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To Buy Used or Not to Buy Used Tractor

Buying a used tractor is tempting financially, but can be scary considering the problem that could come with a used vehicle. Even with added mechanical problems, a new tractor could still be more expensive. Yet, salesmen have some great deals with no down payments, low (or no!) interest for a period. Making this decision is a toughie, so keep reading.

 Tractor are a huge part of the budget. First buying the tractor is a big part of that, but maintenance and the cost of running the tractor are huge factors for a farm’s finances. A new tractor dealer should be able to explicitly tell a customer what a tractor can and can’t do. A good dealer will listen to a farmer’s current and future needs and ask relevant questions about the farm, and may even visit it to fully understand. They will also consider the farmer’s budget. Then the dealer knows what tractor, or tractors, to recommend. Then, a farmer can take a model for a test ride.

The farmer should use the test drive to feel out the tractor. He or she should feel comfortable. The decision will stick for a while, and there really isn’t room for buyer’s regret (or doubt) when it comes to tractors. Narrowing in on a particular model means it’s time to take it for a spin on the farm. Sometimes, that’s not possible, but if it is, do it.

After deciding, it’s time for negotiations to begin. The farmer should remember that the dealer needs to make a profit. Paying a bit more for the exact model that will fit what you need is a good decision. After filling out the paperwork, the dealer will do a few more paperwork items and tune-ups. This is your time to dive into the manual. Once you get the tractor, make sure the dealer reviews all parts of running and maintaining. He shouldn’t leave until you feel 100 percent confident about how to run the thing safely. Keep the tractor up according to the manual. Wax it, care for it, and you will be happy with your purchase for a long time.

When buying used, only buy from the private seller. A dealer won’t know exactly what the tractor can do or has done. The buyer should do a lot of research to know exactly what he is looking at and know if it will work for your farm. Think of a price with the help of machinefinder.com or some similar site. Make sure you have your payment plan lined up so when you find the perfect fit, you can buy it on the spot and not risk losing it to someone who was more prepared.

It is necessary to look at the history of maintenance. Buy from someone who obviously takes care of their property and has an organized logbook. Ask about what implements that tractor has hauled, and who has driven the vehicle. Check the pedals, tires and other parts for wear and tear that show that the tractor has been used more than the hour meter claims. Check the safeties to see if the safeties are enabled. If not, then you might be looking at an abused tractor. Fluids are another thing to check. If the fluids are full and clean, then the owner has probably maintained it well. If the filter dates match the log book, then the owner probably has been meticulous about care. Bringing a mechanic along to check out the tractor is a good idea, too.

So which is better, a new or used tractor? There isn’t a clear choice, but simply put, it comes down to whatever feels right for you. If you feel fine doing a few repairs on your own for the sake of a bargain, then go for a used vehicle. Your farm’s budget obviously will play a role in your decision. A used tractor might require a one-time payment upfront. If you can’t afford that, a low-interest, zero down, financing option could work better.

Also think about your priorities for features. Do you require certain features? Some used tractors might not have the newer technology that you desire. A fast-changing engine technology is needed for the Tier 4 emissions requirements. Newer engines are more fuel-efficient. But fuel-efficient vehicles are both more expensive and require diesel exhaust fluids or regenerative particulate filters that need replacing occasionally. Engines that comply with Tier 4 standards need special instruments to read the diagnostic issues. For example, one tractor required a $5,000 tablet for diagnostic use. For a farmer who wants to do his own mechanical work, a machine that is Tier 1,2, or 3 would be cheaper to work on.

Think carefully before buying, new or used. Use these tips.



  • highest technology

  • warranty

  • easy to pay for

  • payment incentives (zero down, rebates, etc.)


  • higher cost

  • newer designs not necessarily perfected

  • new emissions control necessitates special maintenance

  • depreciation is steep



  • lower cost

  • low depreciation rate

  • defects on purchase have been fixed/ worked out


  • history of maintenance might be incomplete

  • more difficult to pay for

  • outdated model


  1. I know exactly what you mean when you talk about buying a used tractor being tempting but worrisome at the same time. It’s the same thing with buying a car too. You want it to last, preform well and not need a lot of maintenance. I like your idea of buying from a private seller if you go the used route. That way you can ask detailed questions and receive answers from the one who used it. Thanks for the advice.

  2. It seems like a smart move to check out the history of maintenance. It’s what I do when I buy a used car. It sounds like the same principles apply when buying agricultural machinery.

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