Compact Tractors: What to Consider When Buying
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Where the rubber hits the ground
When you get down to the nitty gritty and begin to spec out your machine, you’ll need to make a tire-tread choice. The most prevalent possibilities include the aggressive bar-lug agricultural tires that pretty much everyone recognizes as tractor treads (ag tread).
The so-called R-4 tread pattern, borrowed from the construction equipment industry, has made significant inroads into the compact tractor market of late. These lugged tires offer good traction off road and are more comfortable and more durable when running on harder surfaces.
The least aggressive tire pattern looks almost like that of a mild off-road pickup truck tire and is called a turf tread. Turf tires give you less traction in the mud and dirt, but if 90 percent of your work involves mowing vast lawns, this tire is less likely to tear up the grass or leave tracks.
I’ve had tractors with all three tread types – I really like ag tread for working in soil and R-4 for the rest of it.
Dealing with your dealer
Face it, compact tractors simply aren’t available from your local box store. It will be difficult to make an anonymous purchase as you’ll have to interface with your local dealer. If your only dealership experience relates to negotiating for an automobile, try to put as much of that out of your mind as possible. A tractor purchase is the beginning of a long-term relationship (tractor service life is measured in hours, translated into decades in most cases, not years), and your dealer stands to make more profit from you over the years through the sale of parts, accessories, implements, utility vehicles and other extras. You can help ensure a good dealership experience by doing a little homework on the brand or brands you’re interested in and knowing exactly how you foresee using the tractor. Be upfront about what your spending range is – but know that there is some room for negotiation.
If the initial discussion makes you uncomfortable, don’t be embarrassed to admit that you don’t know or understand something – ask more questions, but resist the urge to finalize the decision during that discussion. Instead, take notes, go home and do more research before coming back to the table.
By all means, compare brands, prices, dealers and features. Don’t be afraid to ask a potential dealer how doing business with her will enhance your new tractor experience.
Finally, insist on sufficient training and a significant test drive – most dealers will deliver a loaner machine to your place for a few days – before pulling the trigger. If you don’t like the way a machine works, test drive another make or model. If you ultimately don’t like the dealer, find another in your area. Once you make your purchase, read the owner’s manual, keep safety your No. 1 priority and turn all that farm work into fun!