Buying a bigger tractor

Apr 23 2012 0 Comments Tags: farm, tractor

When we bought a bigger property we knew we would also need a larger tractor.  The tractor that we have been using at "eight acres" is a 17 HP Kubota, which is about the same power as our ride on mower.  It can run the slasher (very slowly) and lift things (not always very safely) but it is not suited to running cultivation implements or a large slasher or lifting hay bales.  While we were waiting for the property settlement date, we spent a whole lot of time researching tractor options and trying to work out the size we needed and whether to buy new or second-hand.

The new tractor towing the big plough

The size of the tractor depends on the work that needs to be done.  A bigger tractor can tow and lift heavier implements, and it can do most jobs faster than a smaller tractor would.  However, obviously the bigger the tractor the more expensive it is and the more fuel it will use, so the first step is to determine what the tractor really needs to do and what would be the smallest size tractor that can do the job.  When we bought the property, we also negotiated to buy some second-hand implements from the property vendor.  He was happy to not have to move them all off the property, so we got a good price.  The implements were all sized to match an old 100 HP tractor that the vendor had been using (and sold just before we made our offer on the property unfortunately!), so we knew that we were aiming for around 100 HP.  We also knew that we wanted to be about to lift round bales of hay and pallets from the back of the ute, so a 1 tonne lifting capacity would be useful.

The next decision was whether to buy new or second-hand.  This depends on so many factors:
  • Time - do you have time to wait for the perfect tractor to become available second-hand? (or on sale new?)
  • Money - can you afford a new tractor at around twice the price of a second-hand one? or are there suitable finance deals available?  Does it suit your cashflow to have a small deposit now and pay the rest later?  The deposit on a new tractor may be less than the total cost of a second-hand tractor, so you can keep more money in your bank at first, if you know you'll be able to afford ongoing repayments.
  • Ability to compromise - if you are looking for second-hand, you may not find the tractor that has everything you need, you may end up paying more to modify the tractor or you may need more than one to do everything.  A new tractor package may cover everything more easily.
  • Time for maintenance - a new tractor comes with a warranty and should run for several thousand hours before needed significant maintenance investment, with a second-hand tractor, you never know if it will start when you need it and when the next expensive break-down will occur.  If you have time to fix it, that may be an acceptable risk, but if you are working full-time and need to use the tractor on the weekend for urgent work, you don't really want to spend that weekend fixing it instead!
  • New features - new tractors often come with front wheel assist, extra safety features and we found the older ones didn't have the front bucket that we needed (fitting this later would have added significantly to the overall price).
  • Available storage - a new tractor belongs in a shed otherwise you may as well just buy an old one.
This was a long and drawn out decision, in which we visited every second-hand tractor dealer in town, read about every second-hand tractor we could find in the paper, trading books and online and researched deals on new tractors.  Finally we chose the right tractor for our situation.  It is slightly undersized at 75 HP, but has front-wheel assist and 4WD, and so far it has done everything we need.

Have you bought a new or second-hand tractor?  Any tips?

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