How to Choose the Right Surveying Equipment for Your Small Business: A Comprehensive Guide

How to Choose the Right Surveying Equipment for Your Small Business: A Comprehensive Guide

Posted by Philip Hanrahan B.E., B.A., M.I.E.I. on 22nd May 2023

Surveying is a fundamental process in various industries from construction to telecommunications, mining and environmental studies. It helps in understanding the terrestrial or three-dimensional space to plan, design and establish property boundaries. For small businesses operating in such sectors owning the right surveying equipment is crucial for providing accurate, efficient and reliable services.

This article aims to help small business owners in choosing the most suitable surveying equipment for their needs. It will explore the basics of surveying, the importance of surveying equipment for small businesses, different types of equipment available and factors to consider when making a purchase. Additionally, it will delve into the decision between renting versus buying equipment and the critical questions to ask vendors when acquiring surveying tools.

Whether you are starting a new business or looking to upgrade your current equipment, this comprehensive guide will provide valuable insights to help you make informed decisions ensuring that you invest wisely in surveying equipment that can enhance your business's productivity and profitability.

Understanding the Basics of Surveying

Surveying, in its most fundamental form, is the science of determining the three-dimensional positions of points and the distances and angles between them. These points are often on the surface of the Earth and they're typically used to establish maps and boundaries for ownership or governmental purposes.

Surveying plays a crucial role in numerous fields such as construction, where it aids in the design and layout of buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure. In real estate it helps define property boundaries and in archaeology it enables the precise measurement of archaeological sites.

Different Types of Surveying

There are several types of surveying, each designed for specific applications:

  1. Land Surveying: This is one of the most common types of surveying used to establish land boundaries and topography for construction, mapping or legal purposes.
  2. Engineering Surveying: This type is used before, during and after construction projects to ensure structures are built accurately according to architectural plans.
  3. Geodetic Surveying: This involves measuring large areas of the Earth's surface and requires advanced techniques and instruments to account for the Earth's curvature.
  4. Hydrographic Surveying: This involves surveying bodies of water to determine their depth, topography and other features, often used in marine navigation and construction.
  5. Mining Surveying: This is used to map underground and surface mines to ensure safe and efficient extraction of minerals.

Accuracy in surveying is paramount. Precise measurements are crucial for various applications from ensuring a building is constructed correctly to establishing accurate land boundaries to prevent legal disputes. The right surveying equipment plays a significant role in achieving such accuracy. A slight error in measurement can lead to significant issues down the line highlighting the importance of investing in quality surveying tools.

Importance of Surveying Equipment for Small Businesses

Surveying equipment can be a significant investment for a small business but the benefits it offers can be substantial. Accurate, reliable and efficient surveying is critical for a wide range of industries and the right equipment can make all the difference.

How the Right Surveying Equipment Can Help Small Businesses

  1. Accuracy: Quality surveying equipment can offer unparalleled accuracy reducing the risk of costly mistakes and rework. This is especially important for small businesses where margins can be tight and mistakes costly.
  2. Efficiency: Modern surveying equipment can make surveying tasks more efficient saving time and resources. For instance GPS systems can provide real-time data while laser scanners can quickly capture detailed measurements.
  3. Competitive Advantage: Owning state-of-the-art equipment can give your business a competitive edge. You can offer a wider range of services and deliver results faster and more accurately than competitors using outdated or lower-quality equipment.

Common Types of Surveying Equipment

The type of surveying equipment required can vary significantly depending on the specific needs of your business. Here, we will discuss some of the most commonly used tools in the industry and their applications.

  1. GPS/GNSS Systems: These systems use signals from satellites to determine precise locations on the Earth's surface. They are especially useful for land and topographic surveying offering high accuracy and real-time data.
  2. Theodolites: A theodolite is a precision instrument for measuring angles in the horizontal and vertical planes. They are commonly used in building and infrastructure construction to ensure accurate alignment.
  3. Total Stations: A total station combines the functions of a theodolite with an electronic distance measurement device. They can measure distances, angles and elevations, making them extremely versatile for a wide range of surveying applications.
  4. Levels: Levels are used to determine relative height and distance between points. They are crucial in construction and engineering surveys where accurate height measurement is required.
  5. Laser Scanners: Laser scanners, or LiDAR systems, use laser light to capture detailed three-dimensional data. They are used for topographic surveys, architectural surveys and even in archaeology for detailed site documentation.

What Each Type of Equipment is Used For

  1. GPS/GNSS Systems: Ideal for large scale land surveys, mapping and in any situation where high accuracy positioning is required.
  2. Theodolites: Used in construction and engineering projects to provide precise measurements and ensure structures are built to specification.
  3. Total Stations: Used across multiple industries from construction and engineering to archaeology for their versatility in capturing both distance and angular measurements.
  4. Levels: Essential in construction, especially for determining elevation and verifying that structures are level.
  5. Laser Scanners: Used extensively in topographic and as-built surveys, heritage preservation, mining and more due to their ability to quickly capture high-resolution 3D data.

Understanding the various types of surveying equipment and their applications can help you determine which tools are most suited to your business needs. Remember, the right equipment for your business will depend on the types of surveys you will be conducting and the level of precision required.

Determining Your Surveying Needs

Before you can choose the right surveying equipment you need to have a clear understanding of your specific needs. This will depend on the nature of your business, the types of projects you handle and the level of precision required.

Your equipment needs will depend on the type of surveying your business specialises in. For example, if you're in the construction industry you might need a total station for its ability to measure angles and distances accurately. On the other hand if your business focuses on large-scale land surveys a high-precision GPS system might be more appropriate.

To identify your specific needs consider the following questions:

  1. What types of surveys does your business typically conduct?
  2. What level of precision is required for these surveys?
  3. How often will you be using the equipment?
  4. Will you be surveying in difficult weather conditions or challenging terrains that might require rugged equipment?
  5. Do you need equipment that can integrate with other tools or software you currently use?

The scope and complexity of your projects can also influence the type of equipment you need. For large complex projects you may need advanced equipment that can handle a wide range of surveying tasks. Smaller simpler projects may only require basic tools. Therefore it's essential to consider both your current and potential future project needs when selecting surveying equipment.

Remember, investing in the right surveying equipment is not just about meeting your current needs. It's also about preparing for future growth and opportunities. By carefully assessing your needs and considering the scope and complexity of your projects you can make a more informed decision and choose equipment that will serve your business well both now and in the future.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Surveying Equipment

Once you've identified your specific needs there are several other factors to consider when choosing the right surveying equipment for your business. These can help ensure that you make a wise investment that will benefit your business in the long run.

Budget Considerations

The cost of surveying equipment can vary widely, from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Consider how much you're willing and able to invest and remember that while higher-priced equipment often offers more features and greater accuracy it may not always be necessary for your specific needs.

Equipment Reliability and Durability

Surveying can be a demanding job, often conducted outdoors in various weather conditions. Therefore, it's important to choose equipment that is durable and reliable. Look for equipment that is weather-resistant and has a good track record of performance in your industry.

Accuracy of the Equipment

Accuracy is paramount in surveying. The level of precision you need will depend on your specific surveying tasks. Be sure to choose equipment that meets or exceeds the level of accuracy required for your projects.

Ease of Use and Training Requirements

Some surveying equipment can be complex to use. Consider how easy it will be for you and your team to learn to use the equipment and the training courses available. Remember, time spent learning to use complicated equipment is time not spent on productive work.

Future-proofing and Scalability

Your business needs may evolve over time and the surveying equipment you choose should be able to accommodate this growth. Look for equipment that can be upgraded or expanded as your needs change.

Technical Support and Maintenance Services

Finally, consider what kind of support is available for the equipment. Is there technical support you can reach out to if you encounter problems? Are there maintenance services available to keep the equipment in top condition?

By taking these factors into consideration you can ensure that you choose the surveying equipment that is the best fit for your business's needs, both now and in the future.

Renting Vs. Buying Surveying Equipment

The decision between renting and buying surveying equipment is another crucial factor to consider. Both options come with their own sets of advantages and disadvantages, and the right choice depends on your specific situation.

Renting Equipment


  • Flexibility: Renting allows you to use different equipment for different projects offering you the flexibility to adapt to varying needs.
  • Lower upfront costs: Renting eliminates the need for a large initial investment.
  • Maintenance and repairs: The rental company typically handles maintenance and repairs, saving you time and resources.


  • Long-term cost: Renting can be more expensive in the long run if the equipment is used regularly.
  • Availability: The equipment you need may not always be available when you need it.

Buying Equipment


  • Availability: When you own the equipment it's always available when you need it.
  • Long-term cost savings: While the initial cost can be high, owning the equipment can be more cost-effective over time if it is used frequently.
  • Potential for customization: Owning equipment allows for customization to suit your specific needs.


  • Upfront costs: Buying equipment requires a significant initial investment.
  • Maintenance and repair responsibilities: When you own equipment you're responsible for maintenance and repairs which can be costly and time-consuming.

When deciding between renting and buying, consider the following:

  1. How often will you use the equipment?
  2. Can you afford the upfront cost of buying the equipment?
  3. Do you have the resources to maintain and repair the equipment?
  4. Does your work require flexibility in the types of equipment used?
  5. Are you comfortable with the risk of equipment becoming outdated?

Weighing these considerations can help you make an informed decision about whether to rent or buy your surveying equipment. Remember, the right choice will depend on the unique needs and circumstances of your business.

Questions to Ask Vendors When Purchasing Surveying Equipment

Engaging with vendors is a crucial part of the process when purchasing surveying equipment. Here are some important questions to ask that can help ensure you get the best value for your investment.

Inquiring About the Product

  1. What is the accuracy level of this equipment?
  2. How durable is this equipment? Can it withstand harsh weather conditions and rigorous use?
  3. How easy is it to use this equipment? What kind of training will my team need?
  4. Is this equipment scalable or upgradeable for future needs?

Understanding the Support and Services

  1. What kind of technical support do you provide? Is it available 24/7?
  2. What does the warranty cover, and how long does it last?
  3. Do you offer any maintenance or repair services? What do they cost?

Assessing the Vendor

  1. How long have you been in business, and can you provide references from other customers in my industry?
  2. How familiar are you with my industry's specific needs and challenges?
  3. What sets you apart from other vendors selling similar equipment?

By asking these questions you can gain a better understanding of both the equipment and the vendor helping you make a more informed decision. It's important to choose not only the right equipment but also a reliable vendor who can provide the support and services you need to keep your equipment in top working condition.

Tips on Properly Maintaining and Storing Your Surveying Equipment

Maintaining and storing your surveying equipment properly is crucial to ensuring its accuracy, reliability and longevity. This section will guide you on the best practices for equipment care and how proper maintenance impacts the lifespan and accuracy of your surveying tools.

Best Practices for Equipment Care

  1. Regular Cleaning: After each use, clean your equipment to remove dirt, dust,and moisture. Use a soft cloth or brush and avoid abrasive materials that could scratch or damage the equipment.
  2. Periodic Calibration: Regularly calibrate your surveying equipment to ensure its accuracy. The frequency of calibration will depend on the manufacturer's recommendations and how often you use the equipment.
  3. Timely Repairs: If your equipment is damaged or not working correctly get it repaired as soon as possible. Using damaged equipment can lead to inaccurate measurements and further damage.
  4. Protective Cases: Use protective cases for transporting and storing your equipment. These cases will protect the equipment from physical damage and harsh environmental conditions.
  5. Avoid Extreme Temperatures: Extreme heat or cold can affect the performance of your surveying equipment. Try to store it in a temperature-controlled environment.
  6. Battery Care: If your equipment uses batteries make sure to recharge or replace them as needed. Remove batteries if you're storing the equipment for an extended period to prevent leakage.

The Impact of Maintenance on the Lifespan and Accuracy of Equipment

Proper maintenance and storage can greatly impact the lifespan and accuracy of your surveying equipment.

  1. Longevity: Regular cleaning, proper storage and timely repairs can extend the lifespan of your equipment, making it a better investment in the long run.
  2. Accuracy: Calibration is essential for maintaining the accuracy of your equipment. Over time use and environmental factors can cause the equipment to lose its calibration leading to less accurate measurements.
  3. Reliability: Well-maintained equipment is more reliable. You're less likely to encounter unexpected problems or failures which can cause delays or inaccuracies in your work.
  4. Resale Value: If you decide to upgrade or sell your equipment in the future well-maintained equipment will have a higher resale value.

In conclusion, investing time and effort in properly maintaining and storing your surveying equipment will pay off in the long run helping you to maintain accuracy in your work, extend the life of your equipment and even save money by avoiding unnecessary replacements or repairs.


Choosing the right surveying equipment is a significant decision that can greatly impact the success and efficiency of your small business. From understanding the basics of surveying and the importance of having the right equipment to identifying your specific needs and factors to consider when choosing equipment, this guide has provided comprehensive insights to help you make an informed decision.

Whether you're starting a new business or looking to upgrade your current equipment it's essential to invest wisely in surveying tools that will enhance your productivity and profitability. Consider renting versus buying, ask the right questions when dealing with vendors and always keep in mind that the best surveying equipment for you is the one that fits your specific business needs and budget.

With careful planning and consideration you can choose equipment that will not only meet your current needs but also adapt to your future growth. Remember, the right equipment can provide you with the accuracy and efficiency necessary to stay competitive in your industry ultimately contributing to your business's success.


Explore HiTechniques' range of top-quality surveying equipment today to find the perfect fit that will drive accuracy, efficiency and success in your small business.