Compact construction equipment such as mini excavators and compact wheel loaders have huge benefits for a wide variety of projects. Typically ranging from zero to six tonnes, mini excavators are lightweight, easy to transport and user-friendly. Ideal for confined areas, they can be used on utility, foundation work, landscaping and indoor demolition or construction projects. At the larger end of the spectrum, seven- to ten-tonne midi (or compact) excavators are suitable for more demanding activities.
Compact wheel loaders are categorised in terms of horsepower (<80HP). Like mini excavators, they are easy to operate and manoeuvre in small spaces, and can be used like a multifunctional “tool carrier” on a wide range of applications. While the mini excavators can be used with a wide variety of buckets, including standard, high tip, lateral tipping and clamshell, as well as breakers, demolition equipment, and specialist tools for agricultural and landscaping projects, compact wheel loaders can deliver even greater versatility with various attachments such as buckets, pallet forks and special purpose equipment, such as industrial grapple buckets.
Given their incredible versatility, it’s no surprise to see significant growth in demand for these small machines. The European compact wheel loader market has doubled in size in recent years from 10,000 units in 2012 to 20,000 units in 2019, and the annual shipment of mini excavators has risen from 40,000 units in 2013 to 70,000 units in 2019.
Five things to consider before you buy
Before investing in a compact machine, it’s vital to consider the total cost of ownership, which includes maintenance and repairs, and future resale value. The durability and reliability of the brand is also worth assessing, as this will have a considerable impact on the machine’s residual value.
It’s also important to think about how the machine will be transported from one job site to the next. Seventy per cent of mini excavators sold are below three tonnes in Europe. This may be attributable to how relatively straightforward it is to obtain a licence to tow one of these models on a trailer with a regular driving licence. Compact wheel loaders can be driven on public roads in some countries, subject to legislation, road homologation and registration.
Safety features on Hitachi Zaxis-6 mini excavators, and increased all-round visibility on Hitachi ZW-6 compact wheel loaders, for example, are another important factor. Many operators of compact construction equipment may be using this machine for the first time, as a rental model, or for a short time on a project.
Finally, the after-sales support from the local dealer is crucial. Can they easily provide advice and training, give you quick access to spare parts, offer effective maintenance and servicing, and install remote monitoring equipment and apps that will help you manage your machine? And are they part of a global network, with an established reputation, and access to decades of expertise?