Deciding If a Subcompact Tractor Is Right for You
Sponsored by: Kubota
August 2018 – By: Tim Nephew
The first time I walked our property after we had made the purchase, I was immediately struck by how much grass there would be to mow. I was used to mowing my lot in town, and I knew that I would need to find a more efficient way to cut grass than my garden tractor. Mowing is one area where subcompact tractors really excel.
Many subcompact tractors have super-efficient methods of mounting the mower deck to the tractor. In some cases, it’s as easy as literally driving the tractor over the mower deck; it connects itself. Mower decks up to 72 inches can be added to the tractor, allowing you to cut a lot of grass in a short amount of time. Mowers can be purchased in both finish and rough-cut versions, allowing you to clean up some of those overgrown pastures or grassy areas with vigorous weed growth.
The versatility of these smaller-framed tractors has been greatly improved by the development of attachments for the market. Everything from posthole augers, log splitters, snow blowers, and even small backhoes for ditching and digging can make the smaller tractors a workhorse on your land.
A loader for the front of the tractor is probably one of the most added options on a subcompact tractor. The ability to load and haul anything from dirt to manure – or even to move snow – will be a big time-saver on common tasks on your acreage. Because of a subcompact tractor’s reduced frame size, it’s small enough to maneuver inside buildings (allowing you to use a loader to clean out stables or stalls).
If you decide to add fence to your property, a three-point posthole auger will save you a tremendous amount of time and effort. If you have ever tried to manually dig postholes, or even used a powered hand-operated version, you will be amazed at the speed and efficiency of the tractor-mounted units. The augers attach to the three-point hitch and are relatively easy to use.
A backhoe attachment can be purchased for subcompact tractors, and they are a great tool for some very tough jobs. Digging ditches or creating drainage in areas that are prone to flood or hold water can be accomplished using your tractor-mounted backhoe. Digging out stumps or trenching in lines is also possible with the backhoe. There are obvious limitations to the work capacity of the smaller backhoes, but when paired with the appropriate size horsepower of your subcompact tractor you’ll find many uses for them.
If you live in a part of the country that is prone to winter snow, your subcompact tractor can help you dig out when storms hit or just maintain your drive through the course of the winter. Snowblower attachments can be added to either the front of the tractor in some models or the rear three-point and PTO. Another great snow mover for the subcompact tractor is a three-point-mounted back blade that can be used to pull or push snow. Rear-mounted blades also allow you to get up close to buildings or fences in tight or closed-in areas.
Using your tractor to move snow means you are living in an area that experiences cold weather. Most subcompact and compact utility tractors today are configured with a diesel engine. If you anticipate running the tractor at temperatures below about 15 degrees Fahrenheit, you should be sure to include some sort of engine heater in your specifications. Investing in an engine block heater is a fairly inexpensive option that will almost guarantee that you will be able to start your tractor when you need it on those cold mornings – especially if you store your tractor in an unheated shed.
Having four-wheel drive capability won’t keep you from getting stuck, but it will help you cover varied terrain more safely, and it will provide more traction for pulling equipment and when you are using your loader. Mechanical Front Wheel Drive (MFWD) may add to the cost of the tractor, but it’s an option that you’ll be glad you invested in when you need it (and it’s an option that holds its value on resale).
There are a lot of good manufactures in the tractor market these days, which translates into a competitive market for buyers. Good-quality equipment doesn’t necessarily have to be green, orange, blue, or red, but make sure you do your research. The reason some of the more popular brands of tractors have been around so long is because of their reputation for quality and a good resale market. New equipment dealers may also provide attractive incentives and low-cost payment options.
If you decide that you want to check out the used market for subcompact tractors and you are a little wary of buying on the open market, consider working with a dealer on used equipment. In most cases, the same dealer probably sold the equipment to the original owner, so they know if it’s been serviced and what condition it’s in. Also, dealers will often stand by used equipment they sell for at least a few hours of operation to guarantee you some level of warranty once you leave the dealership.