How to Buy a Used Tractor and Save Thousands of Dollars

The secret to getting a great deal when buying a used tractor is to be armed with information. Start by knowing how to quickly determine the age, condition and average selling price for any brand and model of used tractor. Then know what problem areas to take a close look at. The final step is to know the seven negotiating statements that will drastically lower the asking price of any tractor — including the one sound that you can utter that will knock 10% off the price of any tractor.

Let’s start at the beginning. The first step to getting a great deal on a used tractor is to do a little research and be an informed buyer. Let’s start at the beginning. When you’re looking to buy a used tractor don’t worry that it may be older than you are. Buying a used tractor is not like buying a used car. Tractors are made to last forever and you can still get parts for almost any tractor regardless of how old it is. Also, unlike your car, tractors are relatively easy to fix. Keep these facts in mind when you’re looking for a used tractor.

When buying a used tractor, one of the most important things to look for is a hydraulic system or three-point hitch as it is commonly called. The power-take-off or PTO is part of this system. Ford introduced the three-point hitch on their 9N tractor back in 1939. Farmall and John Deere waited a little later before they came out with a three-point hitch, but still most tractors you look at will have the three-point hitch, but be sure to check.

The three-point hitch and PTO system is very important because without it you will be limited in what you can do with your tractor.  So my advice is to only look at tractors with a three-point hitch. The next step is to determine the age of the tractor you’re considering. The best way to determine the age is to find the serial number and look it up on the Internet. Cars change designs every year, but tractors only make changes every decade or two, so you can’t tell much about how old a tractor is by just looking at it.

The Internet has a wealth of information about tractors. A good website where you can use the serial number and find the date a tractor was manufactured is Yesterday’s Tractors at  When you get to this site, click on “Tractor Registry” in the left Nav. panel to find information on any tractor. You can also use this site to see how much a particular type tractor has sold for recently.

The condition of a used is more important than the age. To determine the condition of a used tractor check to see if it has a tachometer that includes an hour meter. A lot of older tractors won’t have an hour meter. You can tell a lot about the condition of a used tractor by how much the petals are worn, how much play is in the steering and checking to see if there are any oil leaks. All of these factors will help you estimate the condition of a tractor.

Don’t be fooled by a new paint job. It could be covering up things. Also look at the tires. Just because the tires have good tread, it doesn’t mean that they’re in good condition. Check for dry rot and cracks. A good set of tires could cost you from $500 to well over $1,000.

Of course, check to see how the tractor starts and how it runs. If someone is trying to sell a tractor and they can’t make it start easily, there could be problem. You may want to have a mechanic look at the tractor with you. If the tractor is hard to start in warm weather, it will be even harder to start in colder weather. After you start the tractor, check to see if there is excessive smoke from the exhaust.

After you have checked all of the above points, you will probably know more about the tractor than the owner knows.

The next step is to check prices:

Two good places to check prices (other than Yesterday’s Tractors) are TractorHouse dot com and eBay. On eBay be sure to check completed auctions to see what tractors like the one you’re looking for really sold for. You can use this information in your negotiating.

One final point: How much equipment (if any) comes with a used tractor can be a big factor in determining the value of the tractor. Also, factor in how you will get the tractor home. If you can get a trailer in the deal, that’s that’s always a big plus.

When you’re armed with all of the above information, your final step is to “Negotiate like a Pro.” Here’s how to do it.

Seven negotiating techniques for people who don’t like to negotiate:

1.    Offer way less than you expect to have to pay.  Some people say, “I don’t want to negotiate and play games with you. I will give you $5,000 for the tractor and that’s it.”  These people almost always end up negotiating and paying a lot more.

2.    Always gasp and act shocked and surprised at the other side’s first price. Without saying a word, this lets the owner know that you think their price is totally unreasonable.

3.    Never, ever say yes to the first price they quote you —  even if the price is less than you expected to have to pay. If you say yes too quickly the other side will know that they priced the tractor too low. Then they may say something like, “Well let me clear this with my partner.”  Then he will come back and say that his partner would not agree with the offer.

4.    “You’ve got to do better than that.”  Always use this expression sometime during the negotiations.  This will almost always get you a lower price.

5.    Use the “good cop/bad cop” technique.  For example, say, “I would love to buy your tractor at that price, but my wife would kill me.  She’s dead set on me not paying more than $3,500 for a used tractor.”

6.    Arm yourself with information.  The more you’re prepared with facts and information, the better deal you can negotiate.  For example, say, “I have checked eBay and other Internet sources, and tractors like this one never sell for more than $35,000.”

7.    Never agree to split the difference.  The other side is almost always willing to split the difference, so offer less than half of the difference. You’ll usually get it.

Use these techniques and you will come out with the best deal possible on a used tractor. Don’t forget that there are a lot of good used tractors out there, so always be willing to walk away from any negotiation. 

Jacquelin Burkhammer

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