IT’S BEEN a while now since I sold my Case backhoe. The sting of losing money on the overall ownership experience has faded at a (more or less) similar rate to the joy of the cash infusion when the sale went through.
At the same time however, the steady accumulation of a list of jobs that require some form of excavating capacity is also becoming apparent. There are stumps to clear, wet spots in paddocks to tidy up, drains to clean, and places where new poly pipe would be great.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. But before purchasing another machine, it’s important to consider the other options. So here goes! Contractor? Nope. Shovel? Hard pass. Hire machine? Actually, this is a serious option.
Loyal readers may recall that years ago I had the use of a 1.4 tonne Caterpillar mini excavator. A beast of a machine, it was comfortable, efficient and tough. It did a lot of the early work around here, but for regular, minor jobs, hiring is a pain.
So what about buying another machine? Scrolling through the list of affordable options, hypothetically, is a depressing (hypothetical) exercise. Another time-bomb backhoe is probably premature, and I don’t have the shed space anyway.
One option that has caught my eye is the ever-growing stream of Chinese mini excavators pouring out of containers at warehouses and backyards all over the country. I’d like to think I’ve got some experience now in the Chinese equipment purchasing game.
There are some red flags (no pun intended) to watch out for, some trade-offs to accept, and some words in the advertisement that you are never to take seriously.
I’ve been looking, and one of the leading contenders in the limited-budget, limited-aspiration market is the Rhinoceros XN08 mini excavator. “Mini excavator” is actually a dramatic overstatement, given this thing weighs only 800kg. It fits on a pallet, for goodness sake. It has a ONE-cylinder engine. Even my lawnmower is a V-Twin. But it is CHEAP.
And there seems to be literally dozens of importers bringing in the same machine, selling it with various claims of reputability, alongside their other Gumtree ads for used tyres, campervans and old forklifts. The Rhinoceros is also known in other international markets, with more than one YouTube video dedicated to reviewing it.
There are, naturally, downsides. The foremost being the chance to be taken on parts availability, in the event that something, somehow breaks.
One would expect that given such a machine has about the digging force of a shovel, but without the accompanying operator fatigue, it wouldn’t be too hard to overload and damage.
There’s also the mind-numbing irritation associated with the constant ‘putt-putt’ of the single cylinder engine and rattling of every metal-on-metal joint, latch and pivot point.
But after an hour or two on the shovel, it’s a mighty tempting proposition.
- John Droppert