Backhoe vs Excavator: Which is Better for Your Operation?

August 4, 2022

Viewing heavy machinery for financing, you realize there isn’t always an obvious machine for the task at hand. Sure digging and clearing land can be done with an excavator, but would it be a better option for a backhoe? 

Let’s break down what machine does and which jobs are suited best for either one. 

What’s The Difference Between a Backhoe and an Excavator?


You’ve seen plenty of excavators around job and construction sites. They are powerful digging tools that have a long boom arm, a stick and a bucket. They’re commonly used for tasks such as demolition, mining, breaking pavement and dredging. Multiple attachments allow excavators to dig holes, tear buildings and move materials from a distance. The main difference from a backhoe is that it can rotate 360 degrees while the undercarriage stays in one place. The majority of excavators use tracks to move, however some feature wheels to move around level worksites. 

The bucket on an excavator can be swapped out for another attachment, depending on the job. A grapple can be used for demolition, a breaker for frozen ground, or even a rake for removing tree roots. If you own a construction company, you likely have one already, as it is a necessary piece of equipment to complete a variety of tasks. 


A backhoe is a more compact and maneuverable piece of machinery. They feature a bucket on the front and have a smaller boom, stick and bucket attached to the rear. Sometimes called the jack of all trades of construction equipment, a backhoe can do a little bit of everything on site. 

Typical backhoes can dig to about 16ft deep and feature outriggers to provide stability on uneven surfaces. Backhoes also feature plenty of attachments that can be used for a myriad of tasks. They can include road brooms, rakes, hammers, drills, forks, and more. The majority of backhoes are wheeled, which gives them increased speed and maneuverability on job sites. 

Making The Choice: Backhoe or Excavator

Okay, so you understand some of the key differences. Here are some factors to consider when selecting between an excavator or a backhoe. 


If rotation amount is a key concern, an excavator will perform better than a backhoe. Even a mini excavator can swing freely and it’s designed for tight work spaces. A backhoe can only rotate around 200 degrees or so. The cab is rigid and it requires the driver to move to different locations while digging. An excavator has a stable undercarriage which gives it the edge on rotation. 


Backhoes are much more mobile than excavators. Large machines with tracks are much slower than smaller machines with wheels. Although you’re compromising on digging quantity, backhoes can travel approximately 40km/h on concrete or pavement. If your operation requires shallower digging and a machine that needs to travel quickly from place to place, a backhoe will fair much better. 


Backhoes and excavators have different control schemes. These machines have seen an upgrade to their controls over the past few years. The pilot control option moves the machine with simple buttons. A two-lever control helps maneuver the backhoe. 

Note that button controls have been popular for modern operators. Pilot or button operation is less strenuous on the body compared to wobble sticks. With a simple press, operators can switch functions or even dig an entire hole. 

Excavators on the other hand still use joysticks and levers. They function the same no matter what brand of machine you’re getting. This way operators have a sense of familiarity right when they hop into the cabin. Movement is controlled by foot pedals to drive forward and back. Novice excavator operators may struggle, however, due to the amount of precision required compared to a backhoe. 

The Task At Hand

Thinking of the current job and future jobs to be done is an asset when deciding between either machine. A backhoe will be suited for smaller to mid-sized operations that require loading, digging, breaking or material moving. Standard excavators provide unmatched power for digging deep trenches, fountains, dredges, and for demolishing buildings. 

Try to assess what your worksite looks like with either piece of equipment. It ultimately comes down to personal preference. Many operators like financing a backhoe for the sake of its versatility, especially if they already own an excavator. 

Either way, ensure to check out our inventory if you’re searching for either piece of equipment to finance.