Arguably the most important piece of farm equipment, purchasing a new tractor is always a major undertaking. There are many features and options to consider, some more obvious than others.

Jeff White, owner of White’s Farm Supply in Canastota, New York, said, “[Factors in buying a new tractor] varies with people. It’s all over the mark. There a lot of people that buy strictly on price and price alone,” With four locations in central New York, White’s is a dealer for Case-IH, New Holland and Kubota tractors, as well as used tractors, and has a full-service repair department.

“There are those that are brand specific, while others are functional,” he continued. “The tractor has to perform a certain amount of tasks, and it’s got to be spot on to do what they want it to do.”

Sometimes, the thoughts of reliability and brand loyalty are intertwined in the mind of the customer, said Kalin Frazee, marketing director for Cazenovia (New York) Equipment Company. Founded in 1961, the company is a dealer for John Deere, as well as 40-plus other brands, with nine locations throughout central and northern parts of New York.

“They want a piece of equipment that isn’t going to break down or [breaks down] as little as possible. That’s what helps with our brand – John Deere is expensive, but it’s also well made. That’s a good trade off,” she said. “I always hear customers say, ‘I had my John Deere since 1945,’ ‘They last forever.’ It’s a brand that stands the test of time.”

White noted that topics like repetitive actions, load functions and motor performance come up when customers are in the market for a tractor. “We try to marry up the consumer’s needs with precisely what tractor is best suited to accomplish the task,” he said.

With all the sizes available and two-wheel or four-wheel drive options, one might think the bigger the better, but that’s not necessarily true. A tractor that’s too small may rob much needed work hours from your operations, while a tractor that’s too big can eventually bleed your revenue through extra operating costs. So it’s important to find the right size machine for your farm.

Paul E. Sumner and E. Jay Williams of the University of Georgia Extension published the report, “What Size Farm Tractor Do I Need?” The report states that the chosen tractor “should get the work completed on time at the lowest possible cost. The size of the largest tractor should be based on getting critical, high horsepower jobs done within a specified time period.”

According to the report, a two-wheel drive tractor can range from 5 to 200 hp, while a four-wheel drive or front-wheel assist tractor can go up to 240 hp. Two-wheel drive tractors are typically used for dry or upland farming and field transportation. They’re less expensive compared to other tractors and have better maneuvering ability. Two-wheel drive tractors do not handle well in adverse conditions, such as muddy and hilly terrain. Fourwheel drive tractors provide more traction in this regard.

“Our subcompact tractors from John Deere, the 1 Series are very popular,” Frazee said. “It has a lot to do with the area and the weather. It’s a tractor that can handle a lot of snow in the winter. John Deere has really hit the mark with that tractor. It’s like a Swiss Army knife, you can do anything with it.”

Photo by DonLand/ 

With size, power must be taken into account. A tractor purchase will often also include the purchase of one or more implements, such as tillage and planting attachments, but use caution. No matter the size, an overloaded tractor can get you on the fast track to a major breakdown.

That’s where power take-off (PTO) comes in. As noted on (, on a tractor there are three basic types of PTO control: transmission, live and independent. With a transmission PTO, it works only when the tractor’s clutch is released. A live PTO utilizes a two-stage clutch, which means the PTO will continue running even when there is a change in speed or gears. An independent PTO, which can be mechanical or hydraulic, is controlled with a separate clutch, so it runs independent of the tractor.

In his article, “Farming with One Tractor,” William W. Casady, associate professor in the department of agricultural engineering at the University of Missouri Extension, noted, “A single tractor can provide power for a wide variety of tasks if it is correctly matched to the power requirements of the attachments. The selected tractor should have adequate power to pull the implement with the greatest draft at a minimum of 4 to 5 miles per hour.”

In addition to tractor size, other contributing factors for proper implement matching focus on the type of soil and field speed. At minimum, half of the PTO horsepower should account for the drawbar horsepower. If the tractor is too big for the implement, a farmer might incur greater costs, as well as waste fuel in the long run. The difference in size of a chisel plow, for example, could mean “the gain or loss of ” thousands of dollars for your business.

Another consideration is ergonomics. The pedals, seat (preferably adjustable with armrests and back support), steering wheel, throttle and transmission control should be comfortable and well placed. If an operator is uncomfortable while using equipment, it can result in fatigue, stress and loss of productivity.

When purchasing used equipment, think safety. Older tractors should be retrofitted with roll over protection structures (ROPS), and all used equipment should be closely inspected for missing or worn parts prior to use.

Once you find the right tractor, you’re going to want to maintain it properly. This is where continuing service is key. Buying from a dealer, such as White’s Farm Supply, that has an in-house service department with factory-trained technicians means they can provide service after the sale.

White said his customers ultimately want performance out of their tractors. “They want to know they bought it from the dealer who backs up what they sell. They want a warranty in case of a breakdown,” he said.

The team at White’s has more than 100 years of combined experience. White said they take pride in understanding their customers and being there for them when things go wrong.

He said breakdowns are especially tough in the agricultural market. “Cows need to be fed every day,” White said. “We have to make sure that farmer keeps going and feeding his cows. It’s the same for harvest and planting season. We have to get the equipment ready. It gives our customers peace of mind that we stand behind our products.”

Cover Photo by surogati/