Motor Grader or Bulldozer: Which Do You Need, and When?

Although bulldozers and motor graders are quite different pieces of equipment, there is some overlap between their functions.

A bulldozer can do some imprecise grading and, within limits, a grader can "bulldoze" material. This can make it unclear exactly which equipment is best for a job at hand.

Here’s what you need to know about bulldozers and motor graders, and their key differences.

The Basics: Bulldozer Versus Grader

A bulldozer is a crawler with a large, metal plate on its front, used primarily to push large quantities of material, such as soil, rubble and sand. It's usually fitted with a claw-like device at the rear – called a ripper – that rips, breaks and loosens compacted material for easy removal.

Bulldozers are widely used in engineering projects, in heavy industry factories, on farms and military bases and in mines and quarries.

Motor graders are multi-purpose construction machines. Their main purpose is to create flat, or "graded", surfaces.

A grader typically has one long blade that sits between the vehicle’s front and rear axles. Graders with a second blade that sits in front of the front axle are also sometimes used.

Graders are most widely used in road construction and maintenance. This includes public roads, as well as roads on mining and construction sites.

Which to Use When, and Why?

One of our 1994-1988 Caterpillar 631E Motor Scraper

Bulldozers are suitable for rough grading, and their tracks provide exceptional ground holding capability and mobility on rough surfaces.

The wide tracks of the dozer distribute its weight over a large area, which decreases ground pressure. This enables it to move across sandy and muddy terrain. As a result, bulldozers are suited for work in construction, mining, land clearing, road building, infrastructure development and forestry projects.

Motor graders are effective for large projects that require detail and precision, and are suited for work in open areas. They're typically used for finish grading, shaping, ditching, mixing, spreading, side-casting, levelling, crowning and creating inclined surfaces.

Although a grader can be used to move small amounts of material, it isn't designed to move larger or heavier loads. It's physical size and the location of its blade make it unsuited to this purpose.