Excavator vs. Bulldozer: What is Best for Clearing Land?

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Bulldozers and excavators aren’t as expensive as other types of heavy machinery, so it’s easy to see why so many people opt for one or the other. However, both of these machines are better at performing different functions, so how are you supposed to know which is right for clearing your plot of land?

Excavators are great for clearing land the has a lot of fallen trees, shrubs, and debris on the ground. Bulldozers are better if you want to remove standing trees, boulders, and other large debris. The best solution is to use bulldozers to knock everything over and excavators to remove it all.

Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following information about using excavators and bulldozers to clear land:

  • Which one is the best choice for your situation
  • Problems associated with bulldozers and excavators for clearing land
  • Other things that you should consider before choosing either of them

Should You Get an Excavator or Bulldozer to Clear Land?

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Excavators and bulldozers are both excellent options when you’re trying to clear land. However, if you only have access to one of them, then it’s best to consider the possibilities. They’re both ideal choices, so let’s examine the pros of each below.

Advantages of using a bulldozer

  • Bulldozers have more pushing power than an excavator. You can push boulders around and unroot large trees without a problem. You’ll also be able to push around large portions of debris without having to lift and turn the vehicle every time you want to get something done.
  • As mentioned by WikiHow, you can use the blade of a bulldozer to remove roots and prevent future growth of weeds. If you want to pull out a tree, then you’ll be able to dig below the stump to cut it apart. Keep in mind that blades are often an additional attachment that you’ll have to buy.
  • Bulldozers allow you to partially reshape the land. If you want to flatten an area, there are attachments to do so. Also, you can create hills, move debris into burn piles, and create slopes for running water. In short, bulldozers are an essential part of changing the terrain.
  • If you have an empty ditch, a bulldozer offers one of the quickest ways to fill it with debris. As mentioned above, you can use it as a burn pile or prevent sinkholes. Scoop out the dirt, push the debris into the pit, and fill it with the removed dirt. Flatten it out and you’re all set!

Helpful resources: Have you ever wondered if and how you can remove stumps with a bulldozer? Then check out this article here.

Advantages of using an excavator

  • Excavators allow you to sit in one spot while managing everything nearby. You can turn your excavator in any direction without having to relocate the machine, saving time and frustration. You’ll also be able to get the perfect angle due to the ever-changing axis of the machine.
  • You can push and pull debris quickly. Watch this YouTube video by Upstate Brush Control to learn how you can optimally use an excavator to quickly clear land. It’s as easy as it gets, even if you don’t have much experience with an excavator.
  • Excavators allow you to dig trenches without a problem. You don’t need special attachments; All you need to do is dip the shovel down and pull loose dirt and debris. You can create ditches for waterways, burn piles, and more. They’re great for farming and making new spots for seedlings.
  • You can get a stump splitter attachment to break trees into multiple pieces. Dispose of the pieces with the excavator shovel or burn them for firewood. These attachments give you the ability to remove fallen trees and shrubs without having to carry the full load.

What Are the Downsides of Each?

As with all landscaping equipment, you’ll encounter a few issues with excavators and bulldozers. Neither of them is perfect, but that doesn’t outweigh the importance of using them to clear land.

Here’s a list of problem associated with excavators and bulldozers:

  1. While bulldozers can pull roots, they’re not the best for scooping and digging holes. You’ll need special attachments or an excavator to dig precise holes without making it look awful. Skilled operators can have better results, but the average bulldozer won’t produce a clean hole.
  2. Excavators aren’t the best tool for pushing boulders and standing trees. They don’t have the power or tools to strip roots and roll rocks. You’ll need to use a bulldozer to get the job done. However, there are some excavators that can fold the shovel vertically to use it to push medium-sized boulders.
  3. Bulldozers have to be moved back and forth repeatedly if you’re pushing heavy debris. Rather than sitting still on an axis as you would with an excavator, you’ll have to continuously switch the transmission’s function. It takes quite a bit of practice if you’re not used to operating a bulldozer.
  4. Renting or buying an excavator is significantly more expensive than a bulldozer. You’ll have to spend tens of thousands of more dollars if you want to use one. It’s often a better choice to hire a professional if you don’t have to budget to rent or buy one. Bulldozers cost about $30,000 for a low-end model, whereas a low-end excavator costs about $80,000.

As you can see, both of them have their fair share of problems. If they didn’t, you’d be able to get everything done with one tool, making the other virtually useless. That being said, the cons aren’t that big of a deal in the long run.

To learn more about what you need to consider about these useful machines, proceed to the next section.

Additional Considerations Between Bulldozers and Excavators

Before you choose a bulldozer or an excavator, consider the following:

Some laws restrict or prevent these tools

You’re often required to get a permit, so make sure you know the local laws and regulations before you choose either of them. Sometimes, the best bet is to hire experts or get a quote to see what you’ll have to pay. Remember to look around before settling with the first company that you come across.

Using both of them is the best option

You could probably guess by now that using a bulldozer and an excavator at the same time is the best course of action. The excavator could be used to lift and move small to medium-sized objects and dig ditches, whereas the bulldozer can topple trees, remove stumps, and push boulders.

Think about how you’ll make the burn piles

As stated by Virginia State University, burn piles are some of the quickest and most efficient ways to clear land. You can get rid of shrubs, trees, and all sorts of debris. Before you choose an excavator or a bulldozer, make a plan to see which one will allow you to make burn piles quicker.


Bulldozers and excavators are often two of the main tools used to clear land and level it out. If you want to clear a few trees or change the terrain entirely, then using both of them will provide you with optimal results.

Here’s a rundown of what you should’ve learned:

  • Excavators excel at digging ditches and removing debris from an area.
  • Bulldozers are best for pushing boulders, stumps, and heavy debris.
  • Create burn piles to remove tree limbs, leaves, grass, and so on.
  • A bulldozer has more power, but it’s less mobile than an excavator.
  • Excavators typically cost more, but they can dig much easier than a bulldozer.
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