Explore The Different Excavator Types & Common Uses

At first, the term excavator seems fairly encompassing. After all, their role is to excavate. But, if you’re thinking about excavator hire you should be aware that there are actually several different types of excavator, the one you choose will depend on the job you are intending to do.


The crawling excavator is designed for uneven ground, it relies on caterpillar treads to ensure it maintains stability regardless of the terrain. In this respect, it is similar to a tank. This type of excavator is commonly used for mining, grading landscapes, and general trench digging. 

It is a slower mover than many other excavators but this is because it has stability, making it a good choice if you have rugged or steep terrains. 


The wheeled excavator is very similar to the crawler. The main difference is that it sits on four wheels instead of continuous tracks. This makes it a good choice if you’re digging on a flat or hard surface. It’s not a great option for hillsides and very muddy terrains.

This type of excavator is faster and easier to move than the crawler.


As the name suggests this type of excavator is designed for cleanup jobs. It is effectively a huge pipe powered by a motor that sucks anything in its way upward. They are generally used when working underground, especially below the water table. This allows the area to be kept clear of fluid and debris and you to see what you’re doing. 

It’s surprisingly precise, reducing the chances of damaging the area around your dig.

Long Reach

The long reach excavator does exactly what it says, reaches places that traditional excavators can’t. It does this by having an extra-long arm, allowing it to work in deep holes or even at the edge of the water. You can stay at a safe distance while digging.

The average long-reach excavator can reach up to 100ft, that’s an impressive advantage in dangerous situations.


If you want something a little chunkier then the hydraulic shovel is a viable option. This is one of the most powerful excavators available. It has a massive bucket controlled via hydraulics to ensure it can lift extremely heavy loads. The machine also has a large and powerful engine, giving it the power it needs to haul heavy rocks and other, similar, objects.

It’s generally used for mining and when you have a large-scale dig to do on rocky ground. 


The dragline excavator can dig as far as 213ft and it’s especially adept at handling underwater jobs. This type of excavator is often used for excavating roads and creating harbors. It’s a big machine and powerful but the real advantage is that it uses a dragline to lift and move the bucket. This prevents electrical or hydraulic parts from being immersed in water. That’s why it’s a good option for harbors. 

Skid Excavators

These are named because they are small and sit on four standard wheels. They have small shovels but are adept at squeezing, or skidding, into tight spaces. They are generally used to clear a site and remove unwanted debris.

Dorian Koci

Dr. Dorian Koçi is a historian, Director of National Historical Museum of Albania and lecturer in Tirana State University, Faculty of History and Philology and New York University of Tirana.