Tractor Buyers Guide

Tractor-buying begins here

Whether you just moved to your rural retreat, or you're considering taking on a few more chores if you're reading this book, you’ve probably decided it's time to think about a new utility tractor. To help give you the information you need to make the best buying decisions, the tractor experts here at John Deere have put together this guidebook.

The First Steps

The first step in choosing your utility tractor is deciding on the chores you expect it to handle, both now and in the future; that allows you to narrow your choices down to a particular horsepower range. From there, you and your salesman at Smith Tractor Company should consider the size of your property, the comfort and convenience features you'd like and, of course, your budget. A few questions to consider:

How much power do you need?
Having a little more power than you think you need is better than not having quite enough.


Which transmission fits your skill level?
Utility tractors are available with a variety of transmission types, 3 types of user friendly transmissions available and will be explained in detail later.

Two-wheel drive or four?
Light-duty mowing may only require two wheel drive; for heavier chores in rolling ground, MFWD may be the way to go. Four-wheel drive is commonly referred to as 'MFWD,' for mechanical front-wheel drive.


Which implements will you need?
There are hundreds of implements and attachments available from Smith Tractor Company, from post hole augers to rotary cutters. Your choice of implements will affect the tractor you need.

What are your comfort and convenience requirements?
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.

What about regular maintenance?
A tractor should do chores, not be a chore to own. Consider the frequency, type and ease of scheduled maintenance.


Power: How Much Do You Need?

One of the quickest ways to measure a tractor's capabilities is by considering its horsepower... too little, and you may not be able to handle all the chores you'd like, while too much power may mean you sacrifice fuel efficiency. As a rule, it's better to have slightly more power than you think you'll need; this allows you to 'grow into' your machine as you become more comfortable with its capabilities, and as your needs change. And while straight horsepower is a good figure to start with, more power doesn't necessarily mean more usability.

You'll hear tractor dealers talk about 'PTO horsepower' quite a bit. Stated simply, the 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.

As you're comparing models and manufacturers, make sure you know how the manufacturer measures horsepower; currently, there's no industry standard governing how horsepower is measured. Knowing how the horsepower is figured will allow you to compare'apples to apples.

As you get a better idea of what you need from your tractor, you may find that one of the larger lawn and garden tractors will do all your chores. In general, if your primary needs are light mowing or dirt work, a well equipped garden tractor may fit the bill. Take a look at the chart for a better idea of each type capabilities.

Shifting Gears: Utility Tractor Transmission

The range of available transmissions may also affect which model or series of utility tractor you consider. In many ways, the transmission choices are similar to those available in most automobiles.


The standard gear-driven transmission is the most efficient and reliable, and is the most common in utility tractors. However, there are still several types of manual transmissions, including:

An economical, reliable choice that operates just like a car's manual transmission...stop, clutch, shift, go. These transmission 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 transmissions.
Also called 'hydrostatic' transmissions, these systems function much like the automatic transmission in your car. Typically, an automatic transmission is more expensive, but they're also the most user-friendly.

PowrReverser for shuttle shifts.
If your chores include loader work, consider a John Deere tractor with PowrReverser. That little orange lever to the left of the steering wheel lets you change direction from forward to reverse, without stopping, clutching or shifting.

What are all those levers?
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.). Some transmissions are synchronized (meaning you can shift without stopping) between ranges, while some are synchronized between speeds. And if you see a transmission designated, for example, as '9F/3R,' that simply means you have 9 forward speeds and 3 reverse.

Lifting, loading, digging: Hydraulics 101.

Don't ignore the hydraulic capacity of any tractor you're considering. The hydraulic system runs everything from the power steering and brakes to loaders, backhoes, and other attachments. Look for a 'GPM' figure, or gallons-per-minute; the higher the number, the greater the hydraulic capacity of the tractor.

Hydraulic systems are also generally available in two types: open-center and closedcenter. The important distinction for you to be aware of is this: an open-center system constantly circulates hydraulic fluid, meaning faster response times when you lift the loader or other hydraulic implement. The closed-center system remains in an 'idle' state until it's called on to power an attachment.

A Selective Control Valve, or SCV, may also be referred to as a 'remote,' or the point at which your implements hydraulic system attaches to the tractor's hydraulic system. Most implements need at least one SCV to lift or lower, fold or adjust; loaders usually require at least two. Many tractors are available with extra SCVs, either at the rear of the machine or in the middle.

Selective Control

Hook it up: Hitch Basics.

You'll probably see references to a tractor's 'three-point hitch.' This 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. The upper arm, or 'top link,' serves to stabilize the implement, while allowing adjustment for the angle of the implement.

The iMatch Advantage
The John Deere-exclusive iMatch hitch takes a lot of the work out of attaching implements. The iMatch hitch system allows you to connect the hitch and PTO shaft to any compatible implement, without leaving the operator's seat. Not every implement is iMatch compatible, so consider implement availability before you opt for the iMatch system.

Hitch categories
You may also see references to 'Category 1' or 'Category 2' three-point hitches. This is simply a quick reference to the hitch's lifting and pulling capacity. For maximum versatility, a Category 1 or 2 hitch will allow attachment of the most commonly used implements... even those from different manufacturers. Category 0 hitches are primarily used on lawn and garden tractors.

Category Hitch

Comfort Matters

If you plan on spending hours in your tractor, you'll appreciate all the comfort and convenience features you can get. And the best way to get a feel for a tractor's comfort level is to get in, buckle up, and take a test drive. As you do, consider this:

Seat comfort.
Is the seat itself comfortable? Is the range of adjustment large enough to suit your needs?

Consider your most commonly used controls. Are they all within easy reach, or do they require awkward reaches? Are the controls out of the way, or will you have to step over a lever just to climb into the seat?

Operator stations.
There are several types of operator stations to choose from. An enclosed cab, for example, offers the highest level of comfort and convenience, but also commands a higher price. An isolated open station mounts onto the tractor frame with rubber bushings to help reduce noise and vibration. A straddle-mount platform is the most basic, but can require an awkward step when getting on and off the tractor.

What's the view? It's especially important when you're considering a cab tractor. How's the line of sight to the front tires? Turnaround and look at the view to the drawbar and hitch. Better visibility means more comfort and efficiency—especially after a long day's work.

Inspection chart

Stay Safe: A Few Precautions

Keep your balance

Lifting something heavy in front? Add ballast (extra weight) to the rear of the tractor to keep the rear tires on the ground. Pulling a heavy implement? Add ballast to the front.

Get in the zone

Stay within the ROPS (rollover protection structure) zone. This U shaped bar over the seat protects you in case of a rollover.

Turn it off

Turn off the engine and wait for it and all equipment to stop before dismounting the tractor. Tractor-buying begins here

See the light

Turn on the headlights to make sure your tractor is visible when driving in low-light situations.

Transportation safety

Always turn on your flashers during road transport.

Buckle up

Wear your seat belt. The ROPS is ineffective without it.

Beware the #1 source of accidents

That's the fast-moving PTO shaft connecting the implement to the tractor. Make sure it's enclosed in a non-rotating shield. Turn off the PTO when inspecting an equipment problem or making repairs. Some tractors have an automatic PTO shut-off if you leave the tractor seat. Tractor-buying begins here

Put Your Tractor To Work

Once you start looking around at all the attachments available for your utility tractor, you'll be amazed at the number of chores you can do with your new machine. While you're thinking about attachments, talk with your Salesman at Smith Tractor Company about everything you'd like your tractor to do, and under what conditions. Start with the number of acres you have to mow, till, or plant. Don't forget to include any future needs that may arise, such as additional acreage. With your Salesman, list the implements that can help you get the job done, then consider each implement's horsepower requirements; your choice of tractor will be determined largely by the scope of the duties you expect it to do.

Front end loader

Move dirt piles, silage, gravel, snow, hay bales, or other materials. A front-end loader, one of the most popular attachments for utility tractors.

Rotary Cutters

Mow pastures, brush, and roadsides. Rotary cutters, powered by the tractor's PTO, handle tough cutting and mowing jobs, and are perfect for pastures or other big, open spaces. Most rotary cutters are available in several sizes and duty levels.

Raer blade

Grade and blade.
Hitch up to a rear blade, and you can level paths or gravel driveways.

Manure spreader

Spread fertilizer. Put your muck to work with a manure spreader from Frontier Equipment. Available in a variety of sizes, Frontier spreaders help you put nutrients back into the soil.

Imagine What You Can Do

Box Blade

Dirt or materials work

If it needs to be smooth as glass, go over it with a box blade, land plane, or other leveling implement to re-grade or fill potholes.

Post Hole Digger

Save your back

A posthole digger is a must-have if you're putting up a fence. Powered by the PTO. the auger digs perfect postholes, every time.

Mower Conditioner

Put up hay

If you grow and bale hay, a John Deere mower-conditioner cuts and conditions for faster, more even drydown. A John Deere square baler (shown here) lets you put up tight, uniform bales.

Front End Loader

Front End Loader

John Deere loaders are perfectly matched with John Deere tractors to help you turn productivity up a few notches.


Dig in, dig up

A backhoe attachment turns your utility tractor into a high-powered digging machine, perfect for planting larger trees and shrubs, or for light-duty construction work.


Raking and tedding

After that alfalfa or other forage crop is cut, put it in nice, even windrows with John Deere hay rakes and tedders.

More Of What You Need To Know

Before you buy, make sure you understand what maintenance your tractor will require, and how often. At a minimum, you'll need to know how to check the engine and hydraulic oil levels, how to locate oil and air filters, and how to reach the battery.

The manufacturer's warranty is a key consideration when purchasing a tractor. Most manufacturers offer a 24-month basic warranty and a 36-month powertrain warranty.

Cost of ownership
Don't forget that the cost of owning a tractor is not just the purchase price. Taking care of your tractor ensures a longer operating life and higher resale value. Operating costs include fuel, fluids, repairs and scheduled service, and can run anywhere from $10 to $100 per month, depending on the tractor's size and how often it's used. Keep in mind a used or lower quality tractor may have more repair costs.

The Three R's of Tires

R1 (bar tread) tires provide the best traction, but can cause the most ground damage.
R1 Bar Tire

R3 (turf tread) tires with less aggressive tread are meant for jobs like mowing and have the least traction.
R3 Turf Tire

R4 (industrial-tread) tires have excellent traction, and are softer on turf than R1's.They're often the preferred choice.
R4 Industrial-Tread Tire

Why You Need The Right Team Behind You

Why buy John Deere? When you purchase a John Deere tractor, you get much more than a proven piece of equipment. John Deere utility tractors are built with the same unparalleled quality and attention to detail that go into our large tractors. Some customers have been buying "green" for generations, and the reason why is that no one builds higher quality, tougher tractors.

You value your time and so should your dealer. When you need a part, service or just some advice, you want it right now. John Deere dealers maintain a comprehensive inventory of genuine John Deere parts so you won't be waiting for weeks to get what you need. All service technicians know equipment inside and out and can get you back up and running quickly. And the best part is, they're just a phone call or car ride away when it comes to getting hands-on advice.

Financing Options

John Deere Financial offers the financial solutions you need when financing or leasing a new tractor:

  • Flexible terms
  • Flexible down payments
  • Competitive fixed- and variable-rate loans and leases
  • Flexible payment terms
  • Fast approvals

For complete details on financing or leasing your tractor with John Deere Financial, ask your John Deere dealer.

John Deere Financial: USA

John Deere Financial: Canada