How To Choose The Right Tractor For Your Small Farm Or Homestead?

One thing you should keep in mind when choosing a tractor for your farm is that you want to find one that will allow you to do as many different tasks as possible. With the passage of time, you may need to invest in a different tractor for specialized tasks, but your first tractor should be a very all-purpose choice.

In this article, we answer 20 important questions to help you choose the best farm tractor to suit your needs. So if you are here to get an answer to your question ‘what kind of tractor do I need‘, read on to learn more.

20 Questions To Consider Before You Go Tractor Shopping

questions while tractor shopping

1. What kind of tractor do I need?

For many beginning farmers, a small to medium sized tractor is a good choice. Larger tractors are great for large landholders with 15-20 acres or more, but for the small farm a smaller machine is more versatile and can be used for tasks around the yard as well as out in the field.

2. What are the main tasks you wish to accomplish?

Think about the types of yard and farm work you’re most likely to need to do. This will help you determine which type of compact utility tractor you need to take care of your small landholding.

This is also an important question to keep in mind when choosing implements to go along with your tractor. For example, think about how you will use your machine in different times of year.

Will you need to mow large open fields? Do you have a need for snow removal? Will you need to haul heavy items such as bags of feed, hay bales, gravel and mulch? Will you need to cut in a road on your property?

The answers to all of these questions will help you to determine the strength of tractor you need as well as the implements you’ll need, e.g. tractor loader, rear blade, etc.

3. How much horsepower will you need?

Be sure to get a tractor that has enough horsepower (HP). Generally speaking, a small machine should have between 45 HP and 75 HP.

Determining the types of implements you need can help you determine how much horsepower you’ll need. Do you need to grade a yard with your tractor? Then you’ll need a box scraper, for example. For some other jobs, you may need a back/scraper blade, etc.

Different sizes and types of implements require different amounts of horsepower. When you’ve determined what you need to accomplish on your property and what types of implements will be necessary, you’ll have a good idea of how much horsepower you’ll need.

4. How much lifting capability should your tractor have?

Different sizes of compact tractors have different lifting capabilities. As you’re considering what size and how much horsepower you’ll need, you must think about exactly what types of materials you’ll need to lift and carry around your property.

You must determine exactly how heavy your loads of gravel, mulch, feed, hay, manure, etc. will be. This knowledge will help you choose the right machine to suit your purpose.

5. How much time do you have to spend on your property?

The size machine you buy will have a direct impact on the amount of time you need to spend getting things done. If you have a tight budget and purchase a very small tractor, you may find that you’re investing so much time in your tasks that it’s actually costing you more in the long run.

6. How many hours has this tractor clocked?

If you are looking at a used tractor, check the hour meter and give preference to used tractors that have fewer than five thousand hours logged. This will save you a lot of money in overhauls and repairs.

7. How modern is the tractor you have in mind?

Generally speaking, you should look for one that was made sometime after 1970. Tractors made prior to this usually lack safety features which we find absolutely essential today.

8. Does the tractor have good safety features?

Don’t accept a machine that is not fully equipped with a rollover protective structure (ROPS) and seatbelt. Tractor rollovers are all too common, and ROPS with a seatbelt can save you from being thrown from the seat and/or crushed under your machine should it rollover.

9. Should I splurge on a canopy?

A canopy is more than a nice addition to your ROPS. Having a canopy can help you stay cool in summer and protects you against problems such as heat stroke and skin cancer when working in the sun.

10. Does this tractor have PTO and live hydraulics?

Power take off (PTO) and live hydraulics are important features that you will not find in classic tractors from the 1940s and 1950s.

On these older tractors, if you depress the clutch, the PTO and hydraulics stop working. This is a major annoyance if you’re hard at work and need to use your clutch but then have to start all over again from a complete standstill.

11. How many live hydraulic outlets does the tractor have?

Look for one that has double live hydraulic outlets. You’ll need this to run a wide variety of modern farm machines. If you get a tractor that only has a single hydraulic outlet, you can add another one.

12. What kind of fuel does this tractor run?

Diesel engines are usually preferable to gasoline powered engines. These days most tractors are diesel powered, but you can still find some older models from the 1960s and 1970s that are powered by gasoline.

These machines don’t run dependably year-round, and if you get one that does not have an electronic ignition, it will really give you a lot of trouble. If the diesel tractor has been sitting for some time, here is what to do.

13. Will I have to add a 3-point hitch?

Be sure you get a machine that has a three point hitch because most farm equipment requires this. If you get an older tractor that does not have a three point hitch, you can buy a kit to install; however, these tend to be very expensive, inefficient and difficult to use.

14. What kind of tread will you need on your tractor tires?

You should also consider the lay of the land. Is your land mostly smooth and unobstructed, or will you need to deal with some rugged, hilly terrain?

If you need your tractor to do a wide variety of tasks over very different types of ground, you should choose industrial tires because they are quite versatile.

On the other hand, if you’re mostly going to be using your tractor to mow, a specialized turf tire is a better choice. This type of tire is especially designed to roll smoothly over even, well cared for ground and to be gentle on the grass.

15. Should I get a tractor with 4-WD?

Four-wheel-drive is an excellent feature on any tractor. It enables you to get lots of necessary work done when the weather is against you.

Four-wheel-drive makes it possible for you to manage snow, to get around in mud and to take care of all of the jobs that arise under these and other challenging conditions.

16. How much should you expect to spend on a used tractor?

The amount a used tractor will cost will depend a great deal on how old it is and what condition it’s in, as well as the types of features it has. It’s hard to pinpoint the amount because it could range from $5000 to $20,000. Generally speaking, features add price to the overall cost.

17. Who makes the best farm tractor

Without a doubt, John Deere tractors are well known to be top-quality and reliable. This well-established, traditional company specializes in “drive over” technology that makes it easy for homeowners, small landowners and farmers to complete a wide variety of tasks quickly and efficiently.

John Deere tractors with their high quality drive-over mower decks, coupled with auto connect technology present a wide variety of farm implements that are easy to use for any and all tasks.

18. Is it better to buy a used or new tractor?

For most people, the first tractor is a big investment. Many beginning farmers are on a tight budget. For this reason, it’s often a good idea to look for a well cared for use tractor as your first tractor.

On the other hand, if you take sales and advantageous financing into account, you may be able to get the brand new one of your dreams right off the bat.

19. How do you decide between new and used tractors?

As you ask yourself these questions about your tractor use and requirements, be sure to take notes. Take them along with you when you go tractor shopping. Refer to them yourself when you look at used tractors, and share them with the sales rep when you look at new ones.

A representative at a good dealership can go through them with you and help you make just the right choices.

20. How important is a good tractor?

If you have a small homestead or hobby farm, you may think that your choice in a tractor is not especially important, but that would be a big mistake.

Whenever you buy a tractor, you want to do it once and do it right. Be sure that the tractor you choose is the right size for the tasks you have in mind. It should have a little more horsepower than you need, and it should definitely be fully equipped with all modern safety features.

If you are wondering if you can drive a tractor on the road, here is our article on that.

Is A Compact Tractor The Right Choice?

Compact utility tractors are very popular with hobby farmers and homeowners. These small, but mighty machines help the small property owner to complete tasks quickly and easily.

If you go shopping for a compact tractor, you’re sure to find that you have lots of choices on offer. It can be hard to make your way through all of the written information and the videos the manufacturers produce to sell you on their models.

If you’re looking for a good transport on your farm, check out this article on farm UTVs.

The Best Compact Tractor On The Market


2 thoughts on “How To Choose The Right Tractor For Your Small Farm Or Homestead?”

  1. Very highly informative. I came in with zero knowledge, but left feeling highly informed.
    Do you know if these specs would work in places like West Africa?
    I mean how would one be able to afford one’s tractor longevity in West Africa?


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