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What to Give for a Loader Backhoe

A loader backhoe is one of those pieces of equipment many farmers want to own but don’t consider a necessity. It is also one of those machines that farmers who've owned one wonder how they ever got along without it.

So when a long line of loader backhoes was sold at a recent Ritchie Brothers auction, I jumped at the opportunity to dive into the values. 

 

 

Many of the machines selling that day (the four Deere backhoes shown above were part of that sale) fit the profile of what farmers often look for when shopping for a backhoe. They were 10 to 15 years old, had reasonable hours (ranging from 2,500 to 5,200 hours), and were in good repair.

“That’s the type of machine we see farmers looking to buy,” said Rick Vacha of Ritchie Brothers when I asked him about the machines for sale that day. “At that age and with those hours, you can buy a decent machine that would give you a lot of service for years to come.”

I’ll admit that my knowledge of backhoe loaders was limited. So I asked Vacha if there were capacity differences among backhoes.

“Just like farm tractors, there are variations among makes and models,” he told me. “Those differences are not nearly as widespread as comparing a utility tractor with a four-wheel drive.”

Two classes

Research reveals that the vast majority of backhoes fall into two classes determined primarily by a model’s horsepower and digging depth. Among the numerous machines made by the major backhoe manufacturers (Case, Caterpillar, JCB, John Deere, Komatsu, Kubota, New Holland, and Terex), there are not huge performance contrasts.

For example, the power output among models generally ranges from 75 hp. up to 110 hp. Occasionally, you will run into a smaller machine such as John Deere’s 110TLB with 41 hp. or Caterpillar’s 450E with 124 hp. There is also another class of baby backhoes made by Allmand and Terramite that operate with engines that turn out less than 33 hp.

Backhoe digging depth classes

What best sets backhoe models apart are their digging capacities. One class of backhoes offers a standard digging depth of 14 to 15 feet deep, while a second, larger class of machines has a 15- to 16-foot depth. 

Again, there are some models that fall outside this category such as Deere’s 710J that offers a 17.8-foot digging depth or the JCB 3C-15 with a 20.8-foot depth. Extendable boom options are available on many backhoes. This option can increase the digging depths by up to an additional 4 to 5 feet. 

The second distinction I noticed regarding backhoe performance was its front loader lift capacity and breakout force. That latter term describes the maximum amount of one-time (as opposed to sustained) lift a loader can exert to break out a scoop of packed dirt, for example. Manufacturers also readily offer a loader’s sustained lift as well.

Loader lift class capacities

Lumping all makes of backhoes together by their general digging depth classes mentioned before, there are two loader lift capacity ranges:   

 

  • The 14- to 15-foot digging depth class backhoes had lift capacities ranging from 5,500 to 8,700 pounds.
  • The 15- to 16-foot depth class models had lift capacities ranging from 6,300 to 8,800 pounds. 

 

Interestingly, loader breakout force capacities weren’t as closely grouped. For example, backhoe models in the 14- to 15-foot digging depth class generally had breakout lifts ranging from 8,600 up to 11,500 pounds. JCB and New Holland models, however, had breakout capacities ranging from 11,000 up to 15,000 pounds. 

The same was true for backhoe models in the 15- to 16-foot digging depth class. Generally, their breakout forces ranged from 10,000 to 14,000 pounds. The JCB models in this digging depth class, however, offered outstanding breakout performance ranging from 14,500 to 16,400 pounds.

Wear-and-tear concerns with construction gear

Construction equipment generally doesn’t receive the TLC doled out to farm equipment since the owner of the machinery often is not its operator.  

Scott Steffes with Steffes Auction observes that a forklift, for example, from a construction site forklift with 4,000 hours certainly could have more wear than a farm tractor with equal hours. 

Steffes and other auctioneers who handle construction equipment offer the following presale inspection tips. 

 

  • Get the name of the previous owner, call the person, and ask how the machine was operated and maintained. You might even get to see the unit’s repair records.
  • Drive the machine, getting its engine up to operating rpm while listening to the engine and tranny for troublesome noises.
  • Inspect the hydraulic system and then operate all hydraulic devices looking for smooth operation.
  • Walk around the machine noting  chassis, tire, and device (loader, etc.) damage.
Written by Dave Mowitz

 

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