Mini Digger and Excavator Buying Guide





When comparing mini diggers and excavators a few of the primary factors to consider are its digging depth, dump height, and operating weight. These three considerations almost always affect the type and size of machine you get as they directly impact the level of productivity when in use.

Before committing to a particular model, pair your specific needs with the machine’s capabilities to see how they match up. An undersized excavator will not have the power or functionality to accomplish a larger job effectively (not to mention safely). And while bigger may seem better, a machine that’s too large may cause unwanted damage to the site while burning through unnecessary amounts of diesel fuel.

With this in mind, here is a list of the top specs manufacturers use when comparing their mini excavators to a competing model. While some machines may fall outside of these ranges, they represent an average of those currently available on the market.

Net Power

This represents the total output the machine is capable of with the lower end reserved for light duties like landscaping and material handling while the higher end is dedicated to stump removal, trenching, heavy-duty construction, and mining applications. Expect to find horsepower that ranges between 10 hp and 50 hp.

Swing system

A swing system design allows the operator to hydraulically shift the boom within a certain range of degrees left or right. This is used for offset digging and trenching parallel with the machine’s tracks. Common swing speeds are between 9.2 and 11 RPMs. Degree of swing often varies by side, with 50° to 60° being common on the right swing and 60° to 80° common on the left.

Max digging depth

This is often one of the primary considerations when buying a mini excavator as it dictates the depth of the trench. Within the mini excavator category, expect to find max digging depths that range between 5.6 and 12 feet deep.

Operating weight

Referred to as “mini digger” or “compact excavator” this size of excavator typically weighs between 1 tonne and 8 tonnes and is chosen for there small size, easy transportation and ability to access sites (like domestic gardens and drives) that bigger excavators can’t easily access or would cause too much damage to the ground

Attachments and Buckets

Attachments  and buckets make or break the productivity and resulting ROI of a mini excavator

One of the most popular developments that’s now standard on almost all new attachments is the inclusion of a quick coupler. Designed to minimize the time required for switching tasks, quick attach coupling devices enable a single individual to swap attachments without the use of tools.

There are two main types of quick couplers: semi-automatic and automatic. They both perform essentially the same, allowing the operator to control the primary attachment mechanism from the cab. They also include a safety device that guarantees the attachment is secured properly. And that’s where you’ll find the difference: semi-automatic requires the operator to manually engage the safety device at the coupler itself while the automatic variety uses an internal device activated remotely.

Here’s a quick rundown on some of the most universally popular attachments that are frequently paired with a mini excavator

Breaker – Cut through concrete and other paved surfaces swiftly and neatly with this quick coupler attachment that’s been refined to produce less noise and vibration. Breakers are typically available in impact energy classes that range from 60 to 1,000 lbs.

Trencher – Plow through rocky soil as easily as sand, digging from 2 to 5 feet deep and 4 to 12 inches wide. Some models also feature side-shift operation that allows trenching close to buildings or other immovable objects.

Buckets – Upgrade the standard bucket on a mini excavator to increase productivity by combining the earth moving capability of a bucket with additional functionality. Enhanced versions include grading buckets, trenching buckets, and tilt grading buckets.

Clamp (a.k.a. hydraulic thumb) – This attachment enhances your standard bucket by allowing you to safely haul loose objects, branches, refuse, and similar debris. Clamping down on the load to prevent spills and movement, a clamp attachment works with a trenching bucket or three-line grappler and can be adjusted to suit a variety of work conditions and materials

Grading blade – Designed to smooth the surface of just about any work area, grading blades can slope, grade, and contour an extensive variety of terrain.

Grapple – Similar to a clamp but more capable of hauling trees, piping, and other cylindrical objects, grapples are an all-in-one attachment that’s popular for demolition, land clearing, and routine facilities maintenance.


PowerTilt swing – The PowerTilt swing attachment angles an excavator’s bucket left or right. In doing so, it delivers a greater range of accessibility while preventing the operator from having to reposition the machine. They’re also ideal for digging under or around manmade and natural obstructions like drainage ditches, foundations, and tree roots

Ripper – Tear though packed, frozen, or similarly unyielding ground quickly and easily with a ripper. Reinforced by a heavy-duty shank, it has a single-tooth design that easily penetrates a variety of work surfaces while slicing through underground obstructions like tree roots.