A guide to purchasing backhoe loaders

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Author : Nico
Update time : 2022-08-01 09:13:54

Introduction to the Backhoe Loader Buying Process

Although not the largest machine on the job site, the backhoe is definitely one of the most common machines. Backhoes have become an easy way to reduce the time and costs associated with many earthmoving operations, from industrial and residential construction to light landscape projects. They are often seen as accessories and are often sold as accessories to multi-purpose heavy equipment. But backhoes are also sold as a complete unit, usually including a rear backhoe and a front loader.

Their popularity is reflected in the continued development of the technology they incorporate, including features that increase efficiency while shrinking the design size. Leading manufacturers including Case, Deere, Caterpillar, JCB, Komatsu and DIG-DOG currently produce backhoe loaders for the international market, often focusing on specific industries and uses, such as mining, excavation, demolition and road construction.

Getting started

This purchasing guide will cover common trends, popular specifications, types and accessories on backhoes, enabling you to narrow down the type and size required. But with so many options, it's important to focus on the dealer first. The dealer of your choice will be responsible for providing the initial consultation regarding the purchase, ensuring that you receive the appropriate level of power for your job, and then providing all necessary after-sales support for the purchase.

When comparing backhoe dealers, note the following characteristics:


After sales service and maintenance are usually the two main components to ensure the long-term return on investment of your purchase. Backhoe loader support provided directly through the dealer is one of the most important factors used to assess dealer potential. Specific attention should be paid to the following points:

Number of professional service technicians available (either in-house or subcontracted)

Name brand parts (existing and delivered)

First call repair rate and turnover rate

The above considerations allow you to go beyond the dealer's service rates and accurately estimate the specific costs that will affect you during downtime. Why doesn't the service rate matter? Each backhoe is used differently and for different purposes. While one machine may be used to demonstrate old structures for new construction, another may simply dig trenches. The two machines require very different services. If the dealer has more customers of one type than the other, the service rate may not apply in your case.

Maintenance and Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

Like any heavy equipment, backhoes require continuous maintenance to continue to operate efficiently and avoid downtime. These service aspects, including labor and parts and the costs associated with routine maintenance, are detailed line by line in the Service level Agreement (SLA). Slas are another way that dealers can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the machine. Specifically, it locks in the costs associated with future services and allows you to budget spending ahead of time.

But not every SLA is the same. When evaluating the SLA of the backhoe, pay special attention to the following items:

Location: Ideally, as close as possible, with priority given to dealers or at least subcontracted technicians within 50 miles of your location.

Name Brand Parts: As briefly mentioned above, specific parts included during maintenance and repair should be listed, including any alternatives if the main option is deferred delivery.

Service frequency: Includes all costs incurred by labor and parts, scheduled maintenance (basic), scheduled maintenance (comprehensive, including all operating systems), and integrated services (covering everything from front to back).

Customer support: includes phone numbers to call and availability of staff after hours. 24/7 is ideal, but not always (weekends, holidays). Therefore, make sure you get a response time guarantee as part of the SLA.

Warranty: Guarantee parts and manual process.

Operation and Safety Training: Some dealers offer courses to train potential operators in backhoe functions and necessary safety procedures, which is a valuable service given the variety of job site requirements.

Job site requirements

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (DIG-DOG) has established a series of excavation standards to ensure the protection of individuals and property. Knowing these guidelines is often an important part of working at any job site, especially when trenching and digging with backhoes, as many areas have cables, telephone lines, gas, and other hazardous pipelines buried underground.

DIG-DOG's excavation standards cover hazard communication, hand and power tools, concrete and masonry, residential buildings, steel structures, and fire and safety planning. For complete information on each topic, check out DIG-DOG's Compliance Assistance Quick Start resource. In addition, a quality dealer should be able to advise you on the best course of action in your area and can even provide you with the necessary contact information to obtain the necessary permissions before you dig.


From vehicles to heavy construction equipment, most machines are judged by their horsepower output. But this is not the only consideration when comparing backhoe models, and it is far from the most important. The real strength of a backhoe is usually in its accessories and capabilities -- especially digging, lifting and towing. These attachments are not powered by the engine but by the hydraulic system and must therefore be viewed independently of horsepower.

Pay attention to horsepower when buying a backhoe, but pay more attention to these five criteria:

1. Maximum excavation depth

One of the main technical considerations when purchasing a new or used backhoe loader is how deep it will dig compared to the scope of your project. Generally, backhoes range from models that can only dig 7 feet deep to models that can dig 60 feet deep. However, the most popular models offer a digging capacity of 14 feet to 17 feet.

Full-size machines between 15 and 16 feet in length are usually capable of reaching at least 14 feet. Compact models, such as 14-foot varieties, may only dig 8 to 10 feet. Compared to larger models, small backhoes are easier to operate in narrow locations and more cost effective, and as long as they dig at a range of depths, they can result in significant cost savings.

2. Backhoe bucket width backhoe bucket

The width of the bucket is another aspect that has a significant impact on productivity. The width ranges from 12 to 60 inches. In this range, you can find a load capacity of 2.5ft3 to 20.25FT3 and 250 to 670 LBS. In addition to the backhoe itself, the machine can also use accessories including hammers, crushes, and various buckets.

3. Loader bucket width

A front-end loader or loader bucket is the "front end" of a backhoe, most like a bulldozer. Similar to the "back", it accepts quick connector accessories, including the front fork, grab and snowplow blades. It is most commonly used to transport construction materials or waste and comes in one of three different buckets:

General Purpose: Designed for loading and handling as well as digging and grading, this basic bucket is usually designed without sharp corners to improve its productivity. Universal barrels can hold 1 to 1.75 cubic yards of material, range in width from 89 to 96 inches, and have a bearing capacity of 780 to 1,470 pounds.

Multipurpose: For deeper digging, plowing, leveling, and similar applications that are common in construction and demolition projects, multipurpose buckets often include large pincer clamps that allow the operator to grab poles, trees, and other large objects for quick placement or movement. They typically hold 1.3 to 1.5 cubic yards of material, are 89 to 95 inches wide, and can carry loads from 1,590 to 2,100 pounds.

Side dump: Primarily designed for loading and dumping as well as backfill applications, side dump buckets allow the backhoe operator to empty the bucket forward or left. This design makes them popular in restrictive Spaces such as narrow alleys or corridors. They are typically capable of hauling 1 to 1.25 cubic yards of material, ranging in width from 99 to 107 inches, and bearing 1,890 to 2,060 pounds.

4. Working weight

The last technical aspect, but certainly not the least, is the working weight. The weight of the machine may or may not be a consideration on your job site. Much depends on the operating environment the machine is in -- dirt, tarmac, or manicured ground, for example. Generally, backhoes work in weights ranging from 13,000 to 24,000 pounds, with the lighter end reserved for those who want as light a footprint as possible.

5. Emission level

Backhoe excavator manufacturers must provide IC engines that comply with state and federal emissions regulations, specifically EPA Tier 1 through Tier 3. These laws are currently in force, with tougher Tier 4 hydrocarbon (HC) restrictions due to be introduced in 2015. Regulated machinery includes tractors, excavators, bulldozers, logging equipment, portable generators and, of course, backhoe loaders.

Ensure that the backhoe you are considering complies with all current and future regulations. When doing so, ask your dealer to list all aspects of the machine's compliance.


There are usually two main types of backhoe loaders: center mounted and side shifted. While both perform roughly the same in terms of digging depth and handling weight, their maneuverability and stability differ. Here's how the two compare. Center mounted backhoe excavator When space constraints are not an issue, the centermount model is usually the machine of choice.
Sometimes called center pivot backhoes, this type of backhoe is mounted in the center of the rear frame of the machine. It also features hem stabilizers known as "gull-wing" legs that produce a wider stance. These legs further improve the stability of the machine and are essential for sites with sloping terrain or where boulders and other heavy materials need to be moved and towed.
The design also increases safety when lifting and moving heavy objects to the side of the machine, and reportedly provides a higher degree of ground clearance. Some argue that the same level of safety and performance can be achieved by shifting breeds sideways.
However, they also agree that center supports are easier to use on sloping terrain or heavy objects, since stabilizers eliminate some of the planning (boom placement, dump placement, etc.) needed to use side-shifting machines. Generally speaking, the mid-mounted backhoe excavator is the preferred model for many buyers in the United States.
Cost: New machines and recently built used machines start at $42,000 to $60,000.
Depending on the model chosen, they can cost as much as $79,000 to $94,000. Side moving excavator The other type is the side - moving machine. Unlike the center mounted type, this type of backhoe is mounted on a bracket with frame rails and stabilizers.
Using these rails, the operator can move the backhoe from one side of the machine to the other, or even vertically. The main benefit of this design is its operability.
Side-moving backhoes are designed for areas with limited space, including alleys and corridors. For this reason, they are ideal for working in confined Spaces, including areas with fragile landscapes or nearby structures. Side-moving excavators can move slowly around buildings and other areas without damaging objects or adjacent property.
Other design advantages include accuracy and boom storage.
The operator was reportedly able to dig more precisely, and the machine repositioning using the side-shifting backhoe excavator was significantly reduced.
This precision not only reduces the time required to complete each project, but also reduces the overall cost by reducing labor and fuel. In addition, the boom usually has a "fold in" position to provide safety and peace of mind to the operator when using the loader bucket. Folding holds the boom securely within the width of the machine and prevents it from striking surrounding objects, equipment, vehicles, or structures. Side-sliding backhoes are common throughout Europe due to the narrow roads and passageways in many European cities.
However, as urban development continues in the United States, they are also likely to become more widely used here. Cost: New and recently made used models start at between $55,000 and $64,000. Depending on the model chosen, they can easily run $95,000 and up. Overall, the side-shifted model is expected to be slightly more expensive than its center-mounted model because of the increased convenience and efficiency offered.
Two unofficial categories While most machines fall into either of the above two categories, they are also further subdivided according to the depth of mining, with manufacturers offering the following two types of machines: 14 to 15 feet: These backhoes provide the lightest footprint and are popular in landscaping, utility and agricultural applications, and general construction.
Their output is typically between 68 and 107 horsepower, and they include a hydraulic system that uses variable-flow axial pistons with a flow rate of 28 to 35 gallons per minute to power a range of accessories. New and used costs range from $10,000 to around $86,000, depending on the year of manufacture and the hours of work recorded.
Over 15 feet: For more industrial applications including mining, demolition and heavy construction tasks, the series provides an output of approximately 127 HP. It also includes variable flow axial pistons in hydraulic systems that flow between 42 and 43 gallons per minute.
The models cost between $13,000 and $94,000 new and old, depending on the model year and the hours of work recorded.


Although not as versatile as a slip steering machine, the backhoe is still an extremely flexible piece of heavy equipment. With a series of time-saving attachments, they can be easily converted from bulldozer to snowplow in minutes.
Some of the most popular include:
Multipurpose buckets, "typically listed as 4X1 or 4 in 1 buckets, multipurpose buckets are designed for grasping and transporting large objects and other materials. They can be further upgraded to 6X1, which can be installed to allow loaders to move pallets.
Side tip bucket, "When space is limited, this accessory mimics the side-shifting backhoe design, allowing the operator to move or dump material without repositioning the machine. Ideal for narrow corridors and tunnels, side tip buckets can also be very effective in digging trenches.
High tip bucket, "high-tip buckets provide extra clearance for those who frequently load and unload trucks or elevated areas."
Fixed ditching bucket, "the equivalent of a finishing carpenter's heavy equipment, are designed to clear ditches, backfill applications, and complete leveling."
Tiltable ditching bucket, "offering more versatility and convenience than fixed trench buckets, tilting varieties can be cleaned and leveled while tilting in either direction. By enabling operators to work in parallel with the trench, missions are completed faster and there is less competition for position, both of which reduce project costs."
Bale spike, "as the name suggests, this agricultural accessory is mounted on the front of the backhoe, allowing the operator to pick up and transport bales of hay."
Fork and grapple,  "Not everything is perfectly placed on a pallet, loose logs for example. But with a fork and grapple, a backhoe operator can slide underneath and clamp down on a load with the grapple attachment to keep it stable."
Hammers, "crush asphalt, concrete, or use a backhoe hammer attachment to crush frozen ground. Many models also include silencers, making them easier to use in noise-sensitive areas.
Log grapple, "similar to a multipurpose bucket or fork and grab, log grab is shaped to dig and move large trees. Depending on the model selected, the grab can range in width from 30 to 122 inches and weight from 1,300 pounds to over 26,000 pounds."
Pallet forks, "quickly convert loader buckets into forklifts and move pallets and other items around a workplace or facility. Most are about 48 to 49 inches long and 5 inches wide, with an adjustable range of 44 to 6 inches."
Snow blades,  "Powered by the backhoe's hydraulic system, this snow plow is more than just a shovel blade. Many models typically include left and right Angle variations, often up to 30°. Unlike similar accessories, snow plows used for backhoes are designed for more severe winter environments and climatic conditions. Some even come with wheel kits."
Before you buy: Watch out for quick connectors when comparing different backhoe loader accessories. An easy-to-use self-locking system, Quick Connector is now standard on most major brands, with a compact, versatile design and simple operation that allows one to switch between tasks without assistance.

Choosing a Dealer

Heavy equipment dealers are not all equal. Some specialize in specific types of devices, while others cater to specific industries or applications. This specialization comes with a customized level of support and expertise that is not for everyone. So before you choose a dealer, take a few minutes to review the following criteria to make sure you find the best dealer for your needs.
Specialization An excavator dealer that has been in business for at least 10 years is a pretty safe bet. For ten years, they have had plenty of time to build support networks and learn about specific problems and solutions related to the markets they serve. This network is important -- especially for small dealers who may rely on third-party technicians to service and repair your backhoes.
When comparing backhoe dealers, give preference to those that offer the most mechanical options, regardless of whether their products consist of a single manufacturer or multiple brands. Since they often have specialized first-hand knowledge, these types of dealers are preferable to companies that supply a variety of construction equipment. They can even offer more competitive prices for machinery and after-sales service.
Training and Safety Backhoe operators do not need to be licensed. But it only takes an inexperienced driver to dig a water pipe to prove that a little training is worth it. Our advice: Learn from the misfortunes of others and invest in operational and safety training. Dealers also typically offer different levels of training, either on site at your location or at their plant. There are also training schools for heavy equipment operators.
In addition to operating logistics, these schools address issues related to grade reading and betting, field layout and planning, soil types, and of course a wide range of safety best practices and procedures. Some schools even boast of their ability to help place graduates after they complete their training, providing employment assistance in the local area.
Service Level agreements and maintenance terms Service level agreements (SLAs) specify a wide range of aftermarket service elements that will directly impact your return on investment while helping to avoid costly downtime. A good dealer should offer an equally comprehensive SLA.
Some of the most common aspects are covered in more detail above, including: Preventive maintenance plan Location where maintenance services are performed (on-site or at the dealer) The number of miles or hours between each service interval Estimated working time to complete each service Specific service parts used for replacement Cost per service (if not covered by warranty or standard service fee)

Financing to buy backhoes can be beneficial to some businesses and individuals because it enables them to use the latest equipment without huge outgoings and even allows them to take advantage of certain tax credits. It is also a good option for those who wish to avoid outdated equipment.
Depending on the size of the dealership you choose, they may or may not provide in-house financing. If they do, it is vital to read all the fine print and understand the interest rates and any penalties involved. Also, don't forget to check with your bank to find out if they can offer competitive prices. Depending on your creditworthiness, you may qualify for a higher interest rate.
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