capacity
Dump height is quite important, especially if you are going to be placing exhumed materials on a truck to be heaved away. You have to be sure the boom and bucket will empty the sides of the dump truck. If you are moving material around a jobsite, dump height is not that important.

For instance, crawler excavators have heights that exceed 30 feet while compact excavators have a maximum dump height of 13 feet.

Bucket capacity influences the amount of material that can be removed at any given time. For large excavation projects, time is of the essence. However, for more specific projects, a smaller bucket capacity allows for consistent operation. Bucket capacity does not have a huge influence on price as different types and sizes of buckets are available as accessories.

Jobsite location is a key factor to consider as you think about the size of excavator on sale. Important questions to ask yourself include: Do you operate in tight spaces with limited turning radius? Do you operate in wide open spaces? Can you move the excavator from one point to another? What terrain will you be operating on?

Mini excavators are a great option for tight spaces and jobs that require less power. They are flexible and quite easy to transport as well. Larger excavators normally require larger trailers with a higher weight tolerance.

The weight of the excavator has no direct impact on the excavator price. However, weight does have two areas of consideration that include:

Surface damage: weight of the excavator can be a factor as far as surface damage is a concern. For instance, if you do landscaping job mostly, minimizing damage is probably important. Therefore, the less the weight of the excavator, the less the damage is likely to be experienced. In that case, even if a job takes longer due to more trips, a smaller machine is the better value for you.

Operating weight: Completely different from equipment weight, operating weight is another way to describe the counterweight. For instance, an excavator that has an operating weight range of 4 tons basically means that the load at the end of the boom cannot go beyond 4 tons.

The information plate of the excavator will indicate to you the minimum and maximum operating weight. It is important to note that the maximum operating weight is a complete bucket load with the boom and stick at its furthest extension.


The compatibility of the excavator for sale with various attachments is very important because attachments can maximize the productivity of your excavator. Attachments substitute the bucket to perform other job functions, like posthole digging, breaking up concrete, backfilling or sorting materials. Swift coupling links that make it simple to switch attachments and universal hydraulic links enable operators to move smoothly from task to task, maximizing their time on site.

Mr. Hennie Louw of ELB Equipment the sole distributor for Sumitomo excavators argues that, there are some technical aspects that need to be looked, such as required earth moving requirements on construction sites. “The excavator chosen needs to have a sufficiently sized bucket, speed and power to deliver. In addition the excavator needs to have the right reach and height to be able to effectively load dump trucks with the least possible passes required. From a brand point of view the excavator should have the highest possible availability with reduced maintenance requirements. It should be fast and fuel efficient in order to maximize profitability. It should be durable enough to last tens of thousands of hours and should maintain a high resale value,” he said.

However, according to Arcom Devshiba of Arcom Heavy Equipment, heavy equipment sales have gone down due to the bad economics in Africa hence most companies are opting for used equipment.

Arcom Heavy Equipment currently exports new and used earthmoving equipment, road building machinery, trucks and cranes to most North African countries. The company has grown to a specialized buying and selling machinery all over the world.

Mr. Alan Bamber of Kocurek Excavators Limited suggests that it is important to buy the right machine for the job in hand and also consider how the machine is going to be used in the future as they are a huge financial investment for most companies.  “Everyone wants to go as high and as far as possible whilst using the largest tool possible so we are always looking at ways to improve on range without compromising on quality or safety,” he said.

According to Mr. Marshall McMaster of Cusco, the above specs along with others will ultimately determine how well the unit performs for your particular application. An undersized Blower or pump could leave you subject to premature and costly repairs. “We recommend discussing your needs and application with an Engineer to ensure that you get exactly what your application requires. Spending money needlessly up front for ‘more truck’ than your require, is as bad as being too thrifty and ending up spending more in the long run,” he said.

Cusco sells Hydro-excavators, as well as many other forms of Vacuum trucks. “Our products are sold through an extensive sales and distribution network and with stringent design specifications, leading edge technology, lower service costs, and unparalleled customer satisfaction,” said Mr. McMaster.

Mr. Kevin Showley of Vac-tron Equipment advises that, you want to find a vacuum excavator that fits the size and needs of your job application. “Additionally, safety is key; vacuum excavation provides safe day-lighting of utilities and peace of mind on the jobsite,” he adds.

According to Mr. Martin M Ngai the Machines Sales Consultant at Regal Equipment Limited; a distributor of new Hyundai Excavators, excavators have now eliminated other machines like track loaders and wheel loaders.”With the recent acceptance of mini and medium sized excavators, Back Hoes machine are soon going to be eliminated from the market. Soon we will see more sophisticated excavators e.g. Electric Excavators, Amphibian excavators and long reach excavators to do very specialized job,” he adds.