Cat® Excavator Size Guide

Cat® excavators are versatile construction machines that dig, move earth, grade job sites and clear brush. While the name “excavator” may make it seem like all the equipment can do is make holes, these adaptable workhorses are capable of much more.

Excavators aren’t one-size-fits-all machines. Caterpillar makes them in four sizes and a range of models and configurations to suit specific purposes. The type of excavator that’s right for your project or job site depends on your needs, the project size and what you intend to do with the equipment.

Cat Excavator Sizes

Cat excavators come in four family sizes. The smallest excavator’s weight starts at just over 2,000 pounds, while the biggest Cat excavator weighs nearly a quarter of a million pounds.

When choosing an excavator size, consider the dimensions of your job site, how deep you plan to dig and the horsepower you need.


Cat mini excavators range from 2,061 pounds to 22,451 pounds. They are available in compact radius or standard models and have digging depths that start at 67 inches.

The smallest mini excavator has 13 horsepower, while the largest mini has 70 horsepower and can dig down more than 15 feet.

A mini excavator may be the best option if your job site is cramped or crowded.


Cat small excavators weigh between 30,400 and 40,200 pounds and offer horsepower ranging from 70 up to 130. They feature hydraulic systems that dig much deeper than the mini models — up to 21 feet.

Small excavators work with various attachments, making them versatile tools. You can attach hammers, compactors, couplers, shears and pulverizers to accomplish specific tasks.


The next size range up, Cat medium excavators, has a weight range from 48,281 to 77,000 pounds. They can dig considerably deeper than the small or mini versions, with some models reaching depths of up to 24 feet. The medium excavators are also more powerful, with engines offering up to 273 horsepower.

You can use various attachments with a medium excavator, including compactors, graders and drillers.


The large class stretches from 77,000 pounds to the largest Cat excavator model in production, which weighs in at 207,300 pounds, or more than 100 tons. The horsepower range here stretches from 273 to 542. Large excavators move about on tracks, not wheels, and boast a dig depth range reaching almost 32 feet at the high end.

Large excavators aren’t for every job site, as they need ample room to maneuver. The newest models feature Bluetooth technology, USB ports and mounts that minimize cab vibration.


Whether you’re working on small-scale residential projects or large-scale commercial ventures, selecting the right excavator size can make a significant difference in efficiency and productivity.

Contact Us

Types of Excavators

Size isn’t the only factor to consider when choosing a Cat excavator. You’ll also want to think about the nature of the job you’ll perform. Caterpillar manufactures several types of excavators, each designed to perform a specific task.


Cat demolition excavators all fall into the large size category, with weights starting at 88,500 pounds. The main function of a demolition excavator is razing and demolishing structures.

These excavators use a boom to demolish buildings. The boom size and angle determine the building size a given machine can raze. As an example, the 340 Straight Boom excavator boasts 314 horsepower and is ideal for demolishing ground-level structures.

For taller buildings, the 340UHD and 352UHD offer a boom reach of up to eight and nine stories, respectively.

Long Reach

Cat long reach excavators can reach 60 feet away from the cab. They can also dig deeper than standard excavators, as much as 43 feet into the ground.

Two long reach excavator models are available. The 340 long reach excavator is the lighter-weight model, while the 352 LRE has added weight and an additional counterweight. Both options work well on sites that involve hard-to-reach areas. Attachments are available for either model, which allows you to use them to cut, shear or crush materials.


Cat wheel excavators feature wheels, not tracks. They fall into the small category, with weights topping out at 46,407 pounds. Horsepower ratings for wheel excavators range from 134 to 174 and the digging depths vary by model.

Replacing tracks with wheels makes the excavators easier to maneuver in tight spots. Since wheel excavators have a tighter turning radius than tracked excavators, they are ideal for road projects or small construction sites.

How to Pick the Right Cat Excavator

With so many sizes and functions to choose from, how do you choose the right Cat excavator for your project?

There are many things to consider when picking your equipment:

Job Site

Consider the size of the job site when choosing the excavator. If the site is broad and open, a large piece of equipment may be ideal. Smaller or enclosed work areas may require you to choose a mini or small Cat excavator.

Also, consider the terrain the excavator will traverse. If it’s a paved surface, a wheel excavator is sufficient, but you may be better off with a tracked model if the terrain is rough or rocky.

Excavator Weight

There’s a considerable range of excavator weights, from around one ton to over 100 tons. You’ll want to consider how much weight the ground at your job site can support when choosing the equipment you use. A very heavy excavator will cause significant ground disturbance that may be problematic depending on the work you’re doing.

Tail Swing

Tail swing refers to how far the excavator’s housing extends beyond its tracks or wheels when rotating. Excavators with minimal tail swing are typically wider than those with a conventional tail swing. If your equipment needs to maneuver through narrow or tight passageways, you may choose a model with conventional tail swing.

Project Goals

Think of the overall goals of the project. If you are digging for a foundation, how deep will you dig? A mini excavator is acceptable if you don’t need to go more than a few feet. For bigger projects, you’ll likely need either a large excavator or a long reach machine.

If you need to knock down a building or other structures, you’ll want a demolition excavator that can accommodate the height of the building.

Digging Depth

Each Cat excavator model can reach a different depth. The smallest models will dig to a depth of just over 5.5 feet, while the biggest models can dig almost 43 feet deep.

It’s best to choose an excavator that can dig beyond your requirements but not too much beyond them, as you want to avoid creating a hole that’s too deep or large.

Available Attachments

Cat excavators can do so much more than dig. The available attachments determine the equipment’s functionality and usefulness.

Think of all the ways you may use the excavator and if you want the attachments for it on hand. If you want to cut or crush materials, look for a model that is compatible with those work tools.

Should You Rent or Buy an Excavator?

When choosing your excavator, another thing to consider is whether to rent or buy it. Either option has its benefits, depending on your project needs and situation.

Buying your excavator can be the most cost-effective and efficient option if you typically accept the same size and type of job. You’ll always have the equipment you need when you need it and will know that the machine is capable of doing the work. If your workload varies or you take on various projects, renting may be the more appropriate choice. You may need to rent a demolition excavator for one project and a mini excavator for another.

Another factor to consider when deciding to rent or buy an excavator is how quickly you will need the equipment. Buying may be the right option if you want an excavator on hand to use at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, renting can be the way to go if you know that you will have time to select your equipment between jobs.

Your company’s financial situation will likely influence your decision to rent or buy. Purchasing equipment typically requires a substantial upfront investment, although you can save by buying used excavators. You’ll also have to account for the cost of maintenance and repairs when purchasing equipment. Renting, however, lets you preserve your capital for other expenses and will not affect your balance sheet. Plus, you won’t have to pay to maintain or store the equipment when you’re not using it.

Contact H.O. Penn for Assistance Choosing an Excavator

H.O. Penn has new and used Cat excavators for sale in various sizes, as well as excavator rentals to cover unexpected demands or one-off projects. We can review your work site needs and help you choose the right equipment. Contact us today to learn more.

Contact Us    Find a Location

Translate »