A Complete Guide To Rent A Small Digging Machine.

Are you looking to rent a small digging machine for the first time? Or, maybe you want to discover ways to get more out of your hire equipment. Well, during this complete guide to rent a small digging machine, we’ll be doing just that. Using our 25 years of experience, this WHC Hire article will take you through the whole process of hiring a small excavator.

We’ll start by evaluating potential prospects, then, receiving your machinery, operating it and what to expect when you return your equipment. So, on that note, let’s look at why you might rent one to start with.

Who is a small digging machine for?

Who is a small digging machine for

Small digging machines are fundamentally safe to use by anyone provided all correct safety procedures are adhered to. They can also be referred to as micro or mini diggers. These highly productive machines are designed for their environment, rather than the particular skill of an operator. The same components that you’ll find on a small excavating machine will be replicated in its larger designs.

Driving a small digging machine can take years to master. However, for less experienced operators – they can offer a quick and more efficient solution to completing a task by hand. This makes them a huge asset to many in the construction and landscaping industries. Excavators have been used for decades to complete many different types of tasks. Let’s have a closer look at these.

What tasks can be completed with a small digging machine?

Small digging machines offer a large range of versatility to aid in the completion of many tasks. As they are so multi-purpose, they often help with many overseen jobs during the duration of a project. Nevertheless, the most common tasks completed by a small digging machine are:

  • Digging
  • Trenching
  • Levelling
  • Demolition
  • Stump removal
  • Material handling
  • Lifting


The first task that these machines were specifically designed for is digging. This can also be described as earthmoving or excavation. In the case of small excavators, the machine design has been altered to adapt to a smaller and less vigorous environment compared to larger models.


Trenching is a technique where a long thin hole is dug from one point to another. This process is used for installing foundations, as well as, laying utilities underground. The use of a small digging machine makes easy work of tasks like these.


Levelling earth is a common task for a small digger. An excavator can be used to grade a level across an entire working area. Using a grading bucket, material or earth can be easily manoeuvred to create the correct fall or gradient.


Using a small digging machine for demolition can be ideal. Their size allows them to fit through a standard-size door frame making them highly manoeuvrable. Micro diggers are commonly used for indoor demolition or excavation for tasks such as removing walls and breaking out concrete floors. These machines are not suitable for large demolition as they are not fitted with the correct safety structures.

Stump removal

Unlike using an axe or a stump grinder, renting a small digging machine can aid with the removal of tree stumps. Exposing a tearing through tree stump roots is a fast and efficient task for a small digging machine.

Material handling

One of the greatest tasks these machines are built for is handling all types of materials. This saves hundreds of man-hours and reduces the risk of accidents occurring with manual labour. Whether that’s moving earth, or materials such as type 1 MOT, these small machines can have a huge impact on your efficiency and safety.


Our final task that can be completed by a small digging machine is lifting. Even though these machines are not specifically designed for lifting materials high in the air. They are very useful for lifting some heavier materials to be transported or held above ground before being lowered into position.

Now that we have had a closer look at the wide range of tasks that renting a small digging machine can cover, you’ll now want to know how to choose a supplier.

How to choose a machinery rental company in UK?

Choosing a hire company in the UK

One of the biggest headaches when it comes to choosing a rental company to partner with, is who to choose. Who are you going to trust to supply you with what you need, when you need it? Just to make it a bit more of a headache… there are hundreds if not thousands of plant hire businesses across the UK.

To get started you need to be sure of the equipment you need, this may include the dimensions, lifting capabilities and any other specific specifications. Doing this alone will dramatically reduce your number of potential prospects. We highly recommend that you read our article How To Choose The Right Equipment Hire Company Near Me?” to help thereafter. This additional resource goes deep into the factors you should consider when renting equipment, and types of hire companies, and evaluates how rental equipment differs from purchasing you own.

If you are in the early stages of choosing a machinery rental company to pair with, having this additional knowledge can make a huge difference in the long run. Not only can it save you money, but also time and stress too.

How much does it cost to rent a small digging machine in the UK?

How much does it cost to hire a small digging machine in the UK

Renting a small digging machine is a very popular method to achieve faster construction results during an earth-moving project. In general, these machines are very cost-effective and highly efficient for their cost. It is common to pay anywhere between £80.00+VAT/ day- £293.00+VAT/day for a micro excavator. Alternatively, expect to pay between £215.00+VAT and £400+.00+VAT for a week’s hire.

The longer the period of hire the better value you will receive for your rental equipment. It is also worth discussing long-term hire rates for machinery if you are going to have them for over 4 weeks at a time. Renting a small digging machine can be far more cost-effective than purchasing, as these machines cost more than £10,000. If you are not sure whether purchasing or hiring a small digger is right for you, then check out Buy Vs Hire Your Construction Equipment”.

Things to avoid when hiring a small digger

Hiring a small digger for the first time can be an exciting process, but as we’ve seen with many, it can lead to some mistakes being made along the way. However, it’s not only people who hire for the first time. Many professional operators still make many of these mistakes to this day. Let’s have a look at all of them individually and highlight the potential solutions.

  • Not vetting your supplier properly
  • Ordering your machinery in plenty of time
  • Completing all paperwork correctly
  • Covering the machinery when on hire with short-term insurance
  • Understanding your agreement with your supplier
  • Ordering the correct size small digger
  • Additional attachments or buckets requirements
  • Preparing your area for delivery
  • Not reading the operator manual
  • Filling with incorrect fuel
  • Off-hiring correctly

As you can see, there is quite a few common errors that occur when renting a small digger. Now let’s dive into the potential solutions on how to avoid, or navigate yourself through these potential problems. It’s always best to learn from others’ mistakes so you don’t have to incur the same issues during your hire.

Not vetting your supplier properly

Vetting your supplier properly is essential. You can do this by speaking to the supplier directly. Businesses that are well established are normally the best value, providing the cost fits. Most mini digger suppliers offer competitive prices; therefore, it is worth visiting each supplier to review their propositions in person.

Ordering your machinery in plenty of time

Ordering machinery in good time is essential, especially during peak periods. The busiest time for rental is during the spring, summer and autumn months. Nevertheless, availability is never certain. Therefore, to avoid any mistakes, or having to delay your project, order your equipment 2-4 weeks in advance.

Completing all paperwork properly (Credit customers)

When signing a credit or rental agreement, you can avoid delay by completing it in full. This sounds like an easy fix, nevertheless, you will be surprised how many credit accounts are delayed because of this error. Cash customers must complete a contract agreement with a rental supplier. So be sure you take your time and be thorough.

Covering the machinery when on hire with short-term insurance

Having insurance when renting a small digging machine is essential. Remember when you sign to take possession of the equipment, you are solely responsible for it. Even if you have a business insurance policy, you will need to check that it covers “hired in plant”. For a deep dive into plant hire insurance, including some UK recommendations, check out this resource Plant Hire Insurance Explained (Hired In)”

Understanding your agreement with your supplier

Understanding your agreement with your rental supplier is essential. When filling out your cash or credit account paperwork, you should always check the clauses within the agreement. Before this, you will also want to know about the deposit system and how it works when renting for the first time. Each company will operate slightly differently.

Ordering the correct size digger

It might surprise you, however, it happens. Ordering the incorrect size earthmoving machine from a rental company happens a lot. This can lead to additional, unwanted charges on your final balance. Therefore, you must plan ahead, doing a full survey of the working area before contacting your prospects. Most suppliers will have access to the specifications of the machinery they supply, so if you are ever stuck, you should always ask!

Additional attachments or bucket requirements

Most rental companies will offer a range of buckets to complement a small digging machine. This can further be accompanied by attachments (size dependent). Get a full explanation of digger buckets here “Digger buckets explained”. Once you are aware of the tasks you need to complete with this equipment, you can then add any additional buckets to help you. Note: Some suppliers charge extra for some buckets.

Preparing your area for delivery

Preparing the delivery of your rental digging machine is important. Most times equipment of this size is delivered by on the back of a trailer. Alternatively, some rental businesses may offer a trailer to tow yourself, at an additional cost. Your delivery area should be large enough to drop the machinery off safely. However, if access is tight, you should pre-advise the rental company. Failure to do so could end in problems unloading your machinery safely, ultimately costing you time on your hire.

Not reading the operator’s manual

It sounds exciting just to jump in and have a go. But reading the operator’s manual before using a rented digging machine is crucial. Not only for your productivity but also for your safety. Take time to familiarise yourself with the machinery before using it live. Most rental companies will offer a machine walk-through like the one displayed below:

Filling with incorrect fuel

One of the key mistakes that still a few operators make is adding the incorrect fuel into the machine. Most plant hire equipment such as mini diggers, excavators, dumpers and more, generally run on white diesel since April 2022. Be sure, and ask your rental supplier which fuels are allowed in the machinery before refilling. Incorrect fuel use can cause damage to the equipment and parts and a labour charge to rectify. Red diesel is illegal to use for construction purposes.

Off-hiring correctly

The off-hire process is fundamental to understand. Failure to do this correctly will result in additional charges being added to your bill. The correct way to off-hire or terminate your contract with a rental supplier will be stated in your contract agreement. Returning small machinery is easy enough, but larger equipment like digging machines may require collection.

What information do you need to organise the rental of a small digging machine?

Documents to hire a small digging machine

If you are looking to rent a small digger, you will need to provide some basic information about yourself. This is because your supplier will need to know who is becoming legally responsible for the machinery during the hire. These people must be over the age of 18 years old in the UK.

2 forms of identification are required to hire a small digging machine. Examples of this are a UK driving licence, passport, utility bill or bank statement. If you are ever unsure which forms of identification your rental provider will accept, always ask beforehand. Copies of your identification will be taken and logged for the period of hire. This whole process takes about 10-15 minutes in total.

If you wish to open a credit account with a plant hire business, you will need to complete an account form. This application must go through a credit check to assess the risk on credit you wish to apply for. You must allow at least 24 hrs for this process to take place. 2 forms of identification are also required to open a credit account. Credit application forms can be completed before visiting a supplier. Here is an example of WHC Hires credit application form.

Pre-operational checks of a small digging machine

Completing pre-operational checks of a small digger are essential to ensure your machinery works correctly. Therefore, these should be done at the start of each working day. They will include the following:

  • Visual checks
  • Fluids and level checks
  • Safety and electrical checks
  • Daily greasing
  • Documentation (In some instances)

Let’s have a closer look at each one of these daily checks so that when you approach your rental equipment, you’ll know what to look out for.

Visual checks

This type of daily check is very simple to perform and does not require an operator’s key to do so. The intended purpose of a visual inspection is to highlight any problems with the machine. This includes inspections of the main components of a mini digger. Bucket, boom, dozer, cabin, bodywork, beacons, headlights etc. The most effective way to do these is to slowly walk around the machine and inspect each part, ensuring you document any issues as you go along. Any damage should be logged and reported to your rental supplier.

Fluid and level checks

Fluid and levels checks are generally conducted within an engine service hatch of an excavator. However, it is important to note that each model and design is different. Therefore, you may want to take your time to familiarise yourself before starting. The most common daily fluid and level checks are engine coolant, oil levels, fuel level, battery, fuel filter, windscreen washer fluid and hydraulic fluid levels. However, these checks will have already been done for you by your supplier if you are receiving your machinery for the first time.

Electrical & Safety Test

Electrical and safety tests are extremely important to complete before starting your day’s tasks. Each digger, of course, will be different, however, the three main components to assess are the operator’s seatbelt, operating beacons and headlights. This will require you to turn on the ignition to perform these checks. If a safety or electrical test fails, you must contact your provider immediately to gain a replacement.

Daily greasing

Greasing a small excavator every day allows all the moving parts with it to move freely. The locations of the greasing nipples can be found on the hitch, arm, boom dozer, kingpin and cabin of the excavator. Occasionally, you may have to refer to the operator manual to assist you with locating all greasing points.

Here is an example of a daily operator check being conducted on a 1.5T excavator from WHC Hire.

How to operate a small digging machine

If you have never operated a small digging machine before, then don’t jump straight in the deep end. Always take your time to familiarise yourself with the excavator before starting any planned work. This is because every single rental machine is different. Some controls are more sensitive, as well as layouts are entirely back to front.

Even if you are a seasoned professional, jumping straight into a hired excavator that you have never used before, can take some practice. Once you safely master these 5 excavator controls, then you can consider commencing your planned tasks. Nevertheless, when you initially receive your equipment, ask your supplier for a demonstration to help.

Get to know your machinery quickly:

Changing buckets on a small digging machine

One of the most common operator errors on a small digging machine is how to change a bucket. Why? Well as not all machines are the same, the process can differ depending on your supplier. The truth however completely lies in the type of hitch, bucket and set-up being used on the mini digger. There are commonly two different ways to change a bucket on a small excavator. These are as follows:

Hydraulic quick hitch.

Hydraulic hitches allows operators to change between buckets without having to leave the operators seat. Making them the more efficient of the two. Normally these hitches require the operator to flick a switch, usually found on the dashboard of the equipment. This will allow the pins of the bucket to be released so buckets can be detached.

Note that the process of operating a hitch like this differs between excavator manufacturers. Therefore, it is essential you know the correct procedure to do so. Once the attachment is changed, the hitch switch can be turned off to re-lock the pins into place. Here is an example of using a quick hitch on a mini digger.

Manual hitch

On other small excavators, rental suppliers offer manual hitches. Unlike hydraulic quick hitches, these require more labour from the operator to switch attachments. These types of hitches require the locking pins to be removed by hand, as well as the bucket to be detached with a metal steel bar.

Here is an example of how to change a bucket with a manual hitch.

Returning small digging machines to supplier checks

Returning small digging machines to supplier checks

When you’ve finished using your small digging machine, you need to organise its return. However, before doing so, here are a few things you can do to ensure you don’t end up with any unwanted charges.

First up is to clean the machinery. Cleaning the machinery to an adequate standard will help you avoid any cleaning charges to overall bill. Some small excavators can take hours to clean depending on the state they are returned. It is essential that you check your provider’s cleaning policy before agreeing to have the equipment. In most scenarios, cleaning chargers are not imposed and are somewhat included within your hire price. Nevertheless, in some circumstances, additional charges are imposed for poor-quality returned equipment.

Next is to make sure that the machinery is refilled. For some, allowing your supplier to refill the machinery for you is a convenient method. Especially if you don’t have access to a refuelling station nearby. However, before choosing to do so, it is important to check the rates at which you will be charged. Sometimes it can work out much cheaper for you to refill the machinery yourself.

Finally, before even considering returning your equipment, make sure you have finished with it first. If the machinery is still in use when a supplier attempts to collect it from you, you could be hit with an additional standing or hire charge. Terms of which you should always discuss directly with your provider.

The process of off-hiring your machinery correctly is incredibly important. Not every plant hire business will operate the same. Examples of ways to off-hire are writing via email, phone call or pre-arranged. Incorrect use could lead again to additional charges and the equipment not being collected.

Paying balances for your equipment

Paying a balance on rental equipment is a very easy process. However, the process completely depends on your supplier and how you are operating with them. Let us explain.

If you have a credit account with a rental supplier, then the overall cost of your hire will be added to your monthly statement. These statements normally have 30-day payment terms attached to them. In this case, paying your balance for your hire can be done via bank transfer, card or cash in-store. (Supplier dependant.)  Failure to pay will result in the account being frozen.

Otherwise, if you are not a credit account holder you will be operating on what we call a “cash” basis. Cash customers have to pay a deposit when hiring a small digging machine. When settling your bill, the cost of hire is normally deducted out of the deposit before being returned to you. This will include the cost of hire, transport, cleaning, damage and fuel that is required amending.

Paying or returning the balances owed can be done in a depot or over the phone via bank card or bank transfer. (Supplier dependant.) Always speak directly to your supplier if you have any additional questions about paying balances for your rented equipment.

Damage charges for rental equipment and how they are imposed

Let’s face it, accidents happen, and no matter your experience, there is always a possibility of rental equipment being damaged when out on hire. So, how do equipment suppliers assess damage and impose charges.?

Damage is assessed by the supplier directly and it is up to them to impose charges where they see fit. When a machine is delivered, the current state of the equipment is assessed before signing it over to you. This is normally conducted by taking multiple pictures of the equipment before handing you the keys. The same process is conducted upon collection to help identify any damage to the machinery (If any).

If any damage is found, then expect to be charged. The cost of repair is not always immediate. Therefore, you will have to discuss this closely with your equipment provider. We highly recommend that you take out a short-term insurance policy during hire just in case this situation occurs. Otherwise, you will be liable for every penny of repair.

Where to rent a small digging machine in UK.

Where to rent a small digging machine

Renting a small digging machine can be a fantastic investment for a range of different earthmoving tasks. Not only can it save you time, but also labour hours and physical demands. WHC Hire Services has been providing small excavators for over 25 years to businesses and DIYers across the UK. With a wide range of micro to 3T excavators in stock ready to deploy for any project size. All our small digging machines come equipped with our digital support service “QR enabled” to help you get the most out of your excavator hire. See our full catalogue of plant hire machinery here. Or give your local WHC Hire Depot a call on 01684377977 to organise a quote and delivery today.

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