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What to Know Before Buying a Combine

Megan WildAlthough many turn to the acts of farming and homesteading as methods for self-sustainability and cost-cutting, the long-term harvesting and cultivating of crops actually involves a great deal of time, labor and expense. This is especially true when it comes to larger farms that require the use of heavy farm equipment, such as combines, to gather and process crops. With that in mind, there are a number of factors to consider before purchasing a combine or any other similar machinery.

Combine in field

Buying Used or New?

Most farmers who maintain permanent, full-time farms can benefit from buying the necessary farm equipment outright. While this can be rather expensive, combines and other equipment that are used on a daily basis can typically pay for themselves in a few short years. Moreover, you'll be sure to have your equipment ready and available whenever you need to use it.

However, this still leaves you with the options of buying new or used equipment. Generally speaking, if your budget allows for it, you can probably spring for a new, top-of-the-line model. Those who are tight on funds, on the other hand, might have no other choice then to go with used equipment.

According to some estimates, those who will spend less than 200 hours on their farm on a yearly basis are better off, financially, purchasing a used combine as opposed to a new one. When you consider that used combines can be found for as much as $100,000 less than their brand-new equivalents, the amount you save on buying used can help offset some of your other farming expenses.  

If you are looking at the best in class, the LEXION 700 is recognized as the fastest production combine in the world to date. With a high-performance engine, variable headers, an onboard electronic display and a comfortable cab, it’s user-friendly, tough and efficient.

Inspect and Verify the Condition of the Combine

Whether you choose to buy new or used equipment, make sure to inspect the combine for any worn parts, including bearings, shields, the frame and the engine itself. Even new hardware is subject to erroneous assembly and broken or defunct parts, some of which can be noticed through a simple visual inspection.

Take some time to examine the combine's lubrication levels, too. New equipment might not have been greased yet, so feel free to ask the dealer if they can complete this process before you take it off the lot. Fittings that fail to allow lubrication should be replaced by the dealer.

Excess chaff built up around the bearings or the frame may be a sign of poor maintenance on used combines and equipment while discoloration within the combine's engine compartment might be a result of previous overheating. If this is the case, you may want to look at another used combine.   

Renting vs. Buying

Renting farm equipment is a great option for those who will only need the equipment on a short-term basis. This can be beneficial to both small- and large-scale farms alike as many farmers aren't using all of their farm equipment year-round. In most places, farm equipment, such as combines are available for hourly, daily, weekly or monthly rental. Long-term rentals might also be available, though you may want to consider leasing or purchasing a combine outright for extended harvests. Renting such equipment also absolves you from the responsibility of any maintenance or repair fees, which can certainly add up over the course of several seasons.

Leasing the Necessary Equipment

A lease, while similar to a rental agreement, is typically reserved for long-term usage and extended contracts. If you will be using the combine for two to five years, a standard lease is probably your best option. Any longer than that, however, and you might be better off purchasing your combine from a new or used equipment dealer.

Custom Hiring an Operator

In some cases, it might be a better idea to bring in a custom hire or operator. Usually available through a signed contract, a custom hire actually bases their fees off the amount of work available as opposed to a length of time or set hourly rate. In some areas, the fees of a custom hire may even be tax deductible.

There are a number of benefits to bringing on a custom hire for your farming operation. In most cases, the custom hire furnishes their own equipment and covers all machine-related expenses. Custom hires work best for smaller farms and ad hoc harvests that are only expected to last a short while.

Securing Your Investment

Regardless of whether you decide to buy, rent, lease or enlist a custom hire, procuring a combine to support your farm is a serious endeavor and investment. Make sure to monitor the condition of your machinery over the course of time, whether it's yours to keep or just a rental, and have any mechanical issues repaired immediately. Not only will this ensure the operability of your equipment for years to come, but it could also prevent harm or injury to yourself or others.