View Full Version : Is bigger better???
09-20-2004, 10:18 PM
I'm interested in people's opinion's on the following topic.
I want to get a mini excavator to do small-scale work (trenching, french drains, sewer lines, footers, etc.).
Since I don't currently have a CDL, I'm limited to a 10000lb. trailer. The trailer limits me to a machine in the 6000-7000lb. category. From comparing specs, it looks like the biggest thing I would be giving up is dig depth compared to the larger machines. I also realize that the lighter machine isn't going to be able to lift as much weight when the arm is reaching out. However, I'm having trouble assessing how big of an issue this would be for the kind of work I want to use it for.
Seems that most of the ones I see on jobs around here are of the 5-ton variety from various manufacturers. I don't have any seat time in the smaller machines; all of my excavator experience has been in larger Cat machines (315, 318, 320), so I'm interested in other people's opinions.
Thanks in advance...
09-20-2004, 11:04 PM
There's a local contractor doing the same type of work, he's found himself a niche in the market. He does a lot of interior work trenching inside buildings for electrical, plumbing and refrigeration lines. In his case smaller is better, he's able to squeeze through commercial double doorways. He's got a Cat, though I don't know which one.
09-20-2004, 11:27 PM
Try renting a 7000lb machine for a job and I think you'll be amazed what they are capable of. I've rented the cat 303CR and the 304.5 for some jobs and you can flat haul when it comes to trenching. I always rent them with the 24" bucket and typically don't dig more than about 5 feet deep and they're more than adequate.
I'd check out several brands and rent as many as you can, since they all have their good and bad points. I recall seeing in a trade magazine that one of the major manufactures is now equipping their mini with a angle blade. Something like that sounds perfect for what you plan plan to do.
09-21-2004, 09:08 AM
Well I got a solution for you .
Get a hook lift truck then you can load a bigger machine if you want all you have to do is change bodies or use a dump one but modfiy it to what you need will get you away from a class A
09-21-2004, 10:13 PM
That's exactly what I plan on doing. I'm supposed to do a sewer line installation in the next few weeks and that's exactly the type of machine I plan to rent. Only have to trench about 60', but it should give me a pretty good idea of the machine's capabilities. Now I just need to decide if I'm going to rent a Bobcat 331 or a Cat 303.
Thanks for the info...
09-21-2004, 11:28 PM
I rented a Bobcat 331 recently for a job and was impressed with its ability. It dug pretty hard ground with a 36 inch bucket like it was butter. I had to dig a 5 ft wide, 5 ft deep trench and I would just center the machine within the 5 ft wide trench and swing the house to each side to dig. It was much faster than my John Deere backhoe would have been. I was also crossing 3 ft wide trenches with it with ease.
09-21-2004, 11:34 PM
I also like being able to pivot the arm 90 degrees to the body to be able to get right next to houses or structures. You just can't do that with a backhoe or tractor attachment.
09-22-2004, 12:03 AM
Theres a company called Helac (http://www.helac.com/) that makes a bucket swivel for mini excavators that looks like it would make them even handier. Something like this would be ideal if you have to slope your trenches. I'm toying with the idea of buying a 8-10,000 lb machine and adding the swivel for doing septic installs.
BTW, I hear the bobcat is a good machine, but the 303 is no slouch either. I used one to clear and pile brush on a 100x200 lot and it was a little beast. The hydraulic thumb is something I couldn't imagine going without now.
09-23-2004, 09:41 PM
I have rented several different brands at different times to dig footings. I was most impressed with the Cat's digging power. I thought it was better than the Bobcat's. You would have to weigh your options as to how tight of spaces you will be working and your lift loads. Depending on how deep you are digging, the deeper you dig with a small machine, the more often you need to move if you want to keep the bottom of the trench flat. That can be a hassle if that means anything. Also the zero tails swing is quite nice. I would recommend that for ease of operations in tight places. Pick the size that you would use most and rent if the need arises for something else. I don't have a need for one that often or I would have one. IHI has also been a good one for me. Good luck!
09-24-2004, 11:39 PM
I have a Bobcat S250. I have tried comparable Cat skid steers (because I like the hand controls) but they don't have near the hydraulic force the Bobcat has and that is something I need. Yet when it comes to the mini-excavator, the Cat has more hydraulic power than the Bobcat mini-excavators. Go figure.
I bought a used 2002 Komatsu pc45 mini excavator. Its the best thing I have ever bought. I use it more than my JD160 excavator. My machine weighs about 10,800 pounds.
04-10-2005, 08:36 AM
As far as I know, 26,001 pounds is where the CDL classification begins. I suggest you check with the CDL issueing agency in your state about the specific requirements so you don't buy less machine than you need because of a misunderstanding about when a CDL is required.
A CDL is just not that difficult to get. When you chose earthwork as a job, you accepted the fact that we get dirty sometimes. I submit to you that the realization that pick-up machine transportation will limit your business is as normal a realization as the one about getting dirty.
By limiting your operation to very small trucks you make it harder to profit from materials and parts that you will install and will limit your potential earnings from deliveries to jobs. ( and don't forget, small trucks & trailers wear out faster, break easier under load, and 1 deer can wreck your truck and end your business.) One of my friends who pulls a P-20 Komatsu mini-Dozer ( 7 or 8,000 pounds) has just rebuilt the transmission in his new "F" truck at 22,000 miles.
If you have a truck or truck and trailer combination sitting on a job, why not let it be a truck with earning potential? If it can get culvert, (including concrete culvert) gravel, chips, mulch, or Hydroseed, you have created another income source for yourself. You can do all this without a CDL truck, too.
Some of the most successful small operations I have seen use a tilt-bed wrecker to move. These guys are quick to point out that they can buy attachments for their machines and increase the number of services they supply with the money they saved on trailers.
If you're moving twice a day, it won't work but if you're moving once a day or less, it can save money and decrease your liability.
If you talk to a wrecker service they will often offer better rates for off hour regular use, like overnight moves.
Before you buy any machine, test drive it, dig with it, try to run it hot. Many equipment sources will allow you to use a machine on site or rent it to check it out when they believe you are a serious customer. Bring some concrete culvert or steel to simulate the objects you will lift. No matter how much a machine impresses one operator, another operator with larger machine experience may find it weak and disappointing. Try out a machine in conditions as similar to your worksite as possible.
Before you buy anything, try to think about where you want to be in five or ten years. A large number of contractors entering the business or investing in it early in the life of their business buy machines which must be replaced for the business to grow.
04-10-2005, 06:10 PM
No matter how much a machine impresses one operator, another operator with larger machine experience may find it weak and disappointing
Triaxle, I like that sentence. That's very true.
04-10-2005, 09:45 PM
I bought a PC50uu-2 (zero-turn) about 3 years ago and it was the best investment I ever made..it weighs about 12500 lb, and we have used it everywhere, size has never been a issue even on the smallest of jobs. I currently am waiting on the credit for adding another machine.. this time I am going to a 75uu-2, although some guys are pushing me to go to a PC100...
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