How to Barter for Common Farm Equipment

How to Get Tractors and Machinery for Less


Bartering is something of a lost art, especially in certain parts of the United States. But with common farm equipment becoming more difficult for the average person to obtain, yet still necessary for large farms, I’ve found bartering to be an effective way to acquire tractors, ATVs and other tools necessary for homesteading. Our farm is just 10 acres, but without tools such as tractors, grain drills or discs, planting even our small acreage turns a simple homesteading task into a month-long affair.

Historically, although money has always been king, bartering was one way depressed economies functioned, and it is perfect for homesteading today, too. In my rural area, where jobs are hard to come by but the need for common farm equipment is great, it’s a cornerstone of the local economy. In certain situations, bartering is preferred, and in many cases, it can bring people closer than simply opening your wallet for cold, hard cash.

Bartering is simple, as long as both parties see eye to eye and know exactly what they want out of the deal. Using some straight forward rules, we’ve been able to acquire the best small farm tractor, a very nice ATV, a disc (which we use to till large acreage), as well as other smaller pieces of common farm equipment.

While a lot of people might be comfortable discussing money, there are some situations where money changing hands might be an uncomfortable proceeding for both parties. In these instances, bartering goods is a wonderful way for both parties to feel like they’re benefiting without the sticky conversation about money.

One stumbling block I see frequently with people who are new to bartering is they don’t know exactly how to negotiate. For example, how do you know if your item is worth another item? To solve this issue, I research the average value of common farm equipment, then base an item’s worth on that number. For example, if I want to barter for a certain tractor, I will look up what the same or similar equipment has sold for historically.

There are plenty of websites on the internet that will have a list of farm tools and equipment, along with the price they sold for. You can also check auction sites, Craigslist, and websites, such as Kelly Blue Book, that independently value common farm equipment. After a while, you will get a good feel for what certain equipment is worth, or at the very least, know where to find the information when you need it.

When valuing items such as common farm equipment, you can’t just rely on past sale prices, however. If you haven’t yet seen an item you’re trying to barter for, always ask for photos. Images are necessary in order to get a better idea of what the item is worth.

In one memorable instance, I wanted to sell my large four-horse trailer, and a buyer asked if I would swap my trailer for theirs. On paper, their trailer was valued close to my trailer; after seeing photos, however, it was clear there was a couple thousand dollars difference in value. Unfortunately, in that case, I would not make the trade.

Knowing the blue book value comes in handy especially when you are bartering for common farm equipment that is different than yours. For example, we once bartered a tractor manufactured in 1942 for a nearly brand new ATV. We knew the value of the tractor, and knew the bare minimum we needed to get, value-wise, to break even on a trade. We were also able to look up the blue book value of the ATV, and in this case, were very happy to make the deal.

It’s very important to not lower the value of your item simply because you feel uncomfortable negotiating. This might feel foreign at first, but after making some less-than-desirable deals, I firmly believe you must “stick to your guns” or walk away with less than you deserve. You do not have to make a deal just because both parties show up.

Bartering isn’t just limited to common farm equipment. You can also barter for produce, meat or livestock. We’ve traded excess roosters and eggs for services, and in our area, this is pretty common. We always have an excess of both, and are happy to share with neighbors, who might have an excess of other items. One family friend makes wonderful tamales; we happily trade our excess eggs for their homemade dinners.

Finally, always get a bill of sale when you make a trade, even though no money is changing hands. If you’re trading for a vehicle, make sure you get a title, too. You want some proof of ownership, and in certain cases, a bill of sale. In other words, you want proof that a transaction took place, and in certain cases, having that documentation helped me avoid larger issues. It takes only a moment, and even a simple bill of sale on the back of an envelope will suffice. Make sure it has a date, the items traded, and both parties sign it.

Bartering for common farm equipment is not necessary, but it’s an easy way to create a win-win if neither party wants to deal with money.

For more simple living advice, you can visit me on my homesteading blog, FrugalChicken.

  • I’ve never considered trying to barter for a better deal on farming equipment before. My grandparents left me to take care of their property this year, and I thought it would be fun to try and grow some crops. Since I don’t have a lot of money to spend, trading my services or crops for equipment is a great idea. I bet I could get a good deal by finding run-down machines and paying to have them repaired.


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