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How Much Does an Excavator Cost?

Matt at Centex Excavation
Author: MattPublished: August 10, 2023 • Filed Under: Equipment and Machinery

If you’ve ever found knee-deep in a massive home improvement project or overseeing a construction site, you know how essential excavators can be. These powerful machines effortlessly dig up dirt, move heavy materials, and make any project a breeze. However, with all of that power comes a price tag.  And if you’ve never purchased or rented an excavator before, you’re probably wondering how much it’ll cost.

Fortunately, we’ve got some experience when it comes to buying excavators. We’ll explore the factors that affect their price tags, weigh the pros and cons of buying new versus used, and even reveal some insider tips for finding the best deals.

Factors that affect excavator costs.

Several factors can influence the price tag. Some can affect the overall cost by a lot, while others, not so much. 

Size of the excavator.

Mini Excavator Working on Road

One of the primary considerations is the size and type of excavator you need. This factor affects the overall costs more than any other. Smaller excavators, such as mini or compact models, are generally more affordable than larger ones. For example, a John Deere 35G Mini Excavator will typically go for around $30,000 depending on which features you want. On the other hand, a Cat 320GC Tracked Excavator sells for around $150,000. Additionally, the type of excavator, be it a standard hydraulic excavator, a long-reach excavator, or a demolition excavator, can also impact its cost.

New vs. used.

Another factor affecting excavator costs is whether you buy a new or used machine. Buying brand new certainly comes with a premium price, but it also offers the advantage of a warranty and the latest features. On the other hand, purchasing a used excavator can save you money upfront, but it’s important to thoroughly inspect the machine for any potential mechanical issues or maintenance requirements.

Features and attachments.

Excavator with Metal Cutting Attachment

The specific features and attachments you need can also affect the overall cost. Excavators have many options, such as specialized buckets, hydraulic thumbs, or GPS systems, which can increase prices. Assessing your specific needs and determining which features are essential versus optional is necessary.

The make and model.

Brand and reputation of the manufacturer can have an impact on the cost. You’ve probably heard of the saying, “you’re paying for the name.” That’s completely true when it comes to excavators and other construction equipment. Well-known and established brands such as Cat, John Deere, and Komatsu tend to be more expensive due to their reputation for quality and reliability. However, lesser-known brands such as MMS can offer comparable features at a more affordable price.

New vs. used excavators: Which is more cost-effective?

When purchasing an excavator, one crucial decision you’ll need to make is buying a new or used machine. Both options have pros and cons, but ultimately, you want to find the most cost-effective choice for your needs. Let’s take a closer look at the factors to consider.

You can expect to pay a higher upfront cost when buying a new excavator. However, there are advantages to going with new. You’ll have a machine that is in pristine condition, with the latest features and technology. Additionally, new excavators often come with warranties, providing peace of mind in case of any unforeseen issues. While the initial investment may be higher, a new excavator could save you money in the long run due to lower maintenance and repair costs.

On the other hand, purchasing a used excavator can be a more budget-friendly option. Used machines tend to have a lower upfront cost, making them attractive to those with a limited budget. However, it’s crucial to thoroughly inspect the condition of the used excavator and consider its maintenance history. Remember, repairs and maintenance can add up over time, potentially offsetting the initial savings.

Think of it this way. suppose you need a mid-sized excavator for your construction business. A new excavator in this category might cost around $100,000, while a used one with similar specifications could be around $60,000. At first glance, the used excavator seems like a great deal, saving you $40,000. However, the savings could quickly dwindle if the used machine requires extensive repairs or has high maintenance costs.

Ultimately, the decision between buying a new or used excavator depends on factors such as your budget, the specific requirements of your projects, and your willingness to take on potential risks. It’s essential to carefully assess these factors and consider the long-term costs associated with ownership. By doing a thorough research and considering your unique circumstances, you can make an informed choice that maximizes your cost-effectiveness and suits your needs.

Typical costs of different excavator sizes and types.

As we mentioned earlier, the cost of an excavator will vary depending on your chosen size and type. Excavators come in various sizes, from compact mini excavators to larger hydraulic excavators. And, of course, the bigger the excavator, the higher the cost.

Let’s look at some typical costs to give you a better idea. For example, a small compact excavator, typically weighing 1-5 tons, can range in price from $20,000 to $50,000. These smaller excavators are perfect for residential projects or tight spaces where maneuverability is key.

On the other hand, if you require a larger excavator for projects like construction or mining, be prepared to fork out more dough. Mid-sized excavators, ranging from 5-10 tons, can cost anywhere between $50,000 to $150,000. And when it comes to the big boys, the heavy-duty hydraulic excavators that weigh over 10 tons expect to pay upwards of $150,000 or more.

Remember that these prices are estimates and can vary based on brand, model, additional features, and current market conditions. It’s always a good idea to do comparison shopping to find the best deal that suits your needs and budget.

Buying an excavator is not just about the initial purchase cost. You’ll also need to factor in additional expenses such as maintenance, repairs, fuel, and insurance. So, it’s essential to consider these ongoing costs when making your decision. Some brands have a better reputation than others when it comes to maintenance.

Additional expenses to consider when buying an excavator.

When purchasing an excavator, looking beyond the initial cost is essential. Various additional expenses can arise, impacting your overall expenditure. Considering these additional costs will allow you to make a more informed decision and avoid unexpected financial setbacks.

Maintenance.

Maintenance and repair costs are one significant expense to consider. Excavators are heavy-duty machines and need regular servicing and occasional repairs. These maintenance expenses can quickly eat into your budget, from oil changes to worn-out part replacements. Including these ongoing costs is crucial to ensure you can afford to keep your excavator running smoothly. These costs are typically much more than your standard car maintenance.

Insurance.

Another expense to keep in mind is insurance. Excavators, being large and powerful machines, come with inherent risks. Having proper insurance coverage is crucial to protect yourself and your investment. Insurance premiums can vary depending on the machine’s age, usage, and location. It’s worth shopping around and comparing quotes to find the best deal that suits your needs. If you’ve ever been in the construction industry, then you know how important insurance is on these machines.

Transportation.

This is the most overlooked cost we see from new excavator owners.  Excavators are not easily portable, and transporting them from the seller’s location to your worksite can be a logistical challenge. Hiring a specialized transportation service or renting a trailer may be necessary to move the excavator safely. These expenses can vary depending on the distance and accessibility of the site, so it’s vital to include them in your budget. 

Accessories.

Don’t overlook the cost of attachments and accessories. Excavators often require additional tools and equipment to perform specific tasks efficiently. These attachments, such as buckets, hammers, or grapples, can significantly enhance the versatility of your excavator but come at an extra cost.  What’s the point of having the excavator if you can’t have all of the toys?

Renting vs. buying: Which option is more economical?

When getting an excavator, there’s a big decision: should you rent or buy? Both options have their merits, but assessing your needs and circumstances is the key to finding the most economical choice. Let me share a little anecdote to help paint a clearer picture.

Imagine you’re a homeowner with a small backyard project. You need an excavator for a limited time to dig a trench for underground irrigation. Renting an excavator for days or weeks could be the perfect solution. It allows you to get the job done without making a long-term investment.

On the other hand, buying an excavator may be the wiser choice if you’re a contractor who consistently takes on large projects that require excavation. By owning your equipment, you have the advantage of having it readily available whenever you need it. You can customize it to meet your requirements, like adding special attachments.

Of course, the decision between renting and buying goes beyond current needs and project size. You have to consider the long-term costs and the frequency of use. Renting an excavator is often a fixed cost, whereas buying one involves the initial purchase price, maintenance, and potential financing. You’ll also need to factor in storage and insurance costs.

One benefit of renting is that you won’t have to worry about repair and maintenance expenses, which can add up over time. If you choose to buy, it’s essential to maintain your excavator correctly to avoid costly breakdowns and ensure its longevity.

Ultimately, the choice between renting and buying comes down to your situation. If you have ongoing excavation needs and a higher frequency of use, buying an excavator might be a more economical choice in the long run. However, renting could be more cost-effective for occasional or smaller projects. It’s always a good idea to crunch the numbers and consider short-term and long-term costs before deciding.

Long-term costs of owning an excavator.

When considering the long-term costs of owning an excavator, it’s crucial to look beyond the initial purchase price and consider the ongoing expenses of operating and maintaining the machine. 

For instance, you’ll need to factor in fuel costs, which can vary depending on the size and type of excavator you own. Excavators are not known for being fuel efficient machines.

Regular maintenance and servicing are essential to keep your machine in top condition, ensuring it operates efficiently and minimizing the risk of breakdowns. These maintenance costs, including oil changes, filter replacements, and inspections, can increase over time.

Depreciation is a significant consideration when assessing the long-term costs of owning heavy equipment. As with any vehicle or machinery, an excavator’s value will decrease over time, and this depreciation should be considered when calculating overall costs.

Another aspect to think about is storage and insurance. Depending on your circumstances, you may need a secure location to park your excavator when it’s not in use. Additionally, insurance coverage is essential to protect your investment against any unforeseen accidents or damage.

Considering these various long-term costs, it becomes evident that owning an excavator requires a commitment in terms of financial resources and ongoing maintenance. It’s essential to carefully weigh these factors against your specific needs and resources before deciding whether owning an excavator is the right choice for you.

Every situation is unique, and evaluating the long-term costs specific to your circumstances is essential. We’re simply trying to get you to think about all of the costs associated with your situation.

Tips for finding the best excavator deals.

A little research and savvy negotiating skills can go a long way when finding the best deals on excavators. Here are some actionable tips to help you find the excavator that fits your needs and budget:

  • Compare prices from different sellers. Don’t settle for the first offer you come across. Take the time to research and compare prices from multiple sellers. Look for both online and offline options, and don’t forget to consider dealerships, auctions, and rental companies.
  • Consider buying used. While brand-new excavators may seem tempting, buying used can often save you significant money. Just thoroughly inspect the machine and ask for maintenance records to ensure you get reliable equipment.
  • Attend equipment auctions. Auctions can be a great way to snag a deal on an excavator. Keep an eye on local auction listings and set a budget beforehand. The downside is that you don’t always know the mechanical condition of the machine until you own it; however, you can get really good deals.
  • Network and ask for referrals. Talk to industry professionals and experts and ask for referrals or recommendations. They may have insider knowledge or be aware of upcoming deals or discounts you wouldn’t find on your own. Rental companies are a gold mine!
  • Negotiate the price. Don’t be afraid to negotiate when buying an excavator. Sellers are often willing to negotiate to close a deal. Be prepared to present your research and make a reasonable offer based on market prices and machine conditions.

These tips and tricks can increase your chances of finding the best excavator deals that align with your budget and requirements. Remember, a little extra effort in the beginning, can save you a lot of money in the long run. 

Know the costs of buying an excavator and buy with confidence.

Buying an excavator is a big decision that requires careful consideration of various factors. The cost of an excavator can vary significantly depending on factors such as size, type, new or used, and additional expenses. While a used excavator may seem more cost-effective, weighing the potential risks and maintenance costs associated with older machinery is essential.

Renting an excavator can be a viable alternative for short-term or occasional projects. However, for long-term use, buying an excavator can offer greater flexibility and potentially save money in the long run. It’s crucial to evaluate the long-term costs of ownership, including maintenance, repairs, fuel, and insurance.

When searching for excavator deals, it’s essential to do thorough research, consider multiple suppliers, and negotiate whenever possible. Don’t forget to factor in the reputation and reliability of the supplier, as well as warranty options and customer support.

Ultimately, the decision between buying or renting an excavator depends on your specific needs, budget, and the duration of your projects. By carefully considering these factors and conducting thorough research, you can make a well-informed decision that meets your financial and operational requirements.

So, whether digging trenches, working on construction projects, or tackling landscaping tasks, finding the right excavator at the right cost will help you accomplish your goals efficiently and effectively.

About the Author

Matt Avatar

Matt

Excavation Expert

Matt is a highly experienced heavy equipment operator with over two decades of experience in the construction industry. His expertise covers a wide range of machinery and project types, and he is known for his focus on safety, efficiency, and problem-solving. Matt's commitment to delivering high-quality work within deadlines and budgets has made him highly respected at Centex Excavation and the excavation industry.

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