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5 Types of Small Earthmoving Equipment

5 Types of Small Earthmoving Equipment

Skid Steer on a job site

5 Types of Small Earthmoving Equipment

Reading time: 5 min

When your project requires moving large amounts of soil and rock, you’ll need the help of powerful earthmoving machines. From excavating soil to grading terrain, these mechanical marvels play a pivotal role in executing challenging construction projects.

Earthmoving equipment comes in a wide variety of types and sizes. Some earthmoving machines are specially designed for digging, while others are designed for hauling debris and topsoil across construction sites.

While large earthmoving machines are frequently deployed to construction sites, they may not be the best choice for all projects. For smaller projects where maneuverability and efficiency are key considerations—small, compact earthmoving equipment represents an ideal choice.

In this guide, we’ll present some of the most common types of small earthmoving equipment used on construction projects. By understanding the types of compact earthmoving equipment available, you can reach an informed decision on the machine that best meets the needs of your project.

Benefits of Small Earthmoving Equipment

While large earthmoving equipment is powerful and capable of handling even the most challenging earthmoving tasks, it isn’t always an ideal choice for smaller jobs.

Despite their impressive output, larger earthmoving machines are less maneuverable and harder to maintain. Bigger equipment means larger tires, increased fuel consumption and higher maintenance costs.

By contrast—small, compact earthmoving equipment is convenient to operate, transport and store. Smaller, more compact earthmoving machines are also easier and less costly to rent or purchase.

Here are the primary benefits of using small earthmoving equipment:
  • Enhanced Maneuverability: Compact earthmoving equipment's smaller size and agility allow it to navigate tight spaces and confined areas with ease, enabling efficient operations in urban or congested construction sites.
  • Versatility: These smaller machines often come with a wide range of attachments, making them adaptable to various tasks like digging, lifting, grading, trenching and material handling—reducing the need for multiple specialized machines.
  • Reduced Site Impact: Compact equipment exerts less ground pressure and causes minimal damage to the terrain; making them ideal for delicate landscapes, existing infrastructure or environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Improved Accessibility: Their compact size and lightweight nature make them easier to transport to and from construction sites, reducing transportation costs and time.
  • Lower Fuel Consumption: Small earthmoving equipment generally consumes less fuel compared to their larger counterparts, resulting in cost savings and reduced environmental impact.
  • Reduced Noise and Emissions: Smaller engines result in reduced noise levels and lower emissions, making them ideal for projects in noise-sensitive areas or projects with environmental regulations to meet.

Given the advantages of using smaller, more compact earthmoving equipment, it’s generally recommended to use the smallest machine capable of meeting the project demands.

Types of Small Earthmoving Equipment

Mini excavator

1. Mini Excavators or Compact Excavators

These compact machines are small, versatile digging machines equipped with a boom, stick and bucket. They excel in tight spaces and are best suited for precise digging, trenching and demolition tasks.

Use Case: Mini excavators are ideal for tasks requiring precise digging and excavation, especially in narrow or confined environments. For example, compact mini excavators are commonly used in landscaping, utility installation projects and small-scale construction projects near existing structures.

Mini Excavator Advantages:

Mini excavators typically have better maneuverability, are efficient in small spaces, cause less ground disturbance and consume less fuel than larger versions.

Mini Excavator Disadvantages:

Mini excavators have limited digging depth and reach, smaller bucket capacity, and may not be suitable for heavy-duty excavation tasks. 

Mini Backhoe on a job site

2. Mini Backhoes

Mini backhoes are compact machines combining a loader in the front and a backhoe in the rear. They are best suited for digging, trenching and loading operations, especially when an operator needs to switch seamlessly between digging and loading.

Use Case: Mini backhoes are ideal for general excavation and grading work in confined spaces, offering both digging and loading capabilities.

Mini Backhoe Advantages:

Mini backhoe advantages include more versatility in handling both loader and backhoe tasks, a compact size for tight areas, a smaller turning radius and less fuel consumption.

Mini Backhoe Disadvantages:

Mini backhoe disadvantages include a smaller loader bucket and backhoe bucket. Plus, they may not match the performance of full-sized backhoes.

Compact track loader

3. Compact Track Loaders

Compact track loaders are similar to skid steers, but they are equipped with tracks instead of tires. These machines provide exceptional traction, stability and flotation—making them perfect for challenging terrain and sensitive environments.

Use Case: Compact track loaders are best suited for material handling, grading and landscaping tasks in locations where wheel loaders might struggle. The tracks reduce ground pressure, minimizing soil compaction and enabling smooth operation on soft or slippery surfaces.

Compact Track Loader Advantages:

Compact track loaders feature enhanced traction and stability, low ground pressure and great versatility with attachments.

Compact Track Loader Disadvantages:

Compact track loader disadvantages include a limited carrying capacity compared to larger track loaders.

Skid Steer moving dirt

4. Mini Skid Steers

Mini skid steers are celebrated for their unmatched maneuverability and versatility on the job site. Thanks to their unique differential steering mechanism, they can pivot on the spot and are highly agile in confined spaces.

Use Case: Mini skid steers shine in tasks requiring material handling, grading and site cleanup in congested areas. For example, for navigating narrow pathways, maneuvering through tight corners or working on projects with space limitations.

Mini Skid Steer Advantages:

Mini skid steer advantages include featuring excellent maneuverability, having a wide range of attachments available and being suitable for various terrain.

Mini Skid Steer Disadvantages:

A lower lifting capacity and a smaller bucket size are disadvantages that mini skid steers have over full-sized ones.

Small Wheel Dozer

5. Mini Dozers

Mini dozers are scaled-down versions of standard bulldozers; designed for grading, leveling and pushing tasks in tight spaces. Their compact design allows them to navigate with ease and work efficiently even in challenging conditions.

Use Case: Mini dozers are perfect for small-scale grading and earthmoving projects, including site preparation. Mini dozers are the ultimate solution when projects demand precision, but full-scale bulldozers would be too cumbersome or disruptive.

Mini Dozer Advantages:

Mini dozer advantages include better maneuverability, being easier to transport and being more suitable for light grading tasks.

Mini Dozer Disadvantages:

Mini dozers are limited compared to full-sized bulldozers in terms of pushing power and blade capacity.

Final Thoughts

In the world of earthmoving equipment, finding the right size machine for the job is crucial. While large machines boast impressive power, earthmoving equipment that is too large for your project may result in cost overruns and inefficiencies.

Small or compact earthmoving equipment is an ideal solution for small and medium-sized construction projects that require the capabilities of heavy equipment, but do not require the power output of full-sized earthmoving machines.

If you’re looking to rent heavy equipment for your next project, look no further than EquipmentShare. Our team of dedicated experts is standing by to help you find the right machine for your project.

Need a replacement part for your existing equipment? Check out our catalog of OEM and aftermarket parts from the industry’s leading brands. Can’t find what you need? Reach out to one of our parts experts and get personalized assistance.

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