What is a Backhoe Excavator?

Amy Radishofski

A backhoe excavator, which may also be called a backhoe loader, is a piece of heavy machinery that has an enclosed cabin where the operator sits. A shovel or bucket attachment is added to the front. This part of the machine is known as the front loader and is used for moving material, such as debris or dirt, from one place to another. On the back side of the machine is an articulating arm with a small backhoe at the end. The backhoe servers as a digging tool. The seat of a backhoe excavator is designed to move so that the operator can use the controls for both attachments as necessary. If the machine has a removable backhoe, the associated seat to control the backhoe usually goes with the backhoe when it is detached.

A stump grinder can be added to a backhoe excavator to extend its functions.
A stump grinder can be added to a backhoe excavator to extend its functions.

In addition to the front loader and backhoe attachments, other tools can be added to a backhoe excavator to broaden its functions. Additional attachments could include an auger for digging holes or a stump grinder. Some machines come with mounting systems to make adding attachments faster and easier. The multi-purpose aspect of this machine is a clear advantage, as this type of equipment often comes at a high price.

Some backhoes may allow for auger attachments to drill holes in the ground.
Some backhoes may allow for auger attachments to drill holes in the ground.

Backhoe excavators are commonly used for smaller projects, such as fixing city roads. It can perform tasks like breaking asphalt and digging holes, so it is well suited to construction activities as well. Its small size is an advantage on certain jobs, but it does limit how much material it can move. Larger excavators and other types of earth moving equipment can be used for larger jobs or functions that a backhoe excavator cannot do.

These machines are not toys, and operators should be fully trained on their functions to prevent injuries or fatalities. The design of a backhoe excavator is top-heavy, and the swinging arm with the bucket can create a tipping concern. To mitigate that risk, hydraulic outriggers are used when digging to increase stability.

A backhoe excavator can be purchased new, or it can be a used machine, depending on the type of job requirements and the individual's budget. It can also be rented by the hour in some instances. While this type of machinery seems readily available to the public, not everyone should run out and try to use one. Proper training, and safety measures, are necessary prior to operating such heavy machinery.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@nextcorrea- The classifieds are probably not the best place to look for used backhoes. If I was you I would either look online or contact a farm equipment supplier close to your land. Backhoes, like any other piece of heavy machinery, are often available used. They may not have one available immediately, but if you tell them what you are looking for they will contact you when one becomes available.


I have a small piece of land that needs a lot of work done to it. I have considered renting a backhoe, but I think the cost might be prohibitive. Does anyone know if it is possible to buy a used backhoe? I have looked in the classifieds but I have never seen an excavator for sale.


I grew up next to a park that had a huge playground for kids. One of the coolest features was a big sandbox that had a small approximation of a backhoe built into it. Using 2 different levers you could control the arm and the scoop. The whole apparatus swiveled 360 degrees as well. It is pretty easy to entertain yourself as a kid and I feel like I spent dozens of hours moving sand from one pile to another and back again. I have sen this kind of equipment in a few other playgrounds but it is not as common as you would think. It is fun, cheap and gets kids thinking about something more than running and screaming.


I awoke to the loud noise of heavy machinery last Saturday. Since I rent my home, I never know when the landlord's workers are going to show up and fix things. I'm not complaining, though. I love that he takes care of the place.

I peeped out the blinds and saw a man on a backhoe in my yard. We had been having problems with sewer and washing machine drainage backing up, and the landlord had come to fix the problem. He used the front loader to scoop dirt and widen the drainage ditches.

A backhoe is an impressive machine. How else could anyone move so much dirt for hours and not become exhausted? The ditch works wonderfully now.


Backhoes can also be used for burying large animals, such as cattle, that are too heavy for humans to lift. I know this because I watched a backhoe bury a cow in the pasture beside my house.

The man who owns the cattle did not seem to care that his cow had died. We had called to inform him, but it just lay there and decomposed for months. We happened to casually mention it to our landlord's brother, who owns a backhoe. A few days later, he showed up in the backhoe.

At first, I did not know why the giant machine was driving through the pasture. Then, it parked beside the cow and began to dig a deep hole next to it. When the man had dug deep enough, he used the front loader to push the cow's remains into the grave. He then covered it with dirt. The whole process took only minutes.

Post your comments
Forgot password?