John Deere 4M Series vs. Kubota MX Compact Utility Tractors

To start, we're going to look exactly what tractor we're comparing to. In the case of this machine over here, this is John Deere 4052M. A 52 horsepower economy version of this tractor.If we work through the options that Deere uses to compare on to the Kubota tractor, you'll notice that they compare this 4052 to a Kubota 4760. I'm giving themselves a small edge in horsepower, but picking a transmission that's actually a lot more simplistic than the Kubota equipment. You won't find those differences if you work your way down through the spec sheet.

This is Deere's mechanical hydrostatic transmission. It doesn't had any of the electronic features found on their M series tractor. Over here on the Kubota side, we do have all the features found in Kubota's HST Plus including some things that Deere doesn't even offer. We have things like an electronically controlled hydrostatic with things like hydrodualrspeed to shift speeds on the fly, ability to tie the hydrostatic pedal to your engine rod RPMs to drive this thing like a car, Kubota's power-up button, all these are features that are found on this tractor.

If you work your way through the competitive comparison, you'll find they're all completely absent from any information that Deere is going to present to you. They simply pick this tractor because it's a little bit less capable and a little bit smaller machine by the numbers. It outclasses the machine as far as features go. When we're comparing on features, Deere will pick a more on economy-oriented tractor. One of the things they're always very keen to point out and keen to fluff up is their plastic hoods.

One of the interesting things that you'll find on this plastic hood is if you go through the owner's manual, their own owner's manual, you'll find references that you should only clean this plastic hood with a soft damp cloth, as to not scratch it. Now, they are quick to show you that it can be beat on by all kinds of things which frankly is probably true out of the gate, but one thing that we'll notice with these plastics is that the tractors start to age. The plastics become brittle. Rather than being bouncy, they start to become brittle and break. That's something that won't happen on a metal hood as it ages. Yes, can metal rust, absolutely. I couldn't tell you the last time I saw one of these rusting but yes, it could. A metal hood doesn't weaken with age and is over all, if you listen to my pounding, a lot more dense, a lot more solid, than these flimsy plastic hoods could be.

One of the things that drive me the most crazy in their's competitive comparison is their continued focus on Kubota's front axle designs. In the case of this right here you'll see a hydrostatic steering system with guards and stuff over top of the front cylinders in order to protect them. They will point out that because the steering components are here in the front, they're susceptible to damage. If you come over her to the John Deere version, you'll notice a much lighter front axle. For one, steering components that are behind the axle but also below it. If you're mowing along everything, the rods, the cylinders and everything hang down here below the axle itself. [chuckles] My opinion, I would much rather take a higher mounted system that's protected and shielded across the front to one that hangs below.

Deere also uses a lot of half-truths when it comes to their comparisons and the amount of service that's required on their tractor versus the Kubota. The most blatant that we were able to find is the comparison on number of grease ZERKs. When they're going to the video they point out, they've got four compared to Kubota's 17. The only way that we can figure they came up with that number is by comparing their tractor without a loader to a Kubota with one, because most of the grease ZERKs are still found in the loader. As we went around and counted here on these two tractors out here ourselves, we came up with 14 on both tractors. On their loader alone there's vastly more than four grease ZERKs, so not 100% sure exactly where that's coming from. In my opinion, I would much rather have more grease ZERKs. We all know that as machines work, those pins wear and so having grease ZERKs is a positive, not a negative.

Another blunder is the references to the cost of the transmission oil changes and the frequency that they need to be done. One thing that has been a little confusing even for us on Kubota's side is that there's some conflicting information about that. Most of that is driven by Kubota's changes between transmission fluids. The old version of Super UDT was a regular multi-weight transmission fluid. Couple of years ago, Kubota changed to Super UDT2, which is a synthetic transmission fluid. When that change happened in their transmission fluids, you notice service intervals also got much much longer between the oil changes. Deere's exploiting that fact and using the information from the old transmission fluid that's not even produced anymore in order to exaggerate the differences and maintenance cost between the two tractors.

As you could see, I don't have a whole lot of faith in the comparisons that Deere made to a Kubota tractor. I'm not going to try to make those same kind of comparisons. As I said, I don't think it can be done honestly and fairly. You as somebody shopping for a tractor need to go and choose two tractors that you feel are right for you and make your own comparisons. I am going to do a quick walk around here of this tractor as myself as an operator. As somebody that gets the opportunity to get on and off of a lot of different brands of tractors all the time, and I'll point out some things to you that I do like on this tractor and also some things that I don't that are worth considering. Take a quick walk around here with me and we'll point some of those things out.

Over here on the Deere side, they used a proprietary coupler that is system. Another thing that I'm not wild about is just the simple mechanics of this. I'd rather having a lever to reach, to lift and release the bucket. You have to be down here to the bottom and flip one these potter pins off in order to drop the bottom of the bucket out. It's not hard to do, it's just a little crude, compared to a modern skid steer coupler. Their loaders also have some issues that I frequently am not wild about either. Many of the loaders that they offer are permanently attached to the tractor and do not remove from the machine.

Kubota uses removable loaders as standard equipment across every one of their products. They don't even make a fixed loader. In the case of this Deere tractor, the options in the parking stands and stuff that you need to make this loader removable add an additional $900 to the cost of the machine. One thing that I do like about this, this is an amazing piece of casting. If you look at the way this thing is casting curved around, it is cool and robust. You got to give them that.

Another concern that I frequently have with Deere tractors is the way that they choose to route their hydraulic lines and where they will place their loader couplers at. You'll see in the case of this tractor here, they're using hard lines which is great, not hoses on it, that's a positive. Those lines all route down here coming underneath the floorboards. Just like that steering cylinder on the front axle, these very vulnerable components become the low point on the tractor. Now to be fair, if we go over here look at a Kubota, there's two different places where Kubota will put their valves and two different routings of hoses. You'll see that the valve is kept up here on the post, with all the hoses in the routing up here tight against the loader and coming off the manifold down here at the bottom. There's none of the loader hydraulics really hanging down here below the tractor. A grand L60 series is exactly the same way. The couplers are up here and all the routing for those pieces stays in the high parts of the tractor, rather than being down below.

Deere does an excellent job at marketing. Absolutely, bar none, the best tractor company in the industry. They are experts in giving funny names to everyday things. One of those funny names is the iMatch hitch. This is nothing more than a universal three-point quick hitch that has existed for years. Nobody has really marketed it in the way the Deere has. Many companies put a big focus on getting these quick hitches on the backs of their tractors because the expectation is then, because this hitch is here, that you'll also buy the branded implements to match it. This is nothing special. There are hitches like this from about dozens of companies. This standard for the iMatch is actually an SAE standard, but it's a standard that's not followed very well within the industry. If you have of these quick hitches, you should be prepared for maybe 2/3 of your implements actually being able to hook up to this hitch. While Deere goes and they strip deluxe three-point hitch options off of these tractors, replacing them with iMatches, you got to be aware that this is a far from perfect system in reality.

This is a Land Pride series quick hitch, a QH20. We probably sell about 50 of these ourselves every year. Exactly the same thing as the John Deere iMatch, but without the funny name and price tag.

A few things that I noticed here from the operator station. When I take a look around here, frankly I'm fairly impressed. When these companies make economy tractors, you'll find they start stripping off a lot of options. A lot of places they typically do that is in the sheet metal and the four panels down here around the bottom. This tractor actually has a fairly modern operator station for one of their more economy oriented models. A couple of places that I'm a little bit less impressed, come to some of the positions of the levers. The range selector back here in the side for instance is really long and a little clunky. I'm also not a big fan of hand parking brakes. I much better like the pedal latch and brake system. One can't have a conversation about the platform without talking about their twin touch hydrostatic pedals. There's repeated conversations of comparisons between a two pedal system, which Deere and some other manufacturers that I also sell use and a single treadle pedal that Kubota uses. The reason why Kubota uses that system is because if you actually do surveys of the population it has always been that 50% or a little bit better tend to prefer the single pedal system. It is a Chevy or Ford type question of what somebody prefers, it's a preference. It's not necessarily that one is better than the other. They typically will make comparisons to this being an automotive style pedal, which is kind of true, it's got a gas and brake feel going to it, but the positions are actually flipped. The forward lever is where the brake would be and the backward lever is where the gas would be. For me personally too, it's always felt a little unnatural to press a pedal forward to go backwards. I'm a treadle pedal guy, but that doesn't necessarily mean that's right or wrong, it's a personal preference, and the way that you should decide that is not by watching a youtube video, it's getting in the seat of the tractors and driving them around yourself.

Twin Touch YouTube Video

Another thing that I often find on Deere tractors is I have a lot more trouble doing multiple functions with the loader valve than I do on a lot of other machines. In that case that's pretty pronounced on this tractor. I find the loader valve to be really stiff compared to a lot of machines, and oddly when the tractor is turned off it moves a lot easier than when it has hydraulic pressure behind it.

Is the John Deere or 4052M a terrible tractor? No. Should you absolutely run out and buy a Kubota instead? No. Frankly, this isn't the right way in order to buy a tractor.

In my experience as a dealer myself, a lot of your experience with owning a tractor has a lot to do with the dealership that you decide to buy it from. A good dealer who can provide good support, who knows their product is going to give you a much better experience than one who doesn't. Rather than comparing specs in Excel and watching videos on YouTube, the right way to buy a tractor is to go out to a couple local dealers, get the keys to many of the machines and go drive them.

Find a salesman who you trust and seems knowledgeable that can put you into the right machine for your application. Application has a huge importance in this stuff and saying that this machine compares to this machine, it really often isn't that simple. It really is all about the job that you have at hand. Get out, get some keys, visit some dealerships and find somebody who knows these products well that can put you into the right one and ensure that you have a good ownership experience.