How to choose the right plate compactor for your project?

Whether you are laying a new patio, driveway or repairing part of a walkway, choosing the right plate compactor for the job will make all the difference. When starting from the ground up, it is important to use the right equipment to ensure your foundations are set.

This article is dedicated to help you choose the right plate compactor for the task at hand. As well as highlight everything you need to know before commencing your project. First, let’s take a look at what plate compactor does.

What is a plate compactor?

Plate compactors are a popular piece of construction equipment used by DIYERs and professionals to compact materials and earth; providing a substantial firm base. They do this with through their large plates that are generally forged from steel, which vibrate at high speed.

This force of the vigorously vibrating plate, causes the movement of the particles of the material or earth closer together to illuminate air pockets and moisture.

Plate compactors are popular to use on all soil types you can expect to find in the UK. Along with materials/aggregates such as type 1 or 2 mot/hardcore, gravel, sand and asphalt.  

What type of plate compactors can you expect to hire?

When considering hiring a plate compactor, you will often come across three different types of machines.

Vibratory plate compactor (small)

These are the smallest compactors that you can find on the market. These machine can only move forward, which gives some restrictions on manoeuvrability. However, they are ideal for small-scale compaction up to 10KN such as landscaping tasks. Machines of this size often are around 300mm wide and weigh in the region of 50kg.

A massive benefits is that they are small enough to be transported in the back of a standard hatchback car. However, we’d always recommend two people lift these machines at one time.  

Vibratory plate compactor (large)

These compactors offer a wider plate than small designs. However, you can expect them to exhort similar amounts of pressure as a small compactor. This makes them ideal for most sub-base and material compactions. Offering compression rates of 10KN and weighing in at around 60-70kg, these compactors are a popular choice with commercial landscapers and grounds workers.

It is worth noting that these plates only offer forward motion only also. Large vibratory plates can be transported in a standard hatchback car, however, due to their weight should not be lifted alone.

Reversable plate compactor

These compactors are ideal for most small scale compacting tasks. Due to their ability to move both forward and backwards, they offer far manoeuvrable than a standard vibratory compactors. This makes them ideal for driveway installation and foundation laying.

Machines like this, weigh in up to 160 kg; offering a high level of compaction up to 25KN with a 400mm wide steel plate. They are small enough to fit into the rear of a standard hatchback car, however, due to their weight, are not recommended to be lifted. The best method of transport for a plate compactor of this size is to secure correctly on a tailgated trailer. It is also very common to find small wheels on the rear of the plate to assist in the manoeuvring of the machine.

What are plate compactors also known as?

Plate compactors, just like most pieces of tool equipment have gained many different names since their first creation. Their most common name used in the UK construction trade is the “wacker plate”. Which in actual fact stems from a well-known manufacturer Wacker Neuson, who manufacture vibratory plate compactors.

They are also well known as compaction plates, compactor plates, vibrating plates, tampers and even vibrating wacker plates. Nevertheless, you can be sure if you approach a tool hire specialist, they will know exactly what you’re looking for.

Common vibratory plate compactor brands


Bomag is an industrial leader in the field of compaction technology. With over 60 years of experience and a global operation, they produce some of the finest compaction equipment of all sizes. With over 250 different products from plate compactors to enormous road rollers, Bomag has become a popular choice throughout the hire industry.

Wacker Neuson

Wacker Neuson has come on a long journey after being founded way back in 1848. In 1930 Hermann Neuson invented the first-ever electric rammer and went on to create the internal vibrator conquers. With the introduction of combustible engines, Neuson continued to explore its possibilities throughout the 1960’s establishing its first manufacturing plant in Reichertshofen in 1964. Today Wacker Neuson, no longer just manufactures compaction equipment, but a large range of tools and plant machinery.

What safety equipment should you use with a compactor plate?

Wearing suitable personal protective clothing is essential when operating a compactor plate. We advise that you use the following:

  • Heavy-duty safety gloves
  • Safety boots
  • Ear protection

Protecting yourself whist using a machine like this is crucial to avoid any lasting harm.

One factor that you also need to be conscious of is the exposure to vibrations. Long exposure to vibrating equipment can lead to internal damage to the body. It is UK government legislation that all vibrating equipment is tested regularly to reduce the risk of being exposed to damaging vibrations. Overuse can lead to hand and vibration syndrome (HAVS).

If you have any concerns about ensuring your own or the safety of your staff to hand and vibration exposure. Please speak to one of our HAVS specialists at WHC Hire.

How much does it cost to hire a plate compactor?

As we have already highlighted in this resource, there are multiple different types of plate compactors to choose from. However, the great news is they are all relatively inexpensive the hire.

Prices for a plate compactor start from £45.00 +Vat per week. (2022)

Where can you hire a compactor plate from?

WHC Hire Services loader hire

WHC Hire Services offers a wide range of plate compactors from Bomag and Wacker Neuson. For over 20 years, WHC has been a leading supplier of the highest quality tool and plant hire equipment available on the market.

WHC Hire is proud to operate a highly advanced hand and arm vibration testing facility. Ensuring that every piece of equipment is tested and documented to the finest detail to protect our clients. To find out more about hiring a compactor plate, get in touch on 01684377977 or see more here.