Backhoes and Excavators – What’s the Difference?

The difference between items of earthmoving and construction equipment may seem slight, but differences in design reflect the intended functionality and usage making it vital to understand when these variances make one item of machinery a better choice than another. And as there are several differences between backhoes and excavators, most notably size, weight and functionality, these differences may make one item of equipment far more suitable for your project than the other.

Excavators – Versatile with 360o Functionality

Primarily used on construction and industrial worksites, excavators vary widely in size, ranging from small models which may weigh as little as 1.5t through to significantly larger-sized models which can weigh as much as 100t. At RME, we offer excavator hire in Perth in 1.5t, 3t, 5.5t, 8t and 13t models.

Regarding their features, excavators have the notable ability to rotate the boom and chassis a full 360 degrees, a feature which other items of heavy construction equipment, including backhoes, lack. This versatility enables them to perform functions that other items of machinery are unable to, making them ideal for performing a wide range of essential worksite functions that includes:

  • Excavation – Digging holes, trenches, etc.
  • Lifting and placement
  • Landscaping
  • Demolition

A variety of hydraulic attachments can be attached to the excavator’s boom to change its function, including augers, breakers, couplers and grapplers, among many others. These machines are so versatile that they can even perform brush cutting and hedge trimming with the correct attachment, enabling customers to hire a single manned item of equipment to perform a wide range of tasks.

While excavators are highly versatile and are used extensively on most construction and industrial sites, it’s vitally important that the right size model is hired as the models available for hire differ greatly in size. That means you need to look at a variety of factors when hiring an excavator, such as:

  • Machine height and width
  • Maximum digging depth
  • Lifting capacity



When you understand the excavator’s capabilities and specifications in relation to your worksite and its intended usage you’ll find you’re better able to decide whether that model is the right choice. If you have any questions about our excavators and which would be the most suitable choice for your project, please don’t hesitate to contact Reliable Mechanical & Earthworks. We can help you to get a better understanding of your worksite requirements with regard to access, functionality and usage.

Backhoes – ‘back actor’ Attachment

Usually significantly smaller in size and weight than excavators, backhoes are a small variety of tractor attachment comprised of two main parts, the boom and the dipper, with the boom supporting the dipper to which the bucket is attached. Backhoes have a maximum rotation of 200 degrees to the left and right, a little over half that of an excavator and a noteworthy difference between the two.

A number of attachments can be used with backhoes to enable them to perform a wide variety of worksite and related functions, such as buckets to dig trenches and carry heavy items, including tools and equipment, and augers to drill holes.

Site access limitations may come into play when hiring machinery, as well as backfilling, digging pools, site cleans, rubbish removal and so much more. Unlike excavators which are available in a wide range of sizes, there may not be the room available to accommodate a vehicle mounted backhoe. At RME we do not supply this piece of equipment as there is always a more flexible excavator option.

backhoe scoop digging

Excavator or Backhoe?

There are a number of factors that you will need to consider when hiring construction equipment and you find that you need to choose between an excavator and a backhoe. As discussed above, a wide range of attachments can be fitted to both excavators and backhoes to enable them to perform the same tasks, however, that doesn’t mean they’ll both deliver the same degree of functionality. Some of the factors that you need to think about include the following:

  • Site access – When it comes to flexibility of machinery size in regards to access restrictions it is our opinion that there is almost always a better option than a backhoe. 
  • Swing – Excavators offer a 360o swing in comparison to 200o for a backhoe. When loading a tipper or a truck at an angle, the extra reach may prove very useful and could also have the advantageous effect of getting the job completed in less time, making it more cost-effective.
  • Function versatility – Both backhoes and excavators offer excellent functional versatility and can be configured with a broad range of attachments enabling them to be used for a broad range of tasks.

Those are the most important factors that need to be considered when comparing a backhoe or an excavator for a project. With regards to transport, as our both backhoes and excavators (all sizes) need to be transported to the worksite on a truck, there’s no difference here and you won’t need to consider transport as a factor.

There are many significant differences between excavators and backhoes as well as a number of similarities, especially with regard to functionality when these essential items of construction and industrial equipment are fitted with attachments such as augers, buckets and forks.

At RME, we offer skidsteers and a wide range of excavators (1.5t, 3t, 5.5t, 8t and 13t models) for ‘wet’ hire (operated by our qualified operators). To speak to one of our experienced team members about our excavators and backhoes and which would be the most suitable for your worksite requirements, contact RME today.