Excavator hire rates in Australia: A comprehensive guide

Monica Gameng   |   December 15, 2021
Excavator fleet (cr: Pixabay - sumanamul15)

Plant and equipment hire rates can be volatile and unstable. They are not one-size-fits-all, rather hire rates will depend on different factors and tend to be project specific. 

Based on research and insights from experts within the Felix team, we found that there are several factors that will affect how high or how low excavator hire rates will be. 

Factors that affect excavator hire rates 

Size DOES Matter 

Excavators come in all sizes and picking the right size for your project matters. 

The size of an excavator can range between mini excavators that are 0-5 tonnes and standard sized ones that can be more than 500 tonnes big. 

The reason why size matters is because not all excavators will fit your project and your budget. 

Smaller excavators are perfect for tight access areas and are usually utilised for DIY or home improvement projects. Hiring a mini excavator can cost you between $14 and over $100 an hour. 

On the other hand, standard sized excavators are the ones that you commonly see on construction and mining sites. These bigger excavators are not only used for digging, but are also used for material handling, demolition works and even snow plowing – truly a versatile piece of equipment. Hiring a standard size excavator will cost you between $40 and more than $200 an hour. 

Excavator hire rates not only depend on its size, but it will also depend on other factors such as hiring it with or without an operator, having it transported to your project site, and even the type of excavator you need – which we will be discussing in the next sections of this post. 

Wet hire vs. Dry hire 

When hiring an excavator, you have to consider if you will hire one with an operator (wet hire) or without an operator (dry hire). 

Mini excavators are usually easier to operate compared to standard sized excavators so you can opt to hire one without an operator and handle the equipment yourself. Just make sure you learn how to operate it from an expert or read the user manual before operating the mini excavator on your own to avoid getting into accidents. 

Bigger excavators, however, have a more complex system and are harder to operate due to their size alone. This is why before you can operate any heavy machinery, you are required to have a license or some sort of certification that shows you have the capability and skills to operate the excavator. 

Unless you have an experienced, licensed or certified operator in your employment, wet hiring an excavator is highly recommended. 

Excavator by size
Average Wet Hire Rate
$ per hour
Average Dry Hire Rate
$ per hour
0 - 1.5 Tonne Mini 86 24
1.6 - 2.5 Tonne Mini 92 22
2.6 - 5.9 Tonne Mini 106 47
6 - 10 Tonne 111 56
11 - 15 Tonne 125 58
16 - 20 Tonne 147 73
21 - 25 Tonne 149 69
26 - 30 Tonne 160 97
31 - 35 Tonne 168 101
36 - 40 Tonne 167 78
41 - 45 Tonne 181 91
46 - 50 Tonne 198 125
51 - 55 Tonne 203 93
56 - 60 Tonne 220 131
61 - 65 Tonne 246 129
66 - 70 Tonne 312 136
71 - 75 Tonne 311 208
76 - 80 Tonne 310 172
81 - 85 Tonne 285 177
86 - 90 Tonne 520 166
91 - 95 Tonne   165
101 - 150 Tonne 285 215
151 - 200 Tonne   275
201 - 300 Tonne   368
301 - 400 Tonne   970

excavator hire near me

Excavators In Your Area 

Like any product or service, hire rates are also affected by the law of supply and demand. To refresh your memory, the law of supply and demand explains the economic principle that when supply of a product or service is higher than the demand, prices will fall. Likewise, when demand exceeds supply, prices will rise. 

This means when there is an oversupply of excavators or its substitutes within or around your jurisdiction, hire rates will likely be lower and vice versa. 

Oversupply and undersupply will depend on the number of competitive equipment hire suppliers in a particular area or region. 

Also keep in mind that excavator hire rates will differ from one state to another, which means hiring an excavator in New South Wales could be more expensive than in South Australia. 

Let’s take a quick look the table below. 

The Northern Territory has a higher average hire rate of $145/hour for a 6-10 tonne excavator compared to South Australia that has an average of $95/hour. The higher rate in the Northern Territory could be due to undersupply of excavators or suppliers in the region (remember the law of supply and demand). 

Excavator by size
State / Territory Average Hire Rate
$ per hour
6 - 10 Tonne NT 145
  VIC 110
  NSW 109
  QLD 108
  WA 100
  SA 95
11 - 15 Tonne QLD 131
  WA 125
  SA 125
  VIC 124
  NSW 122
16 - 20 Tonne ACT 158
  NT 155
  WA 153
  VIC 142
  NSW 141
  QLD 140
  SA 137
26 - 30 Tonne NT 175
  VIC 165
  QLD 159
  WA 156
  ACT 154
  SA 130
31 - 35 Tonne NT 200
  VIC 175
  SA 169
  QLD 167
  ACT 163
  NSW 154
  WA 151
36 - 40 Tonne WA 180
  SA 175
  VIC 172
  QLD 164
  NSW 142
41 - 45 Tonne NSW 198
  QLD 196
  SA 190
  WA 170
  VIC 150


a-mini-excavator-construction-review-onlineMini excavator (source: Construction Review Online)

Excavator Type 

Other than the mini and standard excavators, there are also different types of excavators that are used for certain site or project conditions. 

The different categories of excavators you will see for hire include: 

  • Long reach excavator – it has a longer arm that range between 39 to 95 feet in length. This makes it ideal for dredging works and demolitions jobs. 
  • Spider excavator – living up to its name, the spider excavator’s undercarriage has legs instead of tracks to allow it to “walk” on all kinds of terrain such as uneven ground, narrow ditches or steep and inclined surfaces, which a standard excavator would have difficulty working on. 
  • Swamp excavator – also known as an amphibious excavator, this specialised piece of equipment was made to work in wet environments (such as swamps). It has a special kind of track that allows it to float on water, making it ideal for dredging work. 
  • Zero swing excavator – this type of excavator has a limited swing capability and can only swing within the width of its tracks, making it ideal for tight or confined spaces 
  • Wheeled or rubber tyred excavator – instead of tracks, this excavator moves around using wheels or tyres. This excavator is best used on project sites that have hard terrain such as asphalt or concrete. 
  • Clamshell excavator – instead of the regular bucket you see on other excavators, the clamshell excavator has a clam-like bucket. 
  • Hydro / vacuum excavator – more commonly known as HydroVac, this earthmoving equipment uses a combination of high-pressure water and vacuum to break down and remove soil, which is kept in the tank mounted on the truck. 
  • Excavator / Truck combo – this category simply means hiring an excavator along with a truck to transport the heavy machinery on. 
  • Truck / Excavator / Bobcat combo – similar to the category above, this is like a 3-in-1 deal where you hire an excavator along with a Bobcat and a truck to transport both equipment. 
Excavator by type and size
Average Wet Hire Rate
$ per hour
2.6 - 5 Tonne Rubber Tyred 113
11 - 15 Tonne Rubber Tyred 118
16 - 20 Tonne Rubber Tyred 125
0 - 5,000 Litre HydroVac 199
6,000 - 10,000 Litre HydroVac 234
11,000+ Litre HydroVac 270
Excavator / Truck Combo 129
Truck / Excavator / Bobcat Combo 137
Long Reach 257
Wheeled / Rubber Tyred 133
Spider 400
Swamp 260
Telescopic Clamshell 325
Zero Swing 122


spider-mini-excavator-euromachSpider / walking excavator (source: Euromach)

Time of hire 

When you wet hire an excavator, the time of hire will also be factored in the rates because of labour fees for the operator. 

The additional labour fees are going to be based on government regulations related to shiftwork, overtime work and public holiday pay. 

Excavator by size and type
Rate type
Wet Hourly
Average Hire Rate
$ per hour
0 - 1.5 Tonne Mini Overtime 129
  Night rate 76
1.6 - 2.5 Tonne Mini Night rate 130
2.6 - 5.9 Tonne Mini Night rate 144
  Overtime 135
  Public Holidays 150
6 - 10 Tonne Public Holidays 148
  Overtime 142
  Night rate 147
11 - 15 Tonne Night rate 158
  Overtime 163
  Public Holidays 174
16 - 20 Tonne Night rate 258
  Overtime 156
  Public Holidays 163
21 - 25 Tonne Overtime 174
  Public Holidays 185
  Night rate 173
26 - 30 Tonne Overtime 190
  Night rate 202
  Public Holidays 227
31 - 35 Tonne Night rate 200
  Public Holidays 227
  Overtime 227
36 - 40 Tonne Night rate 245
  Overtime 256
41 - 45 Tonne Night rate 188
  Public Holidays 210
  Overtime 205
46 - 50 Tonne Night rate 202
51 - 55 Tonne Night rate 300
66 - 70 Tonne Night rate 340
76 - 80 Tonne Night rate 380
11 - 15 Tonne Rubber Tyred Night rate 135
  Overtime 135
  Public Holidays 70
0 - 5,000 Litre HydroVac Overtime 300
  Public Holidays 300
  Night rate 280
6,000 - 10,000 Litre HydroVac Night rate 255
  Overtime 329
11,000+ Litre HydroVac Night rate 329

excavator hire rates


One advantage of hiring a mini excavator is that it is easier to transport to and from the project site since it is lighter and more compact, making mobilisation or demobilisation costs cheaper. 

On the other hand, standard excavators or bigger excavators are harder to transport due to its size and weight. Larger equipment, in general, requires an equally larger means of transport that will cost more. 

Another factor to consider when transporting an excavator is the location of the project site. Longer distance travelled will usually cost more, especially if the project site is located in a rural area. 

However, there are cases when the equipment supplier will waive the mobilisation cost for long-term hire agreements. 

Machine Hours and Maintenance 

Newer excavators tend to have higher hire rates compared to older equipment. This is due to the fact that an older excavator has already depreciated in value due to the number of hours it has been used. 

Like any piece of machinery, frequently used ones get wear and tear over time and this will decrease its value and hire price. 

The hire rate provided to you by the supplier could also include maintenance cost. It would be best to ask the supplier for a breakdown of the rates so that you are aware what is included in the cost of hiring an excavator from them. 

crawler-excavators-volvoStandard excavator at work (source: Volvo Construction Equipment)

Tips and tricks to get relevant hire rates 

Add specific project location 

In order for the hire company to provide rates that are most relevant to your needs, you need to include the specific project location when requesting for a quote. This way, the supplier will be able to gauge fluctuations in rates based on your area. 

Letting hire companies know the specific project location will allow them to check if there are access restrictions or difficulties along the way as well. 

Hiring with or without an operator 

As mentioned in the previous section of this post, hire prices will depend on whether you need an operator or not. 

When asking for a quote, specify if you need to hire an excavator with an operator or not so the supplier can include this in the price breakdown. 

Be specific with your timeline or schedule 

When requesting for a quote, make sure to include your project timeline. The timeline should have the project start and end dates as well as possible breaks or down times when the excavator is not needed on site. 

Delays in the project due to unforeseen events are inevitable and if this happens, make sure you keep the supplier in the loop as hire companies also try to stick to a schedule. 

Also keep in mind that most, if not all, hire companies have a required minimum number of hours for both wet and dry hire. For the suppliers on Felix Vendor Marketplace, the average minimum hours is 4. 

For long-term hire agreements, some suppliers could give discounts up to 10 per cent depending on their capability. However, according to insider info, with how the market is currently where availability is scarce, some suppliers will refuse to reduce their rates regardless of the duration of the hire agreement. Again, the law of supply and demand comes into play here. 

Indicate additional requirements 

Another important thing to note is to indicate any additional requirements you may need when sending in a quote request. This will help prevent any misunderstanding or surprises once you receive an invoice from the supplier as some fees or charges might not be included in the initial quote. 

Additional requirements may include, but not limited to, fuel charges, maintenance cost, transportation/delivery/mobilisation or demobilisation fees and specific equipment features or attachments. 

Disclaimer: The hire rates data found in this post is a snapshot of the market and does not guarantee the same rates at present. For the most up to date excavator hire rates, it is best to submit a quote request.

Being able to acquire the most accurate and relevant hire rates from suppliers will make the procurement process for any project a breeze and the Felix Vendor Marketplace can help. 

Felix Vendor Marketplace lists thousands of equipment suppliers and subcontractors across Australia. The platform will not only allow you to request for quotes from equipment suppliers or subcontractors near you, but also allow you to compare quotes from several vendors, giving you the choice of which equipment or service to hire depending on your specifications and budget. 

Our team aims to provide our readers and clients with industry knowledge that will be able to help them get relevant quotes for plant and equipment hire or subcontractor services. If you find this article helpful, please do subscribe to our blog for the latest project news and industry insights. 

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Monica Gameng
As Felix's Marketing Assistant since 2015, Monica is responsible for researching and sharing new and progressing projects within the construction and mining sectors in Australia. It's no surprise that Monica has her finger on the pulse of Australian major projects given she has produced more than 1,000 posts. She truly is an industry expert.
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