The Dos and Donts of Buying Construction Excavators

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The Do's and Don'ts of Buying Construction Excavators

Excavators are the giants of the construction site. They can dig through concrete, transfer loads of bricks, lift objects high into the air, and tear down entire structures. It is no wonder, then, that they are a staple for any construction project. When it comes to buying an excavator for a business, there are several tips that can help smooth the process and select the most suitable machine.

In general, the more informed the buyer, the better their odds are of finding a quality, user-friendly excavator. At the very outset, they should establish their own needs and expectations: this can guide them in making many important decisions. Also crucial is knowledge of the excavator parts, their respective functions, available options, and product specifications. This way, they can interpret information about different models in a meaningful way, especially if considering a used model. Following these do's and don'ts can help guide buyers towards an excavator that can get the job done well.

Do Keep Construction Conditions in Mind

Buyers should consider the typical construction jobs they do, and ask themselves some questions about what they need and expect from an excavator. First, what kind of site do they typically work on? Is it a broad landscape, with plenty of space? Or do they tend to work in narrow urban lots between buildings? Next, what kinds of jobs does the excavator need to do? More specifically, how far does it need to reach, how deep should it dig, how high should it lift, and how much should it be able to carry? What functions does it need to perform?

Finally, they need to consider other factors, such as weather conditions, and excavator storage and transport. Establishing these expectations helps inform decisions during the buying process, with everything from size to optional features.

Do Be Familiar With Basic Excavator Parts

While many buyers may be seasoned excavator users, others may not have experience operating the equipment. A familiarity with the parts of an excavator helps shoppers understand the features of different models in the comparison process. The following chart outlines the excavator's basic structural elements.




Compartment on top where operator sits; can rotate 360 degrees independent of undercarriage


Diesel engine delivers propulsion power to the tracks and the hydraulic systems responsible for moving the boom and attachments


Bottom part of excavator; steel tracks, propelled by sprockets and rollers, are the common means for moving the vehicle; however, there are also wheeled versions


Long arm that extends from the main chassis; connects with stick, which holds attachment, via a joint called the elbow


Performs the the excavator's function; many different attachment types; standard attachment is usually a bucket with a toothed edge for digging dirt and gravel

Once buyers have familiarised themselves with the parts of an excavator, they are ready to move on to other steps in the buying process.

Do Decide on a Construction Excavator Size and Type Before Shopping

Excavators come in many sizes and dimensions, and a few different types. Narrowing choices down to a certain size range and excavator type helps expedite the shopping process. Buyers should note that manufacturers may vary slightly in how they categorise sizes; for example, a 7-tonne machine may be considered "mini" by some, while for others is may on the smaller end of their standard size.

Mini Excavators

Mini excavators comprise the smallest models available. This category includes: micro excavators that weigh as little as 800 kg or less; mini excavators that average around 3,000 kg; and midi versions that may be upwards of 6 tonnes.

Mini excavators are perfect for construction jobs in small spaces and other lighter work. Their compact structure lets them manoeuvre in confined areas, and they leave a minimal damage to the landscape.

Zero tail swing excavators, first introduced by Yanmar in 1993, are particularly suited to the tightest spaces. The counterweight, conventionally located at the rear of the vehicle, is placed so that it does not swing outside the machine's track widths. This means the cab can rotate 360 degrees without risk of bumping into surrounding objects.

Standard Excavators

Standard excavators can range from 10 to 40 metric tonnes. These are common for more demanding operations, and where spatial constraints and landscape damage are not an issue.

Large Excavators

Large excavators, generally reserved for extremely demanding work, weigh in anywhere from 40 to 70 tonnes. Their sheer bulk makes them impractical for anything but heavy industrial applications.

Types of Excavators

There are a few different types of excavators which buyers can choose from. Perhaps the most common are crawler excavators, which feature steel tracks moved and guided by sprockets and rollers. These provide maximum stability on uneven surfaces. Slightly less common are wheeled excavators, which move on wheels instead of tracks. This gives them more mobility than crawler excavators, especially moving from job to job. Long-reach excavators feature an extra-long boom, allowing them to reach upper levels of buildings. They are often used for demolition, as they can pull structures down in a controlled fashion.

Do Think About Additional Options

Optional features can make a significant difference in an excavator's efficiency, versatility, and comfort. After assessing the specific demands of their particular work, buyers should consider which additional features could help.

Excavator Attachment Types

In addition to the standard bucket, which is good for average jobs, there are many other attachment types. Having multiple attachments on hand means an excavator can perform a variety of tasks, simply by switching the attachment. Heavy-duty buckets and severe-duty buckets are made tough for lifting rocks. There are specialised buckets for pavement removal, as well. When grading or digging a slope, tilt buckets can adjust their side-to-side angle for optimal performance. Sorting buckets are used to separate large rocks from finer debris.

Buckets aside, there are still a number of other attachments, including augers for drilling, thumbs to grasp objects, hydraulic hammers, rakes, mulchers, and rippers.

More Optional Excavator Features

Some excavators come with additional features that may be useful in certain situations. The following chart lists certain common options.

Optional Feature


Monitoring System

Includes diagnostic system to spot any signs of malfunction, programme hydraulic flow for specific jobs, and more

Power-Boost Mode

Adjusts power to boom, attachment, and tracks for optimal performance on certain types of work; may be automatic or manual

Backfill Blade

After digging, this blade, which attaches under the boom, is used to refill

Climate-Control Cab

Operator can adjust the temperature in the cab for maximum comfort, alertness, and efficiency

Anti-Vandalism Feature

Locks machine so no parts can be used; perfect for when excavator is left on-site overnight; protects both the excavator and the construction work

Pilot Hydraulic Controls

Ergonomic joystick controls for operating the excavator; easy-to-use; common on newer models

Again, buyers should weigh their needs and budgets and decide whether certain options are worthwhile for them.

Do Consider Buying a Used Construction Excavator

Excavators are built to last: on average, they can operate between 8,000 and 10,000 hours before any major parts need to be replaced. Buying a used construction excavator, therefore, is a good way to economise while still getting a quality piece of equipment. That said, buyers should take certain steps to make sure the used excavator they're buying is ready to work; if it is not, they should have an idea of the extent and cost of necessary repairs.

The seller should be clear about owner history, how long, and in what capacity, the excavator has been used, and what the reason for selling is. Records of service and repairs should be available, as well as descriptions of any problems or issues. If buying online, the shopper should carefully inspect photos, which must be of the equipment for sale rather than stock images. Communication between buyer and seller is crucial: if a seller withholds information or does not answer questions, it is best to walk away. 

Don't Ignore Excavator Specifications

Product specifications give buyers an idea of how powerful an excavator is, and also help them gauge whether it is right for them. The chart below explains some basic specifications.




Expressed in metric tonnes or kilogrammes (kg); gross weight is the maximum operating weight including operator and equipment


Important dimensions include length, height, track width, width of cab, ground clearance, and reach (the maximum length which the boom can reach)

Engine Power

Usually expressed in kilowatts (kW), but may be in Pferdestärke (ps), equivalent to one metric horsepower


Volume of air in cubic centimetres (cu cm) which the movement of engine cylinders displaces; generally connected to power


Inner diameter of one engine cylinder


Total distance a piston moves upwards or downwards in engine cylinder; stroke-to-bore ratio is also connected to engine power and efficiency

Number of Cylinders

Indicates the number of cylinders in the engine; another factor contributing to power

Dig Depth

Indicates the maximum depth the excavator can dig; usually expressed in millimetres

Bucket Capacity

Maximum capacity of bucket, expressed in cubic centimetres (cu cm)

Specifications help give the buyer a better sense of an excavator's performance, and some may even be deciding factors when it is time to choose between models.

Don't Overlook Reliability and Ease-of-Use

Excavators are significant investments. Buyers get the most out of their excavator when it is user-friendly and reliable: ready for long stretches of work, and easy to operate for maximum productivity. If shopping for an excavator in person, buyers should test out models under consideration. If not planning to run the machine themselves, they should bring the person who is going to be using it. If buying online, shoppers should research user reviews for that model and get to know more about the manufacturer. Potential sources of information include trade magazines, online forums, and experience professionals.

An ergonomic design gives the operator comfort and control, with everything within reach. The seat should adjust, and getting into and out of the cab should be hassle-free. Visibility should be excellent, both for trench work and transport (driving). Another plus is uncomplicated access to the engine and hydraulic systems to perform basic preventative maintenance. Finally, buyers should research the reliability and power of a particular model, so they have a sense of what to expect.

Do Search eBay for Quality Construction Excavators

Whether you're looking for a new or used construction excavator, micro, mini, or standard, you can find a broad selection of affordable choices on eBay. To start shopping, go to eBay's home page and type keywords like into the search bar. Search terms can be general, such as "new excavator", or more specific, such as, "zero tail swing excavator". Once you have your results, you can narrow the listings further by setting factors like price range, manufacturer, and more.

The full listing has important information like the item description, delivery or pickup requirements, and payment conditions. Read these thoroughly, as you are responsible for understanding all posted information. If you have any questions, you can contact the seller through eBay.

Researching the seller is important, as well: look at their feedback score and read comments left from previous customers who have bought industrial equipment from them. This helps you assess how reliable and responsive they are. This is especially important for local pickup, when arrangements should be made with the safety and comfort of both parties in mind.


Excavators perform a number of important tasks during the construction process, including digging, lifting, transferring materials, demolition, and grading. In this sense, they are indispensable pieces of equipment. When shopping for a construction excavator, there are several do's and don'ts that can help guide buyers towards the perfect excavator for them.

The most important guideline is to keep the nature of one's projects in mind, and to look for a machine that can best perform that kind of work. Factors include excavator size, type, attachments, and any added features. The excavator should be versatile, easy-to-use, durable, and reliable. Understanding the various sizes, types, optional features, and specifications helps buyers narrow down their choices. Used excavators present a more affordable option, though the buying process should be approached with care to ensure the machine is in good running condition.

eBay has a wide selection of construction excavators, and with the right information, shoppers can find a quality excavator for their business.

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