The Trackhoe Ultimate Guide

Matt at Centex Excavation
Author: MattPublished: February 3, 2023 Updated: April 10, 2023 • Filed Under: Equipment and Machinery

Are you looking for a powerful excavator to help with your next project? A trackhoe is the perfect solution for heavy-duty jobs that require more power and stability.

This ultimate guide on trackhoes will provide you with all the information you need to know about these machines. This includes what size of excavator is needed, what advantages they offer over wheeled models, if licenses or insurance are required, and where to purchase one.

With this comprehensive guide in hand, you’ll be ready to start digging confidently and safely.

What is a trackhoe?

You may have heard the term “trackhoe” thrown around. You might’ve even heard it spelled “track hoe” or referred to as a tracked excavator. Nonetheless, a trackhoe is a versatile piece of heavy construction equipment. It’s essentially a backhoe mounted onto an undercarriage with continuous tracks, similar to what you’d find on a tank or bulldozer.

One thing many people get confused about is the difference between a trackhoe and an excavator. An excavator also has a boom-arm, bucket, and rotating cab assembly. However, they can have tracks or wheels as well.

Hydraulic excavators are an overarching term for the type of machinery that includes trackhoes, which are the specific type of excavator with continuous tracks.

Trackhoes with Buckets on Arms

What can a track hoes do?

 A trackhoe is often used in applications where the terrain is too uneven or soft for wheeled vehicles and when maximum power and stability are needed.

Trackhoes have a number of applications for various industries. They are used for mining operations, construction projects, and demolition jobs. Additionally, they can be used for removing stumps or digging trenches for laying water pipes and irrigation systems.

One of the best things about earthmoving equipment like a track hoe is that they have interchangable buckets for different digging applications. For example, you can use a standard digging bucket for regular excavation, or you can switch it out with a grapple bucket for removing stumps and roots. An operator can even use a skeleton bucket if they’re trying to sift through soil or earth.

There are so many different types of projects that a track hoe can be used for. It’s one of the most powerful and versatile pieces of earthmoving equipment available on the market today.

No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, having a track hoe handy can make your job much easier and more efficient. From digging trenches to removing stumps and roots, a track hoe is the perfect piece of equipment for getting the job done.

How does a trackhoe compare to wheeled excavators?

So why would you want a tracked excavator such as a trackhoe vs excavators with wheels? Well, it comes down to the terrain and soil that you’re working in.

Tracked excavators offer more stability and power compared to wheeled excavators because their tracks are able to evenly spread the weight of the machine over a larger area, meaning it’s less likely for them to get stuck or slide. Additionally, they have better traction when operating on soft ground and can reach places wheeled machines can’t.

Tracked excavators are also the preferred choice for working in areas with steep slopes or undulating terrain because they have better balance and stability than wheeled models. They’re also able to operate on a smaller turning radius, which is ideal if you need to navigate tight spaces or maneuver around obstacles.

Think of it this way, with a four-wheel excavator, you have only four contact points with the ground, each only able to provide a small amount of grip. Whereas, with a trackhoe, you have two continuous tracks that span the entire length of the machine which are able to provide much more traction and stability when working on uneven or soft terrain.

So while tracked excavators may cost slightly more than their wheeled counterparts, especially when it comes to maintenance on the machinery, they’re the preferred earth moving equipment that is perfect for heavy digging.

Backhoe using a Bucket to Push Dirt and Earth
This is a wheeled-excavator, often referred to as a backhoe.

How much does a trackhoe weigh?

Track hoes vary in weight from 5,000 lbs for mini excavators to well over 45 tons (90,000 lbs) for large excavators.

Large excavators weigh more than 45 tons and are used for heavier construction projects. Standard excavators typically weigh between 19-24 tons. They offer more power but can be difficult to maintain and transport due to the size.

For most home improvement projects, a mini excavator is more than enough for the task. However, if you’re looking for an excavator that can shovel dirt for a pool installation, then you’re going to want at least a 30k crawler. That’s a 15 ton excavator.

Renting or purchasing a track hoe.

Now that you’ve a good idea of the size and weight of the different types of track hoes available, you can decide if renting is a better option for your specific project.

For small projects like digging trenches for water pipes or removing stumps in your yard, renting is usually the most cost effective way to go about it.

However, if you have an ongoing need for earthmoving equipment or have a large project that requires digging, purchasing may be the way to go.

No matter what you decide, having a track hoe on your project can make it easier and more efficient. There’s nothing quite like being able to move earth with ease and precision! With the right piece of equipment, any excavation job is possible.

How much does it cost to rent a trackhoe?

The cost of renting used excavators can vary from region to region. However, for the most part you should expect to pay around $500-$1000 per day to rent a 15-20 ton excavator. Don’t forget that you’ll also have to pay for trucks to deliver and pickup the excavator as well. This can run you upwards of $300 per trip.

For a mini excavator, the cost is typically around $250 per day. The best part of renting a smaller piece of machinery is that you can usually transport the machinery with your own trailer saving you on transportation costs.

Of course, if you rent the equipment by the week or month you can usually get a better rate. And if you plan on renting multiple times throughout the year, it’s also worth asking about discounts for regular customers. So if you have a demolition project that is going to take several days, renting a track hoe by the week could be the best option.

How much does a trackhoe cost?

Maybe you want to start your own business or you have a big project at home that requires some heavy duty excavating. In either case, you’ll likely need to purchase a track hoe outright.

The cost of buying new can range from tens of thousands of dollars for mini excavators up to several hundred thousand dollars for the largest models.

When purchasing an excavator, it’s important to factor in not only the price of the machine itself but also any additional parts, such as buckets and hydraulic hammers, that you may need to complete your job.

You can also save money by purchasing a used excavator. There are hundreds of used excavators for sale all across the country. Just ensure it’s been properly maintained so you know that you’re getting a reliable piece of equipment. Often times you can have a mechanic inspect the machinery before you commit to buying it.

How do you operate a trackhoe?

So you just rented your excavator and you’re looking to dig some dirt and get to work.

But how do you operate it?

Operating diggers varies from machine to machine, but the basics are all the same across the various brands. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with all of the controls and levers for each operation you plan on performing.

Generally speaking, it is best to learn how to operate your excavator in an open area rather than at a job site. Get a feel for the movement and action of the bucket. That way you can practice safely and become more comfortable with the machinery before operating on rugged terrain.

Typically, there will be a placard inside the cab that outlines the controls and functions of the machine. If you’re ever unsure about how to operate a certain function, it’s best to consult that first before doing any digging.

Once you feel comfortable enough, you can begin excavating with ease and precision.

Trackhoe FAQs

Whether you’re doing a little landscaping or even some trenching, there’s a chance you have some questions. That’s okay because we’ve put together some frequently asked questions about renting and buying trackhoes to help guide you.

What size excavator do I need?

The size of the excavator you’ll need depends on the job you’re doing and the area that needs to be worked on. Mini excavators are best for smaller jobs such as landscaping or trenching for piping, while larger ones can dig larger trenches, move rocks, and lift heavy objects. For example, if you’re in a location with heavy rocks, or your looking to dig a hole for a septic tank or pool, you might want a 15 ton or above. This is a standard sized excavator. Rarely will a typical homeowner need one of the larger excavator, whereas a contractor will need something larger that is usually driven by a licensed operator.

Is an excavator the same as a trackhoe?

A trackhoe is a type of excavator. Excavators come in many different sizes and configurations, with some having tracks, or “feet,” and others having wheels. Trackhoes are typically heavier duty than wheeled models and can be used for more heavy-duty jobs such as ditch digging, demolition, and large excavation projects.

Do I need a license to operate a trackhoe?

In some states, you may need to obtain a license in order to operate an excavator. This is usually determined by the size of the machine and the job for which it’s being used. It’s best to check with your local municipality as requirements vary from area to area. In many cases, if you’re renting from a company, they may include an operator with the machine.

Do I need to be insured when renting a trackhoe?

Yes, you should always make sure you’re insured when operating any type of heavy machinery. It’s best to check with your local insurance provider before starting a job. This way you’re covered in case of any damages or accidents.

What’s the difference backhoe and trackhoe?

Backhoes are a type of excavator that has an arm and bucket but are on a tractor chassis with wheels. They’re best for smaller jobs such as landscaping or trenching. A trackhoe, on the other hand, is a machine that has an arm with a large bucket attached to it. The difference is that it runs on tracks instead of wheels. Construction companies use them for larger projects such as digging trenches, demolition work, and large excavation projects.

Why is it called a Trackhoe?

We call it a trackhoe for two reasons. First, because it runs on tracks (which are like metal shoes or tank treads) instead of wheels. Secondly, the term “trackhoe” is a combination of the words “track” and “backhoe.” This is because it’s used in place of a backhoe for more heavy-duty jobs that require more power and stability.

Where can I purchase a trackhoe?

There are virtually hundreds of trackhoes for sale online, however, you can usually find them locally. Oftentimes a local rental company can help you find the best trackhoe for your specific needs. Sometimes these companies will sell their older equipment at great prices.

Start digging and keep safety in mind.

Trackhoes and other related machinery are a great tools for heavy-duty jobs that require more power and stability. The size of the excavator you’ll need depends on the job at hand. So be sure to consider your project before making any purchases or rentals. If you’re looking to buy one outright, there are plenty of options online. You can also try local rental companies who may sell their older models.

Before operating an excavator, it’s important to make sure you have all the necessary licenses. You’ll also want to ensure you have proper insurance in place for safety purposes. With these tips in mind, start digging with confidence.

About the Author

Matt Avatar


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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