You work hard on your land, putting your blood, sweat and tears into it. Your tractor must be reliable, affordable, and highly productive. While you'd love to save money by purchasing a used machine, you're not sure if it would cost more due to repairs and replacement in the long run. Doing your research will ensure that you get the tractor you need at a price you can afford.
How Long Does a Tractor Last?
While there are certain products that have a very definite shelf-life, tractors are not one of them. You may be wondering how long a tractor lasts, but the question doesn’t have a simple answer.
Unlike cars, which measure mileage on an odometer, tractor usage is measured in hours. Any time the engine is running, the hours are being logged. The challenge, is that depending on the age of the tractor, those hours may have been calculated differently. A newer tractor (within the last 15 years or so) will count clock hours regardless of engine speed. An older tractor depends on the speed at which it was running.
When it comes to purchasing a used tractor, the engine should still work after 5,000 to 10,000 hours. However, other aspects of the machine, like the transmission, clutches, hydraulics, and more may need to be replaced to keep the tractor in good running order. A general rule of thumb is that 2,000 to 2,500 hours is well broken-in while anything above 35,000 hours is considered high. This isn't, however, the only factor you should look at.
How Many Hours Is Too Many Hours on a Tractor?
There is no set answer to "how many hours is too many hours?" for a tractor. While the usage is measured differently than in automobiles, there are some similarities. Imagine that you have a choice between one car with 50K miles and another with 100K. The former has fewer miles but is from an unreliable brand and was poorly maintained, while the latter is from a company known for reliability and was treated like a part of the family.
Which car would you choose?
The same considerations apply when you are looking for a tractor. It is more important to learn how the machine was maintained than to simply look at the number of hours on its engine.
When Is It Okay to Buy Tractors With High Hours
Now that you understand there are more important factors than the number of hours on a tractor, it's time to look at some best practices when tractor shopping.
Pay attention to the overall appearance. It should be fairly easy to spot a tractor that was neglected for decades. Are there rust spots or poor paint jobs to hide the rust? A paint job could also suggest that the tractor underwent fire or flood damage. Does the inside look well-maintained? Do the tires look cracked or worn?
Look for any potential leaks. This could show up as streaks of oil across the tires.
Request a maintenance history. If the previous owner isn't able to give you a straight answer or produce a log, this may be an indication that the machine was "abused" instead of "used."
Have a reliable mechanic look over any tractors you're considering before you purchase them. A mechanic can look for signs of use such as how loose the 3pt hitch is, whether there is floppy steering, excessive drawbar and lift arm wear, ease in starting and shifting, etc.
Consider purchasing through a dealer who can potentially finance your purchase, will know more about the maintenance that's been done on the tractor, and can assist you with any necessary service.
Purchasing a tractor for your land is a very big decision and an even bigger investment. Thankfully, understanding how used tractors are judged, doing your homework, and consulting professionals can ensure that it's a wise decision and a sound investment that you'll only have to make once.