Backhoe Vs. Skid-Steer: Which One Do You Need?

Posted on: 8 May 2015

Doing a major home improvement project by yourself can save you a lot of money if you can do it right. Renting tools and equipment and working by yourself with instructions or with a friend or neighbor who is familiar with construction work can cost a lot less than hiring a contractor. However, it can also be confusing, especially if this is your first time working with large equipment.

For the inexperienced, it may be hard to even tell which of two similar machines you need. Rental companies often offer classes and tutorials that will help you learn to operate the machine that you need, but first you need to decide which machine that is. The backhoe and the skid-steer are two that are often difficult to decide between. Take a look at some of the details of these two machines so that you'll be better able to decide if you choose to rent one for a DIY project.

What Both Machines Do

The difficulty in deciding between these two machines comes because they are both appropriate for a variety of tasks. Do you need to dig out a foundation or a trench? Both machines can be used for those projects. You can also use both the skid-steer and the backhoe when you need to clear the ground for your project, or when you'll need to lift and move heavy, awkward items.

Though it may sound  the machines have more similarities than differences, you may notice significant differences when it comes to certain specialized tasks. You'll also notice a difference in price when renting the machines, which may help you make a decision when you're looking for a machine to perform a task that both machines can do equally well.

Why Rent a Backhoe?

The major differences between a backhoe and skid-steer have to do with the size and shape of the machines. You'll want to rent a backhoe when you have room to maneuver and you have a lot of tasks to finish quickly. Backhoes are shaped similarly to tractors. They're bigger than skid-steers, and they come equipped with a front loader and a rear excavator. You'll finish your project more quickly because you won't have to stop and change parts as often, and because backhoes move at a greater speed than skid-steers.

A backhoe typically costs about $100 to $200 a day for a small model and $200 to $350 a day for a larger model. However, you will probably also be required to put down a substantial deposit for a backhoe – this cost can run as high as $1500. Plus, you'll be required to pay delivery charges if you're unable to transport the machine from the rental company to your home. Keep in mind that a backhoe also requires a license to operate – this can be a hindrance for homeowners who are simply attempting to do a DIY home improvement project. If you're not interested in obtaining a license, you may be able to rent a backhoe with a licensed operator for between $50-$100 an hour.

Why Rent a Skid-Steer?

A skid-steer is the easier choice for many small residential projects. Though they don't move as quickly as backhoes and you will have to stop more often, skid-steers are lighter and more maneuverable, which is definitely a plus when you're working inside of a tight space. Skid-steers can also be transported on a trailer, which is convenient if you have work to do in more than one place, and may save you from having to pay transportation fees.

The rental prices for a skid steer are comparable to those of the backhoe. The smaller models start at $150 to $200 a day, and the next size up goes for around $250 to $300 a day. However, you're not required to have a license to operate a skid-steer, which makes this machine significantly more affordable and accessible for the average homeowner.

A good equipment rental company that offers bobcat rentals will take the time to talk to you about your project and ensure that you're renting the right machine for the job. Be sure to inquire about operator training to prepare yourself for the job.