Excavators are an absolute staple for most building sites. From full-sized excavators for commercial construction projects, down to mini excavators for home DIY, they're powerful pieces of equipment that often cannot be substituted for hard yakka. Like any other heavy equipment though, there are things you need to know before buying or renting so that you can be sure you've made the right decision and got the right machine.

Can anyone rent an excavator?

For most situations, you don't need an excavator license, however, you do need to prove competency when operating an excavator for any commercial construction project. This comes in the form of an operator's ticket which can be acquired through formal or informal means. They include:

  • Provide log books or records of previous on-the-job operations to prove that you are an experienced operator
  • Undertake a hands-on assessment by the site manager or supervisor
  • Get a statement of attainment that covers the nationally recognised training module RIIMPO320 – Conduct civil construction excavator operations
  • Complete a State-based certification in this module from a registered training organisation

Whichever method you choose, you’ll still need to verify your competency or skills by going through an assessment process. This is called a VOC (or Verification of Competency).

Despite most commercial excavator applications falling into the category above, there are, however, 29 separate classes of high-risk excavator-related work that do require a special licence. So, you will need to speak to a site manager to ascertain which category your excavation work is likely to fall under.

If you're a home DIY operator, you do not need a licence or a ticket to operate a mini excavator.

What machine should I rent or buy?

You've probably done your research and know exactly what you're after, but it doesn't hurt to run it by your heavy equipment dealer. As licensed Kubota dealer, we are experts when it comes to Kubota excavators and are to offer you advice on things you hadn't previously thought of. What size is the project or work site? Have you thought about excavator attachments? Will it need to get into any tight spaces? Questions like these could end up saving you a significant amount of money in the end.

How will the equipment be delivered to my site?

Whether buying or renting heavy machinery such as a large excavator, you should check with the dealer or rental company if they can deliver it to your job site. You may have the transportation to do it yourself, but leaving it to the dealer could end up saving you the time and logistical work involved in such a job. Especially if an oversize escort requires arrangements with road authorities.

Do I need insurance?

If renting, you're required by law to have insurance coverage for yourself and any members of your staff that will be operating heavy machinery. Some rental companies will provide the insurance while others require the customer to provide proof of their own coverage before an agreement is signed.

If you're purchasing an excavator, you will be solely responsible for insurance as the owner.

Who is responsible for maintaining rental equipment?

If you're renting construction equipment for typical excavation jobs, it's likely that you'll be renting for long enough that on-site maintenance will be a requirement in some way. Most equipment needs daily maintenance in order to avoid machine downtime and repairs. Some heavy equipment rental companies choose to be responsible for all maintenance, while others will ask customers to perform at least the basic daily maintenance procedures themselves. Make sure you're fully aware of the maintenance expectations so that you don't get stuck with a costly repair bill at the end of the job.

Will a mini excavator do?

Large excavators aren't always necessary or practical, especially on a smaller site. Mini excavators have the ability to do most things a larger machine can, but they also have some unique advantages, such as:

  1. Easier access – mini excavators can go where larger ones can't, from tight spaces to interiors and softer ground.
  2. Easy transportation – small excavators can fit on a trailer or pickup bed, making transport much easier.
  3. Less wear and tear – light equipment is less likely to damage surfaces and structures than a heavy vehicle, meaning less preparation is needed.
  4. More efficient – mini excavators use less power (10-40kW) resulting in cheaper operation and a smaller carbon footprint.
  5. Less noise pollution –light equipment is much quieter, so you're less likely to receive complaints from neighbours when using compact excavators.

How long will a callout take in case of malfunction?

Breakdowns occur, even in well-maintained machines, so if you're hiring an excavator, you should ask how long it will take for a mechanic to be called out to your job site in such an event. Your business relies on functioning machinery so you can't afford to be left in the dark if a piece of rental equipment ends up out of action.

Who will cover the cost of repairs?

If you do find yourself in possession of a broken down piece of rental equipment, it will make life easier if it has already been made clear what the repairs policy is. Read the policy thoroughly so there are no uncertainties that could lead to an unexpected eye-watering repair bill.

So, can anyone rent an excavator? Well yes, but there are plenty of questions you should arm yourself before heading to your local rental shop. There are probably some more questions you might have if you plan to go a step further and purchase one. Here at Boya Equipment, we're ready for anything you may want to ask us, so don't be afraid to get in touch for our expert advice.