You’ve been wanting one for years now. Maybe you’ve been struggling with an old model that has seen better days. Maybe you have been putting off some projects because you don’t have the proper equipment to get it done. Or maybe you just need a little help in talking your spouse into agreeing with it. It could even be that you need a little nudge to convince yourself it’s a good idea.
There are many reasons why you really need a new tractor. In this article we will list 11 reasons a new compact tractor makes sense and how to convince your spouse by show of facts and data. In fact, a homesteader not owning a tractor is actually costing thousands of dollars more over a 30 period by buying multiple pieces of different equipment or hiring jobs out to contractors than it would be to buy a tractor of your own.
I’m using John Deere equipment here as examples but it’s the same concept for any brand. Just plug in the numbers for the exact equipment you’re looking at. These of course are hypothetical examples as it’s not possible to accurately predict the life of any piece of machinery, maintenance costs, or resale value. This is designed to be a template to help you lay out the pros and cons of buying a new tractor and be able to justify the cost.
1. Yard Maintenance
A riding lawn mower is only good for about a two or three acre lot. Once your lawn gets to be more than that it’s time to upgrade to a compact tractor. A four acre lot will take a 48″ riding mower about 3 hours to cut. We’ll assume 25 cuts per year for a total of 75 hours on the mower. A compact tractor with a 72″ deck will cut the mowing time in half because of the wider deck and faster mowing speed, thus the yearly hours are now only 37.5.
Below are three options for cutting 4 acres of grass. I’ll break down the cost of each option including original purchase cost, maintenance costs (excluding gas/oil/belts/etc), and residual value after life span. The table below shows the 30 year cost of cutting grass.
Option 1 – Inexpensive Riding Lawn Mowers
A cheaper box store riding lawn mower is around $2k-$3k and will only last about 5-8 years without needing major maintenance at that kind of use. At the end of that time frame you may get a couple hundred dollars when you sell it. So for 30 years of cutting grass with cheap riders it will cost you somewhere around $15,000. ($2,500 each multiplied by 6 that are needed over 30 years)
Option 2 – High Quality Lawn Tractor
You could spend $8k-$14k on a new John Deere lawn tractor that should last you 20-30 years. At the end of 30 years that lawn tractor will have 2250 hours on it and will not be worth much at all. For a high-end mower to last 30 years will probably require some moderate repairs and maintenance so lets figure the cost of cutting grass with an expensive lawn tractor at somewhere around $15,000
Option 3 – Compact Tractor with Finish Mower
The John Deere 2025 compact tractor with just a mower deck will be right around $20k during a sale. After 30 years the tractor will have only 1125 hours on it if all we did was cut that same 4 acres of grass. But here’s the kicker: after 30 years this tractor will probably be worth about $10,000 if it was well maintained. We’ll get into their resale value more down below. The cost of cutting grass for 30 years is now only $10,000. That’s $5,000 less than either multiple cheap riders or one very ragged high-end lawn tractor.
2. Snow Removal
According to komparit.com the seasonal fee for snow removal is between $300-$1200 to hire it out. Assuming as in the previous example that the homestead is over 4 acres, then the driveway is most likely pretty good length. Let’s go with $800 a year to have the driveway cleared. This comes to $24,000 over 30 years.
A plow for the compact tractor only costs about $1k while a snow blower attachment is about $3k. Over the the course of 30 years we could save more than $20,000 by investing in the proper implements for our compact tractor.
The other benefit of having a tractor mounted snowblower is that you will not have to wait for the snow removal contractor to clear you out so you can get to where you need to go.
3. Garden Work
A nice Troy-Bilt 20″ walk behind tiller at the Home Depot will set you back $2,500. For about the same price, you can get a 4 or 5 foot 3-point tiller for the back of your compact tractor. This will allow you to either:
- Prepare a bigger garden in the same amount or
- Work up your existing garden much faster allowing more time for other chores
If you opt for a loader (which you probably should) you will be able to easily add composted organic and other additives to garden. Using the tiller to work those additives in is much easier and faster with tiller implement on a tractor. It leaves the soil nice and fluffy to allow the plants to grow deeper roots which requires less watering.
Many homesteaders want to have as big of garden as possible to produce as much food as possible for their family. Growing more produce than needed during harvest means more that can get canned, frozen or otherwise stored for later. Having a tractor makes the garden bed preparation and fall clean-up so fast and easy it leaves much more time to lend to preserving your bounty.
4. Tackle Major Projects Yourself
Depending on which options and implements you get with your new compact tractor, there are many different projects and tasks that you will now be able to handle. Having a compact tractor with the right implements can mean either making chores much easier or saving money by not hiring the job done. Here’s a list of projects and tasks that compact tractors are fully capable of:
- Grading gravel drives and parking lots
- Digging drainage ditches
- Digging out or grinding stumps
- Pulling out bushes and shrubs
- Moving trailers around the homestead
- Cutting hay
- Moving round hay bales with hay spear
- Logging/woodcutting with grapple attachment
- Leveling soil with FEL (front-end loader) or back blade
- Moving materials with pallet forks
- Digging footings, trenches, small ponds with backhoe attachment
- Augering holes for posts
- Cleaning livestock pens and horse stalls
5. Field and Trail Maintenance
Having large expanses of open areas or a couple miles of trails through the woods will require a rotary cutter to keep Mother Nature from taking it back over. It only takes a few years of low use before invasive shrubs like Autumn Olive or quick sprouting trees like Poplars start growing in your paths or on your meadows.
Rotary cutters otherwise know as brush hogs can rip through small diameter trees and shrubs to clear those areas and then regular use will help keep them that way. They are relatively inexpensive with used ones starting are about $500 and new ones between $1,500 – $3,000 depending on size.
6. Food Plots
Every hunter that owns a chunk of land has dreamed of putting in a wildlife food plot that draws in trophy critters like the ones on the bag of clover seed. While tiny hand-made food plots are possible with a chainsaw, shovel and rake they just don’t seem to draw the big boys in. If you happen to have an open area on the property already, an ATV or UTV can do the job with the right attachment or pull behind implement. This is how we put our first food plot in. Here’s a link to the video on YouTube.
Now that there is a new John Deere 2025 with a tiller attachment on the homestead, we again have dreams of even larger food plots to draw in our quarry. With the loader we can clear deadfalls and pop rotted stumps out of the ground. Then use the tiller to bust up the topsoil and use a drag to level and smooth it out for planting. They do make food plot seeders just for this purpose, but they run upwards of $5,000.
7. They Hold Their Value
If you search for used tractors on the internet you’ll find tractors that are 10-30 years old still fetching over $10,000 sometimes even more. It can be frustrating because it feels like a new homesteader should be able to buy a tractor for a few thousand dollars, just like the 20 year old farm truck you picked up for $2,000. As it turn out, any loader tractor for under $6,000 is probably so worn out that it would be a maintenance nightmare.
For example: I picked a random John Deere model from 30 years ago (model 850 25 hp). Tractordata.com says it sold for $11,000 new in 1989. A quick internet search found several used 850’s from that time frame for $8k-$9k. This is just the tractor with no loader or implements. If you bought that tractor new in 1989 and used it for thirty years it would only have cost you two or three thousand dollars.
Reading about this topic in some forums I found many examples of people buying new tractors and easily selling them years later for nearly as much or in some cases more than they bought them for. I pulled out a few for you here:
- DJ bought his Ford tractor for $10k in 1988 and sold it recently for $9500.
- Scott has an 86 JD 1050 that is still worth what he paid for it.
- Von bought a used 87 Kubota for $12k which is more than it sold for new.
While a tractors resale value depends on many factors and obviously is not going to be a guarantee, history has proven that tractors hold their value extremely well if maintained properly and not abused. Having a FEL on the tractor will help greatly with the value as will having multiple attachments and implements that are in good shape too.
8. Incentives and Low Financing
A quick Google search of “compact tractor financing and incentives” brings up many different brands offering 0% or very low rate financing plus rebates and incentives of up to several thousand dollars depending on the model you’re looking at. A new compact tractor with FEL, tiller and snowblower will run upwards of $25k – $35k depending on make, model and size. That seems like a lot of money, but remember this tractor will last you for 30 years. If you think of it in that respect it’s only about $1,000 a year to own one.
Making those payments for the 7 years will pay off in the long run with a great tractor that earns it’s keep all year long. Here’s a break down of the financing:
- $20,000 @ 0% for 84 mo. = 238/month
- $25,000 @ 0% for 84 mo. = 298/month
- $30,000 @ 0% for 84 mo. = 357/month
- $35,000 @ 0% for 84 mo. = 417/month
9. Make Some Extra Money With It
A tractor with it’s experienced operator is a valuable tool to hire out. Small jobs in the neighborhood like snow removal, garden bed prep, spreading dirt, grading a long driveway, etc. could easily earn you hundreds of dollars a year if you were willing to do that kind work for other people.
Or if you just like to be neighborly and enjoy operating your tractor you might even do those jobs for free. Either for free or for a fee, there are a couple of considerations to keep in mind:
- Liability – driving your tractor off your property makes you pretty much liable for any damage or injury it causes. If you do use your tractor for side jobs, liability insurance is a must.
- Hard feelings – helping out a neighbor by hauling dirt around to the back yard and leaving some ruts in the front yard may cause some hard feelings between you. You just saved them many hours of hard manual labor and leaving some tracks was surely expected, but they may expect you to fix the damage anyway. Sometimes people get weird about stuff so it’s best to know someone very well before you offer to help.
- Loaning it out – Here on our Country Family Homestead we have several members of the family that each own their own property and their own tractors. We are all confident in each other’s ability to operate and maintain tractors that we will let each other use them as most of them have different attachments and capabilities. There would be very few other people though that I would loan any of my tractors to. An inexperienced operator can cause some serious damage to the equipment, property or persons in a hurry and I just don’t want to go down that road.
10. Less Stress on Our Bodies As We Age
The unfortunate thing about aging is even though we gain skills and knowledge to do many tasks, our bodies can’t always take the physical abuse anymore. I often wonder how amazing I could have been in my 20s if I knew then what I know now.
The advantage of the tractor is that it takes the brunt of the work and makes much easier for the aging homesteader. Just think about not shoveling snow, fighting the walk-behind tiller through the clumpy uneven garden soil, or using a hand post hole digger anymore. When your body isn’t sore you feel like you can take on more chores and do them quicker and better with your tractor.
11. Sense of Pride and Accomplishment
As a homesteader, it is hard to put a price on the sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with owning a fine piece of equipment such as a new compact tractor. Knowing there is no chore on the property that is beyond your ability once you have a tractor with the proper attachments is a great feeling.
A homesteader without a tractor is like a carpenter without a saw, a baker without an oven, or a dentist without a drill. It’s a tool that is needed to do a job. And a job that is worth doing is worth doing right. To tackle the chores around the homestead a tractor is the tool to do the job right. Owning that tool gives one a sense of pride.
You’ll be sitting on top of your tractor tilling the garden and watching the neighbors drive by with a look of jealousy on their faces. All you can do is look up, smile and wave. Maybe you could share this article with them so they too realize they need a tractor of their own.