As a contractor, having the right equipment can make all the difference. Having the best plate compactor is no exception.
A plate compactor is an essential tool that condenses ground materials like gravel, stones, or soil in order for paving to be done effectively on top. Without a powerful plate compactor, pavement can eventually shift and crack, so it’s important to get the right one (Source).
You can activate and move a plate compactor across a surface, much like you would a lawn mower. The weight of the machine and its eccentric frequency measured in VPM (vibrations per minute) are what compresses the surface (Source).
Plate compactors are great for compacting sub-base below driveways, and for smaller spaces where a large roller might not be able to fit. Plate compactors are heavy-duty tools, ideal for contractors who specialize in pavement. But, if you’re doing your own driveway, you’ll definitely need a plate compactor, along with other tools.
Prior to purchasing a plate compactor, consider whether you need a single-plate, reversible, or a heavy-duty plate compactor. Also, consider the width of the plate, as well as whether or not the handle is anti-vibration.
From a performance standpoint, you’ll need to look at the plate compactor’s centrifugal force, as well as it’s VPM and its amplitude to make sure it’s right for the job.
Before you hit the ground running, make sure you start with one of these top-rated plate compactors for sale.
What Is A Plate Compactor?
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is A Plate Compactor?
- 2 How Much Is A Plate Compactor?
- 3 How Does a Plate Compactor Work?
- 4 Comparing The Best Plate Compactors
- 5 1. Multiquip MVC82VHW Plate Compactor – Best Overall
- 6 2. Tomahawk Power TPC90H – Best for Heavy Duty Projects
- 7 3. Wacker Neuson VP 1340A Plate Compactor – Maximum Performance & Manuverability
- 8 4. WEN 56035 Plate Compactor – Best Compactor for Landscapers & Contractors
- 9 5. Stark Gas Vibration 4000Lbs Force Heavy Duty w/Water Tank – Best 6.5HP Plate Compactor
- 10 What Size Plate Compactor Do I Need?
- 11 How to Use a Plate Compactor
- 12 What Is The Water Tank For on a Plate Compactor?
- 13 Buyer’s Guide
- 14 Ready To Buy The Best Plate Compactor?
A plate compactor makes it easy to get a surface nice and smooth before it is paved over. The paving project could mean driveway pavement, pavers for a walkway, or a cement patio. Whatever the project is, starting with a smooth, compacted surface will help prevent future problems.
A plate compactor is necessary for even, durable paving work. Different plate compactors are built for different kinds of terrain, paving, and users. Plate compactors use a heavy plate and vibration to compact dirt, sub-base material, gravel, or other paving material.
How Much Is A Plate Compactor?
Plate compactors cost between $700 and $2,000. The price will mostly depend on the brand and size of the compactor. Finally, a more robust engine will lead to a unit costing more. The MVC82VHW compactor carries a powerful and reliable Honda engine, making it a favorite among users.
How Does a Plate Compactor Work?
A plate compactor works by eliminating bumps, air pockets, and other trouble spots by vibrating its flat metal plate against the ground again and again. This plate smooths out the rough and uneven dirt by using constant compression.
Plate compactors are ideal for use on granular soil like sand and gravel. If you don’t use a plate compactor, the pressure can cause the damaged surface to crack. That means bumps in the road, broken lines, and other possible hazards.
Comparing The Best Plate Compactors
|Wacker Neuson VP 1340A|
|Stark Gas Vibration 4000Lbs Force Heavy Duty w/Water Tank|
1. Multiquip MVC82VHW Plate Compactor – Best Overall
This unit is highly durable, with the body and handle made from quality steel. It will last for years, even with regular use. Operating the machine is easy. The anti-vibration design of the handle and engine does well to cut down the vibration from the plate. It is comfortable to use and offers great control over any surface.
Why We Love The Multiquip MVC82VHW
The base plate is very stiff. It’s 18 inches wide and made from solid, high-strength steel. The Honda GX 160 engine, on the other hand, is quite reliable. It puts out 3,080 pounds of centrifugal force at 5,600vpm. That’s enough to provide the plate with sufficient power and strength to compress asphalt or granular soils, down into a flat sheet.
In addition, the curved edges of the plates offer easy maneuverability in tight, confined areas. It facilitates smooth turns without gouging the surface. Multiquip have included a 3.4 gallons water tank with a sprinkler system on this model.
If you are planning to work on hot asphalt, expect nothing to stick to the bottom of the plate. This unit features a cyclonic pre-cleaner to capture airborne contaminants, as to protect the engine from damage. The seated belt cover is another wonderful addition as far as protection is concerned.
It keeps dirt and rocks out of the machine thereby extending the life of the belt. Generally, the MVC82VHW model is a high-quality compactor built to professional grade. It has great maneuverability and will effectively compact both coarse and cohesive materials.
2. Tomahawk Power TPC90H – Best for Heavy Duty Projects
The first thing to like about this unit is its massive 20 inches wide cast iron plate. It’s very robust compared to the other units we’ve reviewed and with its massive size, it’s capable of covering a large area at once.
Furthermore, cast iron is much stiffer than steel and as such, this machine will provide effective compaction throughout regardless of the type or thickness of soil you will be working with.
It’s backed by a reliable 5.5 HP Honda GX160 engine that puts out a force of 3,400 pounds at 5,400vpm. Combined with the cast iron plate, the unit delivers a powerful performance which makes it a perfect option for commercial job sites or heavy household projects.
The unit features a large 3.5-gallon removable water tank that helps to reduce the build-up of dirt on the plate. It will simplify the compaction process when working on hot asphalt which is notorious for sticking to the base plate.
More on the Tomahawk Power TPC90H
Despite the large plate size, maneuvering around narrow, cramped spaces with this unit won’t pose any challenge. It features a comfortable handlebar and there are no vibrations, thereby allowing you to control it without much straining.
Plus, the cast iron base plate has curved, seamed edges that provide smooth turns and markless compaction. While most compactor models tend to be noisier, this one is fairly quiet. It’s around 2 dB quieter compared to its other compactor brands.
To sum it all, the TPC90H is a tough machine built to withstand heavy use. If you are a professional or homeowner looking for the best compactor for heavy compaction projects, then this is an option you might want to consider.
3. Wacker Neuson VP 1340A Plate Compactor – Maximum Performance & Manuverability
If this Wacker plate compactor did not win you over yet, keep on reading. This machine is lightweight yet still delivers high-quality performance. The base plate is made out of thick ductile cast iron and like as mentioned earlier, this is the best quality you can find on the market.
It’s stiff and very robust which means it will deliver excellent results in asphalt, landscape and hardscape compaction. The engine is not only durable but also quite efficient. It’s a powerful air-cooled, single-cylinder, 4-cycle Honda gasoline model that’s capable of generating 2,925 pounds of force at 5,800vpm.
Top Features from the Wacker Neuson VP 1340A
Now the best part about this unit is how easy it is to control and operate. The guide handle is ergonomically designed with vibration damping to minimize fatigue. It’s comfortable enough to allow you to work for long hours without feeling exhausted. Even much better, the unit is designed to facilitate optimal maneuverability on all surfaces.
The contoured base plate is compact measuring 15.5 inches wide and has rounded edges. This design makes it much easier to turn and move around in tight areas. Plus it minimizes the formation of undesired edges and dents when turning the baseplate thereby creating a smooth surface throughout.
The only setback is that this particular model does not feature a water tank which is a bit of turn off. The good news though is that the manufacturer offers a similar model but with a water tank. If you often work on asphalt, then that’s the model you might want to consider.
In short, there is very little to dislike in this compactor because every part is built to the highest standard possible. For anyone looking for a quality, all-round performer that is reliable and built for long service life, then this Wacker Neuson VP 1340A is worth a closer look.
4. WEN 56035 Plate Compactor – Best Compactor for Landscapers & Contractors
The engine is capable of delivering 4,496 pounds of force at 5,400vpm. Coupled with the angled combustion chamber, it will provide sufficient strength and power for paver installations, landscaping and small asphalt projects.
It’s as well capable of raising the density of loose granular soils, gravel and other materials. WEN has also designed the unit in such a way that makes it much easier and comfortable to control and use. It has a swing-over handle with a high-density foam that provides a firm grip.
The base plate is compact and has contoured edges which makes it easy to maneuver into tight spaces. There are also vibration isolators between the engine and the vibrating base plate.
What We Love About The WEN 56035
They effectively help cut down the overall vibration from the plate hence making it even more comfortable to use the machine for long hours. They also help reduce engine wear and tear thereby prolonging the life of the device.
Despite its weight which stands at 207 pounds, you won’t strain much to move the machine from place to place. It has handles at the plate as well as the central lilting bar which means you can easily pick it up when you want to move it.
The most amazing thing about this WEN compactor is that it’s powerful and fast. Moving at a speed of 82 ft. per minute, you can expect to cover more ground within a short amount of time with this unit. In fact, this is one of the fastest small plate compactors on the market.
The only major problem is that the sides of the plate seem to sometimes gouge the surface when you are turning. If you are a little careful, it can move smoothly. Nonetheless, this is something you want to keep in mind when considering this unit.
Overall, the WEN 56035 is very handy equipment for working on slightly heavy projects. It’s an ideal option if you are looking for an affordable machine that can deliver great results.
5. Stark Gas Vibration 4000Lbs Force Heavy Duty w/Water Tank – Best 6.5HP Plate Compactor
Additionally, this machine can be used for various tasks, such as resurfacing uneven walkways, pavements, or even with asphalt-related tasks. Being that it is a single direction plate compactor, it is quite ideal for smaller projects such as trenches, retaining walls, other smaller areas that don’t require much compaction.
With an adjustable control throttle, cushioned handlebars, engine-oil drain tube, and attached wheel kit, you can easily transport this compactor with your pickup truck or work van.
As mentioned earlier, the maximum power for this unit is 4.8KW or 6.5HP, and the engine runs at 3600RPM. This Stark compactor has an effective base area of 25 x 18 Inches and a compaction area of Max 3229 feet per hour. In short, the 80T plate compactor is one solid workhorse.
What Size Plate Compactor Do I Need?
Vibratory plate compactors are used for many projects, from installing the foundation of a home to preparing a yard to be covered with artificial grass. To deal with this range of products, plate compactors come in several sizes.
In general, plate compactors are 15 to 28 inches in width. It doesn’t matter if the product is for DIY use or “professional”, these tools only come in a few sizes and those sizes will make a small difference for most projects.
While a larger plate compactor can cover more ground, it’s more difficult to maneuver in tight spaces and may be larger than some projects. For this reason, a homeowner looking for a new plate compactor may choose a smaller model as these can be more versatile.
If you know you’ll only use it for a large outdoor driveway, or you want to start installing sod, you may want the largest model you can find. The size of vibratory plate coomp[actor that’s right for you depends on what you’ll use it for.
How to Use a Plate Compactor
This piece of equipment is similar in style to a classic push mover. Instead of having a mowing blade, a heavy steel plate is mounted on the bottom. Using the device is similar as all you need to do is slowly push the machine forward and let it do its job.
Starting a plate compactor is also similar to starting a mower. Many plate compactors have a pull start in addition to a choke and engine switch. Nearly all plate compactors will be powered by gasoline and oil.
What Is The Water Tank For on a Plate Compactor?
When things are pressed down, they tend to want to spring back up. Depending on the material you’re working with, this can lead to a sticky situation. Plate compactors equipped with water tanks help prevent the compaction plate from sticking to what it is compacting.
Not every medium with stick to the vibration plate. Hot asphalt is one substance that requires water to be applied to the plate. The same can be said for other sticky substances, or those that may cling- like edging.
Not all plate compactors will come with a water tank. If your project will involve a sticky material, like asphalt, choose a model that has a water tank.
There are a number of factors you want to consider when shopping for a plate compactor so as to ensure that you get the right unit for your money.
Whatever ground you will be working on, you want to ensure you pick a soil compactor that has a heavy-duty plate. One that’s capable of delivering plenty of power as well as longevity.
Most units have plates that are made of steel while there are others that feature cast iron plates. Both metals provide a stiff base that’s capable of efficiently compacting almost anything you need.
However, for residential purposes or smaller jobs, a steel plate is an ideal option. Cast ductile iron plates, on the other hand, are much stiffer than their steel counterparts.
They provide more compression strength which makes them very efficient for larger more involved jobs. Basically, you can go with either option depending on the type of job you planning to carry out.
Size of the Plate
The plates of compactors come in various sizes. They usually range from 15 to 25 inches in width. If you often work on small areas like a small parking spot, then you might want to go for a smaller plate probably between 15 to 20 inches.
Likewise, if you are working on an entire parking lot or fairly large area, then you will need a bigger plate preferably 20 to 25 inches wide. Note that getting a unit with a larger plate does not necessarily mean better compacting, especially if you will be working on smaller projects.
Ensure you pick the right size based on the projects you plan to work on.
The Shape of the Plate
The shape of the plate is something you want to consider as well because it can affect compaction. They’re all generally rectangular or square in shape. What sets them apart is whether they are curved or not.
In this case, you should pick a unit with a plate that’s at least slightly curved. The curve shape will allow the plate to move much more smoothly on any surface and helps prevent it from gouging the material you are trying to press.
The more curved the plate is, the easier it will also be to maneuver, especially when working in tight places.
The amount of centrifugal force generated by a compactor will have an impact on its overall performance. The more force generated the more strength and power you will get from the plate.
Thereby, with a unit that has a higher centrifugal force, you will be able to more effectively compact different materials down into flat sheets. For best results, look for dirt compactors that deliver more than 3,000 pounds of centrifugal force.
Compactors are heavy machines and pushing them along the ground while they vibrate can be exhausting, especially if you are covering a large area. Therefore, you want a unit that’s comfortable and easy to use, and what can facilitate this is having a properly designed handle.
There two common styles you can consider, an anti-vibration handle or a swinging handle. The former cuts down the transfer of vibration from the base plate to the operator hence keep you more comfortable.
You can hold onto it for a long period of time without wearing you down. The latter increases your maneuverability, making it easier to move the whole unit around. Generally, you go can with either option, but if you can find a model that combines both features, the better.
In addition to the style, it’s important that you also check the handle positioning. In some models, it’s mounted in the center while in others it’s mounted in the back of the unit. The ideal option, in this case, is a center-mounted handle.
When the handle is positioned in the center of the plate, its operating height is more leveled in either direction and the weight is evenly distributed. Thereby, it’s more comfortable and easier to control.
Finally, you would want to consider a compactor that’s equipped with a water tank if you are going to use it to smooth hot asphalt. The water will help to create a barrier between the plate which is normally cold and the hot asphalt.
Without the water tank, the plate is likely going to stick to the asphalt plus the water also helps cool the plate whenever you compress it into place. So, ensure the unit of your choice comes with a fairly large water tank so that you can get the most out of it.
Ready To Buy The Best Plate Compactor?
As with most tools, choosing the right dirt compactor will solely depend on the type of projects you usually work on. The larger and heavier the job, the more powerful soil compactor you will need.
The wacker compactors reviewed in this guide are more powerful than models offered at Harbor Freight. With top brands like Mikasa, WEN, and Tomahawk, you’ll be able to eliminate bumps and flatten gravel surfaces fast.
Whether you choose an electric plate compactor or a traditional model, proper maintenance of your compactor is required to get the most lifetime out of your unit.
Finally, keep in mind that renting a plate compactor can cost as little as $89 per day, so buying one may not be required if you will be using the machine just once.