- April 24, 2020
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Tractors: The Ultimate Guide
When you’re buying or selling a tractor, there’s much to consider to ensure you know what you’re getting, and how to get top dollar. This guide is for anyone wanting to know more about tractors in general, and more specifically those looking to buy a tractor or sell a tractor.
Let’s get started.
- CHAPTER 1: Tractor Basics
- CHAPTER 2: Choosing the Right Tractor
- CHAPTER 3: Buying an Tractor
- CHAPTER 4: Selling Tractor
- CHAPTER 5: Tractor Attachments
- CHAPTER 6: Tractor Maintenance & Common Problems
- CHAPTER 7: Operating Your Tractor
CHAPTER 1: Tractor Basics
What is a Tractor?
A tractor is a type of utility vehicle used mainly in the agricultural industry. They’re popular for farming thanks to their high power at low rev, allowing operators to pull along large attachments without damaging soil or crops. It resembles a small truck, generally with smaller front wheels and larger back wheels. These larger rear wheels provide a bigger surface area and better grip, allowing the tractor to pull heavier implements behind it. Tractors generally have 4 wheels, however there are models that have 6 wheels to provide even greater traction and pulling power.
While older powered tractors used portable steam engines, modern tractors use combustion engines, usually powered by diesel fuel. As tractors get larger in size, their horsepower and breakout force also increases. Smaller tractors make a good choice for hobby farmers or small acreage properties, and large tractors are more better suited for hauling implements for crop preparation, propagation and harvesting.
What are Tractors Used for?
Tractors are primarily used on farms and agricultural projects to operate a variety of attachments. Thanks to these many different attachments, the tractor is a highly versatile machine that can dig, sow, trench, clear land, grade and much more. This makes it incredibly useful for farming purposes where land preparation, propagation and harvesting requires powerful machines that won’t damage the soil underneath.
The sturdy old tractor has improved in leaps and bounds when it comes to tech, with many brands starting to incorporate smart technology into new models. Some improvements are added to the tractors themselves, which improve tracking information and ease of operation, while other improvements are added to the attachments, such as these sprayers.
Other tractor technologies include automation, data sharing, project planning and tracking, anti-dive functionalities, suspended axle technology and much more.
CHAPTER 2: Choosing the Right Tractor
Which tractor should you buy? This is the age-old question but the answer really comes down to one main specification requirement: How much power do you need? This buyer’s guide to finding the right utility tractor will also give you a good overview.
Understanding how much basic power you require for your project and ongoing needs is vital, but there is much more to it than that. Once you’ve narrowed down your power range requirements, you’ll have a clearer picture of the tractor size necessary for the job.
When choosing a tractor, the main things you’ll want to know first are:
- The primary applications the tractor will be used for
- The type of implements or attachments required
- The landscape or terrain of the site
- How you will transport it to/from the site
Here are a few tips for selecting the right tractor.
Choosing the Right Tractor
The tractor is your powerhorse, it’s the machine that will drive all your implements and allow you to get many different jobs done simply by switching attachments.
Generally, the size of the tractor will determine the types of jobs it is suitable for. For example, smaller tractors are ideal for mowing and other tasks, while larger tractors are built for pulling huge implements for farming. There are a wide range of features that could make or break the sale for you, depending on your own requirements. These features can include air conditioning, a cab, quick-hitch or 3-point linkage, UHF radio, high-flow hydraulics and many more.
Other things to consider are:
- Will you require extra traction and therefore extra wheels?
- Do you need 4WD or will a 2WD tractor be enough?
- Will you need a posi-track or tracked tractor?
- Do you want something brand new or will a used tractor do the trick?
- What features are a must in your tractor?
Deciding on a Tractor Brand
Tractors are one of the most widely used machines across the globe, and they play a vital role in modern agriculture, so choosing the right brand is important.
Thanks to the tractor’s widespread popularity, there are plenty of OEMs and brands to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. There are the big players, such as Kubota, John Deere and Case IH, and then there are plenty of smaller brands offering quality tractors without the high price tag. Some are brands favoured by Aussies, some are not as well known. So which is best for you?
Different brands have different strengths depending on the type of tractor you’re going for. If you’re looking for zero-turn mowers specifically, there are brands that outshine others when it comes to specs, price and build. Then you’ve got popular sub-compact tractor brands, Japanese tractor brands… the list goes on… This is why it’s important to know what you need first, identify what you want from your tractor second, and then which brands deliver those requirements third.
Have you ever heard someone say they’re a greenie? No, this time they’re not talking about politics—they’re talking about being a John Deere supporter, the “big green” machines. This is called brand loyalty, and some people will only ever buy from one brand, even if there are much cheaper alternatives available.
If you’re unsure, comparing brands is also a great way to get a full understanding of what they offer in terms of specs, build and after-sales service.
Tracked or Wheeled Tractors?
Another option to consider is whether a tracked or wheeled tractor is going to suit your particular requirements. Tracked tractors offer a smoother ride on rough fields, provide better flotation and have a higher tractive efficiency than wheels. They also have lower ground pressure and greater surface area contact, which helps prevent slippage and bogging.
On the other hand, wheeled tractors are ideal for better turning under a load, offer better soil compaction, easier steering and are, usually, faster than their tracked counterparts.
After all that, there’s still the cost of ongoing maintenance to consider. Due to their many moving parts, tracked tractors tend to be more costly to maintain, while wheeled tractors have less upfront costs as well.
CHAPTER 3: Buying a Tractor
Where to Find Tractors For Sale
If you’re looking for a tractor for sale, there are a few different places you can check to find the right one. These places include real, brick-and-mortar dealerships, as well as auctions, trade magazines, and online marketplaces.
The purchasing process is different for each of these options, so you’ll want to make sure you understand what’s expected of you as a buyer when it comes time to complete the transaction.
If you’re looking to buy a tractor or farm machinery at auction, it’s most likely you’ll find used machinery available. In some instances, there may be new or near-new stock, and if so, you will want to make sure all the paperwork is available to you.
If you have your sights on picking up a bargain at an auction, make sure you have your finances sorted well beforehand. It’s a good idea to have pre-approved finance in case you find a machine you want to bid for. Once the last call is made, the hammer comes down and you’ve made the highest lasting bid—that machine is yours, as is. Auction rules are very tight and you’ll have a certain time frame in order to pay for your machine.
Farming machinery dealerships are a great option if you’re looking for primarily new tractors or near-new models. Here, you can get some good information about the latest models in specific brands (depending on the dealership), hop in and give some tractors a test drive and get a feel for the machine. They can even offer finance deals if you decide to purchase a tractor at their dealership.
Dealerships have contracts with certain brands, which means you will need to visit a few different ones to get an idea of how other brands compare.
Trade magazines are the old tried-and-trusted form of finding new and used tractors for sale. The only problem is that it’s a snapshot in time, and it won’t necessarily show you all the machines currently available. The other main downside is their shrink over the years, that is, less and less people are reading these magazines, making them less useful for sellers. Otherwise, the fundamentals of this medium are the same as an online marketplace, but without the added convenience of more photos, videos, PDFs and the like.
Online marketplaces are the easiest way to find the right tractor. They are built to make your search as easy as possible, such as filtering by brand, condition, drive type, location, engine power, and features, to find a tractor that ticks all your boxes.
The buying process on an online marketplace is similar to a trade magazine, but you also have the option to email the seller, or of course give them a call. Depending on the marketplace, you can also place a wanted ad request and let sellers come to you with options.
Pros & Cons of New Vs Used Tractors
Whether your old tractor has sat out in the fields for a little too long, or you are looking to add to your operation, it can be tough weighing up whether to go brand new or opt for a used machine.
So what are the arguments for buying new over used, and vice versa? We’re here to help shed some light on this debate, but remember—at the end of the day you need to do what’s best for your situation and budget.
Important Specs to Consider
Whether you’re purchasing new or used, there are some main specifications you’ll want to keep an eye out for to ensure you’re going to be purchasing the right machine. These primary specs can change depending on your requirements, but can include:
- Engine power
- Wheel / Track condition
- PTO (power take off)
- 3-point hitch lift capacity
The biggest reason buyers look for used tractors over new is the price point: used machines are much cheaper than new. Another added benefit to buying used is you are effectively recycling and reducing your carbon footprint. The main downside to buying used is the associated risk of having the machine not work properly, or encountering multiple issues. This is why it’s important to inspect the machine and use a checklist to ensure you know what you’re buying.
Buyer’s Checklist for a Used Tractor
When buying a used tractor, it’s important to do your due diligence to make sure you’re getting a good machine. Make sure you:
- Ask to see the machine running, better yet, jump in and turn the engine on yourself if possible
- Check if some areas look ‘too clean’ for an operating tractor, as this could be a sign of issues that have recently been cleaned by the seller
- Check the engine for any odd clunking noises or white/grey smoke out the exhaust (black smoke is normal but should clear after a few seconds)
- Check the hydraulic setup and make sure it has enough rear remotes for your attachments
- Check the overall condition of the tractor, look for any cracks or dents
- Confirm the hours with the seller
- Check the tyres (or tracks, if applicable)
- If you can, take it for a test drive and check its pulling power
Used Tractor Prices
Used tractors come with different price tags, and price is usually dependent by:
- The brand
- Its age
- How many hours it’s clocked
- Its overall condition
- Its HP & PTO
For this reason it’s difficult to provide accurate prices, however according to Machines4U data, prices for used tractors can range from as little as $12,000 for a small tractor, right up to and over $250,000 for 6-wheeled, big tractors built for heavy industry workloads.
The main downside to buying a tractor brand new, is the larger cost. Although these days it doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think. There are many finance options available that makes purchasing brand new machines much more affordable. It really depends on your own preferences and situation.
Some benefits to buying a new machine include:
- After-sales service & support
- Easy parts, servicing & maintenance
- Manufacturer or dealer warranty
- More advanced technologies
- Maximised comfort & ergonomic support
CHAPTER 4: Selling Tractors
Selling a tractor takes more than uploading a listing and crossing your fingers. You’ve got to get your tractor ready for sale, get a full and engaging listing up (to beat your competitors or private sellers), and be quick to handle the enquiries that come through. In this section, you’ll learn more about the legalities, your obligations and most importantly, how to maximise interest in your tractor.
The Legalities of Selling Tractors
When selling equipment, like a tractor, there are certain rules you need to keep in mind and abide by to protect yourself and your buyer/s. If you are a seller who:
- Works for an auction house
- Works in insolvency
- Work in a business that buys, sells, hires or leases equipment
- Is a company or individual selling plant or equipment
Then you need to make sure your tractor and implements are compliant with all safety regulations and do your duty of care in correctly representing the machine for sale.
Your Obligations as a Machinery Seller
The main things you need to know when selling machinery, whether as part of a business or as a one-off private sale:
- Ensure any dismantling or scrap plant machinery is clearly marked and identified to be in compliance with state legislation
- Ensure you create and keep a record of sale
- Correctly & accurately represent the machine i.e. use photos of the excavator in question, making sure to show & note any damage both in pictures & the description
How to Get More Buyers Interested in Your Tractor
Advertising online is a great way to sell your tractor. We even have a few little tricks to maximise your engagement and get the most interest. Some of these tricks include:
- Adding a video to your online listing (adding one can boost conversion by up to 85%)
- Add clear photos of the tractor (not ones from a brochure)
- Upload a product PDF/brochure to capture soft leads
- Add the top 3 selling points at the beginning of your listing’s description
- Set a price (don’t use POA! Yes, even for brand new tractors)
If you’re using an online marketplace, it’s best to know how to stand out online to beat your competitors.
Take Photos of your Tractor
Buyers want to see clear photos of your tractor, not some random tractor in a brochure. So make sure you do a full 360-degree walk-around and take photos of the following:
- The whole machine, from the front, sides & back
- The bucket or attachments up close
- The tracks or wheels
- The engine
- The hydraulics
- Inside the cab (if applicable)
- The seat
- The controls
- The display
- The view through the windscreen (if applicable)
- The clocked hours (if applicable)
This is your basic checklist for photos to add to your listing. We even made this downloadable tractor photo checklist to help you out.
Is the Price Right?
When you’re trying to sell your old tractor that’s been sitting out in the paddock for a few years, it’s tough to get a decent idea of what to ask for it. There’s no ‘blue book’ for tractors, so how can you tell if you’re pricing your used equipment correctly, or fairly? Checking a free online appraisal and valuation tool is a good start.
Another way to get a rough idea on how to price your excavator is to look at similar listings online to gauge a price range. It will all depend on the state, make, model, hours and year of your tractor. Then, set your price and tweak as time goes on.
Handling Leads from a Marketplace
Marketplace leads are very different from your traditional print ad leads. Buyers online are much savvier, they’re finding answers to most of their questions before you even get a phone call. Most buyers research the brands, the tonnage, the excavator type—they refine and refine until they are ready to make that purchase decision.
So when you get a lead from an online marketplace, usually they are much more qualified leads, so they require less ‘selling’ and more genuine answers to their questions. This is why it is so important to handle marketplace leads quickly, because you can bet your bottom dollar you’re not the only seller receiving an enquiry from that buyer.
CHAPTER 5: Tractor Attachments
Tractors are so popular because they can basically turn into a range of different machines, depending on the attachment. For example, you have implements designed for compact tractors like slashers that will turn your tractor into a heavy-duty mower, then you have other attachments designed for heavy-duty workloads, like ploughs, graders and hay balers. The right tractor attachments will depend on how powerful the tractor is, and the task that needs to be done.
Some of the most common attachments include:
- Mowing decks
- Seeding & tillage attachments
- Front end loaders
- Landscaping attachments
Attaching & Detaching Tractor Implements
Attaching and detaching attachments used to be a very manual and tiresome process. Obviously doing this manually was not the most efficient process, and since time is money, there have been many improvements to tractor attachments and linkage over the years.
You’ll find now that many tractors have a 3-point hitch, which is a much safer way to connect a tractor to an implement. These come in varying categories that outline which hitches can be safely used with tractors of specific sizes. It’s important to note that this is where most injuries occur, so make sure you have the right hitch and that you adhere to all safety requirements.
There are different types of 3-point hitches, and are mainly differentiated by their category. Each category specifies the hitch size and tractor compatibility. Depending on the lower hitch spacing, the top link pin diameter and the lift arm pin diameter, the categories are generally as follows:
- Category 0: suits tractors up to 20 HP
- Category 1: suits tractors between 20-45HP
- Category 2: suits tractors between 20-100HP
- Category 3: suits tractors between 80-225HP
- Category 4: suits tractors 180HP+
Categories span from Category 0 – Category 4, where 0 includes the smallest 3-point hitches that suit tractors up to 20HP, and 4 includes the largest hitches for tractors with more than 180HP.
There are also pinch and crush dangers when it comes to changing buckets and other attachments, especially for manually operated pins. So make sure yourself or your operators are well trained prior to switching out attachments. Another thing to consider with manual hitches is to ensure your operator has assistance where required, and doesn’t leave the cab while the machine is running to switch out attachments on their own. The bigger the attachment, the more danger there is, so due diligence is always a necessity.
As WorkSafe specifies:
- Fit attachments according to the manufacturer’s instructions
- When attaching equipment, always use the mounting points or draw bar provided by the manufacturer. Do not use improvised methods
- Do not alter, modify, or raise the height of the draw bar outside of those adjustments made by the manufacturer
- When a power implement is attached to the tractor, ensure all guards are in place before operating
- Never hitch above the centre-line of the rear axle, around the axle housing or to the top link pin
- Do not attempt to adjust or work on implements while they are in motion
- Do not use or attach implements unless the power shaft or PTO shaft is guarded
Things To Know When Using Tractor Attachments
- Make sure all equipment is in good repair
- Make sure all guards / shields (including those around the PTO shafts, gearbox and tyres) are in place and function as they should
- Check the hydraulics and connections, look for any leaks
- Don’t stand between the tractor and the implement
Common Compact Tractor Attachments
Obviously attachments have specific functions, so it’s natural for some attachments to be more popular and widely used than others. Some of these more commonly used attachments include:
- Rotary cutters
- Carry-all trays
- Mowing decks
- Post hole diggers
This list is not overly surprising, as these attachments either allow for multiple jobs to be completed, or make common agricultural or large-acreage jobs much easier.
CHAPTER 6: Tractor Maintenance Tips
Tractor Maintenance Checklist
Just like you would service your car, your tractor needs to be well maintained to ensure it’s safe to operate and is as reliable as possible. Especially when your livelihood depends on it! Here is a quick, generic tractor maintenance checklist, make sure you also consult your tractor’s operations and maintenance manual for more specific information:
- Check the tractor body for any damage
- Inspect the tyres or tracks – make sure there are no loose fittings and the tyres have adequate pressure and tread. Look for signs or any wear, damage or air leaks.
- Check for leaks from the tractor or its hydraulic system, check the ground for any evidence of leaks or under the chassis.
- Grease any mechanical joints
- Check fluid levels
- Check the belts for signs of wear and check its tension
- Check and clean the radiator
- Check the levers, brakes, safety switches, hazard lights and indicators
- Make sure the PTO shields and neutral start switch are functioning as they should
If you’re hauling implements through soil, mud and other terrain that tends to stick to the underside of the tractor, make sure nothing is sticking to vital parts of your attachment or tractor, try and keep it as clean and clear as possible. And lastly, make sure you stick to scheduled servicing and maintenance as per hours of use.
Please note: These are general maintenance tips only. If you’re unsure, your machine’s manual should have everything you need. Otherwise, call your local dealer, service tech or the manufacturer for tips suited to your specific machine.
CHAPTER 7: Operating Your Tractor
So now you know the right type, size and attachment to use with your tractor, now you need to operate it properly. It’s not as easy as getting in and switching on the ignition, there’s a lot more to know and be aware of before you hit the accelerator.
Do I need Tickets to Drive a Tractor?
If you’re driving on your own property, generally you do not need a licence to drive a tractor. However, once you’re on government and public roads that changes. Before they were abolished, there was a specialised class for agricultural equipment and other specialised vehicles (such as tractors and harvesters). However now, in general, a class C (or normal car licence) is enough to drive a tractor on public roads. Extra rules and restrictions will vary from state to state.
Tractors are considered one of the most important yet dangerous pieces of equipment on a farm or large property. Farmsafe describes the following as some of the potential hazards associated with using a tractor:
- Tractor rollover
- Tractor run over
- Tractor power take offs (PTOs)
So it’s highly important to make sure you understand how to use your tractor, as well as know what kind of safety precautions you should take.
Before you get on the tractor
- Read and follow all of the manufacturer’s operating instructions
- Ensure tractor drivers have completed specialised training for the particular farm needs
- A rollover protective structure (ROPS) must be fitted to the tractor in accordance with s.216 Roll-over protection on tractors of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011
- Wear comfortable, well-fitting clothing and boots
- Wear hearing protection when driving tractors without cabins
- Wear a seat belt where fitted
- Adjust the seat so that all controls can be operated comfortably and safely
- Keep children away from tractors and machinery
- Keep all guards in place, including power take off (PTO) and master shield guards
- Do not carry passengers unless there is a designated seat and seat belt within the protective zone of the ROPS
A quick tractor inspection should include (but is not limited to):
- Checking all fluid levels
- Checking for any leaks – are there any puddles of fluid under the tractor?
- Check the tyres are properly inflated (if tracked, look for any bent shoes or accumulation of mud clogging up the tracks)
- Do a walkaround and look at its general condition – are there any cracks or broken parts?
- Check the seatbelt is functioning properly
- Start the tractor and watch the engine oil pressure gauge
- Check the lights and hazard lights are working
All the above should help you buy or sell your tractor, and give you good insight into what you should be looking at as a buyer, and what to do if you’re a seller.
Is there something we missed in this complete guide? Please let us know in the comments below.