A Comparison of Top Backhoe Loader Models

Center Mount Backhoe

Backhoes are one of the most versatile pieces of earth moving equipment, frequently used in a wide range of agricultural, construction, and industrial applications. Most backhoe loaders are compatible with everything from buckets and bale spikes to grapples and hammers. This functionality enables a single individual to accomplish an assortment of tasks through quick-coupler attachments that facilitate productivity while maximizing the ROI of the loader itself.

In this article, we'll compare top brands such as John Deere, JCB, and Caterpillar, focusing in particular on two unique types:

Metrics to consider

Earth moving equipment is often judged by its output, measured in horsepower. But when buying a backhoe, the ideal metrics are often concerned with its attachments and their related performance. For this reason, pay close attention to the following features.

Sideshift Backhoe

  • Max digging depth. Max digging depth ranges from 7 to 17 feet. Generally speaking, the longer the machine is, the deeper the digging depth it will be capable of.

  • Backhoe bucket width. Another metric that directly affects productivity, bucket widths extend from 12 to 60 inches wide and are capable of moving from 2.5 ft3 to 20.25 ft3 of material weighing up to 670 pounds.

  • Loader bucket width. On the front of the machine, the bulldozer-style loader bucket is a multipurpose attachment frequently used to push or haul loose material and large objects. Often available as general purpose, multipurpose, and side-dump, loader buckets carry from 1 yd3 to 1. 5 yd3 of material and can heft up to 2,100 pounds.

  • Operating weight. Usually only a consideration when operating on fragile or costly work surfaces such as manicured grounds, bricks, or paver stones, the operating weight of a backhoe loader starts around 13,000 pounds and can go as high as 24,000 pounds.

  • Horsepower. Backhoes fall into two unofficial categories, those that run 14 to 15 feet and offer horsepower that ranges from 68 to 107 hp, and those that are 15 feet in length (or more) and provide output of 127 hp or more.

  • Engine Type. Backhoes operate on a diesel engine. This requires compliance with Tier 4 hydrocarbon (HC) restrictions for models manufactured from 2015 on, and Tier 1 through Tier 3 for older models.

Model comparisons

When comparing backhoe manufacturers and the various models available, you'll find two main types, center mount backhoes and sideshift backhoes. While both offer comparable levels of performance overall, differences can be found in the degrees of maneuverability and stability they provide.

Center Mount Backhoes

Frequently referred to as a center pivot backhoe, this type of loader has the backhoe mounted at the center of its rear frame. Its gullwing legs swing down and provide stabilization. This design reportedly provides a wider stance and more ground clearance, making it ideal for sloped terrain and heavy loads.

Center Mount BackhoesJohn DeereJCBCaterpillarBobcat
Model310L3CX-14416CB300
Max Digging Depth14 ft.14.6 - 18.5 ft.14.5 ft. 11 ft.
Backhoe Bucket Width1 - 3 ft.2 ft.1.5 ft.2 ft.
Loader Bucket Width7.2 ft.7.7 ft.7.4 ft.6.1 ft.
Operating Weight14,669 lbs.15,035 lbs.13,960 lbs.9,260 lbs.
Horsepower93 hp92 hp78 hp46 hp
Engine TypeDieselDieselDieselDiesel
UsesFarming, general constructionFarming, general constructionFarming, general constructionFarming, general construction
Pricing$13,500 - $60,000$45,000 - $89,500$26,000 - $46,000$19,000 - $22,500

Sideshift Backhoes

This type of backhoe is mounted on frame rails and stabilizers that allow the operator to shift work or materials from one side of the loader to the other, greatly saving the time it would take to reposition the rig. Ideal for narrow corridors or work situations where the machine is positioned close to buildings or other immovable objects, sideshift backhoes strike the perfect balance of precision and productivity.

Sideshift BackhoesJohn DeereJCBCaterpillarBobcat
Model315SLICX Military424BB100 (with sideshift attachment)
Max Digging Depth13 ft. 8 in.8.4 ft.15.9 ft.9.2 ft.
Backhoe Bucket Width1 - 3 ft.2 ft.1.5 - 2 ft.2 ft.
Loader Bucket Width7.2 ft.4.7 ft.7.4 ft5.2 ft
Operating Weight17,554 lbs.1,344 lbs.16,539 lbs.5,752 lbs.
Horsepower99 hp47 hp74 hp31.5 hp
Engine TypeDieselDieselDieselDiesel
UsesLandscaping, public utilitiesLandscaping, public utilitiesLandscaping, public utilitiesLandscaping, public utilities
Pricing$27,000 - $49,500$22,700 - $42,000$23,000 $10,600 - $17,500

Choosing a brand

Whether buying a used backhoe or a new model, many machines tend to be close in output and overall performance. This makes the reliability of the manufacturer and post-sale service even more important when making your final decision.

Reviews. The web is packed with feedback from real buyers. Pay close attention to both the strengths and weaknesses of a backhoe loader manufacturer, in particular frequent breakdowns or problems with attachments.

Awards and recognition. This can often reveal a manufacturer's research and development focus. If specialized features like environmentally-friendly operation or important design aspects like compact size are important to you, an award is definitely something that should tip the scales in favor of that model.

Help and support centers. This is one of the most critical aspects of any backhoe purchase. When choosing between dealers, make sure to factor in downtime, as lengthier service support can lead to costly overages. Ideally, you should strive for a level of support that mirrors your hours of operation.

Training and maintenance agreements. While seasoned operators may be comfortable with a backhoe loader, newer drivers may need some instruction on the latest features. And a maintenance agreement is essential for preventing breakdowns and ensuring the loader continues to run at peak performance.

SupplierJohn DeereJCBCaterpillarBobcat
BBB RatingA+N/AA+A+
Most Recent AwardFIMA 2014 Outstanding Innovation for Hitch Assist systemQueen’s Award 2012 for growth in overseas salesCat-F Series Backhoe Loaders Voted in Top 50 Most Innovative Products of 2012Equipment Today Magazine Contractors’ Top 50 New Products — Asphalt Preservation tool attachment
Help & SupportUltraGard, a no-hassle form of coverage that protects against costly damage due to severe weather, vandalism, overturn, collision or theft95% parts availability; 2,000 dealer depots in 120 countries; 15 regional parts warehouses that provide 24/7 support, 365 days a yearS•O•S Services Program, collects a routine sampling of machine data to provide insight on trends that develop over time12 months for materials and workmanship; 36 months for drive belt

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