View Full Version : Starting up ?

01-20-2004, 08:25 PM
I curently do mostly landscaping and lawn care work but want to expand into bobcat and light excavation work. What is the best way to get into this area? Getting work? and I'd like to try to spend less than $40,000. Equiptment ideas? Thanks for the help.

01-26-2004, 07:16 PM
Well you have a few options for equipment. You could get a skidsteer and get a backhoe attachment for it for the light excavation. This is a good idea if you want to stick with a budget. Our company has a Bobcat A300 for the skid work and a Bobcat 334 excavator and a Kubota L35 TLB to do the light excavation work. The backhoes on the skidsteers are not too bad. They dig pretty good. You only have to get in and out of the cab to move the machine. Depending on how big of a skid you are looking at you probably could stay in the $40,000 area. As for the work you will be surprised how much you will get when people findout you can do light excavation. At least that is how it goes for our company. we are always doing Bobcat work and excavation work.
Countryside Landscape Services
Landscape Contractor
Western, Ma.

Bobcat A300 skid-steer, with a power rake, forks, auger, and a bucket.
Bobcat 334 mini-excavator, with digging bucket, and wrist on a cleanup bucket, and a thumb

Gravel Rat
01-28-2004, 01:02 AM
It all depends on what kind of excavating you want to get into I know mini excavators are busy in this area the smallest mini is 6000lb which is a tad too small. You really need a 9000lb unit that can do any kind of work especially if you doing rock walls or light demolition.

If you do get a mini excavator get one with excavator controls with two short controls they are easier to feather the hydraulics. You also should get a hydraulic thumb they should come standard equipment it makes picking up rocks logs or brush so much easier.

A skid steer is good or carting around material or backfilling foundations but it isn't something you would use all the time. If your looking at skid steers I wouldn't go any larger than a 763 Bobcat it weighs 5700lbs so it is a medium sized machine.

You can get a backhoe attachement but it wouldn't be as versitile as a mini excavator especially if you are going to get into digging foundations in back yards.

01-28-2004, 04:38 PM
Gravel Rat makes several good points. A mini ex in at least the 7500 pound class is as small as I would go. Go with zero tail QC, and a thumb. I would not even consider a backhoe for a skid steer. If you are only going to have one skid steer for the time being I would shoot for something in the 2K lift capacity class. Dimensionally not any bigger (depending on make) a lot more productivity although they weigh more. One thing to think about. On almost any excavatiing job you'll want both machines on site. Pick a truck and trailer combination that will allow for the excavator and a skid steer on the same trailer. I had a 7.5K miniex and traded for a 12K mini ex. A lot more capability but it won't be as convenient moving around.

01-30-2004, 03:28 AM
I think there are a ton of options, maybe the best is you should just offer your services, and rent machines. If you find that you use a skidsteer the most, then that says something. You may have a certain service you will want to do, but who knows if you can get enough of that do use whatever machine you've bought. Personally, I like using backhoes and trackhoes the most. Backhoes are nice because they're so versatile, they can travel on grass, mud, cement etc. You have the FEL, the hoe, anything else you want to use for attachments (if you have a Kubota or JD)and so on. Then you have your trackhoe for work that doesn't need a FEL, you got your thumb for brush removal, rockeries etc. and they're quick, 360 turn, dozer blade and all. I hated using the skidsteer. Yeah, they have a ton of attachments, they can go in tight places, but they're so bouncy, tippy, and they make one hell of a mess where you're working. BUT, I think it would be a good idea to rent machines, see which you like best and which you use the most. Trackhoes are expensive, but so is a good backhoe, like a Kubota L35 (which I'm personally fond of). So, there's a ton of options, you just need to explore them by renting. At least that's what I'd do if I wasn't sure.


Gravel Rat
01-31-2004, 01:18 AM
With a excavator you use the bucket to lift the machine and swivel the undercarriage to the direction you want to turn it really saves damage to the ground. A mini excavator with wide steel tracks will do less damage to the ground than a skid steer because the tracks spread the machine weight.

I find rubber tracks do more damage to soft ground than steel tracks I don't really like rubber tracks they are slippery when you use the machine on slopes.

One thing about steel tracks you drive everybody in the neighbourhood nut with the squeek squeek squeek clang clang clang.

Once you get used to a excavators charistics every machine is different the two joysticks become extentions of your hands.

I ran a Bobcat 328 series mini I really didn't like its tippyness you really made me feel uncomfortable how unstable it felt. I was working on fairly steep grade and it wouldn't climb it I had to push myself with the bucket the tracks just spun like tires.

The worst feeling is when the machine started to slide :( if I didn't have the blade down the machine wanted to move on its own.

If your looking at mini excavators look at Kubota stay away from those other funny brand machines.

01-31-2004, 01:34 AM
Gravel Rat

Any opinions on backhoes? I am cosidering a Cat 420it for snow as well as excavating in the summer. I already own a Bobcat 763 skidsteer and thought I would get more use out of the hoe than a mini-x especially in winter where I could use it on big commercial jobs. Any thoughts?

Gravel Rat
01-31-2004, 01:57 AM
Are you sure it is a 420 or a 426 if its a 426 they are a fairly decent machine on par with the Case 580-590 I ran a 416 loading trucks wasn't too impressed. The common machine in this area is Case 590 4x4s they work good if your doing utility work or snow plowing they used to be used for building septic leech fields.

If the machine has low hours on it and its not all beat to heck with the price is right go for it.

With a rubber tired backhoe there really is no point in buying a low powered machine if you are going to be loading trucks etc. If you already have a bobcat to use for your tight spot machine get a decent sized hoe that can get larger projects done.

01-31-2004, 02:14 AM
I have the brochure in front of me, it's a 420d it. Used to be the 416. 420 has 10% more power. Has an extendahoe. I've been told the extendahoe limits me somewhat because I can't put on a thumb etc.

Gravel Rat
01-31-2004, 02:33 AM
I haven't kept up with Cat backhoes or rubber tired hoes in general fullsize and mini excavators are used for landclearing etc.

I have seen extendahoe with thumbs does this machine have the curved boom or the straight boom ?

A hydraulic thumb is handier than heck for doing any type of landscape work or general work.

01-31-2004, 11:57 AM
Here's a pic...

Gravel Rat
01-31-2004, 01:18 PM
That is a fairly new machine the 416 I was using was a 98.

01-31-2004, 01:59 PM
That pic was off the Cat website. I'm looking at several units, 2001-2003. They all look like that though. Ever had any problems with it? What are some key things to look for when buying used?

Gravel Rat
01-31-2004, 03:18 PM
The first thing you look at is the hours if it has really high hours I would stay away from it. You should find out who owned the machine before and what did they use it for. I think the most problematic for all backhoes is the transmission find out if its been serviced regulary.

If your looking at 2001-2003 machines you should find a good one just have to inspect it well. Check for looseness in the loader and the backhoe booms.

01-31-2004, 03:22 PM
Appreciate all your help so far. What's the main problem with transmissions? Why would they fail more often than other stuff? Just trying to understand. Also what type of work would you say is hard on a hoe vs easy (regarding what type of work it did).

Gravel Rat
01-31-2004, 04:27 PM
The transmissions in backhoes see alot of abuse especially loading trucks because your flipping back and forth from forward to reverse etc.

I don't think you guys have solid rock like we do here in B.C. where your digging heavy coarse material or digging shattered rock. In this area snapping teeth off of buckets digging rock isn't uncommon.

If the machine has had a breaker attachment for the hoe make sure you look at the pins those hammers rattle boom pins to death.

If you find a machine that has done nothing but utility work it should be in decent shape they are not over working the machine.

It is hard to describe what to look for when you are around machines its kind of second nature what to look for.

01-31-2004, 04:41 PM
Thanks. If I have any more questions I'll let you know.

01-31-2004, 04:51 PM
Just thought of a couple. What , in your opinion, is the 'average' hrs for a year for a backhoe. How about the loader? Check for pin wear there as well I guess, anything else? How about the hydraulics? Any big signs of abuse that should raise a red flag?

Gravel Rat
01-31-2004, 05:17 PM
You will feel slop in the pins on the hoe part of the machine right way if it starts clunking etc. Look for grease if the pins have been greased you know someone is taking care of the machine if the pins are bone dry and never seen grease in a long time check for looseness. For the loader part it doesn't see as much wear as the hoe but look at the boom pivots the two in front of the windsheild they are the ones that see the most stress.

For average hours is hard to say a machine could have lots of hours and be in good shape. I was told anything above 4000hrs on any kind of machine is going to need major work.

Another thing to watch out for is a machine that is roaded alot what I mean by that is driven to every site. You see quite a bit of wear in a machine that sees alot of kilometres backhoes are not really designed for traveling long distances.

01-31-2004, 05:40 PM
If you want a Cat backhoe look at Ironplanet .com (online auction).They sell a lot of them on there. All the machines are inspected. You may have trouble finding an IT model, but you'll save a ton of money over new. Personally I would go the 580 Super M route if it were a backhoe.

01-31-2004, 06:10 PM
Gravel Rat, you sure are good for loads of information. I agree with you on the trackhoes and the rubber tracks.

Badranman, my boss has an extendahoe backhoe, he has a mechanical thumb and that thing is so nice to have. It's a very ncie design, not that stupid design were you put the thumb in one position and that's the way it is. His moves with the bucket, I can't remember what EXACTLY the reason is for not being able to put a hyd. thumb on the extendahoe, but I've seen newer x-hoes with hyd. thumbs. His is older so there isn't any more room for another hyd. pump. I've seen JD 310 x-hoes with hyd. thumbs, but I don't know Cat at all soo...I might be possible. Just ask them. I'll attach an image of the thumb my boss has on his machine. Like Gravel Rat mentioned, make sure the grease fittings have seen grease, if not, things will shear and break down. Happened to our backhoe. They have to have grease, make sure that there aren't any serious hyd. leaks too, just by knowing if the stabilizers fall over night or the hoe bucket falls within hours (like our stupid backhoe). Eventually, it could lead to bigger problems like when you're trying to hold your machine up high while digging and you sink down or you move due to the play in the stabilizers (like our machine). The transmission is a big deal too like Gravel Rat mentioned. Again, (everthing seems to have happend to our machines) our backhoe went through tough times because people didn't fill the transmission up with fluid, and people tend to use quick movements when shifting form forward to reverse. I guess constantly doing that, not going from forward to neutral, (for a sec) and then to reverse can cause damage. I'd check the lock for the hoe if you can, I don't know about Cat but case backhoes, in order to lock the hoe you have to pull back on a lever, then when the hoe overcenters or whatever, you push forward quickly but carefully to bring the hoe back and lock it. Sometimes people do that too hard and they crack and damage the lock. I'm sure there's more I'll think of, just all this has happened to the machine that I got stuck using so....granted, it's an old machine, but it gives you an idea of what to look for.


01-31-2004, 06:20 PM
I'll tell you right now, if you ever see a machine that looks like the one I just posted (my boss's), DON'T BUY IT! If it's a newer machine and looks like that, that tells you something. This is the late model B series, the C's came out after this machine. Also, I personally wouldn't buy a mahine with a lot of welds, like this one. So, something to keep in mind.


02-01-2004, 12:35 AM
Guys thanks for all your help and not making me feel stupid. Gravel Rat, the cat dealer told me 8000-9000 hrs before any major stuff. Think he's bulls$%ting me?
Cooper, that is a beast. If I buy 2001-2002 I hope it wouldn't have any welds on it...I hope.

02-01-2004, 04:11 AM
Being a beast, as far as being big, not really. Regular size, just the pic angle is making it look big. That damn cab is so crapt, especially for a 6' 2'' person like me. As far as being a little ugly, yeah, it's old and stupid. LOL. :p I'm not too fond of that machine since is so damn old and gives nothing but problems. :mad:


02-01-2004, 12:17 PM
I meant the looks of the pig. I love stuff like that.:D

02-01-2004, 03:21 PM
lol. oh :D


02-10-2004, 02:09 AM
If you're used to running an excavator, check into Cat's new pilot control system for their backhoe controls on the D series. Deere is also doing this with their G series, but the 420D IT is a better machine than the Deere IMO. First off you can't get he toolcarrier setup for the Deere, no vertical lift and such.

02-16-2004, 02:34 PM
If you are considering a full size machine , think of how to transport it. You will probably need to get your class A CDL licence. A trailer and a dump truck. Most guys go the easy route and buy a big trailer with electric brakes and the first time you have to make a panic stop you will be buying a trailer with air brakes. Also check with your insurance company , depending on what you intend to do you will need underground insurance.