At first glance, it’s quite easy to get your backhoe and your trackhoe muddled. Both are pieces of heavy excavating equipment resembling tractors and most often with bucket attachments.
But while they may look similar in form, if not scale, they have some notable distinctions when it comes to function. Here are some pointers to help you separate your backhoe what to-dos from your trackhoe how-tos.
What is the difference between a backhoe and a trackhoe?
A backhoe is a piece of excavating machinery with a digging bucket fitted on the end of an articulated arm. A trackhoe, or tracked excavator, is an excavating machine that contains a boom, bucket, rotating cab, and an undercarriage with tracks.
Backhoe vs. Trackhoe – a closer look
Backhoes differentiate themselves from trackhoes in three major categories:
The most obvious and observable difference between the two is their size. Backhoes are smaller, commonly weighing under 7.5 tons, while a trackhoe can weigh up to 15 tons.
A backhoe is an excavating equipment that features a digging bucket fitted on the end of an articulated arm. It is mounted to the back of a tractor or front loader. A backhoe is named after its motion of movement, whereby the digging bucket scoops the earth back towards the machine’s body.
A backhoe is an excavating equipment that features a digging bucket fitted on the end of an articulated arm. It is mounted to the back of a tractor or front loader.
A backhoe is named after its motion of movement, whereby the digging bucket scoops the earth back towards the machine’s body.
A trackhoe, or tracked excavator, is an excavating machine that comprises a boom, bucket, rotating cab, and an undercarriage with tracks. It is a demolition expert engaged in heavy digging and earth moving.
Trackhoes have a 360-degree turn capability on their axis, a feature shared with some but not all backhoe attachments.
Backhoe vs. Trackhoe – usage
1. What is a backhoe used for?
Backhoes have multiple uses around the farm. They have a good reputation for being easy to operate in challenging and confined spaces and efficient diggers and handlers of materials.
They are used to dig holes for the placement of wide-diameter anchor posts and pole-barn posts. They can also be employed to dig trenches, transplant trees, and excavate tree stumps.
Backhoes can transport modest weights of building materials, move large rocks, break up asphalt, pave roads, and perform light construction duties.
2. What is a trackhoe used for?
Trackhoes are the demolition experts engaged for heavy digging and earthmoving, which are relied upon to perform heavier-duty tasks.
Around the farm, trackhoes shovel dirt, dig foundations, holes, and trenches, lift heavy pieces of machinery, dig drainage, pull out intrusive materials, break stones, and break ground. They are also employed in forestry work, brush clearing, and landscaping.
Trackhoes present more safety and operational concerns than backhoes due to their size and functioning. Generally, they require someone with experience in operating large machinery in often rugged and unpredictable conditions.
Backhoe vs. Trackhoe – size, and prices
1. Backhoe size and prices
Backhoes generally represent a smaller investment than other types of farming machinery and equipment. Price points on a backhoe vary by:
- model, and
An average guide sees a standard backhoe with a dig depth of around 14 feet and 80 to 90 HP costing between $50,000 and $75,000. Drop the dig depth down to less than 10 feet, and you could pick up a compact model for between $25,000 and $35,000.
At the other end of the scale, larger models with greater dig depths can cost up to $100,000.
An example of a new brand-leader 9,600-pound backhoe with 14.6 feet dig-depth capacity and 17.4 feet swivel reach has an MSRP of $94,000. It’s got 65 HP, a bucket breakout force of 7,600 pounds, and a bucket clearance and reach of 8.8 feet by 2.5 feet.
There is also a robust used trade of backhoes.
2. Trackhoe size and prices
Trackhoe prices are generally higher than backhoes and tend to increase exponentially with their size. A new market leader full-sized trackhoe in the 30 to 40-ton weight range could be priced between $100,000 to $500,000 and even upwards of that.
The more common mid-size excavators, weighing between 15 and 20 tons, are priced between $100,000 and $200,000. Smaller mini-excavators of around 10,000 to 15,000-ton size can fetch between $75,000 and $100,000.
If you’re heading into the used market, expect to pay between 25% to 40% less than the original sale price.
Why is it called a Trackhoe?
A trackhoe distinguishes itself from other types of excavators as it sits on tracks rather than wheels. Backhoes, by comparison, are also usually wheel-driven.
Tracks have a lower ground pressure than wheels, giving them a better grip on soft and unstable surfaces.
While wheeled excavators are great on cement and other hard surfaces, a trackhoe’s tracks render it more fuel-efficient on wet or muddy terrain, perfect for farm conditions. In this way, trackhoes are kind of like tanks for farms, while other excavators are more like trucks for roads.
Are diggers and excavators the same?
Diggers, 360-degree excavators, mechanical shovels, and trackhoes are essential terms used to refer to the same heavy earth excavating equipment types. The most relevant distinction, of course, is the tracks as mentioned earlier on trackhoes.
Most popular backhoes
As backhoes surge in popularity, their presence on the market increases. Virtually all brands of AG equipment manufacture backhoe attachments.
Some industry leaders with positive backhoe sales include:
- John Deere
The exact make of the backhoe may be less significant than its specifications, and they are not a one-size-fits-all all tractors proposition. The most important consideration in any backhoe purchase is whether it will be compatible with your tractor.
Backhoe attachments aren’t universal, and if you want to be able to attach a backhoe from one brand to a tractor from another, you will need to pay attention to the backhoe’s hydraulics.
Look for a standalone model with its own pump, tank, and valve, which should attach easily to any tractor type.
Most popular trackhoes
In recent years Kubota and JCB have been seen to dominate global sales of trackhoes. At the same time, in North America, the top three requested brands in used excavators are Caterpillar, Komatsu, and Hitachi. Takeuchi and Volvo also comprise a large share of the trackhoe market.
To backhoe or to trackhoe, that is the question. Backhoes are an arguably more cost-effective alternative that gives you some but not all the advantages of a trackhoe.
If you need something a little, or a lot, more earth-shattering, then you’ll likely require the services of a trackhoe. Farm size, specifics, and job specifications will be your guide in the backhoe vs. trackhoe debate.
Jack is the owner, chief editor, and senior writer of this website.
Machinery, engines, and farming have always been a passion of his since he was a young boy. Growing up on a small farm in rural America, he learned the value of hard work and dedication from an early age.
After completing his degree in Engineering, he decided to follow his dream and became a farmer in 2009.
Since then, he has gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field. He has grown a variety of crops, tended to farm animals, and worked with all sorts of farming machinery. Continue reading…