Home On The Range #003: Selecting your Tractor
Welcome to our reoccurring series of “Home on the Range.” Here, we would like to share all of our experiences for those who may be homesteading, living off the land, hunting, farming, ranching, and truly investing in nature and the great outdoors. The ability to provide for yourself and your family can be tremendously rewarding and simultaneously difficult at times. So, in “Home on the Range” we want to share our different exploits so you can learn and hopefully we can receive your feedback along the way as well.
Choosing a Tractor: Decisions, Decisions
One of the biggest and most difficult decisions one might have to face when getting into agriculture is making the appropriate choice of a tractor. Tractors range from low horsepower units that resemble a riding mower, all the way up to fully programmable mega machines that can cost more than most people’s entire farm. The array of options can be dizzying and daunting, as well as the whole tractor buying process. To make things easier for myself, I gave myself three main considerations:
- Horsepower: I needed to decide an appropriate horsepower range. Keep in mind that when it comes to tractors, PTO or “Power Take-Off” horsepower is a very important consideration, as this is the power and torque available to be transferred to all your attachments. Some schools of thought recommend the simple calculation of equating how many acres you have to how much HP you might need, but really it applies more to what sort of work you will require your tractor to do.
- Hitch category: This refers to the 3 point hitch on the back of the tractor. They range from size 0-3, and the higher the number, the higher the horsepower tractor. Category 1 and 2 will be your most common for smaller farms using utility and compact utility tractors. For an excellent primer on essential attachments, Alloutdoor’s Kevin Felts has you covered here.
- Availability of parts and service: For those of us in more remote areas, the ability to have knowledgeable people who provide parts and service to equipment is a very important consideration. For me personally, the purchase of certain brands of tractors was precluded by the fact that I found the service staff anywhere close to my area for that brand to be unknowledgeable about the product.
Buying a Tractor: A whole ‘nother headache
After deciding the category of tractor I was looking for, and researching the most reliable models in that category, I started my search in the used/auction market. Used tractors can still be very reliable, and there are models that have been made over the years that will keep on running just fine, no matter how many hours have been put on them. During that search which lasted quite some time, I found that the eastern half of the country generally has a better used inventory of desirable tractors, while anywhere remotely close to me did not. I also found that when it comes to auctions, prices can get very high rather quickly. After consulting with some other farmers in my area who had faced the same difficulties in recent years, I decided to purchase a new tractor and be done with the entire search.
This decision did give me the ability to go around to various tractor dealerships, and try them out before I purchased one. I was able to assess front and rear visibility, as well as ease of use of the transmission, steering, and shuttle. In some instances, I was able to talk with service staff actively working on particular tractor models and got a good look at the inner workings, as well as finding out each one’s problem areas.
Again, be careful when purchasing a new tractor, as sales staff will usually try and get you to buy a more powerful (and expensive) tractor than you actually need. If you are not dealing with huge tracts of row crops, you don’t need the latest in GPS programmable tractor cab technology. Have your criteria in mind and stick to it.
I hope this has been a helpful read about my personal experience with selecting and purchasing a tractor. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned to Alloutdoor.com