How to Buy a Tractor

Your guide to choosing and using

John Deere utility tractors.

The First Steps

Deciding on the right tractor can seem daunting without some fundemental knowledge about tractors and knowing what the relevant questions are for choosing between them.

The following questions will put you in the right headspace for thinking about the tractor best suited to your needs, and will reduce the time you spend looking for a tractor at our dealership or online.

 

Questions

1. What chores do you need a tractor to handle, both now and in the future? This will provide a good indicator for how much horsepower you’ll need to handle all the chores you’d like. For example, you’ll need more horsepower for incline terrain, plus different implements vary in weight and require different levels of PTO or usable power to function. 

Note: If it’s light mowing or dirt work, then one of our larger lawn and garden tractors would be sufficient.  


2. Which implements will you need? There are hundreds of implements (and attachments) available from your John Deere dealer, from snowthrowers to rotary cutters. Different implements may have different tractor size and PTO requirements. 

 

3. How much lifting capacity do you require? (800 lbs? 4600 lbs? etc.)

 

4. What type of material do you cut or mow? (Manicured lawn? Tall grass? etc.)

 

5. How big is your property? The size of your tractor depends a lot on how much time you want to spend doing work. Large tractors can cover ground more quickly than small tractors. So, be prepared to inform your local John Deere representative about the size of your property.

 

6. What is your prefered deck size? (54 inches? 72 inches? etc.)

 

7. What is your preferred rotary cutter size? (48 inches? 180 inches? etc.)

 

8. How high will materials be lifted, if at all? (Pickup truck height (5’11”), grain cart height (9’2″)? etc.)

 

9. Which type of transmission fits your skill level or preference? (Automatic? Manual?) 

 

10. Do you need two-wheel drive or four? Light-duty mowing may only require two-wheel drive; for heavier chores or much front-loader work, you may want four-wheel drive (also called ‘mechanical front-wheel drive’ or MFWD). MFWD does costs more but it also has a higher resale value and can increase your capabilities, without opting for a larger or more powerful tractor. 

 

11. What are your comfort and convenience requirements? Do you prefer a climate-controlled cab or open operator station? If you’re working in the dead of winter or heat of summer, you’ll want a closed, climate-controlled cab. If your chores are more ‘fair-weather,’ you may only need an open-station model.

 

12. What about regular maintenance? Consider the frequency, type and ease of scheduled maintenance. 

 

13. Is storing your tractor inside a traditional-size garage a requirement for you? If so, you’ll want a shorter tractor model.

 

 

Types of Tractors

Before we talk about the fundemental features and options of John Deere tractors, let’s take a moment to go over the big picture and look at how they are classed and grouped.

At the highest level, there are two types of tractors: Riding Lawn Tractors (sometimes called lawn and garden tractors), and Utility Tractors, which further sub-divide into Compact Utility Tractors (CUTs) – which includes Sub-Compact Utility Tractors – and Utility Tractors (UTs). Compact Utility Tractors are generally much smaller and less powerful than Utility Tractors, which are mostly used for largescale agricultural needs.

Utility tractors are individuated into “families” according to their size-in-class and horsepower. Each family is then tiered into one of three “series” according to their feature sets. The E Series offers entry-level features, the M Series offers mid-ranged features, and the R Series offers the highest tier feature set.

Garden/Riding Lawn

18-25 hp

Sub-Compact Utility

22-24 hp

Compact Utility

24-66 hp

Utility

45-140 hp

Essential Features and Options

Power

  • Horsepower is a good figure to start with, but more power doesn’t necessarily mean more usability. Too much power means you sacrifice fuel efficiency. Too little power means you may not be able to handle all the chores you’d like.
  • Having slightly more power than you think you’ll need allows you to ‘grow into’ your machine as you become more comfortable with its capabilities, and as your needs change. If you buy just the bare minimum horsepower to operate your implements, your machine will be in a constant state of strain.
  • PTO power is Usable Power. PTO, or power take-off, is the rotating shaft at the rear of the tractor. Rotary implements like cutters are powered by the PTO, which is powered by the tractor’s engine; therefore, PTO horsepower is a truer indication of a tractor’s capabilities than engine power.  Generally speaking, a tractor’s PTO horsepower will be roughly 15% less than its engine horsepower.

Transmission

  • When picking a transmission, it’s important to think about two things: How often will you change speeds? How many times will I need to shift gears?
  • A manual or gear-driven transmission is the most efficient and reliable. It is also the most commonly used in utility tractors. There are several types of manual transmissions:
    • Non-synchronized. An economical, reliable choice that operates just like a car’s manual transmission (stop, clutch, shift, go). These transmissions are well suited for mowing, plowing, or other constant-speed jobs.
    • Partially synchronized. Smoother and more flexible, these allow you to clutch and shift without stopping the tractor, and are easier to operate over a wide range of speeds.
    • Fully synchronized. The easiest of the manual-type transmissions, these allow you to shift on the go, without clutching, and typically offer a wider range of working speeds.
  • Automatic or hydrostatic transmissions are more expensive but most user-friendly.

If your chores include loader work, consider the PowrReverse option.  You’ll get a little orange lever to the left of the steering wheel lets you change direction from forward to reverse, without stopping, clutching or shifting.

Hydraulic System

    • A tractor’s hydraulic system runs everything from the power steering and brakes to loaders, backhoes, and other implements and attachments. 
    • The greater the GPM (gallons-per-minute), the greater the hydraulic capacity of the tractor. 
    • There are two types of hydraulic systems:
      1. An Open-center System constantly circulates hydraulic fluid, resulting in faster response times when you lift the loader or other Hydraulic implement.
      2. A Closed-center System remains in an ‘idle’ state until it’s called on to power an attachment. 
    • A tractor’s Selective Control Valve (SCV) is the point at which an implements hydraulic system attaches to the tractor’s hydraulic system. 
      • Most implements need at least one SCV to lift or lower, fold or adjust, but loader implements usually require at least two. 
      • Many tractors are available with extra SCVs, either at the rear of the machine or in the middle.
  • A Single Hydraulic Pump powers both steering and implements. This can cause less steering power when using a hydraulic implement with a heavy load (a full loader bucket, for example).
  • A Tandem Hydraulic Pump provides power to both the steering and implements without one robbing power from the other. 
  • A tractor’s Selective Control Valve (SCV) is the point at which an implements hydraulic system attaches to the tractor’s hydraulic system.

    • Most implements need at least one SCV to lift or lower, fold or adjust, but loader implements usually require at least two. 
    • Many tractors are available with extra SCVs, either at the rear of the machine or in the middle.

Hitch System

A three-point hitch consists of the three ‘arms’ at the rear of the tractor and serves as the mounting point for many of your implements. The two lower arms, or ‘lift arms,’ do most of the heavy lifting, while the upper arm, or ‘top link,’ serves to stabilize the implement, while allowing adjustment for the angle of the implement.

 

Hitch Categories reference the hitch’s lifting and pulling capacity. Tractors with up to 20 horsepower have a Category 0 Hitch. These are usually lawn and garden tractors. A Category 1 Hitch is for a tractor with 20 to 50 horsepower, and a Category 2 Hitch is for tractors with 50 to 90 horsepower. Both categories 1 and 2 allow attachment of the most commonly used implements even those from different manufacturers.

  • iMatch Quick-coupler Hitch System (Quick Hitch) allows you to quickly connect the hitch and PTO shaft to any compatible implement, without leaving the operator’s seat or adjusting hitch geometry. 
  • This is a John Dear exclusive that takes a lot of the work out of attaching implements. However, not every implement is iMatch compatible, so consider implement availability before you opt for the iMatch system. 
  • Works with Category 1 or 2 3-point hitch implements, no matter the brand.

Comfort and Convenience

    • The best way to get a feel for a tractor’s comfort level is to test drive it. Here are some things to look for:

      1. Seat comfort. Is there a large range of adjustment? 
      2. Controls. Are your most commonly used controls within easy reach? Are the controls out of the way, or will you have to step over a lever just to climb into the seat? 
      3. Visibility. How’s the line of sight to the front tires? Turnaround and look at the view to the drawbar and hitch. 
      4. Operator stations. What level of comfort and convenience are you after? There are three types of operator stations:

The straddle-mount platform is the most basic, and can require an awkward step when getting on and off the tractor.

An isolated open station mounts onto the tractor frame with rubber bushings to help reduce noise and vibration.

Enclosed cabs offers the highest level of comfort and convenience, but they are more expensive.

Additional Resources

  • What are the warranty’s terms and conditions?
  • What is the recommended routine maintenance schedule?
  • What are the service requirement costs?

Additional Resources

How to Buy a Tractor

Your guide to choosing and using John Deere utility tractors.

The First Steps

Deciding on the right tractor can seem daunting without some fundemental knowledge about tractors and knowing what the relevant questions are for choosing between them.

Often buyers begin looking for a tractor armed only with their prefered maximum price point in mind. However, choosing the right tractor requires understanding how much utility and performance that price point purchases.

The following questions will put you in the right headspace for thinking about the tractor best suited to your needs, and will reduce the time you spend looking for a tractor at our dealership or online.  

Questions

1. What chores do you need a tractor to handle, both now and in the future? This will provide a good indicator for how much horsepower you’ll need to handle all the chores you’d like. For example, you’ll need more horsepower for incline terrain, plus different implements vary in weight and require different levels of PTO or usable power to function. 

Note: If it’s light mowing or dirt work, then one of our larger lawn and garden tractors would be sufficient.  

2. Which implements will you need? There are hundreds of implements (and attachments) available from your John Deere dealer, from snowthrowers to rotary cutters. Different implements may have different tractor size and PTO requirements. Use the resources below to help you identify the implement(s) you need, and be sure to note the “PTO hp” requirements. 

JohnDeere.com/
Utility Tractor Attachments
and Accessories

Compact Utility Tractors 
Implements and Attachments

Frontier Product Guide

3. How much lifting capacity do you require? (800 lbs? 4600 lbs? etc.)

 

4. What type of material do you cut or mow? (Manicured lawn? Tall grass? etc.)

 

5. How big is your property? The size of your tractor depends a lot on how much time you want to spend doing work. Large tractors can cover ground more quickly than small tractors. So, be prepared to inform your local John Deere representative about the size of your property.

 

6. What is your prefered deck size? (54 inches? 72 inches? etc.)

 

7. What is your preferred rotary cutter size? (48 inches? 180 inches? etc.)

 

8. How high will materials be lifted, if at all? (Pickup truck height (5’11”), grain cart height (9’2″)? etc.)

 

9. Which type of transmission fits your skill level or preference? (Automatic? Manual?) 

 

10. Do you need two-wheel drive or four? Light-duty mowing may only require two-wheel drive; for heavier chores or much front-loader work, you may want four-wheel drive (also called ‘mechanical front-wheel drive’ or MFWD). MFWD does costs more but it also has a higher resale value and can increase your capabilities, without opting for a larger or more powerful tractor. 

 

11. What are your comfort and convenience requirements? Do you prefer a climate-controlled cab or open operator station? If you’re working in the dead of winter or heat of summer, you’ll want a closed, climate-controlled cab. If your chores are more ‘fair-weather,’ you may only need an open-station model.

 

12. What about regular maintenance? Consider the frequency, type and ease of scheduled maintenance. 

 

13. Is storing your tractor inside a traditional-size garage a requirement for you? If so, you’ll want a shorter tractor model.

Richard

707-496-0540

Please note that these are the same sorts of questions that we will ask you when you come into Fernbridge Tractor. You don’t need to have answers to all of them. We’re here to help you through the process. So, come in and talk to us or give us a call.

Duane

707-845-3608

Types of Tractors

Before we talk about the fundemental features and options of John Deere tractors, let’s take a moment to go over the big picture and look at how they are classed and grouped.

At the highest level, there are two types of tractors: Riding Lawn Tractors (sometimes called lawn and garden tractors), and Utility Tractors, which further sub-divide into Compact Utility Tractors (CUTs) – which includes Sub-Compact Utility Tractors – and Utility Tractors (UTs). Compact Utility Tractors are generally much smaller and less powerful than Utility Tractors, which are mostly used for largescale agricultural needs.

Utility tractors are individuated into “families” according to their size-in-class and horsepower. Each family is then tiered into one of three “series” according to their feature sets. The E Series offers entry-level features, the M Series offers mid-ranged features, and the R Series offers the highest tier feature set.

Garden/Riding Lawn

18-25 hp

Sub-Compact Utility

22-24 hp

Compact Utility

24-66 hp

Utility

45-140 hp

Parts of a Tractor

1 Instrument cluster


2
Steering column


3
Handrail


4
Hitch lift controls


5
PTO engagement lever

6 Loader control


7
Gear/range selector


8
SCV controls


9
Lift arms


10
Rollover protection
structure (ROPS)

11 Slow Moving Vehicle
(SMV) placard

12 One-piece hood


13
Steps


14
Top link


15
PTO shaft

Essential Features and Options

a John Deere tractor engine

Power

  • Horsepower is a good figure to start with, but more power doesn’t necessarily mean more usability. Too much power means you sacrifice fuel efficiency. Too little power means you may not be able to handle all the chores you’d like.
  • Having slightly more power than you think you’ll need allows you to ‘grow into’ your machine as you become more comfortable with its capabilities, and as your needs change. If you buy just the bare minimum horsepower to operate your implements, your machine will be in a constant state of strain.
  • PTO power is Usable Power. PTO, or power take-off, is the rotating shaft at the rear of the tractor. Rotary implements like cutters are powered by the PTO, which is powered by the tractor’s engine; therefore, PTO horsepower is a truer indication of a tractor’s capabilities than engine power.  Generally speaking, a tractor’s PTO horsepower will be roughly 15% less than its engine horsepower.

Transmission

  • When picking a transmission, it’s important to think about two things: How often will you change speeds? How many times will I need to shift gears?
  • A manual or gear-driven transmission is the most efficient and reliable. It is also the most commonly used in utility tractors. There are several types of manual transmissions:
    • Non-synchronized. An economical, reliable choice that operates just like a car’s manual transmission (stop, clutch, shift, go). These transmissions are well suited for mowing, plowing, or other constant-speed jobs.
    • Partially synchronized. Smoother and more flexible, these allow you to clutch and shift without stopping the tractor, and are easier to operate over a wide range of speeds.
    • Fully synchronized. The easiest of the manual-type transmissions, these allow you to shift on the go, without clutching, and typically offer a wider range of working speeds.
  • Automatic or hydrostatic transmissions are more expensive but most user-friendly.

levers and numbers

Don’t let all the levers and numbers intimidate you!

On most utility tractors, you’ll choose your range (usually identified with letters such as A, B, C) and your speed within that range (1, 2, 3, etc.).

If you see a transmission designated, for example, as ‘9F/3R,’ that simply means you have 9 forward speeds and 3 reverse.

If your chores include loader work, consider the PowrReverse option.  You’ll get a little orange lever to the left of the steering wheel lets you change direction from forward to reverse, without stopping, clutching or shifting.

PowrReverse Lever

hydraulic control lever

Hydraulic System

    • A tractor’s hydraulic system runs everything from the power steering and brakes to loaders, backhoes, and other implements and attachments. 
    • The greater the GPM (gallons-per-minute), the greater the hydraulic capacity of the tractor. 
    • There are two types of hydraulic systems:
      1. An Open-center System constantly circulates hydraulic fluid, resulting in faster response times when you lift the loader or other Hydraulic implement.
      2. A Closed-center System remains in an ‘idle’ state until it’s called on to power an attachment. 
    • A tractor’s Selective Control Valve (SCV) is the point at which an implements hydraulic system attaches to the tractor’s hydraulic system. 
      • Most implements need at least one SCV to lift or lower, fold or adjust, but loader implements usually require at least two. 
      • Many tractors are available with extra SCVs, either at the rear of the machine or in the middle.
  • A Single Hydraulic Pump powers both steering and implements. This can cause less steering power when using a hydraulic implement with a heavy load (a full loader bucket, for example).
  • A Tandem Hydraulic Pump provides power to both the steering and implements without one robbing power from the other. 
  • A tractor’s Selective Control Valve (SCV) is the point at which an implements hydraulic system attaches to the tractor’s hydraulic system.

    • Most implements need at least one SCV to lift or lower, fold or adjust, but loader implements usually require at least two. 
    • Many tractors are available with extra SCVs, either at the rear of the machine or in the middle.

Tandem Hydraulic Pump

Selective Control Valve

Hitch System

3-point Hitch

A three-point hitch consists of the three ‘arms’ at the rear of the tractor and serves as the mounting point for many of your implements. The two lower arms, or ‘lift arms,’ do most of the heavy lifting, while the upper arm, or ‘top link,’ serves to stabilize the implement, while allowing adjustment for the angle of the implement.

Hitch Categories reference the hitch’s lifting and pulling capacity. Tractors with up to 20 horsepower have a Category 0 Hitch. These are usually lawn and garden tractors. A Category 1 Hitch is for a tractor with 20 to 50 horsepower, and a Category 2 Hitch is for tractors with 50 to 90 horsepower. Both categories 1 and 2 allow attachment of the most commonly used implements even those from different manufacturers.

iMatch Quick Hitch

  • iMatch Quick-coupler Hitch System (Quick Hitch) allows you to quickly connect the hitch and PTO shaft to any compatible implement, without leaving the operator’s seat or adjusting hitch geometry. 
  • This is a John Dear exclusive that takes a lot of the work out of attaching implements. However, not every implement is iMatch compatible, so consider implement availability before you opt for the iMatch system. 
  • Works with Category 1 or 2 3-point hitch implements, no matter the brand.

tractor seat

Comfort and Convenience

    • The best way to get a feel for a tractor’s comfort level is to test drive it. Here are some things to look for:

      1. Seat comfort. Is there a large range of adjustment? 
      2. Controls. Are your most commonly used controls within easy reach? Are the controls out of the way, or will you have to step over a lever just to climb into the seat? 
      3. Visibility. How’s the line of sight to the front tires? Turnaround and look at the view to the drawbar and hitch. 
      4. Operator stations. What level of comfort and convenience are you after? There are three types of operator stations:

The straddle-mount platform is the most basic, and can require an awkward step when getting on and off the tractor.

An isolated open station mounts onto the tractor frame with rubber bushings to help reduce noise and vibration.

Enclosed cabs offers the highest level of comfort and convenience, but they are more expensive.

Straddle Mount

Isolated Open Station

Enclosed Cab

Maintenance

  • What are the warranty’s terms and conditions?
  • What is the recommended routine maintenance schedule?
  • What are the service requirement costs?

iMatch Quick Hitch