How to Choose the Right Compact Excavator

Posted on September 20, 2023

With machines ranging in size classes from 1 to 8 metric tons, the Bobcat® compact excavator lineup enables you to match specs, features and Bobcat exclusives to your unique jobsite demands. Many of the models can be configured with industry-exclusive features – including the unique Pro Clamp™ system, Hydraulic X-Change™ mounting system, extendable arm and depth check system.

The result? You can push your performance and productivity to new levels, work more efficiently and make tough jobs easier. 

The extensive compact excavator lineup from Bobcat includes the industry’s hardest-working, most versatile digging machines, with rugged durability, fast-digging performance and impressive innovation.

Choosing the right compact excavator size, weight and arm style doesn’t need to be complicated. No matter which machine you choose, you can be confident that it’s engineered to take you to new levels. Let’s narrow it down and show you how to choose the right Bobcat machine to match your needs.

Size and Comfort

One of the most important things to consider when comparing models is size. Every jobsite brings a distinct set of needs, requirements and challenges. If you’re currently renting a compact excavator or hiring subcontractors, what tasks are the machines performing? That can help you narrow down your choice. While a larger machine can quickly dig a trench and move vast amounts of material, confined areas such as residential properties require a smaller machine for easier maneuverability.

It’s important to note that Bobcat pays as much attention to operator comfort as it does to digging performance. Bobcat believes that there is a direct relationship between operator comfort and productivity, and you’ll find premium features and operator-centered design throughout the Bobcat compact excavator cab. With its wide suspension seat, clear visibility and an interior space that’s designed with operators of every size in mind, you’ll enjoy a comfortable environment for long hours on the job.

Tail Swing

Another important feature to consider when choosing an excavator model is tail swing. If you’re working in mostly open areas without space constraints, a conventional tail swing machine might be a better fit for you. A zero tail swing (ZTS) or minimal tail swing machine allows for less restricted rotation in tight areas, such as when working close to structures or against walls and fence lines. Select models offer a retractable undercarriage for easier access through tight entryways and gates. With Bobcat compact excavators, you can get a machine that perfectly matches your space and work requirements.

Arm Configurations

Bobcat offers three different lift arm configurations for its compact excavators. This allows you to customize the excavator’s breakout forces and reach for the work you do most often.

Standard arm configurations give you maximum breakout force and lifting ability with greater digging performance.

For greater reach and digging depth, the optional long arm may be the right choice, as the extra distance allows you to do more work without repositioning the machine. Plus, higher dump heights can make loading trucks easier. The long arm option includes an additional counterweight for greater lifting and digging capabilities.

For extra reach on demand, Bobcat offers a clamp-ready extendable arm option for select compact excavator models. This industry-exclusive feature gives you the best of both worlds: power and lifting performance combined with the ability to extend the machine’s dig depth and reach when you need it.

Matching Your Work With

Not to be overlooked when choosing the right compact excavator is, of course, what tasks and work you want the machine to perform. Smaller models, such as the E10 and E20, provide the precision and power needed in confined areas. Midsized compact excavators provide additional digging force and lift capacity, and larger compact models like the E88 can dig through more demanding ground with powerful hydraulics and fast cycle times. This is when horsepower, rated lift capacity, digging force and dig depth really come into play.

Working With an Industry Leader

As the industry leader, it’s no surprise that Bobcat compact excavators can be configured with industry-exclusive features. In addition to the extendable arm mentioned earlier, other features include: 

Pro Clamp™ system: As an alternative to a clamp attachment, the Pro Clamp system consists of a base component, standard pin-on work tool and optional grading tool that allow you to:

  • Optimize the standard clamp configuration for the task at hand.
  • Create a smooth trench bottom with the grading tool, avoiding the need for a second “smooth lip” bucket. 
  • Clean up spoil piles quickly with the grading tool, reducing manual labor. 
  • Remove the tool when trenching, giving you enhanced visibility into the trench area.

Hydraulic X-Change™ system: With hydraulic pins at the press of a switch, there’s no need to leave your seat when it comes to attachments. Simply retract for attachment removal or extend for attachment hook up.

Depth check system: The Bobcat depth check system for compact excavators improves profitability by minimizing the tendency to over- and under-dig. With an accuracy of ±0.5 inches, it’s a superior and affordable option for achieving grade or meeting minimum cover specifications. Depth check is available for most compact excavators.

See it in Action

A demonstration at your worksite will give you the best indication of how a Bobcat compact excavator can perform on the job. To schedule a demo and learn more about the industry’s leading compact excavators, contact your local Bobcat dealer.