A backhoe is a device that is connected to a tractor or other large vehicle; this device features a bucket at the end of an articulated arm that makes digging into soil or other materials possible. A mini backhoe is simply a smaller version of this device, though the term may also refer to the entire vehicle, not just the articulated arm itself. When choosing a mini backhoe, you will need to carefully consider the jobs you intend to do with the machine. It may make sense for you to rent a machine rather than buy one, but in either case, the size of the job and the type of digging being done will dictate the best model for you.
You will need to consider the capabilities of the mini backhoe before purchase. The backhoe arm on some models, for example, may rotate 180 degrees around a central axis; some may even rotate 360 degrees. This enhances the capabilities and maneuverability of the vehicle, and it may even make the vehicle more useful than a full-sized backhoe that can only rotate 45 degrees or 90 degrees. The capabilities may be limited, however, by the size of the mini backhoe arm, as the arm will only be able to dig to a certain depth. Larger backhoes may be able to dig much deeper.
The width and depth of the bucket will also dictate the usefulness of the mini backhoe. Smaller buckets will only be able to haul a certain amount of materials at once, so larger jobs may take longer to complete with smaller buckets. If you will be digging narrow trenches for pipes, the narrow bucket may actually be quite advantageous, but for digging larger holes, the bucket may make the job more difficult.
Look for a mini backhoe with quick-coupler features that will allow you to trade out attachments quickly and easily. This will make the backhoe more versatile, and you will be able to save time during accessory swapping by using the quick-coupler design. If possible, try to find a mini backhoe that is sold with several attachments that will make the unit more versatile.
Perhaps the most important feature you should research is the safe working load, or SWL, of the vehicle. This will tell you how much weight can be safely moved at once without tipping the vehicle or otherwise causing it to become unstable. The SWL can have a significant impact on how much material you can move, and it may discount certain models from being useful for your purposes.