Excavators lined up

The Various Types of Excavators and Their Applications

Lifting heavy soil at a construction site needs an excavator, which features an arm, bucket, free tracks, and a rotating cab. These components lend mobility and digging power that can make any function from breaking holes and padding to digging trenches easy, saving you a lot of time. Excavators are also used in road construction, mining, and demolitions.

What Is an Excavator?

An excavator is a powerful and versatile piece of machinery used for excavating, digging, grading, and lifting. It consists of an upper body, boom arm, dipper stick, bucket, and cab located at the base of the excavator. Hydraulics are used to power the various parts, which move in different directions allowing excavators to work on uneven terrain. 

Excavators can be divided into two main types: crawler excavators with tracks or wheeled excavators with rubber tires. No matter the size or type of excavator you require, they can greatly increase efficiency during construction projects such as excavating a new foundation or creating drainage trenches. If you need help completing your next project quickly and efficiently, an excavator would be a great addition to your construction team.

So, if you’re looking for a powerful and efficient excavator to help with your next project, don’t hesitate to look into the types of excavators available. You won’t be disappointed!

How Does an Excavator Work?

All types of excavators work by using hydraulics to power their various parts and allow them to move in different directions. Hydraulic cylinders are used to control the excavator’s boom arm, dipper stick, bucket, and other components. Each of these parts can be manipulated independently, allowing excavators to work on uneven terrain and perform precise movements with great accuracy. 

The excavator also has an engine that powers the hydraulic system to operate even when no electricity is available. With their powerful engines and ability for precise movement, excavators are a vital tool for many types of construction projects and can help to complete work that would otherwise require manual labor more quickly. Crawler excavators have tracks that allow them to move across uneven terrain, while wheeled excavators operate on rubber tires. Both types come in small sizes for use in residential areas or larger ones for large-scale construction projects. 

Whether you need help excavating a foundation or digging trenches for drainage, an excavator can help make the job much easier and quicker. 

Why Is an Excavator Important?

The types of work that excavators do are plenty. As mentioned, an excavator is an essential tool for many types of construction projects. Its powerful engine and precise movements make it perfect for tasks such as excavating a new foundation, digging trenches, grading the land, and lifting heavy objects. 

Without an excavator, these tasks would be much more complex and take much longer to complete without the help of manual labor and a pickup truck. Excavators also come in various sizes, so you can find one that suits your needs, whether you’re working on a large-scale project or just need something small enough to work in residential areas.  So if you want to speed up your construction projects efficiently, don’t forget about excavators! They are a great addition to any construction team.

One of the most commonly asked questions about digger hire is whether it is different from an excavator. The two are similar, but they vary in lifting capabilities and functionality. Excavators are as massive as 200,000 pounds with a full rotation. The most popular types include:


Crawlers do not rely on wheels to move, as they have endless tracks that help with their mobility. They are used in heavy-duty road constructions and are often referred to as compact machines. These rely on mechanisms for hydraulic power to lift soil and debris. They also have a wheel system that allows scaling hilly landscapes gradually and handling uneven terrain. Crawlers are slow, but they have excellent balance, stability, and flexibility.

Dragline excavators

This excavator is often larger than a crawler and relies on wheels to move. The machine has a hoisting system joined to the bucket using a coupler. The bucket’s side away from the coupler is joined with a dragline. The dragline connects the cab and the bucket. The hoisting rope is responsible for moving the bucket up and down, and the towline controls the side to side movements. As draglines tend to be heavy, they will be assembled on the work site. The uniqueness of this excavator makes it ideal for use in civil engineering jobs like dreading canals.

Suction excavators

Also called vacuum excavators, suctions have a suction pipe that lets air up to offer more than 400 horsepower. Suction excavators will release water jets that loosen the soil first. The tube has sharp-edged teeth that help create the vacuum that will carry debris and dirt at a speed of 200 miles in one hour. This excavator is used in risky underground applications because it can protect elements from damage.

Skid steers

These excavators come with buckets and booms that face the side opposite of the driver. Such orientation makes it possible for attachments to go above the cab as opposed to going around it. Consequently, the excavator can be used in narrow spaces and tricky turns. Skid steers will commonly be used in residential work, digging pools, and site cleaning projects.

Long reach excavators

man operating the excavator

These machines have long arms and long boom sections to reach far. The design is meant to serve locations that are difficult to reach. Most of these excavators have an arm that is extendable by up to 100 feet. They are best used in demolitions and over water applications.

The design of the excavator will make construction easy. Often, one may change elements like the arms or booms to change the application of the excavator. For instance, one can add arms to provide holding and digging functionalities. No matter what you choose to use, make sure that it’s the appropriate one for the job.

Different Types Of Excavators

Do you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the different types of excavators out there? We’re here to help! Below, we’ll be taking a look at the different types of excavators and their uses. From wheeled models and short swing radius machines to hydraulic shovels and demolition workhorses, there’s a lot to learn about these incredibly useful tools you and your team can use. Let’s dive in!


Wheeled excavators are the types of excavators that have plenty of power and maneuverability. This type has excellent traction and is capable of tackling all types of terrain with ease. It can also be used for both large and small construction jobs thanks to its multi-functionality. But that’s not all – this machine can work on steep slopes, has a narrow cab design for better visibility, and includes many advanced features for optimal functioning. 

Short Swing Radius Excavators

Short-swing radius excavators might be the answer for projects where space is at a premium. These mighty excavator machines pack serious power within a tight, compact package, allowing contractors to work in close quarters without sacrificing performance. Not only are they able to fit into small sections that regular-sized excavators can’t reach, but these types of small excavators can also handle hard-to-access areas with tricky angles and tight turns. From below-grade basements to multi-story cityscapes and everything in between, these are one of the best types of construction excavators.

Backhoe Loaders

If there’s one machine that should be labeled the ultimate multitasker, it’s the backhoe loader. This tough little powerhouse can produce amazing results on any digging, leveling, or material-handling project. It also comes in handy for a variety of more specialized jobs like pipeline installation and road maintenance. Even better, this all-in-one workhorse is compact enough to get into those hard-to-reach locations that other larger excavator machines can’t go. So, when you need power and versatility, trust in the backhoe loader as your go-to excavator – it will never let you down!

Hydraulic Shovels

Every construction project needs the right equipment to succeed and that starts with hydraulic shovels. These shovels’ superior maneuverability and low center of gravity make them ideal choices for completing massive tasks. Built to weave through tight passages, they offer a shorter swing radius than their wheeled counterparts, ensuring a more precise operation. Offering remarkable power per centimeter of excavation depth, these trusty excavator machines can operate on slopes, trenches, or circuits.

Demolition Excavator

With its heightened force and power, this industrial workhorse can easily tackle any demolition job. It’s equipped to handle chunks of broken concrete, pour off large pieces of wood, or even tear down entire buildings with its long-reach boom arm. Plus, it’s not just powerful—you can move it around easily on wheels to get to those hard-to-reach places. 

Spider or Walking Excavator

While they might not get the fanfare, these utility tools offer ultimate safety with their special design – the out-of-sight, out-of-mind strategic feature. You see, spider and walking excavators have no boom arms or sticks extending above them while they work – an important factor if you’re working in an area with a low ceiling or dangerous overhangs. Sure, there are plenty of other types of excavators to choose from, but when safety is your number one priority, then this excavator should be your go-to!

Knuckle Boom Excavator

This type of excavator, also known as an articulated arm excavator, provides the flexibility to maneuver around objects and tight spaces. This heavy excavator features a range of attachments that make them suitable for multiple functions such as digging trenches, landscaping, and general demolition. Their articulated arm is designed to easily lift heavy loads while providing the precision necessary to complete detailed tasks, making them essential tools in any construction job. 

Amphibious Excavator

Amphibious excavators are often referred to as ‘swamp machines,’ and it’s not hard to see why. As the name implies, they specialize in working in wet, soft, or marshy areas that wheeled or regular crawler excavators wouldn’t be able to traverse. With dozens of differently designed treads available, these versatile excavator machines can turn your soggy nightmare into a dream come true by getting jobs done quickly in areas other equipment would find difficult. Whether you need drainage and land reclamation shovels or marsh buggies with buoyant tracks for underwater excavation, amphibious excavators have what it takes to get the job done!

Based On Size

From the small but mighty types of mini excavators to the trusty large-scale units – there’s an option for just about any job. And understanding how each relates to size is key so if you’re looking for a breakdown of excavator types based on size, look no further! Below, we will discuss various types of excavators – because no matter your job type or need –you should have the right tools at hand. Let’s get digging!

Compact Excavators – Mini Size

Compact excavators are sometimes referred to as ‘mini-excavators,’ but don’t let the name fool you; these bad boys are anything but mini! There are different types and sizes of mini excavators, but they all pack a lot of power into a smaller frame than other types of heavy equipment. 

With smooth maneuverability and precision engineering, these little engines can easily dig, transport and move objects with great efficiency. Compact excavators are used for small to medium tasks such as landscaping, infrastructure maintenance, or working on small job sites in confined spaces. Not only that, but compact excavators also generally use less fuel than larger heavy excavators, making them an ideal choice for projects where money is tight. 

General-Purpose Excavators – Medium

When it comes to excavator size, the medium really does matter. The different types of medium size excavators are especially useful for jobs that require greater power and more precise workloads than can be accomplished with miniature or compact units. 

From basic earth-moving operations to taking on large-scale tasks such as demolition, these intermediary machines have a multitude of uses and advantages – making them an essential toolbox for just about any contractor or operator out there. With medium general-purpose excavators, you know you’ll get the job done; they provide an optimal blend of power and precision!

General-Purpose Excavators – Large

The large general-purpose excavators are the big guns of the construction and demolition world. They don’t take up much space yet pack a powerful punch – perfect for those large-scale jobs! Whether lifting, transferring, drilling, or demolishing, these giant excavating machines have been employed in construction for years due to their immense power and maneuverability. When it comes to completing those heavy-duty jobs quickly and efficiently, you can always count on large general-purpose excavators. 

Know Excavator Attachment Tools

Excavator attachments are a great way to get even more done with your excavator. The attachments can be divided into three main categories:

  • Excavating
  • Lifting 
  • Breaking

For excavating, excavators are typically equipped with buckets to scoop out material, grabs for picking up large chunks of debris, or rippers to tear through hard soil. Lifting excavator attachments include grapples and forks to help lift large piles of materials such as stones or timber. And finally, breaking excavator attachments are used to break apart concrete and other tough substances using a hammer or crusher. 

Attachments can be easily added and removed from excavators as needed, allowing you to quickly switch between tasks and maximize the excavator’s capabilities. Additionally, some excavators are equipped with quick coupler systems that make it easy to change excavator attachments without using tools or spending extra time on site. With the right excavator attachment tools, you’ll be able to get your job done quickly and efficiently! So, make sure you research the best excavator attachment tool for your specific project before investing in one.


1) What is the most commonly used excavator?

The most commonly used excavator is the backhoe loader – a powerful and versatile machine that excels in excavations, haulage, and loading. Boasting a range of features such as adjustable digging depth, hydraulically powered shovels, and wheeled movement, the types of backhoes are suitable for almost any task. 

2) How much does it cost to rent an excavator?

The cost to rent an excavator will depend on the size, type, and features of the excavator you are looking for. Generally speaking, excavators can range anywhere from $200 – $750 per day or even more, depending on the model and brand. 

3) What is the major difference between a track hoe and an excavator?

The major difference between a track hoe excavator and a regular excavator is the type of drive it uses. Track hoe excavators feature tracks instead of wheels like traditional excavators. Both types of excavators are engineered to provide exceptional performance and should match your job’s specific requirements.  

4) How much can an excavator dig in a day?

It depends on the size and capabilities of the excavator, as well as the conditions of the job site and other factors. Generally speaking, larger excavators with more powerful engines can excavate more material than smaller excavators. 

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