Digging around for bargain kit

Interest in construction plant and equipment for on-farm use is growing.

Producers considering alterations to farm infrastructure often look to use farm staff and hired-in construction kit to keep development costs down.

There is also growing demand from those producers looking to hire out staff and machinery as an alternative income stream.

Little wonder in this era of change that more dealers and dedicated auction sites serving the sector are offering construction plant alongside cultivation equipment (see Auctions and Machinery in Marketplace).

Due to demand, prices are often keen. In the micro- and mini-excavator market (up to 1.5t) competition is fiercest with builders, landscapers and farm businesses competing for kit that can be used and moved using a conventional vehicle and trailer on a standard driving licence.

Examples in Marketplace suggest a well-sought-after 2002 JCB micro digger with well under 1000 hours clocked can be found on a dealer’s forecourt for £6450.

Even imported units (usually from Asia) come in at auction around £1600-£3000 for higher-houred and unwarrantied entries.

Most common to farm operators are 3-7t excavator models.

Restrictions on transport often exclude these units from smaller construction and landscape operators, say dealers.

However, use of low-loader trailers and tractors allow these diggers to be moved by producer-operators, although a keen eye must be given to road fuel excise laws to avoid penalties where red diesel is used.

In this category top-end units come with a price tag in excess of £20,000 for a low-houred UK spec model with warranty.

Imported units can be found for as little as £3000-£5000, suggests one Midlands dealer, adding it is very much buyer beware.

Pay attention to condition of track gear – it’s expensive to replace.

Likewise wear on pivot pins, bushes and hydraulic pumps can be costly if similar UK-spec replacement parts cannot be supplied by local dealerships.

During operation the only major difference will be the orientation of the two main operating controls.

Typically, imports from Asian countries have opposite responses on boom extension and return axis and, while hydraulic spools can be replumbed, it can be a hidden cost.

The most common acquisition in the farm sector is the JCB 3CX-style digger/backhoe combination.

Expect to pay £1500-£2000 for a well used 1970s model.

Later 1980s versions with quick-fit buckets can still command £4950 from dealers yards due to reliability and flexibility of this proven combination unit.

Get quotes for Mini Excavators from up to 6 suppliers.