How to find the right tractor for your operation

Lacey Jarrell/Capital Press Low-hour used tractors that have received regular maintenance can be a better option than buying new.

When it comes to tractors, bigger isn’t always better.

“You don’t go by big, you go by horsepower,” said J.O. Anderson, a sales representative at Kubota Tractor in Aurora, Ore.

According to Anderson, farmers in the market for a new tractor should think about how many acres they have and the type farming they want to do. He said most small scale farms only need a 20- to 50-horsepower tractor, while large-scale farms — about 100 to 500 acres — will likely require an 80- to 130-horsepower tractor, depending on the crop.

“When harvest conditions are not good, 100 horsepower doesn’t hurt you one bit. When the ground gets soft and muddy, it takes more power,” he said.

Anderson said potential buyers should have a good idea of what they want to do with the tractor, as well as the topography it will be driven on. For steep hillsides farmers will want a wide profile tractor; in orchards, tractors should be low profile to get under tree branches, he said.

John Purkerson, a turf sales representative for Pape, said buyers should also consider whether they want a hydrostatic drive or a gear drive. According to Purkerson, hydrostatic drive tractors can be more efficient for getting around stalls because they are powered by one pedal for forward and one for reverse.

“A hydrostatic drive is like an automatic, so anybody can get pretty familiar with that tractor real quick. A gear drive tractor is going to take a little more knowledge to operate,” Purkerson said.

Although all tractors will run just about any implement, farmers should also consider which attachments they want to use before purchasing, Purkerson said. If there isn’t any farming to do, at the minimum, a rotary mower is needed to keep the grass cut. Most people will have a front-end loader on the tractor just to lift and move things on their acreage, he added.

“If they just have some pasture grass that they want to mow, then we know they can probably be in a smaller tractor,” Purkerson said. “It might take you a while longer to get the job done with a smaller tractor, but it’s still going to do the same work.”

Anderson said used tractors are a good option for farmers who don’t want to buy new, and if tractors are taken care of, they hold their value well. He noted that one common mistake buyers make when shopping for a used tractor is emphasizing what year it was made. That’s not important, according to Anderson. He said that rather than the year, hour meters are a better gauge of how much a tractor has been worked. He said low-use tractor hours range from 200 to 300 hours and medium-use tractor hours are up to 2,000 hours. Tractors with more than 2,000 hours can still be a good buy depending on how they’ve been cared for.

“If you see a good used one, grab it,” he said.

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