Renting a mini-excavator – Getting the machine home

By JimRental

OpenRental note: P. and K. Goyle (yes, those are pseudonyms) are undertaking a series of projects in their yard. This is one of a series of blogs by Peter as they use a range of rental equipment to transform their yard into a stylish oasis.

This blog is about self-delivering a good-sized piece of rental equipment, but before I get too far, I wanted to note that beyond the fact that you may not own a big truck, there are several good reasons to have the rental yard deliver equipment such as mini-excavators.

One reason is that the yard and delivery guys can load and unload the equipment in their sleep. Another is that, when the delivery guys drop equipment off at a site, you can grab them by the arm, pull them over to walk around the work site. They've done this hundreds of times, and can give some suggestions and spot any red-flag issues. Plus they'll re-explain the controls if you ask, give you some operating pointers, and if they have time, may dawdle around a while to see you get started.

As for me, I had a full-sized pickup at my disposal, wanted to save money on the delivery, and last, I’d run excavators before.

But I've got to admit that loading and /off-loading of a mini excavator was new challenge for me.

Also, I should point out that while the word “mini” is part of mini excavator,, you should understand that “mini” is a relative term. While it's true that a rental mini-excavator it small compared to those you see at big construction sites, weighing in at 3,000 pounds or so, the mini-excavator is a good-sized piece of equipment – and plenty big enough for nearly any home project.

Delivering the equipment yourself can be quick and easy – providing that you pay close attention up front. First, I’d strongly suggest that you use your phone to video the loading process at the yard.

Or, if you happen to have total recall, closely watch as the guys hook up the trailer and load the excavator. Whether you burn this in to your photographic memory or rely on your phone, you’ll need to reverse the sequence when you get home.

Unloading the excavator isn’t all that difficult, but even so, it can be nerve-wracking. So just make sure you pay attention at the rental yard, and don’t feel shy about asking questions.

By the way, the rental yard required a full-sized pickup truck for hauling, and now I understand why – the extra stopping power. Between the weight of the mini-loader and the trailer, you’re looking at hauling – and stopping -- a load a couple of tons of. And despite being extra-careful during the tow home, I was forced to jam on the brakes when someone cut me off in traffic. That’s a lot of weight to bring to a sudden stop. You need those big-truck brakes.

The offload gave new meaning to “tipping point” and “leap of faith.”

You see, most excavator trailers are a “tip” type trailer, so, as excavator moves toward the rear as you offload it, at the point when the majority of the excavator’s weight is past the tipping point of the trailer, suddenly there’s a loud metallic “clang” and the flat trailer transforms into a steep ramp. Even though I’d watched the same thing in reverse when they loaded the unit, it caught my breath when I was the heading backward down a 30-degree ramp on a 3,000 pound machine. You just have to go with it, and know it’s going to work.

And it did. Still, it takes a bit of a leap of faith when the excavator hits that tipping point, and you hear that clang as the ramp hits the pavement. Click here for some lessons learned in getting started.

The final piece comes when you’ve finished the excavating job – loading onto the trailer. Again, you saw it done at the rental yard, and you’ve done the reverse during the offload. Trust your knowledge when you feel the trailer start to tip up away from the street to the final, level position.

The tipping motion can strike fear in your heart, but it does the job and you can let out a sigh of relief when you're back safe and sound on the trailer.