If you are the owner of a few acres of land or of a large farm, you will find a tractor an invaluable aid to have. It is a rugged implement and extremely versatile if you choose the correct attachments. It is, however, not an easy vehicle to handle; you need to be reasonably strong and be aware of the safety requirements that go with operating a tractor. If you heed the following tips as a tractor buyer, you can eliminate many problems.
First of all, you need to decide what you will be using the tractor for. Will it be for mowing fields only, or do you need it to dig holes and ditches too? Choose a four wheel drive model; it has better grip on a slippery surface and the engine will not labour because the wheels do not have sufficient grip. Choose a tractor that is a bit bigger and stronger than you need; the extra power is bound to come in handy if you have to use it for something else one day.
Like with all vehicles and machinery, it makes sense for buyers to go a well-known name. They are well-known precisely because their products have proven themselves over a long period; they have the best after sales service and parts will be easy to obtain later on. The company is not likely to go bust overnight and leave you high and dry concerning service and parts.
Should you choose new or used? An older tractor, if well-maintained, could work as well as a new one. Even one with a thousand or more work hours on the clock can still give you years of good service. Make sure parts are still available for older tractors or you might be stuck if it breaks. Should you go for petrol or diesel engines? Both have their advantages and disadvantages; diesel tractors initially cost more, but they are lighter on fuel and need less maintenance than petrol versions. They do have problems starting in the extreme cold. Evaluate your needs and make sure the tractor will fulfil them.
Plan ahead about what extra implements you will be using with your tractor. Most attachments require one or more of the following to operate: a hydraulic system, power take-off or three-point hitch. It might be worth your while investing in a tractor which has all three of these. Make sure the implements you have in mind are matched to the size, capacity and power source of the tractor in order to be compatible.
When checking the condition of a second hand tractor, consider matters such as oil leaks, missing parts, dents or rusty and dull paint. This might mean the tractor was not well maintained or stored in a shed. The wear on the cab and the tyres should correlate to the hours on the clock; if the foot pedals are much worn but the hours are low, there is some discrepancy and you should watch out.
Remember that you will preferably have to maintain the tractor yourself. Transporting the tractor to a workshop, even for regular maintenance, can be expensive and time-consuming. Some companies send out technicians to overhaul or service tractors, but this could be an expensive operation for you. Fundamental maintenance includes regularly lubricating all fittings and moving parts, checking and topping up the oil and other fluids and checking filters. Have a specific service schedule, every 100 hours or so; keep a careful record of this on a service card or calendar.
If you are not at ease with a tractor or have never driven one, take a training course in the handling and maintenance of a tractor. When purchasing a second hand tractor, take an experienced person with you who knows what to look out for.
For information on insurance and assistance in case of a breakdown of your tractor, you can consult www.roadsideassistance.co.uk.