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Top 10 Things to Consider when Buying a Tractor

Neil from Messick's here to talk to you about some of the things that you might want to look at if you're shopping for a new tractor. If you don't have the pleasure like I do to spend nearly every day in the seat of one of these machines, it can be difficult to know exactly what to look for when you're evaluating a new machine. Today, we're going to walk around a couple of tractors and talk through some of the attributes that you might want to consider if you're shopping for a new piece of equipment.
One of the first things that I try to develop in my head when evaluating a piece of equipment is, is it easy to operate? You are going to spend potentially hundreds, if not thousands of hours in the seat of this piece of machinery. Try to develop a sense of whether it's easy to operate, I think is really important. In a dealership setting here we're usually going to give you the keys to these machines will let you run them around the parking lot.
If you are comfortable enough, we won't look over top of your shoulder while you're doing it. It's good to take that time. Often time, we dealership sales guys walk out here with keys and dangle them in front of you and ask if you want to go for a drive. More often than not, people say no. A lot of times, I think that's unfortunate because it doesn't give you the opportunity to develop that seat of the feeling of what that tractor is like. I'm looking for things like lever layouts.
Is it a loader valve here easy to reach? Is it in a comfortable position for me? That's different for different people. I spent a lot of time on the transmission. In particular, is it easy to operate? If it's a hydrostatic does the motion between forward and reverse go smoothly? If it's a gear driver, a power shift, do the gear shifts smoothly? Do you like how they feel?
Taking the time to actually operate the machine and run it through its motions is going to tell you a lot about how that machine is going to feel to you in this seat.
Another thing to consider is your ability to go through and select the right tires for your application. That works out in two different ways. One, does the manufacturer offer the right tires for the chore that you have at hand? Years ago, you used to see tractors offered with an R1 AG tire, an R3 Turf, or an R4 Industrial. Usually those three options. Today you're seeing more and more options for hybrid tires like these R14s or if you're in a bigger ag tractor, low sidewall tires or radials, or bias ply tires.
You can have anywhere from about as few as three to as many as 10 or 12 tire options for a given tractor. Those tires have a lot to do with how your tractor is going to perform in your application. They are the biggest impact on your machine when it comes to its traction and ride quality. Making sure you're buying a machine that's giving you a lot of tire selections to be able to dial in exactly what's right for your application, I think is critical in ending up with the right machine.
Another comfort consideration is the ergonomic layout of a tractor. You may not think of this when you think of tractors, we see them as utilitarian machines. When we talk about the hours that are involved in a machine like this, the comfort is actually a pretty big factor. It needs to be comfortable to you when you're sitting in this seat, you want to be able to reach out and grab all the controls, have them in convenient locations, particularly the one for your loader.
Make sure that they feel good to you when you're sitting on the machine. Don't ignore the ones that are down below you on the fenders. If you're reaching down to levers that are under the seat, they can often be difficult to find and usually, aren't nice to operate. Watch your loader control valve as well. Some of them can be oddly far away from the operator making the machine annoying to use. These things are different for every operator.
We're all different-sized people and you can't say that one machine is just wonderfully laid out for every person. That's not the case. Take the time to put your rear end in the seat and see how each of these controls lay out for you. Once you've gotten yourself in the seat of the tractor, take those keys and fire up the engine. What you want to pay attention to would be the amount of vibration that comes from it and the amount of noise that it makes.
There are significant differences between engine manufacturers and how refined their engines can be in this regard. You're going to notice things like noise levels. One that's very obvious. A lot of these machines sit right at the cusp of needing hearing protection and maybe not needing hearing protection. A couple of decibels one way or the other might make a real difference for you in your feeling, and need to go put headphones on every time you jump on your machine.
Vibration is something you want to pay attention to as well. Some machines, you're going to feel some of that engine vibration back in the steering wheel, the floor pan or the seat.
Obviously, it's more preferable if that vibration stays isolated up in the engine. Not all machines transmit that vibration in the same way. It's worth paying attention to after you've started the engine. Do not underestimate the amount of additional value you can bring to your tractor through accessorizing it.
Now, this is going to come in a lot of different ways. We see a lot of people going through and choosing to add things like work lights to their tractor. Your headlights are usually pretty useless with a loader in front of them. Also adding things like a SawHaul to carry your chainsaw around, accessorizing your three-point hitch. There's additional linkages or quick hitches available to take your implements on and off easy.
You're going to see machines like this limited series Kubota right here. This is a little bit more of an economy-oriented model, but there are accessories available in order to put things like cruise control switches and work lights and mirrors and everything back onto this machine to bring back some of its functionality even though it's priced very, very well in that economy tractor market. These things are very different from one machine to the next.
There's different amounts of accessories available for certain tractors and you want to look towards the most popular models because in those cases, there's enough of a machine population out there that even the aftermarket now has started picking up, offering custom brackets, weldments, accessories light kits, all kinds of cool stuff that's available for your machine. Speaking personally, a lot of those additions have brought a lot of additional utility and functionality to my tractor.
Most tractors are sold as some package. Very, very infrequently are we selling just a tractor because there's very few things the machine can do by itself. It needs implements in order to do the various chores that you could do with a machine. You want to be able to look and see if those implements are performance matched to the tractor that you are buying. Very, very often, the tractor companies rely upon third-party companies in order to supply them with the implements that are used on those machines.
A loader like this is actually built by New Holland, but if you look at a lot of other companies they rely upon third parties in order to supply their loaders. What you'll find when you get into those kinds of manufacturer relationships is that those implements aren't necessarily really intended and designed for that specific tractor. You're going to find things like capacities that aren't quite as high as they could be or frankly sometimes too high for the build quality of the tractor.
You'll find loader valves that can't multifunction. When you take the loader up and down, you have a hard time curling the bucket simultaneously and keeping your loads levels. Making sure that the implements for your machine are performance match to it goes a long way to making sure that you're working productively and that things are going to hold up appropriately. Next up is technology. This industry has a bit of a love-hate relationship with technology.
We love what it can do for us in terms of operator comfort, efficiency, and reporting. Sometimes, we'll get frustrated by the potential service issues that it can create by having extra computers and stuff in equipment. Most manufacturers have very tech-oriented machines and very basic ones available as well. You have a lot of ability to choose the level of technology that you would like to see in your tractor.
It's worth asking your dealership service department what the technology is able to do for you in a given machine. In many cases, it helps us fix equipment a lot more efficiently than what we were able to in tractors that don't have the same level of tech. A lot of that diagnostic information is available to you as well. A lot of these machines now are coming through with available telematics that you can see a lot of diagnostic info right there on your phone for a very reasonable cost.
Gauge how much technology you'd like to see in your machine and talk to your dealership salesperson about the level of that has been integrated into a product that you might be considering. I have some bad news for you, but the odds are you will probably break your equipment at some point. We tend to run these machines in pretty hairy environments, whether it's crashing through the woods or working in fields where we can't see debris and stuff on the ground.
Tractors and their implements tend to take some wear and take a pounding. We tend to like to see metal where we can. Metal usually is going to hold up a little bit better than the plastics and stuff that you'll find in some tractors. Take a quick look at your machine and look for exposed hydraulic hoses, whether they're hanging off the side of the loader. Lay on the ground and actually look up underneath the machine and the eye up its hydraulic filters and any exposed drive shafts that may be down there.
Those are all places you can end up with potential damage and service issues down the road. If you are really using your tractor and say a logging-type application and you're in an extreme end of the possibility of damage. Sticking with those machines that have the really good aftermarket accessory support that we were talking about earlier can be really important because the aftermarket has really stepped up in order to provide things like underbelly armor and logging and forestry packages and stuff for some of these tractors.
The aftermarket can be a huge help on the durability side if you need it. We are nearly the entire way down our list. Only at this point am I suggesting that you take a look at some of the specific specifications for your tractor. If you have certain chores in mind, say you have a particular load that you need to lift with your machine or in the three-point hitch you have a particular implementation that requires a certain amount of horsepower, you're going to want to know those specifications when you start your tractor shopping process. However, I caution anybody that goes through and takes a glossy brochure and starts simply looking for the biggest numbers that they can find. You're going to find that when you're engineering a tractor, there is a balance between all of these numbers and if there's one number that's really big, odds are there's another number that you're overlooking that's offsetting that in some way.
Whether it's a durability issue or rollback angles, it's very possible for engineers to go through and work with a bunch of trade-offs in these tractors. The pump one number at the expense of another. You want to know your specifications when you have particular chores that are limiting factors, but don't put too much stock in them in your buying process. You want to look for a balanced machine. Lastly, we come down to me, the dealership that you're buying from.
You will need your dealer at some point during owning your tractor. These are not automotive-type purchases where oftentimes you buy a car and may never return to your dealership for anything. As we talked earlier, damage on this stuff is frequent. You usually are going to need our service department, the parts department is going to be available to supply any filters or anything that you might need for your machine.
The way that you take care of your equipment has a huge impact on its longevity. Having the proper fluids, filters, greases, all that stuff goes a long way to making sure that equipment continues to hold up for you. It's very important and should be a real consideration in your buying process. The right piece of equipment with the wrong support structure behind it doesn't really work out that way. Make sure that you've got the parts of service department and the dealership in order to back it.
That is what we do. It's what makes us great and we're here to provide it to you. If you're shopping for a piece of equipment then we can help. Or if you have parts of service need for a machine you've already got, give us a call at Messick's. We're available at 800-223-3373 or online at messicks.com. 

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