How to Choose a Tractor
Finding the best tractor that suits your needs can be easier than you might think. Here are a few simple steps to follow as you look at tractors
You first need to determine your needs and figure out what you need your tractor to do. Do you have an acre or two that needs mowed once or twice a week, or do you need a tractor for mowing, towing, snow plowing, carrying items, gardening or harvesting fields? Be sure to get enough tractor so that it will be able handle the attachments you are going to use
Diesel or Gas?
Do you need a gasoline or diesel powered tractor? For most residential, mowing applications gasoline powered tractors are the way to go. If you have more than five acres and plan on doing some plowing, hauling, heavier mowing and adding any attachments then diesel is probably the tractor of choice.
Lets look first at your average lawn mower. Something that will be pretty much be used for mowing and nothing else. Your average "lawn tractor" can range anywhere from $1500 - $4500 and range from 15HP- 25HP with gasoline engines. Good reliable used lawn mowers can be purchase from a few hundred dollars up to $3000 depending on age and condition. Some of the higher HP model lawn tractors can also be used for occasional snow plowing and other heavier tasks but are best suited for mowing with or without a grass catcher and pulling a cart. Most all lawn tractors are belt driven with limited parts availability and are designed to last a short period of time.
Garden Tractors & Compact Tractors
Next lets look at property owners that have 3 - 15 acres and the need for plowing, gardening, mowing, cutting and loading. In my opinion we have two classes of tractor we can look at here. You can consider a "garden tractor" or a "compact tractor". A garden tractor is a tractor that is really a lawn tractor with a heavier built to it and with the capability of some attachments like a tiller, a blade, snowblower and larger mower decks (usually 54in - 60in decks). Most garden tractors are also shaft driven and can last for many years if properly maintained and not pushed beyond their limits. They can be gasoline or diesel. They usually sell new for $6000 - $10000 with a mowing deck,and can be purchased used for $2500 - $6000 depending on condition.
My personal recommendation for this scenario would be a "compact tractor". A compact tractor is basically a miniature tractor with full size tractor capabilities such as mowing, cutting, loading, digging, tilling, plowing and hauling. They have diesel engines ranging in size from 15HP - 30HP. Most of them have full hydraulics, 4WD, mid and rear PTO's, high and low range, roll over protection and are built to work. They have a life expectancy of up to 30 plus years if properly maintained. Parts are readily available. These compact tractors can handle many implements like large belly mowers up to 72in., rear mowers, tillers, blades, loaders, plows, backhoes, sweepers and more. The reliability of these tractors makes for a great used tractor. A new compact tractor with a mower can range from $10000 - $20000, depending on the size and model. Great used compact tractors can be found for as low as $5000.
If farming is in your future and you have many acres to tend to, you are best advised to consult with a dealer or fellow farmer before making a purchase. There are many, many choices when it comes to large tractors and farming equipment and it is best to make sure you get the right equipment the first time as these tractors can be a very large investment. Once you have the specifics you need, then search for a new or used tractor that will meet your exact needs for HP, and capabilities.
Before you get sticker shock, realize that tractor purchases are long term commitments and that with proper maintenance and use they can last for 30 years or more. When you consider the life span and work they do, the prices will seem reasonable.
Attachments can also seem expensive as well. A loader for example will cost $3000 - $5000. A simple blade can run $300 - $500.
Once you have a tractor and some attachments, you'll wonder how you ever did without them. I remember when I purchased my compact Kubota several years ago. I took my wife with me and I bought a 60in mower and a loader with it. When my wife saw the price she about died! Since we've owned it, she has on many occasion told me that it has been such a great thing to have. We only have 5 acres but get so much use from the loader. I don't know what we ever did without it!
Gray Market Tractors
Because good used tractors are so reliable, there is a high demand and a relatively low supply of them and good used tractors sell very quickly. A tempting way of saving money is buying an "off-brand" tractor or a gray market tractor. These are usually imported machines designed for use in other markets, being sold semi-legally here. While they can be much cheaper than standard tractors, there are a couple of significant drawbacks.
One is that the PTO systems are not always compatible with US standards. Many of them do not have a mid PTO which is needed if you want a belly mower. A second issue is parts availability. It can be difficult or impossible to find replacement parts here if it's a model designed for use in other markets.
What ever you do, make sure you buy a tractor that will do what you need it to. The worst thing you can do is to push the equipment beyond it capabilities. It not only significantly shortens the life span but can be dangerous as well.
Before making your purchase, do your research. Check with other owners, dealers, web forums and manufactures sites for information. When your ready to make the purchase be sure to check here with Tractor Shopper for deals on your next new or used tractor!
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