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Fastline Tractor Buying Guide
How to Buy a Used Tractor
Introduction

Buying a used tractor can offer real advantages for your growing operation. It means you can save serious money on a major purchase. Understanding how to buy a used tractor can help you avoid some costly mistakes and ultimately means you’ll have the best experience possible, with the best outcome, when navigating the used farm equipment marketplace.

Fastline is an excellent place to start your search for your new tractor. This used tractor buying guide will provide you with the guidance and information you need to ensure you know everything you should before you set out to buy your used tractor.

Contents

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Important Considerations

Before you begin your tractor buying quest, you should look at why you need a new farm tractor and, perhaps more importantly, how you’ll be using your tractor. If you primarily engage in small-scale organic produce farming, for example, you can usually get by with a much smaller tractor than you would need if your growing operation covers a great deal of acreage.

Here are some key considerations to keep in mind when you set out to buy used tractors for your farm or land.

Four-Wheel Drive vs. Two-Wheel Drive

If you’ll need to navigate rough terrain or wade through muddy fields during planting time, you're going to want the power and reliability of four-wheel drive to deal with these major challenges. Two-wheel drive tractors are most useful in produce farms and smaller organic operations. If you can afford the added expense, opting for four-wheel drive is almost always a cost-effective decision that you likely won’t regret. Keep in mind that you’ll also get more for a four-wheel drive tractor when you go to sell it or trade it in for your next purchase, because there is more demand for them than there is for two-wheel drive models.

Horsepower

Tractors are divided into categories according to horsepower:

  • Subcompact tractors range between 20 and 30 horsepower and are ideal for property management tasks like mowing and tilling.
  • Compact tractors offer more power and can boast anywhere from 25 to 60 horsepower.
  • Utility tractors up the ante even more with horsepower ratings of 40 to 70, making them a solid choice for most medium-sized to large farming operations or construction jobs.

It’s always preferable to have more horsepower than you need rather than less. Investing a few extra dollars in added horsepower can better ensure that your tractor will be able to handle even the toughest jobs with ease.

Transmission Types

Older tractors may feature a standard mechanical transmission that can handle almost any situation. However, these transmission types require added work on the part of your driver and, depending on the age of the tractor, may be more prone to breakdowns. Hydrostatic transmissions offer slightly better ease-of-use but can fail to perform optimally at higher horsepower. These variable displacement pumps can deliver different amounts of power depending on a driver's needs. Hydraulic transmission types are designed to deliver the same reliable amount of power with every compression, allowing dependable performance for you and your crew behind the wheel.

Compatible Equipment

You want to make sure that the tractor you’re considering will work with the attachments and equipment you need to complete tasks on your farm. If you’re wondering how to buy used tractor equipment to fit your new acquisition, Fastline and other online resources can offer valuable guidance regarding planters, mowers, balers and other equipment designed to work with your tractor. This can help you avoid serious mistakes when purchasing your new tractor and equipment. Be especially mindful of the PTO horsepower rating of tractors for sale; this determines the type of equipment they can operate in the field. If you’re buying from a dealer, always let your sales representative know what you intend to use your tractor for so he or she can recommend the appropriate size of tractor as well as compatible attachments.

Hours of Use

While this can vary widely depending on how well a tractor has been maintained, some mechanical experts estimate the useful life of a tractor is around 5,000 hours of use or less. But keep in mind that if the previous owner has been diligent with maintenance, some tractors can have more than 12,000 hours and still be in great condition.

Once you inquire about the estimated hours the tractor you’re interested in still has, be thorough in your mechanical inspection, so you can make the most educated and practical use of your available funds and get a tractor that will be operable for years to come.

Condition

No used tractor buyers guide would be complete without a caveat about mechanical inspections. If you are not an expert on tractors, bring along someone who is before you sign your name on the dotted line. A relatively small investment in a professional inspection can help you avoid purchasing a tractor that is past its sell-by date. This can likely save you much more money than the fee assessed by a professional tractor mechanic would cost you.

If enlisting the help of a professional is not practical, bring along our Tractor Buying Guide and follow the instructions or checklist given. This way, you are equipped to knowledgably assess the visible condition of the tractor and ensure it’s in good condition and ready to serve as a workhorse on your acreage.

Amenities

Air conditioning, Wi-Fi and other amenities like a comfortable seat can make a real difference in the morale of your crew and may even increase productivity in the field. By investing a little extra in these comfort-features, you can often recoup the money you spend in improved performance by your staff and increased communication with key employees during the most critical periods in your farming operation.

Availability of Parts

While some very old tractors may still be in great running condition, keep in mind that availability of replacement parts for these vehicles may be severely limited. Consider the cost and difficulty that may be involved in repairing even minor issues before you decide to invest your hard-earned money in these antique tractors. A little research could potentially save you thousands of dollars in repair and machining costs for tractors that are no longer supported by their manufacturers.

Used Tractor Checklist

This used tractor guide can help you identify any issues with a tractor you are considering before you are stuck with a lemon that does not perform for you and your farm. Here are some key questions to ask when checking out any potential acquisitions:

  • Is the tractor in generally good condition?
  • How many hours of use are on the tractor's meter? Is it still functional?
  • How old is the tractor?
  • Have repairs been attempted on the structural elements or engine block?
  • Is there any tread left on the tires?
  • Is the seat comfortable and in good condition?
  • Are there any structural defects that can be easily visibly spotted or found through careful inspection?
  • Does the tractor have a standard hitch configuration?
  • When you examine the dipstick, is the oil at the correct level? Is it clear or black?
  • Are there oil stains under the tractor?
  • Are the air filters clean and in good condition?
  • Does the tractor start easily?
  • Do the indicator lights on the dashboard show any problems? Specifically, does the oil light or temperature light come on?
  • Does the tractor produce smoke or unusual smells during operation?
  • Does it shift easily through all the gears?
  • Is there any detectable slippage during operation, especially when shifting into high gear?
  • Are the brakes in good working condition?
  • During the test drive, did the temperature gauge show any signs of overheating?
  • Does the four-wheel-drive engage and disengage smoothly?
  • Does the vehicle steer smoothly?
  • Are there any clunks, bumps or other unexpected noises when starting the engine or driving the tractor?
  • Does the hydraulic system have any leaks or visible damage?
  • Do the hydraulics perform as expected?

Also be sure to ask the seller why he or she is getting rid of the tractor. In some cases, the honest answer may surprise you and provide you with added insights into the tractor you’re considering purchasing for your farming operation. Lastly, you should try to schedule a time to inspect and test drive the tractor early in the day. Ideally, you’ll want to start the tractor for the first time of the day so you get a clear picture of how it starts cold.

Where to Find Used Tractors

Dealers in new tractors may also carry used tractors for sale. In most cases, however, you can expect to pay a premium price without the benefit of a warranty or other safeguards, potentially making this a relatively high-cost transaction both in terms of the money you’re going to put out, as well as any overall general risk you may take. Pre-owned tractors from a dealer may come with a dealer inspection, but it’s still wise to perform your own check before taking the leap to purchase.

There are also some pros to buying from a dealer. While you may be able to negotiate a little more on price when dealing with an individual, dealers have a dedicated sales force trained to help you identify the best type of tractor for your specific needs, and they also may be able to help you get your tractor in for service, eliminating lengthy downtime while repairs are made.

Other sources for used tractors can include the following:

  • Farmers in your area may be looking to upgrade their current equipment and may offer you a fair deal on their used tractors. Once again, a thorough inspection will allow you to make a fair offer on tractors and accessories. And be sure to ask why they didn’t trade the tractor in when they made a new purchase? This could be a warning sign that the tractor isn’t in optimal condition.
  • Websites like Fastline can provide you with thousands of choices that allow you to deal directly with owners and sellers across the country. This means you can take your pick of the available options and make the best possible deal for your new acquisition.
  • Advertised farm auctions and estate sales are good places to find bargains; however, be wary that the burden of inspecting and assessing the condition of any tractors will be solely your own and often must be done on a fairly quick timeline.

By checking each of these sources for the tractor you want, you can increase your chances of finding the right equipment at a price that meets your budget. If you arrange to meet a seller in person, be sure to take steps to protect yourself and your funds from unscrupulous individuals. Ensuring that your purchase is legal and aboveboard can save you significant headaches and difficulties later.

Summary

In the used tractor marketplace, taking ample time to assess your needs and to inspect the tractors available means you can make the best possible decision for your operation. Fastline is here to help with a solid array of choices to offer maximum flexibility for your used tractor search.

Browse our huge selection of used tractors HERE. Use the Search Filters to narrow your selection by horsepower, distance, price, hours, and more!

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Main Tractor Buying Guide
Main Tractor Buying Guide