Compact Tractors


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Compact Tractors that offer Big Features

It used to be that tractors were primarily used in larger scale farming and construction type applications, but with the coming of compact tractors a whole new world of usefulness has opened up to the average consumer.  No longer does one need 100's or 1000's of acres to justify owning a tractor.  Now, people with just a few acres (or even much less) can find use for these exciting new compact tractors.  In general, these tractors range in horsepower anywhere from around 15-50 HP.  Some machines feature hydrostatic drive which allows to the driver to operate the tractor without the use of a manual clutch.  Other compact tractors feature standard straight gearboxes that utilize a clutch.  Still others come equipped with a shuttle type transmission that is sort of a hybrid between a straight gear box and a hydrostatic transmission.  In a shuttle type transmission, the operator can move a lever back and forth to change direction without touching the clutch.  A hydraulically actuated clutch pack is automatically engaged and disengaged in a shuttle transmission and allows quick shifting in forward and backward directions.  This type of transmission is ideally suited for front loader work where the operator may need to quickly move back and forth repeatedly.  The majority of these smaller tractors come equipped diesel engines.  The diesel engine offers large amounts of torque at low RPM and therefore it is ideally suited for most tractor applications.  In addition, diesel engines are typically more fuel efficient than their gasoline driven counterparts.  Most of these tractors also come with a 3pt hitch out back that allows various implements and accessories to be used.  Power is provided to these rear mount implements either through a PTO shaft or perhaps remote hydraulic hook ups that provides hydraulic fluid flow off the tractor's hydraulic pump system.  

Kubota Compact Tractors

There are many different brands of compact tractors.  This is a good thing because it gives the consumer many different options to choose from!  Companies like John Deere, Kubota, New Holland, Massey Ferguson, Jinma, and more produce a wide variety of different compact tractors.  When faced with the decision about what to buy, it is good to start off by writing down some of what you need to do in a tractor.  Will you need to dig trenches?  Will you need to mow large areas?  Front loader work?  Rear scraper box for leveling driveway?  Write down all the things that you plan to do with your tractor, and then try your best to think about what other uses you might have in the future.  Also, try to write down your budget that you have to spend on the tractor.  Remember, you don't have to buy all the implements at once.  If money is short, just buy the tractor and implements that you really need up front, and you can always add implements later as the need arises and money is available.  Once you have a list of all that you want to accomplish and your spending budget, then you can start to research the various models of compact tractors.  Look at manufacturers that have a good track record of producing reliable machines, and a company that stands by their products.  It is no fun to invest in a machine that later is out of commission for an extended period of time because the company does not have parts readily available or because they have poor customer service.  Try to buy from a local dealer that can help support you and your tractor in the future.

One of the decisions that you will need to make is whether you need a 2WD or 4WD tractor.  A lot of it depends on how you will be using your tractor.  If you will be using your tractor in the mud, loose soil conditions, or in any low traction situation, then you will probably benefit from 4WD.  Other situations where 4x4 compact tractors might be required are when one expects to use the tractor for snow removal in the winter.  Also, pulling large ground breaking (tillage) implements may require the use of a 4WD tractor to provide the extra traction needed to put the power to the ground for extra pulling ability.  When doing heavy tillage, a two wheel drive tractor may just spin it's rear wheels and dig itself into it's own ruts.  Most of these 4x4 compact tractors come with the ability to lock the front and rear differentials for true 4 wheel drive when maximum traction is required.  If you know for sure that you will never need to use your tractor in a situation where 4x4 is needed, then 2WD can be a more economical way to go.  If you are unsure if you will need the traction abilities of a 4WD tractor, then you might want to consider buying one anyway (if you can afford it).  That way, if you ever do need 4x4, then you will have it at your command.  Many 4WD tractors can be run in two wheel drive mode to save on fuel costs and front tire wear, and if needed you can just simply engage four wheel drive mode.  Another factor to consider is future sale or trade in of a tractor.  Most likely, 4x4 compact tractors should hold their value better than most 2WD tractors.

  Mahindra 4WD Tractor

Mahindra 4x4 Tractor

Another big question that will come up is: HOW MUCH HP DO I NEED?  This is a big and important question.  You don't want to get this wrong!  It might be best to first determine which tractor implements you heed to run now and also anticipate running in the future.  Find out how much HP it takes to run those various implements.  Once you have figured out a maximum HP level that meets all your anticipated implement needs, take that HP number and shoot for a machine that is at least a little higher than that.  Hard to say exactly how much higher because it will depend on what implements you might want to use in the future, but you did not anticipate up front. If finances allow, go for at least 10-20% more HP than you anticipate needing.  See what others recommend.  Just keep in mind that once you have purchased a tractor, you are basically stuck with the HP level for as long as you own the machine.  A slightly larger, more powerful engine will probably use very little additional fuel since these diesel engines are governed and if engine loads are kept low on a larger engine, then fuel consumption will be lower as well.  But, if you are ever in a situation where you need the extra power, the larger & more powerful engine will have more HP on tap to handle the extra load.  Most of these tractors are governed to operate at engine speeds below around 3000 RPM.  Actually, closer to 2000 RPM is probably a happier operating range for many of these diesel engines.  These are not high revving gas engines.  The diesel engines in most of these tractors are designed to produce peak power at low RPM's.

Kubota Engine 

Kubota Diesel Tractor Engine

For the sake of discussion, let's say you have 2 compact tractors that basically equal in size and weight with the only significant difference being engine power.  Let's say one of the machines has a 30 HP engine and the other a 40 HP engine.  From the outside, both of these compact tractors may look pretty much the same, but when the going gets tough then the differences will become more evident.  Let's say you equip both machines with a large PTO driven brush cutter / mowing deck.  Now let's say you have a field with some very heavy vegetation and brush to knock down.  Maybe the vegetation is damp and heavy from recent rain or even dew.  Now let's also say that there are some sloped areas in the field that require you to drive uphill while cutting.  Perhaps on paper 30 HP should be adequate for the size of cutting deck that you have, but given the conditions of heavy brush and vegetation and the need to climb uphill while cutting... all these factors might put your 30 HP engine close to the edge of the limits of what it is able to do.  On the other hand, the 40 HP tractor might be able to handle the same conditions with relative ease.  Under those conditions, it could even be conceivable that the tractor with the more powerful 40 HP engine could get better fuel economy than it's 30 HP counterpart!  Reason is that running the 30 HP engine at it's limits may require running at a higher RPM to help prevent the cutter from stalling out under heavy loads.  Even if engine RPM is set no higher on the 30 HP than the 40 HP, the engine governor will load down the 30HP engine more at the same RPM in order to try to maintain constant forward speed and PTO shaft RPM.  As a result of all this, the smaller engine may be operating outside of it's peak fuel efficiency range, and therefore it might get worse fuel economy than a slightly larger engine that is allowed to run under lighter engine loads because it has the extra HP and torque needed to keep things moving along more easily.  Not to mention, operating a smaller engine under heavy loads and near it's design limits of power output will probably result in shorter engine life and potential for greater costs of maintenance and repair in the future.  All that to say, if it is possible for you to afford it, try to look at compact tractors that have a little more horsepower than you anticipate needing today.  If you don't need the extra power in the future, then the engine will run under lighter loads and probably live a longer and happier life.  If you ever encounter a situation where you need the extra power, then you'll sure be glad you have it!

Used Compact Tractors

If you are looking to buy a compact tractor, then you might want to consider a used machine.  It is possible to find low hours, well maintained used compact tractors for price savings that might enable you to get more machine for your money.  It is also important to investigate new prices too, and don't assume that all used tractors are a good deal.  Some sellers might be very fond of their used machine and could simply be asking too much.  You don't want to buy used and later find that you could have bought new for close to the same price!  It's probably good to shop around for both used and new and see what you come up with.  One of the areas that needs to be considered is the value of different brand names.  It might be possible to find a new compact tractor that is lower cost than some other brands of used compact tractors.  Brands like John Deere have a good reputation and can demand a higher price (both new and re-sale).  Brands like Kubota also have a very good reputation, but value (features for the price) can be very good on both new and used Kubota tractors.  Some other brands of Japanese tractors or some of the Chinese tractors like Jinma can offer a lot of features for a relatively low price.

Used Tractor

Keep in mind that most compact tractors these days are a made overseas.  Even big names like John Deere have some of their machines manufactured overseas.  Whatever brands you consider, just be sure to check out parts availability.  Don't take just one person's word for it that parts may be available for a foreign made tractor.  Verify this upfront.  The last thing you want is a tractor (new or used) for which it is difficult to find parts.   Having a tractor out of commission for an extended time (or indefinitely) because of a repair that can not be made due to poor parts availability is a nightmare.  Don't consider any tractor unless you know that you can get parts!  Furthermore, as you are looking at different used compact tractors, some of the important things to check out include the engine fluids.  Pull the dipstick and check the engine oil and see how it looks.  Does the oil look tan or light brown, or is it black?  Very dark black oil can mean the engine oil has not been changed regularly.  Also, check to see if there are any signs of water in the engine oil.  This might be evident by milky looking deposits on the dipstick which could be a sign of water in the oil.  This could be caused by a coolant leak in the engine such as a cracked head or perhaps a leaky head gasket.  Also remove the radiator cap and check the coolant to see if it has any signs of oil contamination.  Oil should float to the surface and be easy to detect.  If there are any signs of coolant and oil mixing, then definitely move on to something else!  Expensive engine repairs can really negate any savings of buying a used tractor.  You could easily end up paying more in the long run by buying used tractors with serious problems.  Be sure to also check the tractor's hydraulic fluid by pulling the dipstick and see if it looks clean and normal.  Very dark colors or a "burnt" smell are good indications to look elsewhere!  Also, be sure to inspect the tractor and look for leaks.  Some small hydraulic leaks like light weeping around hydraulic cylinders (like on a front loader) or around hydraulic fittings can be normal on used tractors.  Just make sure that it is not excessively leaking anywhere.  If you are looking at used Kubota tractors, then be sure to watch out for gray market models that may not be supported by Kubota.  Click here for more info on: used Kubota tractors.

Used Tractors with Implements

Naturally, one of the most important things to do while shopping for a tractor is to take it for a test drive!  Listen to the engine.  Make sure there are no unusual sounds.  Keep in mind that most compact tractors are diesel powered, and the engine will have a louder knocking sound than a comparable gasoline engine.  A light "knocking" sound of a typical diesel engine is normal.  If you are not familiar with diesel engines, then try to take someone along who is and can recognize what a normal diesel engine sounds like.  Be sure to shift through the gears on the transmission (or test out the hydro drive if it is equipped with a hydrostatic transmission).  Listen for unusual noises or excessive vibrations while driving.  If any of the used tractors you are looking at comes with implements like a front loader, then be sure to test them out and make sure they operate smoothly.  Also, keep an eye out for the tires and see how much tread is left on them.  Tractor tires can be very expensive to replace, so factor that in when figuring price savings of purchasing used versus new.  Keep in mind that a tire might have "like new" tread, but be on the verge of being junk because of weather checking and deterioration of the rubber.  This is especially true of tractors that have sat outside for much of their life, because the UV rays from the sun will deteriorate the rubber in the tires even while it just sits there.

There are used tractors that can be purchased that are well maintained and have low hours and can offer a lifetime of service if properly maintained.  Buying a brand new tractor can also be a good investment if you find a reputable brand that offers a good value for your money.  In addition, new tractors typically have a warranty that covers defects in parts and workmanship for an extended period of time.  Most used compact  tractors will not have a warranty unless you buy from a tractor dealer that also independently offers a warranty on the used tractors they sell.  Shop around, research on the internet, talk with local dealers, talk with tractor owners, and make an informed choice that you can enjoy (and not regret) for many years to come!