Buying your first sub-compact tractor | Living the Country Life

Buying your first sub-compact tractor

You know you need more than just a garden tractor, but how much more?

Understanding your needs

The information to consider when purchasing a sub-compact can be an overwhelming, this is why I've elected to write this article and help you through the buying process of understanding horsepower, PTO, hydraulic systems, and more.


Sub-compact tractor power is measured by horsepower, the same as any engine powered vehicle. Generally you get a sub-compact tractor engine power rating from 18 up to 28. It's good to know these horsepower capabilities, but it doesn't answer what you can do. Higher horsepower does not always mean more usable power.

PTO Horsepower

The next horsepower number you will need to consider is the "Power Take Off horsepower" or referred to in the industry the PTO HP; this rating indicates the actual usable horsepower for operating implements and is a good gauge of the tractors true capabilities. The horsepower is transferred from the engine to the implement through a rotating shaft at rear of the tractor or middle of the tractor for belly mounted or front mounted implements. There are two types of PTO engagements, live or independent. Live is a mechanical transmission gear driven PTO, engages and operates the same as a gear transmission you must clutch to engage and disengage. Independent PTO is driven separately from the transmission and can be operated separately; this PTO system is powered by the hydraulic system and is driven by a multi disc clutch. Most engagement systems are lever type, very similar to larger tractors, and some are electric switches opening a solenoid for hydraulic flow to the clutch giving greater ease of operation.


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