A Backhoe Loader (BHL) or a mini hydraulic excavator? This question haunts many contractors and is often a very debatable topic. Some may say that mini hydraulic excavator is better than the BHL while some may say vice versa. However, the answer is that both the equipment are irreplaceable and have different set of advantages to offer.

Before going into the debate further, we need to understand the definition of the two...

What is a mini hydraulic excavator?

Mini hydraulic excavators are compact, lightweight, portable and wheeled vehicles in the earthmoving equipment category. They generally come with a standard backfill blade and independent boom swing. Despite their small size and apart from digging, mini excavators can do grading, lifting heavy items, compacting a subgrade and many other tasks. Based on the digging depth of the boom and bucket, mini excavators come in various sizes.

Two popular types of mini excavators include tail swing and zero tail swing. The tail swing model features a rear counterweight that stabilises the excavator during operation and offsets added weight in the bucket. This model provides great lift capabilities and bucket and arm breakout force. On the other hand, providing comparable levels of performance when it comes to dig depth, reach and cutting and dump height, the zero tail swing excavators are also efficient. They are easier to navigate in tight work areas.

What is a BHL?

A BHL consists of three pieces of construction equipment i.e., tractor, loader and backhoe combined into one unit. All the three pieces of equipment are suited to do various sorts of work. The tractor is used for moving the other two components from place to place. As for the loader and backhoe, when you dig up a lot of dirt to make a hole, you generally require a loader to either move the dirt out of the area or to fill it back when the work is done. Thus, the most common application of a backhoe loader is digging a trench with the backhoe and then filling it back with the loader. The backhoe has three segments i.e., boom, stick and bucket.

Apart from performing the above mentioned basic tasks, BHLs can be used for demolitions, breaking asphalt, laying roads, transporting materials, levelling, loading and much more at the job site with various additional attachments.

BHL v/s mini hydraulic excavator

Both BHLs and mini excavators are highly versatile and multi-purpose equipment that can be employed for numerous applications. However, it is not at all possible to replace any one of it with the other because both offer strong benefits in different situations.

Which is a better fit?

Both the equipment i.e., mini hydraulic excavators and BHLs have their own strengths and weaknesses. Hence, you need to first identify your requirement well and then figure out which is better for your specific situation. Typically, versatility, mobility and transportability are the three major differentiating parameters for the two equipment.

Below are some parameters that can help you to decide whether a BHL or mini hydraulic excavator is a better fit at your job site...

1. The type of job: The type of job that you want to perform will help you to determine the equipment that you need. So, before choosing any equipment, take some time to determine the technicalities involved with the job that you are planning to do at the construction site. For small demolitions, light transportation of building materials, digging holes, landscaping, breaking asphalt, paving roads, laying pipes, planting underground cables, laying foundation for buildings and drainage systems, you might require a BHL. For digging at a large scale, grading, lifting heavy items and compacting a subgrade, mini excavators can be put to use.

2. Other applications: In addition to performing tasks such as digging, trenching, lifting, excavating and loading, BHLs can also be used to travel at higher speeds like in case of snow removal. On the other hand, being compact and lightweight, mini hydraulic excavators are used to minimise track marks and ground damage. They are also blessed with the capability to make a 360-degree swing.

3. Space at jobsite: BHLs are comparatively larger equipment than the mini hydraulic excavators and can travel easily across the jobsite to complete various tasks with plethora of attachments. On the other hand, mini hydraulic excavators are smaller in size and can fit through small gates and work easily at crowded sites to complete jobs in tight spaces like indoor projects.

4. The job conditions: The job conditions like whether it is a hilly, rocky or uneven terrain, loose soil or valley may also help you to decide about the equipment. Generally, BHLs are good for rocky or uneven terrains.

5. The distance of the jobsite: BHLs can easily drive 25 mph on road surfaces between worksites. On the other hand, mini hydraulic excavators can only be transported through a trailer or utility truck from one jobsite to another for easy transfer.

6. The size of the equipment: Larger machines like BHLs are usually more sturdy and suitable for tough working conditions. On the other hand, mini excavator size can be 1-3 tonne or more. Out of all the available sizes of mini excavators, the 1 tonne mini excavator is widely used as it is easily movable in narrow and tight spaces due to its compact size.

So, be it BHLs or mini hydraulic excavators, both have distinct advantage to offer to the contractors or operators. It’s easy to get caught up in the debate of which machine is superior, but the fact of the matter is that none is better than the other. It actually depends on what you are planning to do, where you want to do it and what is the space available with you.

In addition, you need to look at the machine’s capabilities to perform the task you wish it to perform. So, you need to look before you leap to buy a BHL or mini hydraulic excavator for your jobsite.