Five Mistakes When Buying a Tractor

Five Mistakes To Avoid When Buying a Tractor

I recently got an email from a viewer shopping for a sub-compact tractor. He said he wants a cab, he’s going to be using it to brush hog and clear timber, and he also wants a 5′ cutter. He asked me what brand I’d recommend. And I had the feeling that he could well be making all five mistakes that new tractor purchasers can make.

I actually get a lot of email from readers asking for buying advice. New tractor buyers need to get up to speed on what to buy and the best way to go about that. (You might want to take a look at my Insider’s Guide to Purchasing a Tractor). But let’s take a quick look at the questions this reader asked, and how to address them.

As They Say, Size Matters

First of all, a lot of folks are shopping for a tractor that’s actually too small for their needs. Sub-compacts are great for small acreages and tight quarters, but if you’re trying to brush hog a big field, you’ll be on the tractor a long, and probably uncomfortable, time. And I’m not even aware of sub-compacts with cabs. Plus, if you did find one, you’d see that a cab air conditioner takes 5-10 horsepower to run. On a small tractor, that doesn’t leave enough power to work with. (You could run out of power on a hill, for example.)  You’ll want at least a 28-40 HP tractor, and the higher the better, if you really want to have a cab. So buy as large a tractor as you can.

Cab Tractors Can’t Go Everywhere

Second, you need to be careful where you take a cab tractor. If you’re brush hogging a big field in the summer, cabs are great. But cabs and woodlands don’t go together: hit a low limb and you can have an expensive disaster quickly. Cab glass is expensive to repair, and it doesn’t take much of a tap from a limb to blast a glass out. You won’t forget the first time you do that because of the explosive sound it makes. If you have to work with a cab tractor in the woods, please invest in a pole saw or tree shear and prune the lower limbs before going there.

Don’t Overwhelm Your Tractor with Your Attachments

Third, be sure to match your tractor with the right cutter. A 5′ cutter is too much for a sub-compact tractor. Generally, on small tractors, you want the cutter to be the same width as the loader bucket. If the tractor has a 4′ bucket, you’ll want a 4′ bush hog, a 5′ bucket gets a 5′ cutter, etc. Also, match the size of the cutter to both the horsepower of the tractor and the size of material you want to cut. Every brush hog will tell what size material it’s rated for, and how much PTO horsepower is required to pull it. Don’t get too light a cutter to cut your brush, or too little PTO horsepower to pull it.

Comparing Cutter Brands Is Really Tough

Fourth, it’s really hard to compare brands of cutters. Most of the major companies make an economy cutter that cuts up to 1″ material, a mid-range cutter that cuts up to 2″, and a heavy cutter that may cut 2 1/2″ or 3″ trees. If you compare one manufacturer’s economy cutter to another’s mid-grade cutter, you might think the latter makes better products. But that would be comparing apples to oranges. Bottom line is to find a good dealer that you get along with and that you trust, and have them help you spec a cutter. Buy the brand that they’re selling.

Fools Rush In…

Finally, I got the feeling that this viewer is a kindred spirit…he’s done a little shopping and research online and he just wants this project to be over. He simply wants me to help him get something bought. I’m the same way when shopping for most everything: I do a little research, get bored, and just want to get it over with. Haste makes waste when tractor shopping. If you do the research and take your time about making a decision, you may be rewarded with a tractor you can own the rest of your life. It’s frustrating, but it’s worth it.


Tractor Mike


  1. Levi Armstrong on at 06:36

    I find it helpful to know that it’s wise to consider the size of the tractor you plan to buy to ensure that it’s not too small for your needs. My grandma Eli would benefit from this advice of yours since he plans on buying a tractor for his farmland soon. I’l share this article of yours with him to use as a guide in choosing the right tractor to buy. Thanks.

  2. Elina Brooks on at 04:35

    My brother invested in a farm property recently, so he needs to buy agricultural equipment like tractors to use for the fields soon if he wants to expect a good harvest later on. It was a good tip when you mentioned matching our tractor with the right cutter since overwhelming it with the wrong attachment might lead to problems when we need to use it. I’ll be sure to remember this while I help him get the utility compact tractor he needs soon for his new farm property.

  3. Clare Martin on at 08:33

    It’s good that you brought up how important size is when choosing what tractor to buy since we need the right horsepower for it to run for our needs. I recently invested in a farm property, so I need to buy a tractor to use on it soon if I want to delve into the agriculture business. I’ll keep this in mind while I look for tractors for sale soon.

  4. Nieko DeWinkle on at 11:53

    I liked how you warned people about the limbs of trees breaking the cab’s glass. My dad’s farm has a big John Deere 7800, and we bought it only for working fields. I learned a lot from your blog, and it will help me in the future when I am in the market of buying a tractor.

Leave a Comment