Purchasing a tractor

I bought a farm last year and planted about 50 fruit trees and grapes. My rows of grapes are spaced 9 feet apart and my fruit trees are about 18-20 feet apart. I am looking to buy a tractor and was concerned with width and whether I should get one with or without a cab. In the back we have some woods and trails and I am worried that the fruit trees or the trails would cause damage to the cab? Does anyone have any recommendations on what type of tractor would be appropriate?

What do you mainly expect to use the tractor for? And how much (how many acres…) of those things do you think you might do?

I live in Canada, its zone 5/6 with snow in the winter and have 25 acres total, with about 3/4 acre planted to fruit trees and 1/2 acre planted to grapes, rasperries and blueberries. I plan to use the tractor to plow snow off the driveway, spray the fruit trees, use a wood chipper and a bush hog.

I would suggest a diesel utility tractor. A quick connect loader is a great option that you will use a lot. Four wheel drive really helps and is suggested. The cab is a complicating factor and will cost a lot of extra money and require a larger tractor - in the 50HP range. It would be great with an air blast sprayer if you have lots of money. Also heat in the winter. I don’t have any experience with them, but someone on this forum may. Several good brands available including Kubota, John Deere, New Holland and others. Specialty tractors designed for orchards are available, but expensive. Purchase a brand that can be serviced locally. A 5 foot bush hog will require 30-35 HP and will mow about 2 acre/hour(best case) if the grass/weeds are short. Most of the PTO chippers I have seen require 40-50HP. I use a 35HP Kubota to maintain about 5 acre of fruit tree/blackberry/blueberry. My rows are 12-14 feet apart.

blueberrythrill’s advice sounds well informed. I’d just add, that I assume the estimate for acres/hr assumes flat, open pasture.

I live in the forest and the only flat area is the foundation for the house, and even that is a tri-level.

Generally agree with blueberrythrill’s advise, and have a few additional things for you to think about:

  1. How do you think you will be plowing? Blade? Snow Blower? It will make a difference as to how much HP you will need. As will your typical snow depth and the biggest storm you want to handle. If you are thinking of getting a blower, look carefully into whether your tractor can take one in front or only in the rear. It makes quite a difference in ease of use (and stiff necks) especially if you have a long drive to plow.

  2. How much mowing will you be doing? Once a year, several times? It make a difference in that if only once then it may not be worth the bigger machine that can get the job done faster.

  3. What is the lay of your land? Flat and clear, if so any sized tractor will work OK. If you have a lot of hills, woods and other obstacles, then a smaller machine will likely be more maneuverable if it can handle your intended work.

If you can, try to get the advise from locals with similar property to yours. What size machine they have, if they like the local dealer/shops, and what they would do different.

And one thing I forgot, be wary of some of the newer computer controlled diesels. There are many stories of having to tow a dead tractor into the dealer to get it fixed because of a computer glitch. Some of the older, pre-computer big tractors are commanding a high resale price as farmers are trying to avoid these problems. [to be fair, this is coming from someone who owns a 1981 diesel tractor with no electronics on it at all]

Some good comments mentioned.

If you are just planning to use the trees and grapes for yourself and don’t plan to expand, you could easily spray your trees/grapes with a pull behind electric powered wand sprayer. In that case you wouldn’t need a cab for spraying. But Canada sounds very cold to me and if you are going to plow snow, you’ll probably want a cab. They are much more expensive though.

Also if you are going to plow snow, you’ll probably be much happier with a FWD. A FWD also adds significant cost. Significant.

You didn’t say if you were going to mow your 25 acres, or if they are forested. If you are going to mow, you probably need a minimum of an 8’ bush hog. You’ll need at least a 50 hp tractor to pull that mower. BTW, horse power is generally referred to in PTO horsepower, which typically runs about 10 hp less than engine listed hp.

Your grapes spaced at 9’ is pretty narrow to get a tractor down in between. I have my blackberries spaced at 15 feet and it’s tough to get a 7’ rotary mower down the rows without snatching canes. Tractor wheels are adjustable, so you can narrow up the wheel width, but with a 50 hp tractor, it’s going to be difficult to get the wheel spacing narrow enough to fit down the rows, once the grapes start to fill in.

I strongly recommend you purchase a brand of tractor which has a decent amount of market share, like some of the ones Blueberry mentioned. Not only do they have a much better resale value, but you should be able to get parts down the road. There are a lot of “off-brand” tractors out there, which would seem to save you a lot of money, but there are lots and lots of tractor brands like that have come and gone. I suspect some of these off-brand tractors being sold today won’t be in business long term.

John Deere has by far the largest share of ag equipment in the U.S. Typically John Deere tractors don’t depreciate unless they are used excessively. I’m amazed at the prices people will pay for used Deere tractors. But Deere does build good ag equipment.

CNH (owns the brands Case and New Holand) also have a lot of market share and build decent tractors.

Lastly AGCO (mainly Massey Ferguson) in the U.S. sells less tractors, but still a decent equipment. I have a Massey orchard model tractor fwd and it weighs a lot more than even John Deere tractors of comparable horsepower. I like Massey because they use Perkins engines (which are basically a CAT engine). CAT builds the best diesel engines IMO.

I don’t have a Cab on my tractor and pull an airblast, which is not the best combination. Sometimes I drive in a fog of pesticide.

I also recommend a front end loader if you are going to use this as a chore tractor. A fwd is very helpful with a front end loader.

Everybody pretty much gave you some really good advice. I would look for a open cab tractor with 4 wheel drive and a front end loader. Driving it in a orchard you would end up hitting the cab on the trees. You will be surprised how much you will use the front end loader if you get one. If you are patient you can get a really good deal on a used one. I bought a 67 model Ford that only had 3200 hours on it. I got it for $3000 and it is a 48 HP diesel. The good thing about the older ones are they are so easy to work on. I can get a complete rebuild kit for mine including pistons for $500. The old ones were built to last and are pretty much bulletproof.

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Thanks for the advice everyone. I have been looking at a John Deere 2355N which is 65 inches wide and has enough power to run a wood chipper (55 HP PTO), and an open cab. I looked at a few older tractors used but a lot of them didn’t have loaders on them but otherwise were well priced around $4000-$6000. This one is more around $9000. I think this is probably a well built model tractor that will run for a long time?


That’s a good point, but newer tractors have ROPS anyway which can still hit trees some. Plus if they have the exhaust pipe sticking up, it can hit trees too. Mine has the exhaust running underneath which sounds like a great advantage, but is really a mixed bag. True it doesn’t get hung up on trees, but can still hit stuff on the ground and dent it, if you go over a terrace, or drive through a deep ditch. I have pretty wide spacing on my rows (25’) so hitting trees with the ROPS hasn’t been too much of a problem. Most ROPS do fold down, but I have a canopy fastened to mine, so it has to stay up.

One other thing about buying a used tractor is to make sure the rubber is in good shape. Many older tractors have tires which are badly cracked, or worn down. Buying new rubber is expensive and should be added to the cost of the purchase price to get the real value. I just had to buy 4 new tires at a cost of 2500 bucks (the back tires alone were $800 a piece). It’s been a long time since I had bought tractor tires. I had no idea they had gone up that much.

A 50 gallon, 3 point hitch mounted “field” sprayer is a good compromise between a 12 volt powered “wand” type sprayer and an air blast. You can flip the boom to a vertical position, add a few extra nozzles. Turn the pressure up and you can quickly spray two rows at a time. I would not purchase a used unit since your not sure what chemicals were used in the tank previously

I’d rather hit my trees with the cab or the ROPS than with my face.


If the tractor has has a loader on it and has a reasonable amount of hours, then $9000 is a good price for that tractor. It’s an orchard model tractor. Orchard tractors are generally more expensive because they don’t make many of them, but they are worth it if you have an orchard.

Also looks like it has a regular “crash” transmission (not a powershift) which is more durable.

Maybe I’m stuck on one thing, but my understanding is that another thing about orchard tractors is that they are narrower than standard. That is good for getting in between rows, but not good for stability when side-hilling.


They are narrower, but also closer to the ground, which helps stability (and also makes them easier to get on and off of). I have a friend who has an orchard tractor so small, he says you don’t drive it, you wear it. :smiley:

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Unless using an engine block heater for the tractor you plug in I would not go diesel. Canada gets very cold as your aware so your fuel will gel in cold weather. Those diesels can be a bear to start.

That’s a good point Clark, but if he’s looking at a local tractor, it probably has a block heater. Also, if he is buying his diesel locally, my guess is they add enough additives to prevent gelling. I’ve read how some places in Canada use road graders to blade snow, so I know they run diesel equipment up there in the wintertime.

I do remember one winter in MO where trucks were stalled because fuel gelled in the lines. I think our problem is that since it’s not consistently cold in the winter here, refineries don’t blend diesel to withstand an occasional really cold winter (or people don’t use up all the “summer diesel” in their fuel tanks).

Your post had me curious as to how “winterized” they can blend diesel fuel. I’m amazed they can blend it to withstand -44C (-47F) for arctic diesel and it will still flow through filters/injectors.

You are right though, gas burners do start easier in winter, but as you can tell I prefer a diesel tractor. As you probably know, the engines last almost 3X as long before a rebuild and use a lot less fuel. Plus I love the smell of diesel smoke in the morning. :grinning:


I obviously live in a warmer climate because I was very surprised to hear ease of starting as a point in favor of gas engines. That’s exactly opposite my personal experience. Maybe its because my small gas engines have carburetors, but I dread letting them sit during the winter.

Diesel additives are relatively inexpensive.

I also use a diesel tractor in a warmer climate. I store 100 gallons of diesel at the start of the year with no concerns. 100 gallons of gasoline at the barn would bother me.

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