Can Anyone Rent a Mini Excavator?

A common question in the DIY market is “Can anyone hire or rent a mini excavator?” Like many questions there is never really a simple answer, and regulations do vary from state to state, so your best bet is to check in your local area. However, in most cases the simple answer is yes. Which leads to the next most important question, “should I rent a mini excavator?”

Hiring options and which will be best for you

Many companies offer rental of machinery. In the industry this is commonly known as ‘dry hire’. The alternative to dry hire is called ‘wet hire’, which is a machine with an operator. For instance, Jim’s Diggers offer both dry hire and wet hire in some states, but our core offering is wet hire, which we offer in all mainland capital cities as well as some regional centres.

Before the introduction of the Work Health & Safety Act in 2011 it was a requirement to have a license or certification to operate machinery such as a mini excavator. As part of the changes introduced under the Work Health & Safety Act licenses were replaced by competencies. Competencies are still required to operate excavators and skid steers on work sites. This explains why you should still question whether you should hire an excavator or skid steer for your DIY project, so let us go into some of the reasons why wet hire options are generally more popular and beneficial than dry hire, even for small DIY projects. 

Advantages of Dry Hire

The main, in fact, the ONLY advantage of dry hire over wet hire is cost. On average, the dry hire of a small excavator for a full day is going to cost between $300 and $500. The wet hire of an excavator for a half day will instead cost you between $400 and $600. Of course, cost is simply taking into account your outlay. This doesn’t put a value on your own time and what else you could be doing with that time, nor does it factor in the additional risks and disadvantages that come with dry hire. 

We know the fun of driving these machines yourself could be seen as another advantage. Why do you think we’re in Jim’s Diggers ourselves? However, regulations and safety still need to be front of mind, so the fun needs to be weighed up against the disadvantages. 

Disadvantages of Dry Hire

The cost of accidental damage is high

To operate an excavator is not difficult, and there are many hire companies that have video tutorials on what is involved. Of course, to operate an excavator well takes a lot more than just an hour’s warm up before you get into your DIY. Most DIY jobs are in close proximity to your house or shedding, so a small mistake can have a big impact when the weight of these machines is measured in tonnes.

In these tight spaces, even if it is only tight while gaining access to your backyard, there are always significant risks. No one wants an inexperienced hand to pull a lever right instead of left and suddenly put a boom arm through a hot water system or damage a structural pillar in your alfresco. Damage to any structural part of the house could cost you tens of thousands of dollars to repair, just to save you a few hundred upfront. A licensed operator like Jim’s Diggers will be fully insured to cover this sort of damage in the unlikely circumstance that an accident does occur (Jim’s Diggers is covered up to $20 million).

There’s a higher change of digging up underground services

Another common misunderstanding relates to underground services. A lot of people think they can dry hire an excavator and simply get their plans for gas, electricity, telco, sewerage, and storm water from Dial Before You Dig (DBYD). The reality is that DBYD plans very, very rarely show the services after they have entered your property. They will show the services prior to the meter, which rarely helps in your backyard. Accidentally digging up these services can again have a significant cost, not to mention screaming kids once they lose access to the internet. 

At Jim’s Diggers, we offer Service Location services, to help you locate any underground cables or services on your property. If this service is not taken up by our customers, the responsibility for damaged services rests with the customer. However, in the unlikely event that these services are still damaged when performed and identified by our team, Jim’s Diggers is responsible for the repair and repair cost. 

Your time is money

On top of all the risks outlined above, you also need to weigh up the cost difference of how much longer it is going to take you to do whatever you need as part of your DIY project. While it is cheaper to dry hire an excavator for a full day than to get an experienced operator for half a day, you need to factor in the time it’s going to take for you to pickup and return the machine, the time for you to learn just the basics of the machine, and some time to fumble around.

In general, it’s going to take you much longer than an experienced operator to get everything done and there’s still always the chance you haven’t been able to do it right with your experience level, and need a professional to finish it off anyway. We can’t count the number of times we’ve been called up as an urgent request to complete a DIY job. In the worst cases, the job ends up actually taking longer than it would have taken us to do from scratch, as we need to complete remediation work before we can start on the main piece or work.

In conclusion

We hope this article has helped explain that while yes, you can still hire a mini excavator for yourself, what you need to ask yourself isn’t just a “yes” or “no” question. Factoring in the potential damage risks if something does go wrong is an important part of any DIY project, particularly when heavy machinery is involved.

To chat about your excavating needs further then please give us a call on 131 546 or visit our website at for a free quote, and we’ll be happy to talk you through the details of your specific project.