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Whether you’re looking at John Deere track tractors, need tractor tracks, or just want to know the difference between tracked vs wheeled tractors, this article is for you.

We discuss the pros and cons of each type, talk about common brands who offer both, and offer a final verdict on track vs tyre to put the debate to rest.

In this article:

  • Pros & cons of track tractors
  • Pros & cons of tyre tractors
  • Tyred vs Tracked – Costs
  • Tracked vs tyred – On the field
  • John Deere track tractors
  • New Holland track tractors
  • CASE track tractors

Let’s dive right into the weigh-up on each type.

Pros & Cons of Tyre vs Track Tractors

If it’s time to make a new machine purchase this year or next, it’s important you invest wisely. Take a look at the pros and cons of tracked vs tyre tractors to get a better idea of which may suit your needs.

john deere track tractor

Benefits of Track Tractors

  • Smoother ride on rough fields
  • More stability on hillsides
  • Better flotation
  • Better maneuverability
  • Higher level of tractive efficiency over a wider range of soil conditions
  • Easier implement hookup
  • Minimal ballast changes and no tire pressure to adjust
  • No power hop
  • Can’t go ‘flat’

Downsides of Track Tractors

  • Possible PTO and drawbar interference when making sharp turns
  • Reduced steering control under heavy draft load (following terraces, contours)
  • Rough ride and/or vibration on hard surfaces
  • Not compatible with loaders and dozers
  • Can’t change tread spacing
  • Soil berming and more crop damage on end rows
  • Higher upfront cost
  • Slower in transport mode than tyres

track tractor vs tyre tractor

Benefits of Tyre Tractors

  • Better turning under load
  • Good compaction
  • Better for dozing and loader applications
  • Smoother hard-surface ride
  • Easier steering
  • Less maintenance required
  • Easier to change out tyres for different uses
  • Less cost upfront
  • Faster transport

Downsides of Tyre Tractors

  • Not great in muddy/wet conditions
  • Higher slippage
  • Bumpier ride than tracked, except on hard surfaces
  • Power hops
  • Possibility of going flat

Cost of Tracked Tractors vs Wheeled Tractors

When considering tracked or tyre tractors, cost is an obvious factor. We break this down into general upfront, maintenance, and wear and tear costs to give you the bigger picture when it comes to cost. Of course, total costs will also depend on the brand, make, model and year tractor.

It will really come down to your budget and how many hours you will put into your tractor to decide whether the cost will be worth it.

Upfront Costs

In general, tracked tractors have a higher price tag than wheeled tractors at a similar HP.

For example, the John Deere 8335RT tracked tractor has an average used price of $209,000, where the 8335R FWA/4WD wheeled tractor’s average used price is $127,894.

That’s an average price difference of $81,106.*

Maintenance

It’s probably no surprise that a tracked tractor means you’ll be spending more on ongoing maintenance. Tracks have many more components that will require attention, cleaning, fixing and maintaining. And with more components comes more cost.

While with typical wheeled tractors, you have the basic components of the wheel and it’s a matter of changing out the tyre once it needs replacing

Wear & Tear

As mentioned above, tracks have plenty of moving parts. Moving parts means higher rate of wear and tear, which increases maintenance costs. To replace a set of rubber tracks will cost exponentially more than a new tyre or two.

Tracks Vs Tyres On The Field

track tractors fiat

So how do tracked tractors measure up to wheeled tractors on the field?

Wet/Dry Conditions

Both tyres and tracks work similarly for a range of conditions. However when it comes to very wet soil, tracks provide much better traction than tyres. In these cases, you also have to consider their impact on the soil.

Tyres provide better traction in dry conditions, but have to work a little harder in wet soil and may sometimes leave ruts. Tracks won’t leave ruts.  

Manoeuvrability

According to John Deere, track tractors are more maneuverable than tyred tractors. This is because they have the ability to zero-turn on the spot, great for moving at the end of crop rows. However, doing so will require more care and precaution as there is a risk of jack-knifing the tractor and the implement attached to the drawbar.

Compaction

Now we’re getting to the nitty-gritty. There is lots of debate around tracked and wheeled tractors and the comparison of how they rate in compaction. And since compaction can cause unnecessary soil degradation, you’re probably looking at buying tracked for this reason.

Mr Norberto Herbener OE applications engineer for Tellaborg Wheel Systems (America) told AgTireTalk there are 2 types of soil compaction:

“The superficial compaction (what we see on the ground) is related directly to the pressure per contact area (total weight of the equipment divided by the contact area between soil and tyres or tracks). The second compaction is the sub superficial (we don’t see because it’s beneath the ground) that is directly related to the weight per axle – independent of the contact area of the tires or tracks.”

So basically, when it comes to superficial compaction, tracks come out on top. But since tracked tractors are about 20% heavier than wheeled, they cause more sub-superficial compaction. In fact, there has been a study on soil contact pressures on 2 and 4-tracked systems as well as wheeled tractors. The results showed:

  • If the inflation pressure of the tires is less than 20 psi, tyres transmit less contact pressure to the soil compared to tracks.
  • From 20 – 35 psi, the tracks & wheel systems were comparable.
  • If the inflation pressure of the tires are above 35 psi, the track system had lower contact pressure than the tires.

Fuel Efficiency

When it comes to fuel efficiency, it depends greatly on the soil type and climate. Research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2012 revealed each type had their own advantages for fuel efficiency:

  • Concrete, tyres are more fuel efficient
  • Dry wheat stubble (immediately after harvest), tyres are more fuel efficient
  • After tilling & plowing the stubble under, tracks performed better
  • As the ground gets wetter, tracks become more fuel efficient

Where tracks really outperform wheels is at heavier payloads. The study saw tracks outperform tyres by about 1hp per gallon.

Track Tractors Vs Tyre Tractors At A Glance

Tracks Tyres
Upfront Cost $$$$ $$
Maintenance Cost $$$$ $$
Ride Smoother Rougher
Implement Hookup Easier More difficult
Turning Under Load More Difficult Easier
Wet Conditions Compaction Low High
Dry Conditions Compaction Low Low
Maneuverability Easier More difficult
Fuel Efficiency – Concrete Higher fuel usage Lower fuel usage
Fuel Efficiency – Dry Soil Higher fuel usage Lower fuel usage
Fuel Efficiency – Wet Soil Lower fuel usage Higher fuel usage

Top Tracked/Tyre Tractor Brands

Brands that offer tracked and wheeled tractors include:

Verdict

All in all, the main difference between tracked and tyred tractors is how they distribute weight, and how this benefits you and your operation. If you operate a tractor in smaller spaces or close quarters, and your soil is generally muddy and wet, a tracked tractor may benefit you.

It’s always best to try before you buy to see which tractor type suits your needs. With advancements in technology, wheeled tractors are becoming more versatile, and it’s possible the need for tracks may soon dwindle in the future.


*Prices are indicative of Machines4U listing data by sellers/advertisers and are an approximation only. Data is correct up to and at time of publishing. Prices may change and need to be verified with individual sellers.

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