How to Rent and Operate a Mini Excavator


A mini excavator is easy to operate and fun to use. Renting one save’s you time, not having to dig by hand, and money, not hiring out the work. Most small excavators aren’t powerful enough to scoop tree stumps, but they’ll dig 6 foot deep trenches all day long.

Mini Excavator Rental Cost

Mini excavators rent for around $250/day, $800/week or $2400/month. Many places offer a weekend deal where, if you take the unit after 3pm on Friday and return it by 9am on Monday, you’re only charged for one day. The caveat being you can only put eight hours on the meter. But eight hours is a lot of run time, and it’s nice to be able to spread it out over a couple of days.

Rates are going to vary by region and company. Before renting from a mom and pop shop, check out larger rental yards like Herc and Home Depot to compare rates and return policies. I find the service at larger yards much better. I mean how easy is it to return stuff to Home Depot, right?

Took this picture in front of a Home Depot today. All three of these excavators are under 3′ wide. How convenient is this? Awesome!

Delivery Cost

In my area, having the excavator delivered can run $140 each way. Hauling it yourself should get you a trailer discount. I usually haul it out myself, return the trailer the same day, and then have them pick it up.


One way to get extra time at no charge is to call in the pick up near the end of the day on Friday. This gives the rental yard little time to schedule the pickup until the following week. The paid time ends when you call it in so, unless you’ve used up all the hours on the meter, you’re free to use it until they come get it.

There is no guarantee they won’t come right away so make sure the must-do work is finished. In my experience it usually takes a few days for them to pick it up. One time it took over a week, at which point it became a nuisance.

Bucket Sizes and Cost

Extra buckets run about $20/day, which adds up so take only what you need. You can easily swap them out by yourself by maneuvering the excavator arm into place and removing/inserting a cotter pin.

I dug this ditch with a 12” bucket. You can see at the narrowest section it’s big enough to work and lay pipe in. For wider ditches and other clearing tasks I use, and recommend, larger buckets.

Mini Excavator Operation

It’s a good idea to give yourself a couple of extra hours to learn the controls. You will become more productive as you go. In the video below I demonstrate how to operate a mini excavator in SAE mode. A switch under the seat will change SAE to ISO controls. This determines whether the left or right joystick controls the lower arm/stick, and the upper arm/boom, which I call a crane in the video. Try both to see what mode works best for you.

If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. See ya. ?


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