What is the difference between tracked and wheeled excavators?

What is the difference between tracked and wheeled excavators?

While excavators are generally used for the same type of work, regardless of the drive used, in practice the type of undercarriage has a huge impact on the capabilities of this equipment. That is why we have decided to present in this short post the differences between tracked and wheeled excavators. The information contained here will help you choose the right equipment for the upcoming earthworks.

Crawler excavator – characteristics

As you can deduce from their name, these types of excavators move thanks to the crawler running system – its use allows to increase the contact surface of the vehicle with the ground, thus reducing its unit pressure. What does this mean in practice? It is easier to overcome uneven terrain (it is not afraid of pits and the surface is densely cut by ditches) and travels on less stable ground, such as mud, marshy ground or sand. The reduction gears also help in overcoming difficult terrain, which allow you to increase the torque only at the track drive wheel, which not only facilitates movement on uneven ground, but also relieves the other elements of the drive system. If you are looking for high-quality reduction gears for tracked excavators, check out the Track Motor store page. The crawler track system ensures stability even for very large vehicles weighing several hundred tons, although among the tracked excavators you can also find small mini excavators that can be used in a home garden without any problems.

However, such a drive also has its drawbacks. The tracked excavator is less mobile than the wheeled version – it moves slower and cannot move freely in public spaces. First of all, the crawler excavator must not be driven on public roads – its movement over longer distances is possible only with the use of a trailer or a tow truck. The caterpillars are built in such a way that they can damage the road surface, especially with heavier equipment. The tracked excavator will therefore have to be transported to the construction site.

Advantages and disadvantages of wheeled excavators

Wheeled excavators are generally smaller than tracked excavators (excluding mini-excavators) – their weight rarely exceeds a few tons. So they are often simply more agile, and the wheel drive gives them a higher speed. The biggest advantage, however, is the ability to leave the construction site and move on public roads – a wheeled excavator can easily travel several / several kilometers between two workplaces. Nevertheless, for longer routes, it is recommended to transport using a tow truck / trailer – they consume a lot of fuel while driving, and their speed, although higher than with tracked ones, can obstruct road traffic. The undoubted advantage of wheeled excavators is also a large number of accessories that increase the capabilities of the machine (e.g. a hydraulic hammer).

As for the disadvantages, the matter is quite simple – we will not use a wheeled excavator on difficult terrain. This type of undercarriage is suitable for driving on relatively smooth construction sites and paved roads. Due to the smaller dimensions than with a tracked excavator, there may also be greater restrictions on the maximum digging depth.

Which excavator should you choose?

It all depends on what work we need it for. If you intend to use the excavator mainly in the city, on construction sites or on public roads, you can easily put on a wheeled excavator. A tracked excavator will be a much better choice for field work. It will also work better for heavier earthworks – due to its smaller size compared to a tracked excavator, the wheeled version will not always cope with deep excavations.


Excavators are machines used for various types of earthworks, e.g. at construction sites or road works. This is the basic equipment that every construction team should be equipped with. The choice of a specific type of undercarriage depends primarily on the nature of the work to be performed by the machine – a wheeled excavator is enough for light work in easy conditions, while the tracked version will be ideal for heavy work on difficult terrain. Both versions can be equipped with reduction gears for excavators, which will facilitate overcoming terrain obstacles.