Rent Smart: Renting a backhoe

While 14-foot-dig-depth backhoes seem to be the bread-and-butter models of both rental and purchased machines, compact backhoes also have gained rental muscle. With a ready arsenal of attachments for rent, these digging/loading workhorses can also take on a variety of other tasks. Here are some things to keep in mind when renting a backhoe:

  1. Check around. There are a variety of outlets renting backhoes, although some may specialize in certain sizes, such as compact backhoes. While our readers tell us they tend to favor the dealers of equipment manufacturers for these machines, local independent dealers are also a strong choice.
  2. Compare prices, but don’t use them as your primary deciding factor. Even though our price chart (see table on page 72) illustrates there can be significant differences in what’s quoted over the phone, in order to get a true comparison you also need to know what brand and model they’re quoting. (One easy way to double check backhoe size categories for such a comparison is to refer to the Equipment World 2006-2007 Spec Guide.)
  3. Consider renting an attachment along with the backhoe. Popular backhoe-end rental attachments include hammers and compactors. These two attachments can be used in tough situations where you might not want to use your fleet backhoes. You may also want to investigate at four-in-one bucket for the loader end of the machine.
  4. The safety concerns on rented backhoes are no different than with fleet backhoes. Know the capabilities of any machine you rent, including lift capacities. If you’re unsure about the skill level of an operator, make sure the rental delivery person does a thorough walk-around of the machine with that person. Your job may require a backhoe that’s much smaller or larger than you’re used to running, so don’t assume you automatically know how to operate it. And be aware of any hazardous situations, such as whether or not you can fully raise the boom and stick if you’re working under power lines.
  5. Know of what type of control patterns your operators prefer – four-lever, two-lever or excavator style. Not all models can easily switch between these styles, so make sure your rental dealer knows what pattern you want. Compact backhoes usually feature just backhoe-style controls.
  6. Make sure you rent the model that best fits the job. Your rental dealer will ask you a series of questions all designed to determine the right machine fit. What type of material will you be moving? If its light material, you may be able to put a larger bucket on the machine and gain some productivity. How much material? How deep will you have to dig? You may have a situation where you’d want to opt for an extended boom. Are there any space restrictions? Do you need two-wheel or four-wheel drive? While getting too small a machine leads to productivity frustrations, if you rent too large a backhoe you’re paying too much for your machine rental.
  7. Take how you will transport the machine to the jobsite into consideration. Some smaller backhoes can be towed behind a full-size pickup, but beefier machines will require more transport power. If your trucks are tied up, your rental dealer is always ready to offer delivery and pickup services.

Information provided by:
Jim Blower, JCB
Barbara Cavender, Terramite
Doug Dahlgren, Allmand Bros.
Dave Garton, John Deere
Chris Gustafson, Caterpillar
Jim Hughes, Case Construction Equipment
Eric Winkler, New Holland