If you're in need of a quality farm tractor but are on a budget or simply don't want to spend a lot of money, a used farm tractor may be just the ticket for your farm operation. Whether it's an antique John Deere row-crop tractor or a 2-year-old, 40-horsepower New Holland garden tractor, a used farm tractor can come in any size and can accomplish any job you throw at it -- as long as you choose one that complements your farming lifestyle. Developing a clear idea of what type of tractor you need is a key step in a successful search for a used farm tractor.
Make a list of the jobs you'll need your farm tractor to accomplish. Possible tasks include scooping and carrying mulch or manure, powering attachments such as a mower or planter, and pulling implements like a wagon.
Assess how much you'll use your tractor, as well as the amount of land you'll need it for. If you only have 5 acres of cropland and will just use your tractor to harvest hay once a year, you'll typically need a smaller machine with less horsepower; if you plan to use your tractor daily to clean out your cow stalls and pull wagons of forage and grain, look for a more powerful tractor with a front-end loader. Decide how much you're willing to pay for your used tractor, since this will allow you to eliminate tractors outside your price range.
Talk with people you know or trust. Washington State University Cooperative Extension suggests that you check with relatives, friends or neighboring farmers who might have a used tractor available for sale that fits your needs (see Reference 1). Getting a tractor from individuals like these helps reduce your chances of purchasing a lemon.
Check at farm auctions and dispersal sales for a quality used tractor; often, used tractors sold at these sales are well cared for and sell at a low cost. According to Washington State University Cooperative Extension, if you know very little about farm tractors or are just getting into farming, your best option is typically going to a local farm equipment dealer (see Reference 1).
Take each tractor for a test-drive and check it for wear and tear. Dr Von H. Jarrett, an Extension Agricultural Engineer at Utah State University, suggests that you conduct a thorough check of the tractor, including its transmission, clutch, brakes, exhaust and gauges (see Reference 2). If necessary, take along a friend or acquaintance who is knowledgeable about tractors who can help you determine if a specific tractor is a worthwhile investment.