What to Consider When Buying Compact Tractors

Here's what to factor in when choosing an appropriate compact tractor.

You’ve decided to take the financial plunge because your back just won’t take all the lifting. You’ve put off those earth-moving projects long enough, but you need a machine that can do much more than dig. In two years, you want to make a little hay, but the driveway needs grading too. You’ve decided that a compact tractor will fit the bill, but there are so many choices. And what does shuttle-shift transmission really mean?


When it comes to choosing a first tractor, the process can be daunting, but armed with a little implement understanding and machinery know-how, you can learn to speak the dealer’s language and get what you need.

Compact tractor models have proliferated in North America ever since Japanese manufacturers defined the market back in the 1960s. Today, the compact tractor arena is crowded with models that run the gamut from economy to entry level to fully tricked out. Add variations in chassis size and weight, widely ranging engine power, and transmission choices that are almost continuously variable, and you have a decision-maker’s mess on your hands. Figuring out what you need is a little more difficult than figuring out what you want, but the process need not be as daunting as it initially appears. 

Begin with the Basics

Every tractor worth considering will have a clean, fuel-efficient diesel engine, transmission(s), rear 3-point hitch, rear drawbar, one or two power take-off (PTO) points, and a hydraulic system. Most of the tractors also will be equipped with four-wheel drive (if it’s optional, I’d nearly always recommend investing in the option), a loader (invariably worth the money), and occasionally a backhoe or other mounted rear attachment. You should think of the tractor as a pulling/pushing machine as well as a platform for attaching and powering implements and other tools as diverse as emergency home generators, snow plows, and belly-mounted finish mowers. Basic tractors without any attachments will cost anywhere from about $10,000 to well over $30,000, depending on their power rating, size, and the level to which they’re appointed with high-end engines, transmissions, and hydraulic systems. 

Power to the People


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