Compact units can cost half as much as a full-size backhoe-loader, or less, depending on the model. "When you start talking about a big machine, you're talking $65,000 and up," Martin states. "If you're talking about a compact, you can buy a pretty good machine for somewhere between $20,000 to $35,000."
In addition to a lower purchase price, there is reduced cost of operation. "You have a lot less operating cost because it is a simple machine with simpler components," says Martin. "Therefore, it would not require the high-tech maintenance of a larger machine."
Because of their lower horsepower ratings and lighter weight, they also offer lower overall fuel consumption. And trailering requirements are significantly reduced. "As opposed to having a heavy trailer and a big towing vehicle to move the larger equipment, a 1/2- or 3/4-ton pickup with an automotive trailer can move [a compact TLB] around just fine," says Dahlgren.
Lighter weight also equates to less restoration cost in sensitive underfoot conditions. "It is lesser weight than the bigger machines... and therefore, it causes less site damage," says Martin.
A good compliment
Clearly, smaller TLBs have moved well beyond the "toys" of yesterday, evolving into practical, productive construction machines. And while they are unlikely to displace full-size backhoe-loaders on larger commercial construction sites, Dahlgren believes they can be a good compliment to existing equipment.
"If [the contractor] has a full-size TLB, in most cases, he could do an awful lot of work if his second TLB was a compact unit," he asserts, "because he could [perform jobs] in all of the places that weren't appropriate to have his full-size machine... Plus, his initial cost investment is considerably less."