If you’re looking to grow your landscaping business, then an excavator can potentially take your business to the next level. But it is important to carefully consider whether you should buy or hire an excavator. Do you make an investment and train up your staff to operate it, or hire one on a job-by-job basis?

Mini excavators can be transformative for landscapers and can be very useful for a wide range of landscaping and garden ideas and tasks such as breaking down walls, removing paving, digging up the turf, digging out ponds, removing tree stumps and levelling out the ground, to name but a few.

For this kind of work, a landscaper would be looking for a mini or micro excavator. Dealers will undoubtedly offer finance packages, but these would inevitably involve interest payments and credit checks.

On the other hand, the plant hire market is buoyant, and excavators can be hired complete with operators if needed.

While there are pros and cons to both options, the first consideration needs to be safety.

Risks of using an excavator

Even a ‘micro’ excavator can be dangerous, and as an employer, the landscaper will have a duty of care to make sure that anyone who uses an excavator is competent. In the event of an accident, the employer shoulders the blame, not the operator.

It makes it very important that whoever uses the excavator, including on a sub-contracted basis, is trained and competent.

Accidents that can occur include:

  • Tipping over – can happen if the machine is wrongly positioned
  • Damage to utilities such as damaging drains or cables
  • Injury to operator and others in the vicinity, whether other employees or passers-by
  • Accidents when towing or falling from a truck.

An operator should complete at least an introductory training course together with a thorough handover from any company they buy or hire from.

There are many courses available for those without the necessary experience of using heavy machinery such as an excavator. Typically, these would be three-day courses, which would cost around £1,000. It would be wise to ensure that any training is carried out on an approved course.

Should you hire or buy an excavator?

If your landscaping business undertakes a lot of heavy-duty projects on a daily basis, then it might be a better idea to buy, but if jobs that require an excavator are not as frequent, then hiring would likely be more cost-effective.

Ownership also brings additional costs in terms of insurance and safety checks, such as LOLER inspections by a competent person. However, in the case of hiring, these responsibilities are taken on by the hire company.

Buyers also should be aware that excavators – and indeed many other types of plant – can be a key target for thieves and they should look to manage this risk as best as possible, whether by installing trackers and immobilisers and in where it is kept when idle.

A hire company will bring the excavator to the site and collect it at the end of the rental period.

It can result in less flexibility, but it does mitigate much of the risk for the landscaper. Hiring companies will also be able to offer an insurance option, meaning the equipment is protected for an additional fee.

While there are both national hire chains and independents, one obvious disadvantage with hiring is that there can be a shortage of supply, particularly if it is a job that comes in at short notice.

Landscapers also have the option of hiring an excavator with an operator. This may suit some work, but the landscaper may also feel there are restrictions, in that the operator may need close supervision if it is a major project and the costs can be around £250 a day or more.

However, for those who undertake more heavy-duty jobs less frequently, the question of whether to buy or hire an excavator may lean more towards hiring.

There is no specific legal requirement to hold a certificate to drive an excavator, digger or dumper on private worksites and access roads. However, operators must be competent and trained in the use of excavators, all manuals and information supplied must be read and understood.

The choice to hire or buy an excavator must be carefully weighed up but for landscapers, there is no doubt that an excavator can certainly help power up their business.

If you’re looking for small excavator hire in London visit our website today for information, availability, and details.