The Differences between Backhoes, Excavators and Skid Steer Loaders - Social Media Explorer
The Differences between Backhoes, Excavators and Skid Steer Loaders
The Differences between Backhoes, Excavators and Skid Steer Loaders

Undertaking an industrial or residential construction endeavor comes with its fair share of requirements and challenges. It is,therefore, only fitting to be invested in the right kind of machinery to ease up the work you are doing.

With that train of thought, there is a variety of equipment that one could invest in. This article focuses on the backhoe,excavator, and skid steer loader. Below we explore the three pieces of equipment to understand their differences, their application in construction projects and the advantages they hold over each other,and

How do they differ?


We will start with the most salient feature, size. An excavator is generally the largest of the three construction machinery ranging between 1.5 and 90 tonnes in weight. The excavator’s size is reflective of the nature of tasks it undertakes.

The backhoe is slightly smaller in size compared to the excavator and hardly exceeds 8 tonnes. It is therefore limited to work that does not require high power input.

A skid steer loader is the smallest of the three construction machinery. Its size ranges from about 0.7 to 5.5 tonnes. It is suitable for working in small, confined spaces where the backhoe and excavators cannot fit because of its maneuverability.

Note that there are mini versions of these machines, such as compact excavator hire, that generally don’t subscribe to this comparison metric.

Versatility (Attachments)

The backhoe, excavator, and skid steer loader are all versatile,but they have a varying degree of versatility. By versatility, we mean the machine’s ability to accommodate different attachments and perform an assortment of roles.

The skid steer loader is the most versatile of the three machines. Its front end is easily fitted with many attachments, and its small size means that it can be moved around more conveniently.

In comparison, the backhoe does not rely only on switching the attachments to provide versatility. It is simultaneously suited for loading and digging – two primary functions in construction, hence multipurpose. It accommodates attachments but not as many as the skid steer loader does.

The excavator is the least versatile, and this is majorly because of its huge size and selective requirements in its work.This, however, doesn’t mean it is restricted to one task or attachment. On the contrary, it does take up attachments but only to a much less extent than the others.

Visibility (Rotational Range)

The ability of a machine to explore work sites productively is a crucial comparative factor. The excavator is easily the machine that offers the highest levels of visibility with its high cabinand a 360° rotational angle.

The backhoe follows up on the excavator with a limited range of around 200°. A backhoe’s cabin is positioned relatively lower, but it still offers better visibility to the operator than the skid steer loader.

The loader’s simplistic nature (a functional advantage) ranks last in visibility, and its static structure does not accommodate any rotational maneuver. However, this is not a big downside because its purview of roles is well-manageable within these constraints.


The purchase, utility, and maintenance costs of the machines vary with their sizes and functionalities. The excavators incur the highest costs and are the most expensive because of the sheer size of the amount of work they perform and the amount of power they generate.

They are costly to operate both in fuel costs and the skilled operator required. The backhoes and skid steer loaders have relatively lower purchase and operational costs when compared to the excavators. Their prices vary with respect to their sizes, andthe average valuation of a large-sized skid steer loader is higher than that of a standard backhoe. These proportional cost differences are also reflected in the excavator hire prices of each of the machines.

Wrap Up

The machine you choose to use in construction work hinges mainly on the kind of work you intend to do. Each of the equipment lies variable on the different scales used in the comparison, and therefore, there is something suitable for different work environments. It’s up to you to determine the machine that is ideal for your project.

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About the Author

Doug Brown

VIP Explorer’s Club