Maintaining Tractor Value | Living the Country Life

Maintaining Tractor Value

Check list for how you should maintain a tractor in order to get peak dollar for it whenever it’s time to trade up.


The old saying is that you make money on a purchase when you buy it - shrewd negotiating gets the best price.


True enough for many purchases for the farm, ranch, or acreage. But not necessarily for equipment such as a utility tractor. You probably make - or lose - more when you sell it.


Here’s why. When you go to your equipment dealer to buy a small or mid-size tractor for your country place, there’s maybe a thousand dollars worth of leeway, give or take, in the retail purchase price. However, when you take that same tractor back to trade it in, the value range can be much wider - $5,000 or more - depending on the condition of the machine. It all comes down to how well you take care of it.


Brandon Smith will do well over 100 tractor trade-in deals this year, counting garden tractors and lawn mowers. He’s a sales specialist for Barker Implement in Iowa. “On many trade-ins, there’s $3,000 to $5,000 in the balance depending on the size, features and condition of the machine,” he says. “If you have a well maintained tractor you want to trade in, I’ll give you a premium for it, because I can turn it around and sell it for a premium.”

Here’s his Top 10 check list for how you should maintain a tractor in order to get peak dollar for it whenever it’s time to trade up. The first two points are by far his most important.


1. MECHANICAL MAINTENANCE. It’s not just about changing the oil and the filters by the book. That’s important, but keep the records, too. “Write it down and keep receipts,” Smith says. “I prefer to see the records from a professional service shop. But if you do your own oil and filters, at least keep a receipt of those purchases. When I inspect your trade-in, I’m going to pull out the dip stick. If it’s low on oil, or dirty oil, I’ll know you probably haven’t done anything. If I have to put it in my shop for a complete fluid and filter job, on some tractors that will cost $1,000 to $1,500.” Smith compares tractor maintenance to how you treat your car. You change oil and other fluid checks by the book on you car. Do the same on your tractor, he says. In fact, it’s probably more valuable than your car.


2. COSMETICS. This one is about all the things you can see. One thing I know is that when people buy something used, it’s actually new to them,” says Smith. “They want it to look and feel new. When I sell it to the next owner, it’s worth more if it looks new. When I look at your trade in, I can tell if it’s been sitting out in the sun and rain for years. That knocks $1,500 off the value right there. I’m going to have to put it the through the shop and have them power wash it, wax it, and buff it to try to get the color back. If it’s metal, I may have to paint it, and that will cost more. Fortunately, you can pull the color back out of plastic components. It’s OK to wax a tractor, just like you would a car. When you scratch it driving under a tree, the wax will protect the paint underneath, and you can buff the scratch out.” Many of the cosmetic items are a result of sitting outside in the elements. Storing a tractor indoors when it’s not being used almost always pays.


3. MISSING PARTS. Safety shields are there for a reason. Same for fenders and mounting steps. “Some people like to remove the discharge chute from a belly mower,” says Smith. “Well, I can’t resell it that way, it’s illegal. I’ve got to put a new one on it. So I’ll reduce my trade-in offer by that amount.”


4. KEEP THE SEAT DRY. Is the upholstery cracked from weather or other abuse? That can let water in, and it will need to be replaced. “The very cheapest seat I know of is $86.”


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