Most farmers pair their tractors to the size of their farm and the chores they need to perform. Considering that a mega farm may spend $150,000 on a single tractor and a small farmer may invest $10-20K or more on a tractor each of these purchases is one of the biggest investments that a farm makes. It is reasonable to wonder how many hours a tractor is good for.
If you are wondering how long a tractor will last, you have to consider that the universal answer is going to vary depending on a few facts:
- Brand of tractor
- Maintenance History and Care
- Range of usage and the terrain
Generally speaking, the life of a tractor is measured in hours – that means anytime the engine is turned on the hour meter on a tractor is spinning. A tractor’s life span can be short or long. A good way to see the expectations of a tractor is to read the warranty.
Kubota MX tractors have a 2000-hour or 72-month limited powertrain warranty.  If you are a tractor manufacturer you are not going to want to pay out for warranty repairs if you don’t have to do so. You can, as a buyer, pretty much consider the number of hours in the warranty to be the vaguest starting point for problems with the tractor – meaning that the machine, if used correctly and maintained, will be healthy and dependable past the point of the warranty. That is why some tractors have super high hours and are still dependable.
How Tractor Hours Work
How are tractor hours calculated?
Basically, any time that the engine is running it is eating time on the tractor’s clock. If you use your tractor for 8 hours per day, five days per week you are burning up 2,000 hours on the engine per year. That rate of usage at ten hours per week is 520 hours per year.
With automobiles, we look at the miles they were driven. With tractors, it is the hours that the engine was turned on. Like a car, if you do not do regular maintenance and spend the time to check fluid levels then the lifespan of your tractor is going to be shorter than if you do all the maintenance and spend the time to check fluid levels, take care of leaks, and do not abuse the machine. Hours on a tractor are not always a good indicator of how healthy the machine is. As mentioned, just starting the engine and letting the beast idle is adding hours to the clock.
How the machine was used and cared for is a much better guide to the health of the machine.
How Long Do Tractors Last?
The average lifespan of a tractor is 4,000 or more hours. Low hours on a tractor are pretty much anything less than where the warranty runs out. If you are buying a used tractor, then consider the hours in comparison to what the warranty covers in terms of hours. If the warranty is 2,000 hours you can be pretty much assured that the machine will run longer than 2,000 hours. If the machine has 300 hours on it and the warranty is good for 2,000 hours the machine is pretty much brand new. It is also not uncommon to see used tractors with 300 hours on them. Small farms may only put on 20 hours per year.
Average Life Expectancy Across Brands
Kubota Diesel Tractor
Expect 4,500-5,500 hours for most Kubota machines and with care and maintenance it is not difficult to get a Kubota to 10,000 hours. – The MX Kubota tractors come with a 2000-hour powertrain warranty and a 3,000-hour internal engine part warranty.
John Deere Tractor
Expect around 4,000 hours out of a John Deere. Like the Kubota, you can coax 10,000 hours out of a machine that is maintained and cared for on a regular basis. The compact tractors by John Deere – the 2032R and 2038R come with a six-year or 2,000-hour limited warranty. 
New Holland Tractor
Expect around 4,000 hours out of a New Holland Tractor and above 10,000 hours with care. New Holland offers a best-in-class warranty of six years or 6,000 hours. That is three times the hours of Kubota or John Deere.
Expect 4,000-6,000 hours out of a Mahindra tractor. The problem is not that these tractors are inferior or short-lived it is that getting parts can take upwards of a month or longer. Mahindra offers a seven-year or 3,000-hour warranty for its 4500 model tractors. Some warranties on other tractors maybe 5 years or 3 years.
Should You Buy Used Tractors with High Hours?
Buying a tractor with high hours is not recommended but again, you have to consider the tractor. You should buy the best tractor that meets your needs – both the needs of today and the needs as you grow your business – for the best price. If you have many different types of farm chores that you need to use a tractor for, then a high-hour machine may be your only option without buying a brand-new unit. Given financing options, a new unit may also be hard to beat.
What to Look for in A High Hour Tractor
- Mechanical Issues – If you are not a tractor mechanic, then make arrangements to have a mechanic look at the machine. Some tractor services have mobile mechanics. Hours refer to engine run time, but there are a lot of mechanical parts on a tractor.
- Check the PTO (all of them) and determine if they are loose or sloppy.
- Check the Engine to see how easily it starts and the date on the battery to see if needs replacing sooner rather than later.
- Drive the machine – pay attention to how the steering handles – if it has a sloppy steering wheel, you may be looking at suspension issues. Does it pull to one side or the other? Does it shift smoothly? Does the clutch engage easily on manual transmissions, or does it change gears quickly and smoothly for automatic models?
- Kick the tires – tractor tires are not cheap and if the tires are worn you want to know the cost of replacing them.
- Check the Drawbar or lift arms to see if there is wear.
- Go through each of the attachments that come with the tractor (if any) and look for damage.
- Ask the owner if they have a maintenance record for the tractor.
- Start the tractor and look at all the lines – ALL the lines – to see if there are leaks.
What Is a Tractor with High Hours Worth?
The short answer is that a tractor is worth what someone will pay for it. The long answer has a lot of variables in it. Those include:
- How well the machine was maintained and are there records? A high-hour tractor might have 4,000 hours on it but if it is well-maintained, it could last you for another 6,000 or more hours. Will you have to do repairs? Probably but, it may still be a good value to you, especially if you are not using the tractor for a lot of hours each year.
- The Tractor and Accessories – A 4×4 tractor will likely have more value than a 2×4 tractor but only if you need four-wheel drive. A/C, power steering, ergonomic cabin, etc., are all options that can drive up the value of a tractor.
- The brand and model – Some brands are in higher demand as are some models of tractors. You might get the same job out of a lesser-known brand and greater value.
A lot of people focus on tractor hours because that is one of the indicators of how long a tractor has been in service – running and working. Tractors with high hours scare off some buyers, but the reality is that the hours on a tractor do not fully cover the work history of the tractor. For example, if you have a tractor that has high hours but is used only for mowing, then the engine and transmission may be in great shape and the front- and mid-PTO might be in pristine shape. The useful life of the tractor may be something different from the number of hours it has on its clock.