The 5 Best Vibratory Plate Compactors [Ranked]

Vibratory Plate Compactors

Vibratory plate compactors are ideal for contractors and craftsmen who need to work on patios, landscaping & asphalt projects, walkways, paver stone installations and other similar types of projects.

Purchasing VS Renting?

For most, the decision to purchase rather than to rent a plate compactor comes down to how often will you use it balanced against the cost and hassle of renting one.

If you're able to get a lot of use out of it, and invest in employee training + maintenance, it could be a solid, cost-saving decision. 

Our Top Pick: The Multiquip (MVC82VHW) Honda GX160

The Honda GX160 features an anti-vibration handle, which is designed to reduce operator vibration by 50%.

 A curved edge high-strength steel base plate is built to perform on hot asphalt with easy turning.

Its water tank holds 11.5 quarts (10.88 Liters and the unit produces a centrifugal force of 3080 lbf.

There are several quality vibratory plate compactors available for online purchase. Let's take a look at how they stack up.

Comparing Them

 Vibratory Plate CompactorPriceDimensionsWeightOur Rating (1-5)
The Wen Construction Zone Compactor$$25 x 18.5 x 45.5 inches207 lbs4.5
The Honda Multiquip Vibratory Plate Compactor$$$39.5 x 36.0 x 17.7 inches198 lbs4.8
The Tomahawk Power Vibratory Compactor$$42 x 17 x 37 inches198 lbs4.9
The Wacker Neuson Reversible Vibratory Compactor$$$$45 x 28 x 20366 lbs4.3
The Cormac Vibratory Plate Compactor$198 lbs4.0

How Do They Work?

Vibratory plate compactors are equipped to increase the density of sand, gravel, stony aggregates, loose soils and other types of mediums into a soundly compact and level foundation.

They typically are walk-behind construction equipment that are powered by durable engines that impart compaction through a steel plate that is mounted on the bottom of the machine usually ranging in area from between 1.5 to 3 ft.²

Compacting a foundation will reduce the likelihood of swelling, water seepage, as well as expansion- this will also increase the lifetime sustainability of your particular project.

What are users saying?

  • One WEN user writes that as a landscape company owner he uses his zone plate compactor frequently on paver patios and block retaining walls.
  • He was satisfied with 212 engine that was able to produce 4,500 pounds of force at 5,400 blows per minute.
  • He also comments regarding the WEN compactor that it only took him 15 minutes to get it up and running once he received it. He did note that it took two people to lift it.
  • Another WEN user writes that while the instructions say to fill it with 20 oz of oil, it actually only takes 16 oz- by overfilling it he had to drain the oil down. But other than that he was pleasantly surprised at how easily it fires up and how powerful the compaction is.
  • One of the more common issues contractors consider prior to purchase is whether it is worth renting a plate compactor for a job or buying one.
  • One contractor spoke to this issue, writing that a two day rental cost him $215 plus there was the included hassle of having to pick up and return the device on time.
  • To his mind, and for his purposes, it made more sense to purchase a plate compactor for his work than to continue renting them as he required them.
  • Some plate compactors can go forward and reverse, while others only go forward.
  • Common modern features plate compactor include are: an emergency shut off switch, an automatic low-oil shutdown, angled combustion chambers, vibration isolators, robust foam handles to increase user comfort, lift handles for easy transport, and rust-proofed powder coating.
  • Users write that the most common accessories they've purchased besides replacement parts for the vibratory plate compactors are safety glasses, hearing protection as well as a trailer.
  • To operate a plate compactor safely, you'll want to become fully familiar with the controls. You'll also want to check the compacting area for fall hazards before you begin compacting.
  • Also check to ensure that the manufacturer has specified whether the vibrating compactor can work uphill or not.
  • If you must compact uphill, make sure that you angle toward the rise to avoid a sideway slip. It's imperative that you also train your employees if you have them on how to best use these machines. 

How to operate Them

Turning on the plate compactor for the first time, you want to make sure that the fuel is on, then turn the choke on (one note - if you are turning the machine back on after just having used it you will not need to turn the choke on), then you'll give it a pull to start.

Final thoughts

Vibratory plate compactors are ideal if you are working with granular soils.

These are soils that when you hold them in your hands crumble very easily. Generally plate compactors are classified as single direction or reversible.

If they are reversible, the machines will have a shift mechanism that functions through an exciter shaft that will change the eccentric weight orientation going to be held in an opposite direction.

This sort of shifting system will be either hydraulically or mechanically actuated. There are fans of hydraulic actuation who claimed that the units have a greater degree of reliability and a clear looking design. People that favor mechanical actuation are fans of the lower cost and easier maintenance responsibilities.

Plate compactors can vary widely in weight, with some only weighing 150 pounds and others weighing upwards of 1,700 pounds.

As well some machines will only have 5 hp while others could have upwards of 20 hp.

If you are considering purchasing a compactor, make sure to do the math and consider what it would make more sense to rent a unit for a couple of days or whether purchasing and maintaining a compactor could be a smart investment for you and your business.


The Top 5 Team
 

We are a team of product researchers that specializes in assembling comprehensive buying guides. Our team has a variety of backgrounds, with a mixture of soft and hard sciences represented. Check out our About page to read more about our reviews and editorial process.

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