There are many standards for construction equipment manufacturers. Naming and size classification is not one of them.

Each OEM has a different nomenclature and way of categorizing equipment. Our goal here is to break through the clutter and add definition to excavator size classes.

Understanding Size Classes

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) lumps crawler excavators into three general size categories: mini or compact, midi and standard/full-sized. There is a fourth category dedicated to heavy crawler excavators (90 metric tons and greater), but that range sells a very limited number of units annually into the commercial construction industry. A fifth category, rubber-tired excavators, will not be covered.

A note on weights: in keeping with AEM, we’re using metric tons as a benchmark – but we’ll also list the conversion to pounds for those who prefer it.

Mini or Compact (0 – 6 metric tons; or <13,227 pounds):

Compacts. Minis. Regardless of what a manufacturer calls them, these are the small excavators that get into the tight places. A benefit to this category is that certain Class 1 and Class 2 trucks can haul compact excavators (and other comparably sized construction equipment) without requiring the driver to have a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) (always check with your local DMV).

Within the realm of compact excavators, those ranging from 3-4 metric tons (6,613 – 8,818 pounds) are the most popular – selling thousands of units across building construction, utility and landscape trades. These models are extremely versatile, performing in-building work, tight subdivision sewer repairs, water line installs and foundational repair that may not require the size of a conventional excavator, but save countless hours of labor compared to doing the work by hand.

Midi (6 – 10 metric tons; or 13,227 – 22,046 pounds):

Midi, or mid-sized excavators, sell a large percentage of their total industry volume into building construction, utilities, roads and bridges and landscaping. Some models are zero or near-zero/minimum swing radius machines, while others feature a more conventional tail design.

Machines in this size class provide digging and lifting capabilities more in line with their full-sized counterparts, but are still compact enough that they provide advantages in transportation and jobsite access.

Standard/Full-Size Crawler Excavators (10 – 90 metric tons; or 22,046 – 198,416 pounds):

This category represents the widest spectrum of excavators available on the market today. It includes a few zero and near-zero/minimum swing radius machines in the lower weight classes, but the majority of these machines are full-sized, full-featured excavators. The highest volume of machines sold into the industry range from 19 – 24 metric tons (41,887 – 52,910 pounds), and 33-40 metric tons (72,752 – 88,184 pounds).

Resource: June 8, 2015

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