Exploring Compact Excavator Sizes and Specifications

Compact (Mini) Excavator Buyer’s Guide: Part 2 of 6 

Dig deeper into operating weights, horsepower, and more specifications to consider when choosing a compact (mini) excavator.  

Table of Contents: 

E32 and E35 Compact Excavators Parked on a Sandy Jobsite

Compact Excavator Sizes  

Compact excavators, also known as mini excavators, come in many configurations and sizes. These machines are typically categorized by their operating weight. An excavator’s size and weight impact the overall lift capacity as the center of gravity, lift geometry and amount of counterweight all vary depending on overall machine size.    

Small excavators are ideal for working in tight spaces and on small-scale projects, while larger excavators are designed for more demanding tasks and extensive construction work. Compact excavators exert less ground pressure, reducing the risk of surface damage and minimizing soil compaction. Refer to the specifications (or specs) for compact excavators to help determine which machine best meets your needs.   

Learn about the specifications for compact excavators, with definitions and purposes/uses of the specifications.  

Weight Class   

Weight class is a general categorization that broadly indicates an excavator’s size and lifting capacity, which helps determine whether it is suitable for its intended tasks and operating environment.    

For more information on important specs for compact excavators, refer to the specs section.

1-2 Metric Tons   

These are the smallest size of compact excavators, and they’re perfect for tight spaces and small-scale projects. Ideal for landscapers, small contractors and property owners, they are often used for tasks such as digging holes for fences or small foundations, trenching, minor landscaping, and small-scale demolition.   

Available Models:  

Diesel 1-Ton: E10

Electric 1-Ton: E10e, E19e  

Diesel 2-Ton: E20, E26 

3-4 Metric Tons    

These compact excavators provide a balance between power and size, making them suitable for various applications. They are commonly used for residential construction, utility work, landscaping and hardscaping projects. They offer improved digging depth and reach compared to 1-2 metric ton excavators while still providing easy maneuverability in tight spaces.   

Available Models: 

3-Ton Diesel: E32, E35, E38  

4-Ton Diesel: E40, E48  

5-6 Metric Tons 

With increased power and versatility, 5-6 metric ton compact excavators are suitable for mid-size construction projects, roadwork and more extensive landscaping jobs. They offer greater digging depth, reach and lifting capacity, making them ideal for tasks like sewer line installations, swimming pool excavations and larger demolition projects.   

Available Models:

5-Ton Diesel: E55  

6-Ton Diesel: E60  

7-8 Metric Tons    

These compact excavators are designed for more demanding projects that require increased power and lifting capacity. They are ideal for commercial construction, larger utility installations and heavy-duty landscaping tasks. With their enhanced capabilities, they can tackle jobs such as large foundation excavations, site preparation and slope grading.   

Available Models:

8-Ton Diesel: E88  

9-10 Metric Tons 

The largest in the compact excavator category, these machines are built for heavy-duty applications and large-scale projects. They are commonly used for commercial and industrial construction, significant utility installations, and major earthmoving tasks. With their high lifting capacity, digging depth and reach, they can efficiently handle projects such as large building foundations, demolition and substantial excavation work.    

Learn More: Bobcat Compact Excavators  

Large Excavators 

If you need maximum muscle for large jobs, you might need a large excavator. A step up from compact excavators, large excavators boast operating weights between 14 and 16 metric tons (28,000 – 32,000 pounds). These machines are built for heavy-duty applications and large-scale projects, like commercial and industrial construction, significant utility installations, and major earthmoving tasks. With their high lifting capacity, increased digging depth and reach, they can efficiently handle projects such as large building foundations, demolition and substantial excavation work.   

Diesel Models: E145, E165   

Learn More: Bobcat Large Excavators   

Battery-Powered (Electric) Compact Excavators   

With advancements in lithium-ion battery and charging technology, battery-powered compact excavators and are an increasingly popular choice for contractors who work indoors and in areas with noise restrictions, or for those who simply want to reduce the environmental impact of their work. With their impressive power and torque, battery-powered excavators can match the performance of their diesel-powered counterparts. 

Available Models: E10e, E19e  

Learn More: Bobcat Electric Excavators  

Diesel or Electric Power?   

If you do a lot of indoor projects or work in areas where noise restrictions restrict your working hours, a battery-powered compact excavator could be a great addition to your fleet. Battery-powered excavators produce no emissions and low noise levels, allowing you to complete tasks on jobsites that may otherwise be off limits to excavator operations. Diesel-powered compact excavators generally come with a lower price tag, and they offer job-proven power and performance that is hard to beat – especially when engine noise and exhaust are not an issue.

Compact Excavator Specifications  

Size, weight and performance specifications are essential factors when selecting a compact excavator, as they directly impact the machine's job-site capabilities, transportability, maneuverability and ground pressure. Smaller, lighter excavators are easier to transport and maneuver in tight spaces but may have lower lifting capacities and digging depths than larger, heavier machines. Understanding the capabilities of each tonnage size will help you choose the right compact excavator for your needs. 

Learn about the specifications for compact excavators, with definitions and purposes/uses of the specifications.  

Compact Excavator Dimensions

Compact Excavator Performance Specs

When choosing a compact excavator, you’ll need to consider whether the specifications of the machine are suitable for the specific tasks and environments you’ll encounter on the job. Factors such as horsepower, operating capacity, dig depth, reach and swing radius all play a pivotal role in compact excavator performance and capabilities.  

Learning about the specifications for compact excavators, with definitions and purposes/uses will help you in understanding your considerations and needs for a compact excavator.

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Compact Excavator Arms

Bobcat compact excavators are available with various arm configurations to suit specific applications and job-site requirements. For example, an extendable arm option allows you to use the power and lifting performance of a standard-length arm, but it also provides additional reach on demand for specific tasks.   

Choose from three types of compact excavator arms:   

  • Standard arm   
  • Long arm   
  • Extendable arm   

Learn More:    

Tail Swing Types  

Compact excavators come in various designs regarding tail swing, which refers to the amount of overhang or the area an excavator's counterweight (rear end) occupies while rotating beyond the width of its tracks.   

The three primary types of tail swing configurations are zero tail swing, minimal tail swing and conventional tail swing. Each configuration has its unique advantages and challenges depending on the working environment and project requirements.    

Zero Tail Swing (ZTS)   

On a zero tail swing excavator, the rear counterweight does not extend beyond the width of the tracks at any point during rotation. This design allows for greater mobility in tight spaces, as there is no risk of the counterweight hitting nearby objects or obstacles when the machine is turning. ZTS excavators are ideal for urban construction, confined spaces and projects with limited access.    

Minimal Tail Swing   

Minimal tail swing excavators have a slight overhang (usually less than 10% of the machine width) beyond the width of the tracks during rotation. This design offers a balance between the tight working space advantages of zero tail swing and the stability and lifting capacity of conventional tail swing. Minimal tail swing machines are suitable for projects with some space restrictions, where maneuverability and stability are both important considerations.    

Conventional (Traditional) Tail Swing   

Conventional tail swing excavators have a more significant overhang, with the counterweight extending considerably beyond the width of the tracks during rotation. This design provides better stability and lifting capacity compared to ZTS and minimal tail swing excavators. However, they require more working space and caution when operating near obstacles or in confined areas.    

Learn More:    

Compact Excavator Engines   

Engine power affects a compact excavator's performance, fuel efficiency and overall productivity. It is typically measured in terms of horsepower, with higher horsepower engines providing more power for demanding tasks. Fuel-efficient engines help reduce operating costs and minimize environmental impact. Look for engines with advanced technologies designed to optimize fuel consumption. Turbo-charged engines perform more consistently when working at higher altitudes. If you live in a high-elevation area, a turbo-charged engine can be an important consideration.   

Emissions Tier (EPA)  

Engine emissions tier corresponds to regulations standards issued by the EPA or other agencies. A higher tier rating indicates the engine will have cleaner emissions and be more environmentally friendly. Tier 4 is the latest emissions tier for North America.  

Maximum Governed RPM  

An engine’s maximum governed rpm indicates the engine’s maximum operating speed, which affects performance and efficiency. Higher maximum rpm usually results in faster operation and additional productivity.  

Bobcat® engines are designed to provide reliable performance, high- fuel efficiency and reduced emissions in compact excavators.   

  • Forgiving fuel system: A forgiving fuel system makes low fuel levels less of a challenge.   
  • Larger fuel filter: A large fuel filter delivers extended system protection and ease of maintenance.    
  • Self-priming fuel pump: A self-priming system eliminates the need for a primer bulb.   
  • Quieter operation: Low noise levels make operation more comfortable.   
  • Longer oil service interval: An increased engine oil service interval of 750 hours increases operator uptime.    

Learn More: Bobcat Engine   

Making an Informed Buying Decision  

Choosing the right compact excavator involves careful consideration of sizes and specifications offered – so you can tailor performance to the specific tasks and work environments you work in.

From lift capacity to digging depth, horsepower to tail swing type, each plays a role in determining a compact excavator’s performance and suitability for your needs. Versatility is also an important consideration in your decision-making process. Consider choosing a compact excavator that is compatible with a wide range of attachments to maximize your jog-site versatility and get the utmost value from your investment.   

Whether you're tackling small-scale landscaping projects or heavy-duty construction tasks, understanding these specifications will guide you in selecting the perfect size and configuration for your efficiency and productivity on the job site.    

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