How to choose the right plate compactor for your project?

Whether you are laying a new patio, or 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 maximise your compression to ensure that you have no movement within the ground that you’re working on.

From here then we can start adding a layer at a time, compacting further, to reduce the amount of air and moisture between the material or earth you’re working with. Resulting in a highly dense and load-bearing surface.

Before commencing with laying your foundations, finding the right plate compactor is extremely important.

What is a plate compactor?

Plate compactors are a popular piece of construction equipment used by DIYERs and professionals to compress materials and earth to provide a substantial firm base. They do this with the force of their large plates that are generally forged from steel, vibrating at high speed.

This force of the plate vibrating vigorously, 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 most often than not come across three different types of machines.

Vibratory plate compactor (small)

These are the smallest compactors that you can find on the hire market. They can move forward only, which gives some restrictions on manoeuvrability. However, are ideal for small-scale compactions of earth and materials up to 10KN. Machines of this size often are around 300mm wide and weigh in the region of 50kg. They are small enough to be transported in the back of a standard hatchback car, however, always recommend two people lift these machines at one time.  

Vibratory plate compactor (large)

These compactors offer a wider plate to compress larger areas at one time. These machines will exhort similar amounts of pressure as a small compactor making them ideal for most sub-base and material compactions. Offering compression rates of 10KN and weighing in at around 60-70kg fully fuelled, these compactors are a popular choice with commercial landscapers and grounds workers. 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 driveways, due to their added ability to move forward and backwards. Making them far more manoeuvrable than a standard vibratory compactor. Machines like this, weigh in up to 160 kg; offering a high level of compaction up to 25KN with a 400mm wide steel plate. The machines are small enough to fit into the rear of a standard hatchback car, however, due to their weight, are not ever 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 would 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 no doubt know 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 important to avoid any serious damage.

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), which if you are an employer, could result in huge financial penalties.

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 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. With regular investments into the quality of our equipment, we are able to bring the safest and most efficient tools to businesses and DIYERs throughout the UK. WHC Hire is also proud to operate a highly advanced hand and vibration testing facility. This ensures that every piece of equipment is tested and documented to the finest detail. To find out more about hiring a compactor plate, get in touch on 01684377977 or see more here.