What do you use a excavator for and how much does it cost to rent?

Excavators or power shovels are some of the most common heavy construction equipment.  There’s barely any major construction project that doesn’t require their use.  Excavators are used for everything from digging trenches to removing large objects, making them essential for practically every construction project.

What is an excavator?

Excavators are pieces of heavy construction equipment that consist of a boom, dipper, bucket, and cab that are mounted on a rotating platform called the house.  The house is mounted on an undercarriage with tracks or wheels. These machines can sometimes also be referred to as steam or power shovels, but they are actually a much more advanced version of the steam shovels that were once common on construction sites.

The main difference between an excavator and a power shovel is that excavators rely on hydraulics for their movement, while shovels relied on cables, winches, and steel ropes. 

An excavator can be used for a lot more than just digging.  While it’s common for this type of equipment to be used to create trenches and site grading, they can also be used for hauling materials, removing brush, demolition, mining, and snow removal.

What to look for on an excavator

When you’re looking to rent an excavator, it’s particularly important to pay attention to their specifications.  There are dozens of excavators available on the rental market, but each of them has different power requirements, weight, and bucket sizes.  Those three factors can determine the amount of material that can be moved at one time, as well as how long it will take to complete a particular job.  

Mini-excavators are usually the cheapest option, but they cannot move nearly the same quantity of material as larger excavators.  Nonetheless, smaller excavators can be an ideal choice for smaller jobs, particularly in areas where space is very tight.  

It’s also important to be aware of the attachments offered for each device.  For example, depending on the make and model of the excavator, it may be possible to get an extended boom arm or an arm with multiple pivot points.  Typically, these are most common in mini-excavators.  It’s also possible to find numerous bucket attachments, including attachments that can assist with crushing, lifting, and cutting.

How much does it cost to rent an excavator?

The rental cost of an excavator is dependent on several factors including the location of the construction site, the make, model, and size of the excavator, and the length of time that the equipment is being rented for.  Generally speaking, excavators can cost anywhere from $150 to $1500 a day.

That wide range, however, can be narrowed as soon as you know what type of excavator you want to rent.  Mini-excavators usually rent between $200 and $500 a day, while heavy-duty excavators that are meant for mining work can rent for up to $3000 a day.  Mid-range models go for $400 to $1200 a day.  Contractors will find that they can save money on larger projects (or combining projects together) and renting an excavator for a week or month at a time.  Expect to save about 20-30% off the daily price of equipment for renting it by the week, and up to 60% renting it by the month.

It’s usually possible to hire an operator at the same time and place that you rent the excavator.  Expect to pay an extra $20 to $50 an hour for this service.  Be aware that some companies simply include the operator in the rental price, however.  Excavators are usually delivered to the construction site by the rental company.  Moving the equipment usually costs an average of $3 a mile, computed from the rental company warehouse to the construction site. 

Accessories for an excavators are typically considered to be separate rentals.  Attachments usually rent at $50 to $800 a day.

For most major construction projects, an excavator rental is essential.  Make sure you think about what your project requires and find the excavator that can meet those conditions.  Then, compute the cost of the equipment you need into your construction budget.