Farm Tractor Buying Guide
Farm tractors are powerful, hardworking machines that are essential for many operations. However, they're also complicated machines that come in an overwhelming number of varieties — which can make shopping for one a daunting experience. Luckily, we've put together this useful guide on how to buy a farm tractor that's right for your budget and needs.
Tips for Buying a New Tractor
Keeping the following pointers in mind when shopping around for your perfect tractor.
1. Prepare Information for Your Dealer
If you find a reputable tractor dealer, you've won half the battle, as they will be able to find a useful solution for your needs. However, for the most rewarding buying experience possible, we recommend gathering some essential information before speaking with your dealer so they can point you in the right direction.
- Your acreage: The size of your land will help your dealer choose a suitable tractor.
- Your needs: These include operations like field and yard moving, material moving, garden tilling, snow removal, grading, haying, etc.
- Your priorities: Of the operations you hope to use the tractor for, which are most important? For example, will you be doing more field moving, or road grading? Figuring out your priorities will help narrow down your list of implements. With this information, your dealer can also recommend lift capacity, hydraulic capacity and horsepower range.
- Your budget: What's your comfort zone, financially speaking?
- Your need for a front-mounted loader: Do you see yourself needing a front-mounted loader for your tractor? By knowing this, you can figure out your required hydraulic capacity and whether you'll need a four-wheel-drive machine.
- The smallest space through which you'll navigate the tractor: Figure out the smallest area your tractor will have to pass through. You won't want to move fences or buildings to accommodate a bigger machine.
- Your AC needs: Does it matter to you whether the machine has AC and heating? Temperature-controlled cabs cost more, but they will also let you work longer and harder during any season.
- Your preferred transmission type: Tractors have used transmissions with gears and clutches for many years, and experienced tractor operators often prefer them. These days, however, most tractors on the market use a hydrostatic transmission, which makes tractor operation simpler, although perhaps more complicated if you're accustomed to using a clutch. Rather than having to release a clutch and sending your tractor lurching forward, a hydrostatic transmission lets you pick your preferred speed range or gear, then push down the reverse or forward pedal to control the direction and speed you'd like to go. Tractors with hydraulic transmissions last longer than those with manual transmissions. What's more, if you're a person who often feathers the clutch, a hydrostatic may be the better choice. Before buying, try out both styles to figure out which you prefer.
2. Consider the Reputation of Your Dealer's Offered Brands
Confirm the brands of tractor your dealer sells are reputable. When considering a brand, think about its maintenance, service and parts availability. If the brand has few or no dealerships in your area — or country — you could be in trouble if it breaks down. If it is an unestablished or unknown brand from another country, even a small part like an oil filter can be difficult to acquire.
Also, keep in mind the length of the warranty doesn't always indicate the quality. In other words, a brand with a more generous warranty does not necessarily offer the best-performing equipment.
Examples of reliable, high-quality tractor brands include Mahindra and Massey Ferguson.
3. Consider the Reputation of Each Local Dealer
Do some research and find out which local dealer provides the highest-quality service. Dealers who sell trusted vehicles and can solve problems quickly are invaluable.
4. Go for Test Rides
Don't just read about the tractors you're looking at — take a ride to ensure the tractor is a good fit and suits your needs.
How Much Does a Farm Tractor Cost?
The price of a tractor largely depends on its class, which is largely due to its size. Practically all manufacturers offer tractors in the following four classes.
1. Subcompact ($12,000)
Tractors in the subcompact class generally have the following characteristics.
- Lower horsepower: The horsepower ratings for subcompact tractors tend to be no higher than the low 20s, meaning you can only run limited types of equipment.
- Front-end loader compatibility: Subcompact tractors are generally front-end-loader compatible, although they have a 500-pound load limit.
- Mid-ship PTOs: This useful feature allows you to equip your tractor with belly mowers, which are bigger versions of the mowers found on lawn tractors, and front-mounted snow blowers, which are useful in colder climates.
- Diesel engines: Many subcompact models come with a diesel engine, which provides a major usability upgrade.
2. Compact ($15,000 to $23,000)
A compact tractor is slightly larger than a subcompact and generally comes with the following features.
- Bucket loader compatibility: You can equip your compact tractor with a bucket loader rated for 900 pounds.
- Four-wheel drive: This feature is standard for compact tractors.
- Landscape trailer compatibility: As compact tractors often fit on landscape trailers, they are less challenging to transport than their bigger brothers.
- Affordability: With prices ranging from $15,000 to $23,000, compact tractors are affordable for many people.
3. Midsized ($40,000)
Midsized tractors are more versatile, flexible, powerful and convenient than both subcompact and compact tractors. Some other features of midsized tractors include the following.
- Cab options: Midsized tractors often come with fully enclosed cabs with radio speakers, AC and heat, which will keep you comfortable no matter what the outside temperature is.
- More horsepower: Midsized tractors generally come with three-cylinder diesel engines ranging from 35 to 65 horsepower.
- Higher bucket loader capacity: Bucket loaders for midsized tractors can lift loads ranging from 1,200 pounds to more than a ton. While this capacity may seem excessive, it comes in handy for moving pallets, clearing land and many other applications.
- Great value: Prices of mid-sized tractors are similar to those of high-quality one-ton pickup trucks.
4. Full-Sized ($60,000+)
If you own a sprawling farm with many heavy implements, you probably need a full-sized tractor.
- Supreme horsepower: These massive machines are powerful, with horsepower ratings starting around 80.
- Enormous size: As you might have guessed from the name, full-sized tractors are enormous, and are therefore only suitable for large farms.
- Luxury: Cabs, AC, heat, air-ride seats and other luxurious features are standard with full-sized tractors.
- High cost: If you require a machine in this group, you can expect to pay a premium price — but the power and amenities it offers are often essential.
Tips for Buying a Used Tractor
Depending on your needs and situation, you may be better off buying a secondhand tractor. Many dealerships offer used tractors that run and look almost like new, and are considerably less expensive than new models.
If you're thinking about buying a used tractor, you should keep the following in mind.
- A tractor isn't a car: If you see a 25-year-old tractor for sale, don't immediately dismiss it — whereas cars don't usually last more than 10 or 15 years, tractors have a lifespan of several decades. A 25-year-old tractor, if well maintained, might be perfect for your budget and operations.
- Understand the history of the used tractor: Before buying, make sure you know all the details regarding the tractor's history, including any replacements or repairs the previous owner may have done.
- Don't leave without complete peace of mind: When the time comes to buy, ask with the dealer every last question you have. Ask about financing, transport from the lot to your home, the maintenance process and anything else that comes to mind.
How to Choose a Tractor at Thompson Tractor
At Thompson Tractor, it is our mission to provide customers with the best equipment for their operations, whether for sale, for rent, new or secondhand. Feel free to check out our special offers on our site, and if you have any questions, reach out to us using our contact form.