A tractor is a big-ticket purchase that requires research and, of course, a budget. But buying a used tractor instead of a brand-new unit can somewhat cushion the blow to your bank account. However, the process of shopping for a secondhand unit isn’t as simple as buying a brand-new tractor.

With that said, here’s the lowdown on everything you need to consider before buying a used tractor.

Things to think about before you buy a used tractor

1. Budget

How much are you willing to spend on new equipment? If buying a brand-new tractor is your first choice and the price is the only thing holding you back, know that there are lots of financing options available to you. You can even take advantage of special tax breaks for farmers to bring you much closer to a brand-new machine.

But if you’re bent on going down the secondhand route, clearly defining your actual budget would do wonders. Remember: there are additional expenses associated with acquiring used equipment beyond the actual price of the tractor itself — so make to take this into account.

2. Size

It always pays to think long-term. When shopping for a secondhand tractor, try to think about what your needs are at the moment, and what you might be needing 5 to 10 years down the road.

The tractor you’re currently eyeing might work just fine for your farm at the moment, but will it still be big enough for your farm in the next five years? This is very important especially for farmers who have plans to expand aggressively in the near future. If you don’t think about these things now, you might end up having to buy another tractor next year anyway, which results in higher total spend.

Aside from sizing the tractor according to your farm’s area, think about all the implements you’re using, too. Will the tractor be able to support your biggest implement?

Hitting that sizing sweet spot will benefit you in a lot of ways. An oversized unit will be less fuel-efficient and can cause compaction issues. On the other hand, a tractor that is too small may be dangerous to operate and is more likely to run into problems from being overworked.

3. Post-purchase costs

Before blowing your entire budget on your tractor of choice, note that there are other post-purchase expenses that you have to cover. Think about insurance, housing, and variable costs like fuel, lubrication, and repairs. If you need to buy additional implements for the tractor, make sure to allocate budget for that, too.

4. Brand

While the brand really isn’t as important as other key considerations like features and specs, it’s different when you’re buying a used tractor. Remember: you’re more likely to run into problems the older a unit gets, so it’s helpful to look for a brand that’s easy to find parts for. Also, you might want to consider buying a tractor with a dealership located near where your farm is.

5. Age

Will the price you’ll be paying be a good deal in terms of how old and used the tractor is? When going for the secondhand route, try to look for a unit that’s been used for less than 5000 hours. Also, check what year the model came out in. Older models will have fewer electronic parts, which means there will be fewer issues to potentially run into. However, this also means less conveniences.

6. Feel and look

During the test drive, pay close attention to how comfortable you feel on the tractor. Now is the best time to notice things like ergonomics, maneuverability, and safety. Doing the test drive right on your farm would be best.

Other things to watch out for include wear on the wheels and pedals and the tractor’s fluids. If you can get an experienced mechanic to observe the machine with you, even better.

7. Seller

Buying used equipment from private sellers is admittedly less secure than buying from a big dealership. Professional dealers are more experienced in transfer of ownership and are more likely to make better recommendations according to your farm’s needs.

If buying from a private entity is inevitable, doing your homework will help make the experience as smooth as possible. Before approaching a seller, you should have already established a baseline price using online sources. Having your financing in order will also minimize delays and ensure that good deals won’t simply pass you by.

Also, find a tractor with a detailed maintenance history. The owner should be able to tell you the ins and outs of the tractor, as well as any issues encountered and previous implements that had been used with it.

Pros and cons of buying a used tractor

Needless to say, buying a used tractor will have its pros and cons—and we’ve summarized them below.

Pros:

  • They’re cheaper
  • Depreciation won’t hit you as hard
  • They’ve been tried and tested
  • Any manufacturer defects have already been worked out

Cons:

  • You might inherit maintenance woes
  • It might be harder to find new parts
  • Harder to finance
  • You’re less likely to have all the latest and greatest tech that come with new tractors

As a final note…

At the end of the day, you want to buy a tractor that fits your budget and your farm’s needs perfectly. No matter what type of tractor you choose to buy, taking care of it diligently and maintaining it by the book will help you lengthen its life and get the most back for your buck.