First off there are many ways to go about finding a tractor for sale. Whether it be on Craigslist, Ebay, Newspaper, or other online sources. We will try and cover everything from a blind ad like you would see in a newspaper ad with no pictures or a full out auction listing like on ebay.
Next you need to figure out what brand, model and how much you are willing to spend. There are a lot of sweet looking and hard working tractors out there to be had for decent prices. You also need to decide whether you want to buy one that is turn key and doesn't need any work or if you are willing to put in a little elbow grease to make it the tractor it once was.
Some brands carry higher costs just because of the name, we aren't going to argue this point but just because a tractor brand commands a higher price tag doesn't mean it is any better then brand b.
We are going to assume that you have the models that you wouldn't mind having written down or mentally listed. We are also going to assume that you have your budget set. Now that we have our tractor we want picked out and our budget lets start on the different methods of finding it.
The Newspaper Ad:
- These can be tough, mainly because there usually isn't any photos with the ad.
- If the ad interests you and the price is in the neighborhood or the price isn't listed it is time to pick up the phone and call.
- Things to ask once you contact the person on the phone:
- What is the asking price - even if it is listed in the ad, this is when they might drop the price already because they are ready to get rid of it.
- Ask if they are negotiable on the price
- What is the overall condition ie; rust, parts missing, parts broken
- Does it run, drive, everything work that is with it.
- If everything sounds good so far ask them if they can email you pictures to help save a trip.
- If you are still interested setup a time to meet with the person and check it out first hand
- So now you are on your way to meet the person, hopefully you didn't wear good clothing because we are going to get dirty.
- If you brought a wad of cash only keep the max amount you are willing to spend or what the person was asking for the tractor and put the rest in another pocket and forget about it.
- Once you get to where you are going and meet the person start asking questions about the history of the tractor, when they acquired it and why they are selling it.
- Now you should be standing beside the tractor by now. Don't just kick the tires, look over it really well, don't be afraid to crawl around on the ground. Here are some of the things that you want to look for:
- Look for oil stains on the ground
- Look for any broken pieces, sometimes covered up by gunk, don't be afraid to get your fingers dirty.
- Check her rear end (I mean the tractor silly) and look for any gunk buildup or fresh oil that may be leaking out of any seals. If possible, jack tractor up to check for axle bearing slop, and rotate each wheel to check that they move smoothly.
- Take a look at the belts, although these are not as important as everything else as we recommend replacing belts anyway.
- Check the motor oil for oil level and how sludgy it looks. More then likely if the seller is smart they will change the oil and top it off before you come to look at it but some don't care. If the oil level is really low or the oil is extremely filthy or you can see metal silvering / flakes in the oil this should raise a little caution.
- If the seller said it runs now is the time to fire it up, or if it doesn't run try turning the motor over by hand to make sure it isn't siezed. You also want to make sure it has compression and this can be hard to gauge as a lot of motors have a decompression mechanism to lower compression for easier starting.
- Hopefully she fires right off, if it takes some coaxing to fire off it doesn't mean walk away from the deal. Could just be the carb needs cleaned, has bad fuel or the motor could have low compression. The low compression can be one of a couple of things, cylinder could be worn, rings are bad, or it could just be a sticking valve.
- Once the motor is fired up look at the exhaust, if there is no smoke this is good, if there is a blackish/dark gray smoke this is just too rich of a mixture, if it is a bluish gray / whitish smoke this means oil is getting into the combustion chamber. There are a lot of motors out there that have some bluish tinted smoke and they last for years and others not so. Basically if it has bluish/whitish smoke be ready to drop the price you are willing to offer. Also, run engine to full operating temp. Many times loose rod fit will not show up until the oil thins, until then, many knocks won't be audible.
- Check all the controls to see if they are in working order and also drive the tractor around. If it is manual transmission check all the gears, if it is hydro check all operating positions and with both style drivetrains listen for any weird noises like grinding or squealing.
- If everything is working like it should make the seller an offer, if it is a great deal to begin with don't expect to make it any better but it doesn't hurt to try. If the tractor needs some work and you feel the seller is asking too much make them an offer, worse they can do is say no and you walk away. If this is the case and you would like to have the tractor give it a day or two and call the seller and make them another offer. A lot of times if the seller hasn't had any other bites they will take you up on your original offer or negotiate something in between.
- We can't tell you what to offer or what a tractor is worth. A tractor is worth whatever you are willing to pay.
The Craigslist Ad:
- First off we love Craigslist. You can find a lot of good deals on there.
- The other added benefit of craigslist is more the likely you will get to see some pictures of the tractor in question without contacting the seller.
- Pretty much everything from the newspaper ad above covers what you would want to do.
- If you find a tractor on craigslist that interests you, don't wait. Been there done that and always left without a good deal because someone else already bought it.
- Ebay can be good or bad and when we say that you might end up getting a great deal because of a bad listing ending time or you may end up paying more for a tractor then you normally would have because of getting caught up in the action.
- Some listings the seller will allow you to come look at the item and this is a big plus because you get to actually check out the tractor before bidding on it. For some the item might be too far away.
- It is very important to set a spending limit as this will help keep you from spending too much on a tractor that you normally wouldn't have spent so much for.
- The other thing I recommend even though it may not be the best for the seller to get what they are asking for an item but that is to bid at the last 30 seconds with you max bid and if you win you win, someone else might have did the same thing with a max bid higher then yours but that is the name of the game when it comes to online auction style listings.
All information should be able to be applied to any listing that you find, whether it is one of the above mentioned places or sites like GTtalk or other classified resources. Hopefully we have provided you with enough information to be able to feel confident when looking for your next garden tractor.
This is going to be an ongoing article so please feel free to add any information that you would like to see added to the guide and then we will publish it to the main site.
Edited by olcowhand, February 14, 2010 - 12:16 PM.