Choosing the right tractor

by Anonymous Author

Buying a tractor, whether it’s new or used, is a big investment for a lifestyle block owner in terms of what you’ll pay to buy it or what you’ll spend on maintaining it. 

There are a huge range of options when you’re contemplating a tractor for a lifestyle block, options that will be influenced by individual circumstances.

If you have little experience with tractors, it’s easy to get confused. The most important thing is to think the purchase through before rushing in and buying.

Buying new offers peace of mind. Expect a manufacturer to offer a 24-month basic warranty, some even go as far as a 36-month powertrain warranty (engine, transmission, differentials and axle assemblies) on new tractors.

The number of hours on the warranty will be irrelevant for most lifestyle block owners — you’re unlikely to clock up more than a few hundred hours before the first two years is up. 

The variety of used tractors is huge — ranging from low hours/nearly new through to vintage or classic models.

Get someone with experience to check out any used tractor before you buy it.

Of course there is the option of not buying one at all and either getting a contractor in or hiring when the machinery is needed.

Not all tractors are suitable for every property and safety has to be the number one consideration.

Choosing the right machine to start with is the key, but keeping it well maintained also plays a huge part in staying safe.

Don’t forget that the cost of owning a tractor is more than just the purchase price. Running costs include fuel, oils, repairs and scheduled maintenance. Remember to factor in depreciation and insurance, and finance costs (or the loss of opportunity having cash tied up in machinery rather than being used elsewhere).

Once you’ve bought it — look after it. Taking care of your tractor extends its working life and will ensure a higher resale value if you ever decide to part with it.

Things to consider:

Budget

Regardless of your budget, check the price of a new tractor — it’ll put the price of used machines into perspective and you may be surprised by the affordability taking the benefits of owning new into account.

Horsepower

Tractor power is expressed in horsepower — it’s good to have a horsepower figure for a tractor, but that doesn’t tell you what it’s capable of doing. Higher horsepower doesn’t always mean more useable power.

Tyres

Tyres are one of the very important parts to look at when buying a tractor.

They can be expensive to replace — so take tyre condition into account when you’re looking at buying a used tractor.

It’s also an expensive exercise to change the tyres on a tractor from say — ag tread to turf tyres — you’re better off getting a tractor with the tyres you want already on it.

There are three types of tyres suitable for utility tractors: R1 (ag or bar tread) tyres give you the best traction, but can cause the most ground damage; R3 (turf tread) tyres are ideal for jobs like mowing and have the least traction; R4 (industrial-tread) tyres have excellent traction, and are a good compromise if you’re going to be using your tractor on the lawn as well as in the paddock.

Rear Linkage

At the back of the tractor is a threepoint hitch or linkage, which has three mounting points for implements — two draft arms and a top link. The draft/lift arms do the work of lifting the implement, the top link controls its angle relative to the ground.

Most tractors that would be used on a lifestyle block would have a CAT1 or CAT2 hitch — this refers to the diameter of the holes on the draft/lift arms. You can fit a CAT1 implement onto CAT2 arms (using sleeves over the implement pins) but not vice-versa.

Rear Hydraulics

If you’re planning on using hydraulic implements with your tractor, you’ll need rear SCVs (Selective Control Valves). Make sure the tractor you’re buying has got them, or can have them added — find out what the cost is to add them first — it isn’t that cheap. Rear SCVs are used to run hydraulic top links, post rammers, forklifts, log splitters, anything else that is operated hydraulically.

Tractor safety

Balance the front and rear of the tractor. Fill the tyres with water or add weight to the back of the tractor if you’re lifting something heavy in front — it will keep the rear tyres on the ground. The same goes for the front.

Stay within the ROPS (rollover protection structure) zone. This U-shaped bar over the seat protects the driver in a rollover. Don’t buy a tractor unless it has a ROPS fitted. If it has a ROPS, your tractor should also have a seat belt. Wear it. ROPS do not work unless you stay inside the protection zone if the tractor rolls over. Hanging on doesn’t work.

Turn off the engine and wait for everything to stop before getting off the tractor — especially mowers and cultivation equipment. Remember to put the park brake on before getting off the tractor.

Never carry passengers on the tractor (unless it’s a cab tractor with a passenger seat) — it’s dangerous, one slip and they’re under a wheel.