Demolition excavators: Factory-fitted or aftermarket, which is better?

02 January 2024

Tony den Hoed, Key Accounts Manager for Demolition Equipment at Volvo Construction Equipment, explores the pitfalls of using a machine fitted with aftermarket demolition features, and the benefits of choosing a factory-fitted demolition excavator.

A Volvo EC250E demolition excavator with guarding Adding an aftermarket guarding option to a standard excavator can cost upwards of US$20,000 says Tony. (PHOTO: Volvo)

Wrecking balls are tools of the past. Excavators have the capability to dismantle structures more strategically and safely, and many contractors I talk to view demolition as a growth opportunity for their business.

This leaves them with the decision to either purchase a factory-fitted machine that is specifically suited for demolition or convert a standard excavator with aftermarket fittings.

So how do you decide?

Here are the four primary benefits of a factory-fitted machine and potential pitfalls of outfitting a standard excavator with aftermarket solutions.

Four benefits of factory-fitted demolition excavators

1. Enhanced safety

Let’s start with the most important benefit — safety. If the goal is to outfit the machine with a high-reach boom, there are several nuances between a factory-fitted machine and an aftermarket machine that can greatly impact safety.

Almost every manufacturer that purpose builds their high-reach excavators has a modular joint boom concept, but pins that hold the modular joint to the boom connection can differ. Some use a half hook for the top pin and short pins on the bottom.

However, a well-designed demolition machine uses full-length hydraulic pins. Because they’re hydraulic, an operator can pull them out without leaving the cab. They also are more reliable than shorter-diameter pins.

Converting a standard excavator also requires outfitting the cab with a guarding package, which runs upwards of US$20,000 in the aftermarket. That also involves working with a third party whose package may not be designed for that particular machine and offers limited support.

A factory-fitted demo machine comes with a guarding package and full support for the spare parts by the OEM.

2. Strong, stable platform

A factory-fitted demolition machine has much larger boom cylinders, heavier frames and extra counterweight. They also have hydraulically extendable tracks, which give operators a 360-degree working range. Here are cost estimates to add those features to a standard excavator:

Boom cylinders: US$5,000 each

Counterweights: US$14,000

Hydraulic extensions: US$50,000

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3. Visibility and dust control

Two additional considerations are tilting cabs and dust suppression systems. In a factory-fitted machine, the cab will tilt up to 30 degrees, giving operators the best view of the jobsite. Aftermarket tilting cabs will likely cost US$40,000 or more to install.

An aftermarket dust suppression system costs approximately US$10,000 and may not include the different misting options found on a factory-fitted machine.

4. Reduced liability

If there’s a problem with a converted machine, it’s not uncommon for third parties to pass blame to each other.

Also, the more a machine is modified in the aftermarket, the more likely its factory warranties will be voided. It’s best to avoid these scenarios by purchasing a single factory solution covered under one warranty.

The bottom line

While there are options to upgrade a standard excavator to a demolition machine, various components built by multiple manufacturers not only cost a lot of money, but they also come at a detriment to safety, productivity and ease of repair.

Purchasing a factory-fitted machine gives you the best opportunity to make high-reach demolition endeavors successful.

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