Assessing Mini Excavator Specs: Do Your Homework Before Purchasing to Maximize Your Investment

Kubota U27 Mini ExcavatorIf you’re thinking about purchasing a new mini excavator, the number of makes and models can be dizzying. Equipment World’s Spec Guide lists more than 141 models among excavators weighing in at less than 6 metric tons. 

It’s a growing category because mini excavators offer unique benefits. A smaller footprint means access to areas other machines might not be able to reach. “House lots have continued the shrink over the years, so the need for smaller equipment has grown,” says Greg Worley, a machine application specialist for Caterpillar Global Mini Hydraulic Excavators.

“An ability to dig offset to the left and right allows them to work alongside buildings and structures,” says David Caldwell, product manager at Takeuchi-US. Despite their smaller size, mini or compact excavators are extremely versatile and able to handle tasks such as trenching and grading, and can operate numerous attachments.  

According to Patrick Baker, CE product manager for Kubota Tractor Corporation, mini-excavators are a great fit for applications such as digging footers, utility pipe work, and landscaping. Ease of transportation is another benefit that makes these machines a popular choice.

What Mini Excavator Specs Are You Looking For?

To be sure you purchase the right machine, equipment owners need to identify their needs.

  • How much do you want to lift?
  • How far do you need to reach?
  • How deep you need to dig?
  • What size does the machine need to be to fit into through the access point of your job?

“Know the limitations of the jobsite,” says Caldwell. “You may need a retractable undercarriage to access certain areas depending on the job. Use the largest machine you can afford and effectively operate on the job, as this will provide greater efficiency and capability.”

“Small machines have limitations and are not as forgiving as the larger machines,” says Worley. “You need to be precise when it comes to transport weight, width, dig depth, reach and lifting capability if your application is going to include material handling.”

Consider the auxiliary hydraulics, “The flow rates on many smaller compact excavators will limit the types of hydraulically driven attachments you are able to utilize as well,” says Caldwell.

Cat 306 CR Mini ExcavatorMini Excavator Trends

When we asked what features or models were growing in popularity in the mini-excavator category, responses were varied. Caterpillar’s Worley sees a desire for even greater versatility through attachments as well as expanded use of technology. “With manual labor less available, the machine needs to do more, so Grade Control and Referencing System are becoming more attractive to customers.”

“The industry has seen a significant rise in telematics in compact excavators,” says Kubota’s Baker. “Owners and operators are able to reduce fuel costs, set geofences to protect their equipment from theft, and better maintain a service and maintenance schedule on their excavators.” Kubota reports significant sales growth in the 4- to 6-ton weight class category that the company attributes to having both conventional and reduced tail-swing offerings.

Takeuchi has found success with smaller machines ranging in size from 1- to 2.5-tons with retractable undercarriages that will let them pass through a standard doorway (depending on model), gates, services entrances and worksites with very limited access. Their 3.5- to 5-ton class is their most popular range, serving customers in utility installation, plumbing, landscaping, demolition and general construction.

How to Narrow Your Choices and Save Money

Experts agree that research before the purchase is key to selecting the right mini excavator. “The buyer should be able to identify what applications the excavator will be used in; what size excavator is needed to efficiently complete the job; and if possible, what future work lies ahead,” says Baker. “Knowing this information will help the buyer not buy too big or too small of an excavator, adding costs to the bottom line.”

Caldwell recommends buyers include a demonstration of several machines so they can make an informed buying decision.

In addition to assessing your needs and matching them to machine specifications, Worley advises buyers to research owning and operating costs over a 3- to 5-year period. “Look at the service and dealer support options and network. Look at aftermarket and customization options for your machine.” 

When you’re ready to buy, there’s no substitute for some homework. Here are a few models to start your research...

Takeuchi TB225 Compact ExcavatorMini Excavator Models to Check Out


Ten Next Gen mini-hydraulic excavator models have been introduced since the beginning of 2019 and in the next year or so the final models in the middle of the range will be launched. The 306CR is Caterpillar’s first 6-ton size class model. “Customers asked for power to get the job done, efficiency to save money, and advanced features that are intuitive and easy to use,” says Worley.  “With the Next Gen mini hydraulic excavators, we have brought all of that to market.”


Kubota’s compact excavator lineup features 12 excavators, with five reduced tail-swing offerings and seven conventional tail-swing offerings. “This lineup flexibility allows the customer to find the best excavator fit for the job, helping reduce overall ownership costs,” says Baker. The Kubota U27-4, introduced in 2017, features larger bucket pin sizes, stronger breakout force, and a larger operator station than its predecessor, the U25s. It also included an easy knob style and AUX flow hydraulic adjustment with diverter valve for added performance and productivity.


According to Caldwell, Takeuchi compact excavators feature powerful responsive hydraulics, standard long arms with thumb mounts and auxiliary hydraulics plumbed to mid arm, and automatic step-down travel motors (2-tons and up) which enables them to shift automatically from high speed low torque mode to low speed high torque mode when under load. The new TB225 weighs 4,993 pounds, has a dig depth of 8 feet 5.5 inches, and a hydraulically retractable undercarriage that goes from 59.1 inches down to 43.3 inches. Takeuchi Fleet Management telematics system is standard on all models from the TB216 on up.

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