How to buy the right tractor for your farm

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tractors

Purchasing a tractor or piece of equipment for your farm is a big investment. Over the next few of weeks, we will help you decide whether purchasing a new or used tractor is right for you by covering basic considerations for buying a tractor, how to make a proper inspection before buying a tractor and final considerations before making a purchase.

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1What will it do?
Before making a decision on what type of tractor to buy, consider how it will be used. Will you be making hay, doing planting or tillage work, clearing or working with a small woods, or working with livestock?

2Specifications
Think about the terrain of your farm. No slope, gentle hills, really steep slopes? How muddy does it get in certain areas where equipment will be used frequently? What about snow? Should you invest in a 4-wheel drive or 2-wheel drive tractor?

Should you invest in a gas- or diesel-powered engines? Gas-powered usually starts better in the winter, but diesel engines have more torque and a longer fuel life.

Make sure the tractor has all the necessary hookups for whatever implements you will be pulling (I.e. trailers, balers, tillers)

3Safety
When purchasing a tractor, new or used, make sure it meets safety standards. Shields should be covering belts and PTO shafts. Make sure the tractor has proper front protection from loader arms and buckets.

If the tractor does not have a cab, does it have a Rollover Protection Structure, or ROPS, bar? Make sure the ROPS is engineered for that specific tractor and not just homemade. (A seat belt still needs to be worn in order for ROPS to be effective.)

4Comfort
Operator comfort is key if you have to spend long hours on the tractor. Inspect the tractor seat for comfort, check the noise level while operating the tractor, and inspect the convenience of the controls for various implements. (If controls are hard to reach, it could mean long days and stress on joints.)

Does the tractor offer shade from the sun if you’re spending long, hot days making hay? And does it offer adequate lighting for night work? Can you get on and off the tractor easily?

If you are not purchasing a tractor with all the latest technology, does it have the option to add monitors and autosteer if you decide to upgrade later?

5Where to buy?
You can find deals on equipment from a number of sources. Check the classifieds or local auctions. Purchase from a neighbor, from a retirement or consignment sale or purchase straight from a local dealership.

Source: Selecting a new or used tractor for a small farm, Jason Hartschuh, Farm Science Review, Small Farms Center.

Next week: How to inspect a tractor before purchase.

(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)

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