- the star tribune found that farmers are choosing to buy older tractors to save money and so that they can repair the tractors themselves.
- a new tractor can cost well over $150,000, while one built 40 some years ago with little use could cost a third of that.
- tech-heavy new tractors often require a dealership repairman to make any necessary fixes.
regardless of who you think the typical tesla owner is, they don't—because they can't—put their car on vehicle ramps to fix whatever problem they're having. and just like those tesla owners, farmers with a tractor built in the last decade, and sometimes more, are unable to perform the repairs they once could on their equipment.
tractors, like cars—electric or otherwise—are becoming more and more reliant on technology and computers, which forces repairs to be done by dealers. and as those changes are phasing out the farmer in the repair process, older tractors are becoming more sought after in the midwest, according to a report from the minneapolis star tribune newspaper.
now, when a tractor built in the late 1970s or 1980s goes up for auction, a bidding war tends to ensue, the paper notes. although a lot has changed in tractors in the past few decades, what really matters to farmers hasn't. old tractors have similar horsepower to the tractors built today, and they're built well enough to last the 15,000 hours a farmer expects from a tractor.
in that video above, check out the record-setting $61,000 paid for a 1979 john deere 4640 with 826 hours on it. at a time when a new tractor from john deere can set a farmer back $150,000, that was still just a fraction of the price of new. anyone who has bought a sturdy used car and saved a ton on depreciation understands that concept. and better yet, when that owner has something go wrong with their older tractor, they don’t have to wait for a service truck from the dealership to make the necessary repairs, which can also cost up to $150 an hour for service.
when that dealership repair technician shows up, they will likely plug a computer into the tractor to diagnose the problem, a reality that has created a monopoly of sorts as to who can repair new tractors. often only the tractor dealership has the technology necessary to make repairs, barring independent repair shops from doing that work.
for many years, independent car repair chains fought a similar development in the automotive world, and in 2014, automakers agreed to a right-to-repair deal, making access to diagnostic tools standard across the industry. since tractors don’t have similar legislation concerning their repair, farmers are going to lengths such as gaining access to the tractors’ software through ukrainian firmware to make repairs.
that isn’t to say that farmers don’t appreciate a more tech-equipped tractor. one farmer in the star tribune retrofitted his 1979 john deere with satellite-guided automatic steering. and a wall street journal article from may 2019 revealed that some farmers have their tractor cabins equipped with screens to watch netflix or video chat with other farmers.
beyond being a cost-saving measure, for some farmers, buying an old tractor that they can repair on their own gives them back the power and control they would lose by owning a new tractor. and that is something that we all can appreciate.