Trackhoe Vs. Backhoe

Trackhoe vs. Backhoe – What’s the Difference? (2024 Comparison)  

Unless you’re an equipment expert, you’ll often get many construction and agricultural equipment muddled up because of how similar they look. Two pieces of equipment that often get confused are track hoes and backhoes.

Both are pieces of heavy excavating equipment. Their resemblance to tractors and regular use of buckets can get you confused when wondering which is best for your task. 

But despite these glaring similarities, both machines are different and typically suit different applications.

That said, here’s an article that looks independently into the difference between both pieces of equipment and when you should get each. 

Backhoe Overview

Backhoe Overview

Backhoes, also known as back actors or rear actors, are types of excavating equipment or digger that consist of a digging bucket on the end of a double-part articulated arm.

The backhoe is typically mounted on the backend of a tractor or a front loader, hence, its name – backhoe. The part of the arm carrying the bucket is known as the dipper, while the other end closest to the tractor is called the boom. 

The backhoe is also referred to in some parts as the swiss army knife of heavy equipment. It is an excellent tool for excavation and earthmoving tasks.

Thus, you’ll often find it on construction sites. That’s not to say they can’t handle other tasks. With the proper attachment, there’s no limit a backhoe won’t exceed on the construction site. 

The backhoe is compatible with several hydraulic power attachments. This compatibility makes the machine useful for other tasks besides digging and lifting. The most common backhoe attachments you’ll find on construction sites are hammers and breakers.

These attachments are particularly useful for road construction. Contractors can use them to break solid soils, concrete, and asphalt. You’ll also often find the tiger tooth attachment on most sites.

The tiger tooth attachment is useful for breaking through frost and harder soil.

Backhoe Application

Backhoe Application

A backhoe is a very versatile piece of equipment. Its compatibility with many attachments means it can handle almost everything.

However, there are areas where it stands out. Here are some of the job sites where you’ll likely see a backhoe being put to good use. 

1. Landscaping 

If you go to a landscaping site today, you’ll find a backhoe. Backhoes are among the most important landscaping tools. There are so many landscaping tasks that a backhoe can accomplish, from excavating spaces for pond constructions to digging up trees.

There’s hardly anything that this machine can’t do. You just need the right attachment, and you’ll be good to go. Guess what? It’s also useful for transporting soil, boulders, and other materials around the job site.

The machine also shines for moments when you need to dig up trenches for irrigation lines. 

2. Construction

Whether it is for residential or commercial construction projects, you can rest assured that you’ll need a backhoe. Backhoes feature an impressive versatility that makes them useful for nearly every activity on construction sites.

Beyond making demolition tasks easier, backhoes are also useful for clearing up demolition sites so the site remains clean and ready for other projects after demolition.

Some other tasks you can complete on the construction site with a backhoe include grading, material hauling, pavement breaking, excavation, etc.

Again, since backhoes function on the strength of the attachment used, you’ll need to note the right attachment for your job and ensure its compatibility with a backhoe before buying. 

3. Agriculture

Like many other heavy equipments, backhoes are finding their way into the agricultural sector.

Although they were originally designed for construction work, farm workers are innovating ways to use them in farmlands.

These days, there are so many farm tasks you can use a backhoe to complete, from laying irrigation pipes to leveling the ground before farming and burying dead livestock.

You can also use it to lift and move hays from one point to another.

Backhoes are not so big, so they don’t take up too much space on the farm. However, they provide a range of capabilities for different needs around the farm.

Types of Backhoe Attachments

Types of Backhoe Attachments

Backhoes are praised for their versatility. However, it’s also important to note that such levels of versatility are only possible because of the number of attachments the machine can work with.

There are so many attachments compatible with a backhoe, and you’ll find something for every task.

Whether you’re digging post holes, moving hay, sweeping away snow or debris, moving pallets, or handling other tasks, there’s a backhoe attachment to help you handle it.

Here are some of the most popular backhoe attachments in the equipment market. 

Augers: comes in different sizes and shapes. They are useful for drilling holes into different kinds of materials, including gravel, wood, and dirt. 

Compactors

As their name denotes, compactors are designed to compact earth. They use thousands of pounds of force to tamp down soil on excavation sites and trenches.

They’re also useful for driving in sheeting on retaining walls. 

Snow handlers

Remember we talked about backhoes being useful for clearing snow? These are the attachments useful for such tasks.

Snow handlers are a generic name for all the attachments used for clearing and moving snow. These attachments include blowers, snow blades, buckets, angle brooms, V-blades, pushers, etc.

Please note that you can lift snow or compact it depending on what you want, and what attachment is available. 

Hammers

Hammers are also called breakers and are useful for demolition and earth preparation tasks. You can use them to break up rocks, soil, and other obstacles before clearing them away from a job site.

Rippers

Rippers come in different shapes and sizes. They are useful for quickly cutting through thick materials like rock, ice, asphalt, and permafrost. 

Broom

Also known as street sweepers, this attachment is useful for clearing away debris or snow from the work site.

Trackhoe Overview

Trackhoe Overview

Even if you’ve never been to a construction site, it’s easy to figure out this machine’s similarity to the backhoe from the name. However, they are not the same thing.

Track hoes are demolition equipment typically used for heavy digging and other earthmoving tasks. Like backhoes, track hoes are very versatile and use different attachments to complete tasks.

However, track hoes feature a slightly distinct mechanism. A track hoe has an articulated arm and a large bucket on its end designed for deployment in the breaking of concrete and debris.

The articulated arm picks up the broken debris and dumps them in a dump truck or any other location. 

Trackhoes come in different sizes, with the smallest models known as compact excavators or mini-excavators.

It’s also important to note that track hoes present more safety and operational concern than backhoes due to their working mechanism.

Thus, they typically require more experienced operators, especially in rugged terrains. Simply put: track hoes are a type of excavator that moves on tracks. 

Trackhoe Application

Trackhoe Application

As explained above, track hoes have numerous applications with various attachments available. This equipment features buckets, brooms, and sticks of different sizes and shapes.

Backhoes are useful in nearly all industries, but here are some of the most popular applications of track hoes. 

1. Earthmoving

This is easily the most popular use of backhoes. Many associate the machine with earthmoving tasks.

Their standard bucket attachment features teeth-like edges that enable efficient digging and scooping. Some of the areas where this earth-digging application is useful are:

  • Trenching: trenches are useful in construction sites, utilities, and other industries. Operators use track hoes to dig trenches when they want to set foundations, install pipes, or create planting areas.
  • Landscape grading: excavators can be deployed to level and sculpt grounds during landscape grading processes. Grading is usually the first step in most construction, and it involves leveling the ground before building anything on the ground.

2. Material Handling 

An operator can attach a clamp attachment to a track hoe to make it a useful tool for material handling and hauling.

The arm section of the track hoe can also pick bigger materials that won’t fit into the bucket attachment. 

3. Demolition 

An excavator also shines for the demolition of any kind of building. The operator just needs to attach a breaker attachment to convert this machine to a demolition giant.

Breakers will provide the hundreds of pounds of impact energy needed to break into walls, stones, concrete, and other tough materials.

4. Underground Excavation

Depending on how experienced you are in the construction field, you can call it underground excavation or tunneling.

However, they both mean the creation of passageways through digging. Operators can combine auger attachments with buckets to get the best results when using a track hoe for underground excavation.

Augers use hydraulic circuits to bore deep holes into the ground, giving you space to do whatever you want. 

5. Underwater Operations

Some kinds of track hoes are designed to operate in water. Such track hoes typically feature long attachment arms and roller chains that facilitate easier navigation in this environment.

Trackhoe Vs. Backhoe – The Difference

Trackhoe Vs. Backhoe - The Difference

Despite the similarities between both machines, there are still a number of differences worth knowing. These differences are classified into three main areas: 

  • Rotation
  • Purpose
  • Size

However, the most notable and obvious difference between both machines is their size. Backhoes are typically smaller, weighing below 7.5 tons.

On the other hand, track hoes are significantly bigger, with some of them weighing up to 15 tons. 

The backhoe is named after its operating mechanism, whereby the digging bucket scoops the earth back toward the body of the machine. 

On the other hand, track hoes are designed to feature a 360° turning capability around their axis. 

Usage

Backhoes are not just versatile; they are also easy to operate in challenging and tight spaces.

They can comfortably dig wider-diameter holes for the placement of anchor posts. They are also useful for digging trenches, tree transplants, and tree stumps excavation. 

Track hoes are demolition giants, although they can handle other tasks like heavy digging and earthmoving.

Track hoes are also useful in agricultural settings for digging holes, drainage, foundation, dirt shoveling, heavy material lifting, etc. 

Size and Costs

As explained above, backhoes are generally smaller than track hoes and represent smaller investments than track hoes.

The average price of a standard backhoe with an 80 to 90 HP engine and a dig depth of about 14 feet costs between $50,000 and $75,000.

Larger models can go up to $100,000, and smaller models as low as $25,000. 

Trackhoe is bigger in size and cost, and their prices tend to increase exponentially with size.

A new track hoe weighing between 30 to 40 tons can cost between $120,000 to $550,000 depending on brand and specifications.

Wrapping Things Up – Which Should You Buy?

Wrapping Things Up - Which Should You Buy

Both machines are versatile and useful for different applications. However, it boils down to what you need to do.

So far, we’ve seen that track hoes are better-suited for heavy-duty projects like major constructions. Backhoes are better suited for moderate-sized projects like agricultural works.

So, if these are the kinds of work you want to do, you already know which machine to choose. However, if you’re still confused about the suitability of these machines for your project, consider speaking to an equipment expert.

An equipment expert knows the in and out of each machine and will typically recommend the right one based on your project. 

FAQ

Why is it called a trackhoe?

The term “trackhoe” is a colloquial combination of two words: “track” and “hoe.” It is used to describe a type of construction equipment known as an excavator. The “track” part refers to the undercarriage of the machine, which typically consists of tracks or crawler treads, providing stability and mobility. The “hoe” refers to the machine’s primary digging component, the excavator bucket or arm. Thus, “trackhoe” simply denotes an excavator with a tracked undercarriage.

What are the uses of Trackhoe?

Trackhoes, or excavators, are versatile construction machines used for various tasks such as digging, trenching, excavating, grading, material handling, and demolition. They are commonly employed in construction, mining, landscaping, and utility work due to their ability to efficiently perform precision digging and earthmoving operations.

What is a backhoe also called?

A backhoe is also commonly referred to as a “backhoe loader” or simply a “loader backhoe.” It is a multifunctional construction machine with a loader bucket in the front and a backhoe attachment in the rear. This dual-purpose equipment is used for digging, loading, grading, and other earthmoving tasks on construction sites.

What is another name for a backhoe loader?

Another name for a backhoe loader is a “loader backhoe.” This term highlights the two primary functions of the machine: loading materials with the front loader bucket and excavating with the backhoe attachment. Loader backhoes are widely used in construction, agriculture, and utility work for their versatility and ability to perform both loading and digging tasks.