The Ultimate Guide to Buying a New Tractor

The Ultimate Guide to Buying a New Tractor

Quick Navigation:

So you're in the market for a new tractor. Maybe you need an upgrade, or you're looking for your first tractor and need a place to start. Whatever your situation, we've put together a comprehensive list of tractor buying tips to help you get started.

When You Should Buy a New Tractor

There are many reasons you might need to buy a farm tractor, whether you're expanding your operations or simply need a new machine. You may also be looking to replace an old machine. Signs that you will need a new tractor soon include:

  • Your current tractor has worked 12,000 hours or more.
  • You need to replace engine parts often.
  • New technology is available.
  • New parts are increasingly unavailable for the model you have.

If you're looking for your first tractor, rest assured that you have plenty of options available. Learning as much as you can about tractors and their uses can help guide you towards your best fit.

Before the Dealership

While dealership etiquette is similar, shopping for a tractor is different than shopping for a car. For one thing, tractors last years, even decades, longer than the average car. As long as you keep up with regular maintenance and proper use, you could even use that same tractor for the rest of your life. 

That's why the first thing you should do when buying a tractor — or any farm equipment — is to conduct plenty of research. This process should be slow and methodical. You want enough time to weigh all your options before buying your first tractor to make the best choice. 

Asking around is a good place to start because experienced farmers and tractor enthusiasts can tell you what you need to know, from red flags to look out for and any quirks specific models may have. Googling, reading product reviews and consulting with dealers should be your next step.

While you're researching, make a list of everything you need the tractor to be able to do. Consider these factors when buying your new or used tractor as your deal breakers.

Next, list everything that would be nice to have but isn't completely necessary. Things like an enclosed cab or a specific transmission system come to mind. Additionally, while it can help to know about brand specifications, it's better to focus on your own goals for the tractor. 


When calculating your budget, you should also factor in additional costs like repairs, add-ons and implements.

You should know exactly how much you can spend on a tractor before you look for one. That way, you can avoid setting your heart on a tractor that is entirely out of your price range. 

When calculating your budget, you should also factor in additional costs like repairs, add-ons and implements. Research what each dealership in your area charges for specific models and compare the prices you find. This method is beneficial when you already have a particular model in mind, but it can also help you determine the most reasonable price.

Additionally, opting out of unnecessary features where you can is a great way to save money. 

New or Used

Should you buy a new or a used tractor? That depends on your budget and your needs. You can save thousands by opting for a used vehicle, but the long-term investment of a new tractor might be better for your situation.

If you do plan to buy a used tractor, make sure you trust the seller. Ask them how they used the tractor. Did they ever experience anything out of the ordinary? What is the tractor's power takeoff horsepower (PTO-HP)? 

Here are some essential things to look for when you're inspecting a used tractor:

  • Signs of wear: Check for leaks, rust, abnormal noises when driving or anything that seems off.
  • Tire condition: Look out for bubbles, cracks and cuts in the tires.
  • Hours per year: The average hours per year for your tractor should be below 900. Tractors logging more hours per year may require more extensive repairs in the future.
  • Test drive: Just like with a new tractor, take it for a test drive. Make sure you feel comfortable with the transmission system and driving mechanics. 

If anything seems off to you, it might be best to look for a new seller. 

The Benefits of a New Tractor

While a used tractor might seem more affordable now, you should remember that there will be additional costs down the line. Because it's already logged some hours, you may need to bring this tractor in for more frequent repairs and maintenance. A new tractor will also last longer than a used one, which can be more cost-effective. 

You also want to consider technology and upgrades. How much longer will parts be available for a used tractor? With a new tractor, you have more time before it becomes obsolete. You're also more likely to find energy-efficient and emissions-compliant engines on newer machines, which is vital in the state of California. 

What To Look For in a Dealer

When you're buying a tractor, it's best to buy from someone you trust. Both the dealership and its individual representatives can give you clues as to whether this seller is a good fit.

Some important things you should look for when deciding on a dealership include:

  • Inventory: A good dealership will have an extensive selection of tractors. If you're walking around the lot and notice that some models are well-stocked while others only have a few available, it might be worth looking elsewhere. 
  • Facility: The dealership facility should be clean and organized, even if it's in an older building. A dirty or messy facility is a major red flag. 
  • Ownership: Is it a small, family-owned business or a branch of a large company? This distinction can make all the difference in the kind of service you'll get moving forward.

It's also important to evaluate the sales representative who works with you. Larger dealerships will often have a sales team, but at smaller dealerships, the salespeople might be the owners themselves. 

Here are some traits of a good salesperson:

  • Attitude: Your salesperson should have a polite, positive attitude. Essentially, they should feel open and approachable.
  • Care: Your salesperson should be attentive and try to get a feel for your needs by asking questions and listening to your answers. 
  • Knowledge: Your salesperson should be able to answer questions about their tractors, and if they can't remember something right away, they should know where to get that information.

Ultimately, when you choose a dealer, you're choosing a long-term business partner – if you feel at all like you're being mistreated, it's time to look somewhere else.

What To Ask the Dealer

What to ask the dealer when buying a new tractor. To get the best understanding of each model, you should ask your dealer about the following features and functions.

Make sure you let your dealer know what you'll be doing with your tractor, both now and in the future. A good, well-maintained tractor can last decades, so you want to account for any changes in the size and scope of your operations moving forward. 

To get the best understanding of each model, you should ask your dealer about the following features and functions:


One of the most important things to consider when shopping for a tractor is the power you'll need. Generally, the bigger the tractor, the higher the horsepower.

There are two types of horsepower — the engine's horsepower and the power takeoff (PTO) horsepower. The engine horsepower refers to the full power the engine produces. This number is what many dealers will use to advertise their tractors.

On all tractors, features like hydraulic pumps, power steering and hydrostatic drive leech power from the engine in a process called parasitic loss. That loss means your actual horsepower is lower than what your engine is producing. That excess energy is what you will use to power your attachable implements. 

So why does PTO horsepower matter? If you need to use any implements, you'll need to know your PTO first. This should be a lower number than your engine power. Using an implement that requires higher power than what you have can be dangerous, resulting in a damaged tractor or even personal injury. 

Ultimately, your safest bet is to buy the biggest tractor that's reasonable for your needs. Choosing a tractor with high horsepower can ensure you have the energy to get the job done now and in the future if your tasks change.

Tractor Size

Tractors come in several different size categories, with lawn tractors being the smallest and agricultural tractors being the largest.

Tractors come in several different size categories, with lawn tractors being the smallest and agricultural tractors being the largest. We'll focus on the middle types here since they're the most common for commercial use:

  • Sub-compact: Sub-compact tractors are the smallest commercial tractors available, with engines generating a total of 15 to 25 horsepower. Since they're so small, they're simple in terms of features and only suit light operations like mowing pastures and hauling dirt.
  • Compact:Compact tractors weigh in at 4,000 lbs with a 40 to 60 horsepower engine. They're best for lighter commercial tasks like hauling small loads, removing snow and maintaining roads. Some larger models may come with an enclosed cab. 
  • Utility: Utility tractors range from 40 to 100 horsepower and tend to come with more bells and whistles. Enclosed cabs are standard on these tractors, and some may even have advanced technology like computer systems or artificial intelligence (AI). They're most useful for heavy work like large-scale hay operations and livestock hauling.
  • Compact utility: Compact utility tractors (CUT) are essentially smaller utility tractors. Their engines can range anywhere from 20 to 70 horsepower, and they often have similar features to utility tractors. These are best for smaller-scale operations that might require heavy lifting.

You need to know two things before choosing a specific size — your daily operations and the size of your land. If you need to squeeze into smaller spaces, buy a compact or sub-compact tractor. However, if you need high horsepower to do heavy tasks, you should look into something a little larger, like a utility tractor or a CUT. 

Transmission Systems

The transmission controls the power output in your tractor. Specifically, it controls your direction and speed.

There are four main types of transmission in tractors today — gear-drive, power shuttle, hydrostatic and continuously variable transmission (CVT).

  1. Gear-drive: A classic transmission system, the gear-drive is the oldest and most straightforward in use today. It uses a clutch and gear shift mechanism to change the tractor's speed and direction. This type of transmission is generally more affordable than others and allows for greater PTO horsepower. However, the clutches in this system are typically not lubricated with oil, so they tend to wear down faster.
  2. Power shuttle: A gear-based transmission system that automatically clutches and shifts gears based on the tractor's speed and rpm. This transmission is most helpful if you frequently shift between forward and reverse, like with a front loader. Additionally, the clutch is usually lubricated, giving it smoother control and a longer lifespan.
  3. Hydrostatic: This type of transmission relies on pressurized oil to turn the wheels. It changes the direction and speed by adjusting the amount of oil flowing to the hydraulic motor. Hydrostatic transmission maintenance involves regularly changing the oil, cleaning oil cooler fins and changing the filters.
  4. Continuously variable transmission (CVT): At the moment, CVT is rare in smaller tractor systems. It automatically shifts based on the pedal input from the operator. These incredibly efficient transmission systems use less water than hydrostatic and wear out slower than gear-drive systems. 

If you're interested in a gear-shift transmission, there are also four subtypes to consider:

  • Sliding gear: A shift fork slides the gears into position.
  • Collar shift: Instead of sliding the gears directly into position, this system places a fork and collar between each gear to increase reliability.
  • Synchro: This system is like a collar shift with a synchronizer, which slows the shifting process to prevent gear grinding. As a result, synchro systems provide a quieter shift. 
  • Power shift: These transmissions replace the collar with a clutch pack for more effortless shifting. Depending on the model, you can shift by pressing a button or pulling a lever.

Some transmission systems will be better for your purposes than others, so make sure to ask your dealer for their recommendation. 


The tractor's implements are the attachable parts that carry out your intended actions. Common tractor implements include:

  • Cutters: These implements typically attach to the back of a tractor to cut grass and weeds as the tractor moves. 
  • Rotary tillers: Rotary tillers attach to the back of your tractor and till the soil behind it using rotating tines. 
  • Front-end loaders: These versatile implements attach to the front of your tractor to lift and carry heavy loads depending on whether you add other parts. You can connect it to other tools like pallet loaders or buckets to fulfill more specific purposes.
  • Rear blades: These blades attach to the back of the tractor and flatten the ground. They're useful for scraping surfaces to reach the bottom layer, such as large expanses of snow or when creating level paths.

How To Choose Your Implements

Once you know what you need, it's time to choose the specific model. Knowing how much horsepower your tractor can supply is a great start, as each model will have different power needs. Your implement's horsepower should be within your tractor's PTO range.

  • Weight: Your tractor should lift the implement and whatever you need the implement to move. 
  • Width: Your implement should fit the tractor in terms of physical size as well as weight. The appropriate width depends on the implement, so speak to your dealer if you have any questions.
  • Components: You need the right pins and attachments to securely hook your implement to your tractor. Look into what each model requires and make sure you either have or can buy the right parts.

In general, as long as you stick to the rule of matching your implement to your tractor, you should be on the right track. 

Find Your New Tractor With Holt Ag Solutions 

Find Your New Tractor With Holt Ag Solutions. Browse Equipment.

Holt Ag Solutions is a trusted source for large-scale farm equipment in California. Our knowledgeable staff is happy to help you find a suitable model for your operation, or you can browse our inventory online.

Contact us to speak with a representative today, or request a quote if you have a specific vehicle in mind.