How to Select the Best Tractor for Your Homestead

How to select the best tractor for your homestead, including basics on how a tractor works, and selecting the right tractor for your land.

| November/December 1985

Buying and using a homestead tractor

If a small landowner is interested in purchasing a used tractor, a gasoline-powered vehicle is probably a better choice than a diesel.


Learn how to select the best tractor for your homestead with these handy tips. 

Choosing and Using a Tractor Part I

If you live on and work a piece of land of any size, you'll eventually find yourself faced with a task that human muscles alone simply can't handle. Perhaps you'll need to spread five tons of lime over a couple of acres of rundown pasture, or drag some kitchen-sink-sized stones from the vegetable garden. Maybe you'll have stumps to pull, logs to skid, or acres of brushy land to mow, plow, harrow, and seed to grass.

And when that time comes, you'll have two choices. One is to hire someone with a tractor—or perhaps a team of horses—and the appropriate implements to do the job for you. Most communities have a "custom" worker who can be called upon to do plowing, harrowing, seeding, mowing, and other tasks for a set hourly rate. If the job you have in mind is a one-shot or occasional deal, such as preparing a new garden patch, that may be the best approach for you.

But if you find that you could use the services of a tractor more or less regularly, you may decide to select the best tractor for your homestead and invest the money you spend hiring others to work for you might better be put toward a machine of your own. After all, when hiring work out, it's rarely possible to have it done exactly when you'd like it to be—when the field first becomes dry enough in the spring, or when the hay is just right for cutting because there may be others in line ahead of you, or because the custom worker has a job to do on his or her own land.

By owning your own tractor, you'll be able to light into those big jobs when you're ready, not when someone else is. And if you have the time and inclination, you may be able to offset some of the cost of that capability by doing some custom work yourself for others in the area.

How a Tractor Works: The Basics

Everyone knows what a tractor looks like: It has two big, cleated tires in back, two smaller ones in front, a steering wheel, and a seat for the driver. What's less obvious, though, is that a tractor is much more than a powerful pulling machine with low gearing and high ground clearance. To understand that fully, let's take a look at the simplest type of "tractor" I know of.

mother earth news fair


Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!