The 7 commandments of buying a compact utility tractor

Kioti compact tractor
By James Little, dealer development manager for Kioti Tractor

Whether you’re a first-time or a 12-time compact tractor buyer, it’s a big decision with implications across the board — including cost, efficiency and functionality. So, don’t make the decision lightly.

Use these seven commandments to help guide the process of buying a new or used compact utility tractor. 

Prioritize a tractor that will suit your primary needs

Will this tractor principally operate on 2 to 10 acres? Or, do you operate a fleet of tractors on dozens to hundreds of acres? Maybe you need a tractor for small plots of land, but move it from location to location throughout the day. Do you have multiple folks operating your machines? What are the primary implements and attachments you’ll need to perform the type of work your jobs call for?

Consider these questions as you begin your search for the best tractor to suit your needs.

Narrow down your options by prioritizing your top three needs. Then, bring your dealer in to help you make the final decision. 

Consider weight and lift capacities

Tractor sizes are determined by horsepower, weight, size and lift capacities. The type of work or projects you’ll undertake will directly inform the level of capacity you’ll need.

When considering weight — a lighter tractor is great for projects like lawn work, whereas a heavier tractor is critical for pulling, towing and work in fields, on construction sites or in the woods.

When considering lift capacity — how much weight will you be lifting with your tractor, and how often? For example, a bale of hay weighs a different amount than a load of dirt and these tasks require different attachments. 

Think through where and how you’ll use your equipment, and bring those to your dealer to help you assess the optimal weight and lift capacities for you. 

Pick a dealer you trust and trust their counsel

As you’re assessing your needs, first do your online research: There’s a wealth of information on manufacturers’ websites, in forums and online. Then, seek the counsel of a dealer you trust.

If you’re buying your first tractor, do some shopping around to find the dealer who you feel comfortable with. The dealer’s reputation is an important factor in choosing the right dealer. Trust is critical in the customer-dealer relationship. 

The dealer is the most knowledgeable resource you have. They know these machines in and out and can answer your questions and address your concerns. Another reason choosing a dealer you trust is critical; it’s their responsibility to guide you toward the best tractor for your needs. 

For example, as a buyer, you may think you need or want a 70-hp tractor, but you’re really only working on two acres. Or vice versa, you arrive at the dealership interested in a 20 hp tractor, but have 60 acres and want to run an 2.4 metre bush hog attachment. 

In the first instance, the dealer should direct you toward a 25 hp option. In the second, you need a 60 hp option. A good dealer will direct you to the product best suited for you and will guide you through the entire purchasing process.

Calculate the cost and know your budget

Be clear on your budget range as you begin the research process. It will help you eliminate unnecessary, or unattainable, tractor options and prioritize the brand and specific series for consideration.

When you’re calculating your final costs, be sure to include line items for the attachments and implements you’ll need, as well. And, go ahead and think about ongoing budget considerations — from fuel to transport to maintenance. That way, you won’t be surprised by extra costs on the day of purchase or in year two or three of ownership. 

Maintenance packages keep your tractor healthy, long-term

Purchasing a tractor is a big investment decision. Consistent maintenance is key to helping ensure a long-life span for your equipment. 

When you purchase, have your dealer walk you through the equipment’s recommended daily and weekly maintenance routine. They will likely recommend you check your oil levels and air filter, grease your loader and check for wear on the tires (just to name a few) before or after every use. Refer to your owner’s manual for proper maintenance on everything.

You’ll also agree upon a maintenance package with the dealership. Your first service should be a complete 50-hour service. Take your tractor to your authorized dealer so his trained mechanics can do the job. This preventive maintenance will make sure you’re spotting any potential problems early and can address them before it’s a full-blown job-stopper. 

Warranties are a big deal

Warranties are critical. If anything goes wrong with your equipment, you want the assurance and peace of mind that it will be fixed quickly and with minimal cost to you. Do your research and ask your dealer questions about different warranty options based on the equipment you’re interested in and how hard you’ll be on it. Remember, if a better warranty may make your purchase cost a little more expensive, it’s likely worth it in the long run. 

Listen to it, test drive it and trust your gut

At the end of the day, it’s your new tractor, and you’ve got to love it. Use your senses when making the final decision. Before you jump into the operator’s seat, listen to the tractor and how she hums.

Then, climb in and give it a test ride. Does it feel natural? Is it comfortable? Is it easy to reach levers and buttons?

Ask your dealer if they have a pile of dirt to test a loader on, or if you can test a backhoe to experience the power of the tractor and attachments in action.

When the customer comes back from a test drive with a smile on their face, I know the tractor has done its job.

As you seek the new tractor that brings a smile to your face, follow these seven commandments and don’t look back.