Top 18 Key Items To Consider When Buying A Used Tractor In 2021

March 29, 2021

Find helpful checklists to review when you buy a used tractor in 2021.

Used tractor John Deere 8360R for sale in equipment lot. Next to other farm machinery for sale
Used tractor John Deere 8360R for sale in equipment lot. Next to other farm machinery for sale

Do Your Homework

Buying a used tractor can be complicated, and taking the time to do your homework up front can save you thousands of dollars and countless hours down the road. We’ve created several lists to help you with your important decision for buying a used tractor.

  • General Items Checklist
  • Tractor-Specific Questions To Ask
  • Tractor Components Overview

General Items Checklist

#1 What Type Of Tractor Do I Need?

The applications you need your tractor for will determine the features and specifications you require. Applications can include haying, transportation, tilling, grading, and so on. Each application has different needs for horsepower, lift capacity, power train, etc

There are many types of tractors available: 4WD tractor, row crop tractor, utility tractor and mini tractor. Also, tractors may have climate-controlled cabs while others do not.

#2 How much land and in what conditions will I work?

Larger land areas often require larger tractors. Also, think about your terrain and drainage. Areas prone to wet and soggy conditions will require tractors capable of navigating tougher areas.

#3 How long do I plan on owning the tractor?

Some prefer trading in the tractor every few years, while others prefer long-term ownership. You should consider the cost of ownership through the entire duration of the time you plan to own the tractor.

#4 What type of transmission (automatic or clutch) am I comfortable operating?
#5 Do I require advanced technology solutions?

Tractors are becoming more and more technologically advanced each new model year. These advancements help improve efficiency and output, but at the same time it can make completing self-repairs more difficult.

#6 Do I want a tractor covered by warranty?

If the used tractor is still under warranty, verify that the warranty provider will allow the transfer of the warranty. This information should be in the original warranty coverage plan.

#7 What is my budget?

Determine how much cash you have available and are willing to spend upfront. It is smart to include a small contingency amount (~10% of the value) for additional costs such as transportation, extra repairs, etc.

#8 Do I want to use financing? If so, what are the terms lenders will give me?

Financing allows buyers to purchase "more tractor" for each dollar upfront. In today's low interest rate environment financing can be very attractive. Financing rates are determined by multiple factors: 1.) Your credit score, 2.) The amount of money you put down for the tractor, 3.) Your relationship with the financial institution, 4.) The expected residual value of the tractor over the life of the loan, and 5.) Macroeconomic conditions

Tractor-Specific Questions To Ask

#9 Are the documents official?

You should check the tractor's documents and make sure they are authentic and well organized. You should check the VIN, its service book, warranty details and model number. Also, you should verify that there are no outstanding liens on the tractor.

#10 What major service or repairs have been done on the tractor?

Ask the owner if the tractor has undergone any major overhauls or repairs. This may affect the value and future repair costs.

#11 Did the prior owner(s) take good care of the tractor? See if there are detailed repair and maintenance notes/logs.

Similar to when you buy a home, the condition of the home is determined by the prior owner(s). Check to see how the prior owner(s) cared for the tractor. Items that will need to be repaired that are not noticed at purchase are classified as hidden "costs". Hidden costs tend to be higher for tractors owned by less attentive owners.

#12 Did prior owners follow scheduled maintenance?

Proper scheduled maintenance is crucial for ensuring the long-term good health of your tractor.

#13 What are the brand's and model's reputations? Some brands and models have lower repairs and maintenance costs than others

You can get a general sense of this by talking to the salesperson and other owners. It's important to keep in mind that often you may be looking at an apple versus an orange. Make sure you know which is which when you make your offer.

#14 What is the condition of the tires / tracks? These can be costly to replace down the road.

Understand when the tires or tracks were replaced, and the expected life. Also, ask the prior owner if they cared for the tires or tracks.

#15 How easy is it to find parts and service near me?

It’s important to have a strong dealer network near you to keep your equipment running. Always plan for the unexpected. Use Equipment Radar's Dealer Directory to find farm equipment dealers near you. This is the largest dealer directory in the world.

#16 How does it feel to operate the tractor?

Spend time riding it before you decide and see if it feels like the right fit. Trust your gut.

#17 How reputable is the seller? Is the seller a business or an individual?

Read reviews for the seller so you can learn more. Equipment Radar provides public buyer and seller reviews

#17 What sort of representations and guarantees are being made by the seller? Can this seller back these representations and guarantees?

Make sure you have everything in writing.

#18 How easy would it be to sell the tractor down the road?

Some makes and models have higher demand than others. You can get an idea of how "common" a tractor brand and model are by searching Equipment Radar's listings

Tractor Components Overview


Many say the engine is the most important specification because it is the workhorse of the tractor. Engine power is measured in horsepower, and it determines the tractor’s ability to perform various tasks. Higher horsepower engines enable operators to tow bigger loads and perform more intensive jobs. Over the past several decades the average tractor horsepower has increased.

Messick's (Messick's website) contributed this helpful video explaining tractor horsepower more in-depth:


Transmission is another important item to consider because it determines the performance of the tractor. Hydrostatic transmissions are easiest to drive - increasing the speed of the tractor is as simple as pressing harder on the pedal. Manual gear-driven transmissions, such as synchro-shift transmissions, require the operator to shift gears using a separate stick.

Power Take-Off (PTO)

PTO is a spinning shaft that provides power to attachments such as balers and mowers, and it often has its own horsepower rating that is different from the tractor’s engine. It is one of the most important parts of your machine.


Hitches enable the tractor to make use of attachments. A common hitch is a three-point hitch, which has a hydraulic lift to raise and lower attached equipment.

Tractor Mike on YouTube created this helpful video explaining three-point hitches:

Hydraulic Power

Hydraulic power is required for lifting attachments and powering implements such as backhoes and front-end loaders.

Tires / Tracks

Tires and tracks are critical components and enable the tractor to do its job. Tires are typically filled with air, but many choose to fill them with heavy fluids such as antifreeze or windshield washer fluid. Take note of the condition — replacing tires and tracks can be very costly.

Visit for a great resource on machinery tires and tracks.


Farming often requires long hours, and your tractor must be able to accommodate your schedule. Check the tractor’s lighting system, and take note of any costs that would be necessary to make it fit your needs.

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