Picking the Best Tractor for Small Farms

Using Compact Tractor Comparisons to Choose the Best Tractor for Your Farm


Buying the best tractor for small farm work requires searching for the right tractor for the job. Tractors can be used for many reasons. Identifying the jobs and eliminating the tractors that won’t work is the first step. Tractors are iconic symbols of farming and a common farm equipment purchase. Picking the best tractor for small farm and homestead operations can also be fun. Learning about the different tractor and machinery brands and talking to people with years of experience helps us hone in on the job our tractor will be doing. Don’t over buy. Just as having a tractor large enough for the job is important, so is not having a tractor that is not too big for your property.

Start your search for the best tractor for small farm operations by locating the dealerships near your property that sell farm tools and equipment, including small tractors. No matter how well you maintain the tractor, you will need service and parts. Being able to pick up parts or schedule a repair is much easier and timely when you are in the same area as the dealership.

Identify the jobs you will perform with the tractor. This will help the salesperson narrow down the search for the perfect tractor. Plowing, moving hay bales, moving pallets of feed, mowing grass, and cutting hay are just a few of the tasks that can be accomplished with a tractor. Make a farm implements list. Which ones do you use all the time? Would having one of those jobs handled by the tractor improve your farm life? Using a grid to form a compact tractor comparison chart will help you visualize the choices. Grab a sheet of plain paper or graphed paper. On the left side, list the jobs you would use the tractor to accomplish.


Should I Buy a Used Tractor?

It would be great if you could find a bargain on a used tractor for small farm needs. It would be even better if the tractor was in great condition. In our experience, this is a hard item to find. If a tractor is a good machine, the owner is likely to use it until it is almost worn out. Ask about the hours the machine has been run and be sure to check the tire quality. Let the buyer beware of course. If you find a used tractor, take care looking it over and consider having a machinery mechanic take a look before you purchase.

Does it Matter What Brand I Buy?

Again, I think it’s better to have a local dealership to do business with. The dealership will have better luck ordering parts and scheduling a repair on your farm. John Deere, Alis Chalmers, and International Harvester are just a few of the dealership and brand choices. All of the major brands are built to tackle the jobs on a small farm.

Small Farm Tractor

What Size Tractor will I Need and What About the Horsepower?

This is where things get sticky when trying to get advice. Many people think that bigger is better when buying the best tractor for small farm work. Let’s break down the answer by looking at three main choices for tractors for small farms. Garden-style tractors are good for cutting grass. They have limited horsepower and may not have enough traction for much more than that. The smaller farm tractors are between 30 and 60 horsepower. These are popular choices for small farming work. This size range can be easily maneuvered around buildings, paddocks, and through pasture gates. Larger farm tractors, over 75 HP are great for plowing large fields, planting, harvesting, and cutting hay.


Transmission Options

Hydrostatic transmissions are a newer option in tractor transmissions. This transmission is a lot like automatic. This option is great if you are doing a lot of field work, planting, clearing fields, and cutting hay. Contrast this type of transmission with the classic manual transmission. The benefit of the older style transmission is the extra lower gear. This is useful for pulling because of the extra torque. The hydrostatic transmission is convenient but the expense is high if a repair is necessary.


Accessories for the Best Tractor for Small Farm Jobs

The small farm tractors can attach a variety of tools to perform more jobs on the farm. Some accessories attach to the standard bucket on the tractor. This is a convenient feature, however, the tools do a better job when attached directly to the tractor.

Auger – An auger attachment can dig post holes, footer holes for foundations, and holes for planting trees.

Plow – Plows can be used to move dirt, manure, and more.

Harrow– The disc harrow is used to till up the field before planting. The spring tooth harrow smooths out the ground.

Bush Hog – The bush hog can be used to cut tall grass, weeds, and brush.

Mower – Cuts grass or hay.

Hay Rake (and Baler) – Follows and scrapes the hay into windrows and the baler makes the hay into bales.

Hay Spike – The bucket can be used to move a round bale but in some operations, it is easier to move the large round bale with the hay spike.

Forks – The forks are used for many tasks. If you feed large square bales, you need the forks for moving a stack of hay bales. The forks can also be used to move pallets of feed or large farming accessories such as water troughs.


It is always a good idea to measure gates and narrow areas on your farm before purchasing any tractor for small farm use. Gates may appear large but the tractor may not fit through the gate causing more work. Have a good idea of what the best tractor for small farm jobs will include before heading out to make the purchase. The tractor should work hard for you and the farm for many years.

Do you have a recommendation for the best tractor for small farm use? What are your most useful implements? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Jason G.

    I took a chance a few yeas ago on an inexpensive imported tractor from Rural King. Rural King is a farm and ranch type store. The Tractor is Branded Tractor King but it is a Jinma tractor. These are the same brand that is sold by Northern Tool as well. Anyway it has been a reliable little workhorse for us. The best part is that it was relatively inexpensive. I to wish that it was a little more refined but you cannot have it all.
    Regards. Jason @ logtownacres.com

  • I just love my little Kubota. From cleaning the chicken coop to mowing or tilling the garden, this baby does it for me.

  • I had no idea that hydrostatic transmissions are now being used in tractors. I really like that, especially since it means that it is a lot easier to drive. It is important that the tractor can be used by as many people as possible, and the hydrostatic option would allow for that. For example, my daughter would be able to drive it, even thought she doesn’t know how to use a manual transmission. http://www.pbequip.com

  • My dad has been helping my grandpa on his farm, and the decided that it is time to get a new tractor. I think it’s a great idea to help narrow down the choice by first eliminating the options that won’t work for the job you have in mind. They mostly need to haul around bales of hay and till the ground. Is there a tractor that will work well with something like a skid steer hitch attachment for hay? https://hayspear.com/skid-steer-quick-hitch-attachments/

  • I like that you point out that it is good to buy a used tractor if you can find one that is in good condition. I can see why this would help you save money. It seems like a good idea to consider how much longer it could last. It seems like it would be better to buy a newer machine if you are wanting it to last a long time. http://www.bigspringsequipment.com/

  • I have a John Deere 3038e. It is a real work horse. Put a rake on the front end loader. I rip out large privet and it is great for ripping the ground for new grass seeds or flowers. I also have a Frontier bush hog that came with the tractor plus an auger, disk harrow, tiller, middle buster and a 3 point hitch platform all purchased at TSC. John Deere has a 5 year no interest plan on several different package deals.

    • I am interested in purchasing farm equipment just not sure what to get or how to finance it.

  • Very informative! You are sharing the great info for choosing the tractor for farming. I found some important things here. Thanks for sharing.

  • We sell a lot of used tractors here in Ireland for those with small farms, make sure your dealer is informative about the tractor that they are selling you. Make sure you do your research on trusted makes and models before spending money, you don’t want to buy something that will keep breaking down and cost you more in the long run, you can see the type of used tractors we sell here in Ireland.


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