Compact utility tractors (Figure 1) are popular for use on small acreages for mowing and operating other implements, but they are also expensive.
Although there are some imported compact tractors available under $10,000, most compact tractors from major manufacturers are in the $10,000 – $20,000 range. Not everyone can afford to spend that much for a small tractor – or justify spending that much. There are some alternatives that might meet your needs adequately.
Used Compact Tractors
Buying an older, used compact tractor (Figure 2) can be a viable alternative. These small diesel tractors (at least the ones from major manufacturers) are designed to provide several thousand hours of service. A used compact tractor can do virtually anything a new one can, but perhaps with fewer frills. The main drawback to a used compact tractor is that they are popular and thus somewhat expensive. Compact tractors from the major manufacturers hold their value well, and you won’t find many bargains.
Used Farm Tractors
Another option that many people find viable is a used farm tractor (Figure 3). There are older, small farm tractors available that are similar in size to compact utility tractors, but you might want to consider a farm tractor in a larger size, perhaps 40-60 hp – or even more. Farm tractors (from major manufacturers) tend to hold up even longer than compact utility tractors. Many 50- to 60-year-old farm tractors are still in use. They are readily available, and some are priced reasonably - especially on a per-horsepower basis.
Fuel consumption will be higher on the larger tractors and the older ones will burn gasoline rather than diesel, but unless you run the tractor a lot, this will be more than offset by your initial savings. The smaller farm tractors like the venerable Farmall Cub are versatile, but they still command premium prices because of their popularity for both use and collecting.
Even larger old tractors that are popular with collectors can be fairly expensive, but there are still many older tractors out there that are very capable of operating a mower, disk, front-end loader, etc. and are reasonably priced. Generally, the better the condition of the tractor, the more expensive it will be. An old tractor that has been restored (engine, clutch, transmission rebuilt; seals replaced; steering repaired; repainted; etc.) will obviously cost more than a tractor that has not been restored.
Of course, most old tractors have been repaired over the years, and tractors are available in all conditions from junk sitting in a fencerow through running but rough-looking tractors to fully restored. If you just want a tractor to use, you will be more concerned with mechanical condition than looks. You have the option of finding a tractor in the condition you desire or buying one needing repairs and then doing the work yourself.
Limitations on Old Farm Tractors
There are some caveats involved in using an old farm tractor instead of a new compact tractor. Tractors are steadily improving, and a new compact tractor will offer features and convenience not always found on older tractors such as power steering, 3-point hitch, more versatile transmission, better seats and improved hydraulics. A new compact tractor will likely require less maintenance and care. Many of the oldest tractors have narrow front tire spacing and are tall (they were designed for row-crop farming), thus they are less stable for loader work and may be too tall for mowing under trees. Few older tractors have rollover protective structures (ROPS).
An old farm tractor can meet the needs of many homeowners for mowing and light garden chores at reasonable cost. Using and working on an old, classic tractor can be rewarding, too. For more information on old tractors, including price surveys, consult Yesterday’s Tractors on the Website. This site has information on most brands and links to additional information sources.