How To Buy A Tractor: New vs. Used

Vintage Tractor

Before you go out and spend your hard earned money on a tractor (or anything else for that matter) remember, to sit down and thing about what equipment you actually need. Once you have that figured out, make sure you know your preferred brand, specs, attachment and horsepower requirements before you start shopping.

Buying an older tractor rather than a new one doesn’t mean you have to be a mechanic but you do need to be aware. One of the first things you should look for is a used tractor with a good hydraulic system that works well. Often referred to as a 3 Point Hitch, this is the three arms extending from the back of the tractor. They lift and hold whatever attachments you use with the tractor. These attachments might be a tiller, snow blower, blade, mower, etc.

The age of a used tractor is not easy to determine. The way to determine the age of the tractor is to find the serial number. You can look it up on the Internet to find information. A good website to find information is Yesterday’s Tractor Registry. Buying a used tractor at an auction or dealer is a good place to start looking for one. Depending on where you live, you may also have a decent sized selection in online classifieds such as Craigslist or Kijii.

Many used tractor have metal foot pedals. They often have a grid or thread that show some type of wear. This is just one factor to determine age but looking at the overall condition of the tractor is a way to determine if it is s good, very good, fair or in passable condition.

Don’t buy a used tractor that leaks oil or has wobbly steering and bad braking unless you are prepared to do a lot of work. This is sign that too much time and money may be needed to repair it. Sometimes a seller will repaint a used tractor to make it look newer. Look beyond the paint job to how it works mechanically.

When you buy a used tractor if you have to replace tires this can cost between $400 to 800 to replace. Look carefully at the tires look for deep cuts and cracks from weather. In fact, its not a bad strategy to include the cost of replacing the tires as part of your budget when you buy a used tractor.

Find a used tractor that is easy to start in the cold weather. Buy from reputable dealers and auction houses so you get a good product.

When you want to buy a new tractor think of the amount of horsepower you will need, weight, size and lift capacity and front loader. You will need to think about four wheel drive and different type of transmission. A new tractor requires less work and upkeep than a used one but it will cost a whole lot more. It all depends on your budget and the amount of money and time you want to invest in repairs and maintenance.

How To Build A Barn, Lean-To and Other Structures

Old farm building

Got some buildings that look like this? Yea, me too.  Not much of value here, not even salvageable planks. Even so, a ranch needs at least a couple of buildings to store equipment, keep hay and firewood dry, and such. Maybe you’ve got some horses that need a new home. Being as we are now under a foot of snow, and being -15 as I write this, the ground is pretty solid, I have be forced to push some building some new structures off to the spring.

That means for now, it’s time to figure out how much space I need, how many structures I need to erect and where I want to place them. To keep costs and building times down, I am edging towards some simple lean to structures.

In researching my spring projects I came across this site from Iowa State University. Basically, it is a large collection of FREE plans for farm and ranch buildings. Take a look, I bet you see a few in their you could build on your property with the help of a few friends.

What Equipment Do You REALLY Need?

Old John Deere

One of the things I struggle with the most, and I suspect that I am not alone, is how much equipment I actually need, and what. Of course I want a shiny, new, bright green, John Deere tractor, but does that make sense? I also want a big, crew cab, F350 dually, but do I need one? The answer in most cases is no, and you probably don’t either. I know, the little boy in me weeps, but my pocketbook, and the ranch’s bottom line thanks me.

But in reality, you need something, right? The answer is a definite maybe. What you really need, and not just want you want,  is going to depend on your operation. If your farm includes row crops of some sort, or a market garden, chances are you’re going to want some type of tractor with the appropriate attachments. Tilling enough ground to plant an adequate crop by hand, while noble, is not realistic.

If you’re running cattle, you probably actually need very little in the way of machinery. Chances are you’re not going to be hauling your animals to the abattoir yourself, unless you’ve just got one or two animals. If you ranch in a harsher winter climate, you may need a means to move hay to feed the animals when the snow gets too deep. While small square bales are feasible to move around manually, chances are you’ve got a stock of round bales. I don’t know about you, but aside from a tractor, I don’t know how to move a half ton bale of hay from the shed to the pasture.

I have seen a lot of people talking about buying their own haying set up. Out here, we don’t produce enough hay for that to make sense. This year we harvested about 50 tons of what is essentially meadow grass in one cut. Could we put in the effort to replant, water and shoot for two cuts, perhaps, but we’ve decided that is not the most effective way to utilize our land. Life is much easier working a crop share agreement with a fellow rancher that already has the equipment. You will have to decide for yourself if you really want to get all the toys or not.

When it comes to equipment ask yourself two questions:

  1. Does this equipment generate income? Which is to say, does it increase productivity enough, and increase yields enough, save time enough, to offset the costs?
  2. What is the opportunity cost of your equipment? What I am getting at here is could you spend $10,000 and get a well maintained used tractor that will suit your needs instead of a newer tractor for $20,000 or $30,000? What could you do with that extra cash? For example, would it make more sense to increase your herd or invest in your marketing efforts?

Whatever route you choose to go, keep in mind that equipment requires upkeep. Tractors require maintenance, fuel, repairs, etc. And in the case of something you’ve financed, it also requires interest payments on top of your capital. For me, at least for now, I prefer to only buy what I can pay for out right. That means a used tractor, an older truck, and the likes.

Have you sat down and thought about what pieces of equipment you actually need, what it costs, and if something less expensive would do the same job?