For many professional construction contractors, the decision of which excavator machine to rent can have huge implications for their project. The right machine needs to have the power to get the job done on time, but it also shouldn’t cost so much that you can’t make a profit.
When deciding on an excavator, many construction equipment rental companies offer their customers between a Caterpillar and a Komatsu machine. While both of these machines have familiar names, which one is better for your job? We compared both excavators to find out the answer.
For decades, Caterpillar had a stellar reputation among the construction community for producing a high quality machine. In recent years, however, a number of competitors have greatly improved the quality of their products, while Caterpillar has struggled with some issues at their foreign factories. There are now many construction managers who are reporting problems with Caterpillar excavators.
While there are no official surveys done of maintenance and repairs made to construction equipment, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to sort through. Prior to the 1990s, the company had an excellent reputation for construction equipment. While repairs were rarely needed, replacement parts were easy to find, since all excavators were manufactured in America. Over the past two decades, however, outsourcing of manufacturing has coincided with many construction managers noticing that their machines need more repairs.
Komatsu saw the opening in this market, and has moved to greatly increase the quality of their equipment. Today, many construction managers swear by their Komatsu excavators. Because they are manufactured outside of the United States, however, many have reported that finding replacement parts is problematic. This might make them less than ideal in areas where obtaining replacement parts is an issue.
When comparing purchase prices, Caterpillar machines have long been significantly more expensive than Komatsu. This price difference has carried over to the rental market, where construction equipment rental companies justify higher prices on Caterpillar rentals because they have a higher overhead.
In recent years, however, Komatsu has instituted a series of price increases to coincide with their greater focus on quality and performance. Furthermore, the imported parts required for Komatsu repairs has meant that rental companies have to pay more for repair work. Together, these two factors have meant that many rental companies are charging nearly the same amount for excavators from Komatsu and Caterpillar. The difference in perceived quality has been disappearing, leading many construction managers to no longer see the value in paying extra for a Komatsu machine.
Power and performance
Both Komatsu and Caterpillar make over a dozen different models of excavators. These tend to come in four weight categories. Mini-excavators from Komatsu typically weigh in around 7,000 lbs and have a horsepower of 25.7 to 38. The company also produces some specialty equipment with HP of 68 or higher. DIg depth tends to be low, however, usually averaging about 60 inches on the mini models. Caterpillar’s mini-excavators are nearly half this size, with a weight closer to 3,700 lbs and horsepower that ranges from 13 to 44. Dig depth on these machines can range from 126 to 186 inches.
In fact, Komatsu’s mini-excavators are closer in size to what Caterpillar considers to be its “small” machines. Komatsu’s “small” machines have an average horsepower around 190, and operating weights of 25,000 to 50,000. In the medium category, Komatsu and Caterpillar machines have fairly comparable specs. The machines weigh in between 50,000 and 75,000, with horsepower between 160 and 210. Large excavators weigh up to 250,000 lbs in both categories, and have horsepower between 1000 and 2,100. DIg depth for Caterpillar's larger machines can go up to 248 inches, while Komatsu machines rarely go above 196 inches.
Which One Should I Pick?
The excavator you choose should ultimately depend on the requirements of your project. If you need to move a large amount of dirt and you don't need to worry about turning radius, then Komatsu will be a good choice. Projects that require deeper or more precise work, however, would be better off with a Caterpillar machine.
Mining excavators are hard to compare because Caterpillar considers these machines to be “specialty” equipment. The company claims that these large machines are made only to individual order, making it rare that a contractor will find one in the rental market. Komatsu offers several machines in the mining category, however.
Because of the wide range of sizes available, it is often recommended that contractors start their rental search with their minimum requirements in mind, then compare what machines are available on the market near their job site.