Choosing the right excavator for the job

Factors to consider when choosing the right excavator for the job

How do you pick the right excavator for the job at hand? In this article, we provide an in-depth look at some of the key factors that should be looked at.

Choosing the right excavator for the job

Buying an excavator in a market with a multitude of equally good brands, models and types to choose from can be a daunting task. There is no such thing as a ‘bad’ machine anymore. So, how do you pick the right excavator for the job at hand? In this article, we provide an in-depth look at some of the key factors that should be foremost when making that procurement decision.

Total cost of ownership

Price has traditionally been considered to be the key determining factor in buying decisions. In a difficult economy, justifiably, capital is tight and buying decisions are often influenced by capital costs, without essentially factoring the ‘hidden’ lifecycle ownership costs.

Today, fleet owners should think about the bigger picture – Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). The fact of the matter is that the upfront cost is a very small factor in the overall cost of excavator ownership. Ongoing costs after you have signed on the dotted line are just as significant, as the purchase price.

TCO entails everything from the original purchase price to the daily running and maintenance costs, depreciation, finance and other ‘concealed’ costs such as insurance and employee wages. It is also determined by the number of hours a machine works or amount of material moved (actual productivity). By basing TCO analysis on the amount of material moved, fleet owners can have a clear picture of the excavator’s actual cost of ownership. A machine that moves more material in less time is likely to generate more income as well as using less fuel per tonne of material moved.

A TCO analysis should therefore be conducted to unearth the obvious and hidden costs of owning the excavator. This will help cast the spotlight on the difference between purchase price and long-term costs. There is a general school of thought that long-term ownership of equipment could cost between five and eight times the purchase price, if not more.


While choosing the right excavator for a project entails many factors, productivity is a very important parameter for every fleet owner. As fleet owners seek to increase their tonne of material moved per hour and lower their cost per tonne, pass-matching is especially important. 

In a load and haul operation, for example, the capacities of the loading tool should be compatible with the capacities of the truck fleet. Matching the size and capacity of the loading machine to the hauler shortens cycle times and minimises idling for greater productivity, lower fuel consumption and lower emissions. Essentially, it avoids unnecessary waste of time, fuel and money.

A key parameter in achieving the optimal match factor is the number of scoops a loading tool takes to fill the truck. The rule of thumb is that a loading tool should be able to fill the hauler with four to six buckets – this is generally considered to be a well-balanced match in the industry.

Also consider an excavator manufacturer that is at the cutting-edge. For example, with its recently launched EC550E excavator, which is heading to Tier 3 markets sometime this year, Volvo Construction Equipment has broken the industry norm of production having a direct link to operating weight.

This has been achieved by introducing the Independent Metering Valve Technology (IMVT) hydraulic setup, in conjunction with a totally new engine trim on the D13 engine block and electrohydraulic command for the joysticks. As a result, the machine punches well above its weight, offering production close to the level of 70-t class machines, despite the decals stating 550.


Efficiency is a big factor in achieving lower TCO in excavators and should therefore be one of the principal factors in choosing the right machine for your operation.

Always consider a brand that supports the fuel-efficient performance of its machines. For example, Volvo offers a range of services to help customers reduce the fuel expenditure of their operations, including Fuel Efficiency Reports and operator training initiatives.

Using Volvo Site Simulation, Babcock can also help customers to optimise site productivity and lower their total cost of ownership, by providing recommendations on the best fleet configuration and site set-up to maximise profitability.


The importance of machine uptime cannot be reiterated enough! Excavator owners pay big bucks for these mission-critical pieces of equipment. No matter how good the product is, any unplanned downtime leads to the fleet owner’s loss of productivity, increased costs and ultimately no income. Therefore, it’s important that these pieces of equipment must be kept running at maximum capacity, 24/7/365. Uptime is the new mantra!

Customers only make money when the machines are running. That’s why Babcock works closely with Volvo CE, to further improve common processes and systems that provide service technicians with more efficient access to information and support than before – ensuring shorter resolution times for the customer.

Solving machine issues instantly is such an important contributor to customers’ success, that Babcock has placed uptime at the heart of its strategy. Using digitalisation tools, such as telematics, as one enabler of improving efficiency and waste, and adopted an extended enterprise view to be more proactive in support to customers. With CareTrack, the Volvo telematics system, for example, Babcock helps customers to maximise machine uptime and reduce repair costs.


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