The difference between a backhoe, bobcat and excavators

There is some common and necessary heavy-duty equipment that is commonly found on construction sites. Excavators, bobcats, and backhoes are essential in the construction business or any business that requires digging and heavy lifting. Most people associate excavators, bobcats, and backhoes mainly as diggers because that is what they are commonly used for. However, these three heavy-duty engineering machines are good for more than just digging; they can be used for other purposes like demolition, dredging, landscaping, and other things. These machines can be fitted with various hydraulic attachments to suit a specific purpose.  So, what sets these three industrial machines apart?

Let’s start with the most well-known and commonly used construction equipment: Excavators.

  1. The Excavator

An excavator basically consists of a boom, a digging bucket, a dipper, and a cab mounted on a rotating platform. This pivoting platform sits on top of an undercarriage with wheels or tracks.

It is most common for companies to use excavator hire services; however large companies who do a lot of ongoing daily work often prefer to purchase their own. Excavators come in different sizes and configurations to suit various needs. Some excavators are good for heavy-duty applications; others are efficient in digging, extracting, or moving soil and digging trenches. A standard excavator with a boom, dipper and bucket attachment is located at the front of the machine. The arm of the bucket can be extended and lowered to dig out the soil, then retracted to lift the materials. The cab can rotate 360 degrees which allows the operator to easily dig and move things around whiles the machine itself remains stationary.

Standard excavators come in various sizes, fitting even the tightest spaces on job sites. Buckets and other attachments are also available in different sizes and different configurations for various applications from digging, moving heavy materials, demolishing, trenching, and moving soil and debris. They are ideal for use in construction, farming, mining, landscaping, and forestry. 

  • There are excavators that run on wheels instead of tracks. One advantage that wheeled tractors have is that they can be driven from one site to another instead of being hauled on a trailer.
  • Then there are long-reach excavators with an extended boom when a longer reach is required. These types of excavators are popularly used in projects that require precision as well as hard-to-reach spaces or for tasks that do not require the use of a wrecking ball.
  • Dragline excavators are heavy-duty machines used in large-scale operations like strip mining or dredging. This type of excavator uses a bucket that is dragged along surface-scale applications such as strip-mining or dredging.
  • It is often cost-effective to rent excavators. Excavator hire rates are offered on daily, weekly, monthly, and permanent lease options.

Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between an excavator and a backhoe but these two pieces of equipment are different and each is best suited for particular applications. To the untrained eye, backhoes and excavators may look the same but there are three distinct differences between the two: Size, versatility, and rotation.

Excavators are larger in size than backhoes and they are also heavier

The Backhoe

Yes, a backhoe is a sort of excavator as it does the same things that a standard excavator does: dig and move material from one point to another. The name is a little confusing because the digging bucket is not located at the back. The name is actually derived from the equipment’s ability to dig by pulling the soil towards itself instead of scooping or pushing it as traditional shovels would do. The machine is made up of a tractor base, a digging bucket supported between a two-part arm. The opposite part of the machine will often have a front loader attachment. The cab, or rather the operator in the cab can swivel 360 degrees to enable the operator to face whichever side is being engaged at the time. Backhoes can come with a myriad of extra attachments like rakes, hammers, drills, and others. In some instances, backhoes have had things like plows and brows attached in front.

A lot of people think that backhoes and excavators are the same. They aren’t. An excavator has an arm with a bucket attached at the end. It is shoveling equipment that is popularly used for excavation. The arm and bucket are interchangeable or they can be substituted with other attachments. Backhoes are usually used for minor digging tasks but they are compact and versatile and can be used in every industry – almost. So, the main differences between backhoes and excavators are:

  • Excavators are bigger than backhoes.
  • The chassis and boom of excavators can rotate by 360 degrees.  The Backhoe can only rotate 200 degrees to the right or to the left. The Excavator can rotate both the chassis and boom 360 degrees at the same time.
  • Excavators are usually put on tracks whilst backhoes are driven on wheels.
  • Excavators are suitable for heavy workloads whilst backhoes can handle light-medium loads.
  • Excavators are commonly used at construction sites and mining scenarios whilst backhoes are popularly used in farming and light industrial scenarios.
  • What is a Bobcat?

A Bobcat is a skid-steer machine designed to be maneuverable on uneven and even slippery surfaces It gets its name from the manufacturer Bobcat. The wheels don’t have a separate steering mechanism but the wheels on the left-side wheels can move independently to the right-side and the machine turns by differential steering where the left and right wheels can be operated at different speeds. Unlike the excavator or the backhoe, it’s not just the cab that rotates but the entire machine. Bobcat is actually a brand name; it’s the company that makes this specific type of loader. The name has become synonymous with this specific type of loader much like the word “Kleenex” is synonymous with a certain kind of tissue. The bobcat has a bucket facing outward away from the operator. The loader- arm can pivot in the air and swing in an arc above the operator.  Bobcats are good for light to medium digging and lifting and they are especially useful in places where a standard excavator cannot fit.

There are basically two kinds of Bobcats. Skid Steer and posi-track loaders. The difference between the two is that one runs on tracks and the other runs on wheels. Both can carry out the same tasks like digging, lifting, etc. but they handle differently on different kinds of terrain. The wheel variation can handle hard surfaces but the tracks are better for soft soil because the tracks can distribute the weight of the vehicle evenly. Bobcats are so compact; some models can be taken from the outdoors indoors or on a small trailer. Bobcats are commonly used for things like gardening, ground preparation, site cleanup, moving soil, bricks, and various other materials.

The difference between Bobcats and other types of excavators includes

  • Portability. They are lightweight and can be easily loaded onto a trailer.
  • The cab is open. You can see it while you work. Your attachments will be visible to you while you operate the machine. There is no obstruction from the hood or tires.
  • Bobcats are cost-effective. Compared to other types of loaders Save money. Compared to larger equipment, skid steer loaders like excavators or skid-steer loaders. Bobcats have low operational costs. They are fuel-efficient and cheaper to buy or rent than their bigger counterparts. Being cheaper does not mean sacrificing power or performance. These small heavy lifters are capable of doing much more.

The bottom line:

When it comes to heavy-duty, material handling equipment, these three machines are virtually necessary. The choice you make should depend on the size of your project and the size of the equipment that applies to your specific needs. The0 attachments available for each makes things more adaptable and hence, easier

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