Gray Market Tractors, What You Should Know and Check Before You Purchase

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Before you begin to actually look at traders you should know exactly what you are looking for.

Consider the following questions when shopping for a tractor.

What size of tractor do you need?

What are you going to be using you tractor for?

How often will the tractor be used?

Is the tractor going to be used to produce income? Of course, money is often a consideration when shopping for a tractor. Consider talking to people that own tractors and get their opinions.
Be an informed shopper and do not let anyone rush you. Below are some other things to consider before you starting shopping for a tractor.

Tractor Size

This is obviously the most commonly asked questions regarding a tractor purchase. The average compact tractor consumer owns a 1-5 acre piece of property and uses the small compact diesel mostly for mowing The other tractor consumers usually have between 10-30 acres and needs about a 30 horsepower to complete the necessary tasks.

What are you going to use the tractor for ?, is of course, the most important question to answer. Is it just for mowing or will you be using a loader or backhoe on it? Will you be working on rocky or uneven ground?

Dollars & Sense

You should definitely shop around, however, do not forget that if you are comparing the prices of different makes and models of tractor it can sometimes be much like comparing apples to oranges. As with anything else, some makes and models are made better than others. A few more dollars upfront in price for a better quality of tractor makes more 'sense' than having to pay the cost of constant repairs and maintenance.

Different Makes and Models of Tractors

If at all possible, one of the best things you can do to make your life easier, is to purchase a tractor that is easy to get parts for. There are many foreign makes and models that are exact matches to domestic carriers. With that in mind, you can get a parts book for US made tractor and purchase the corresponding part numbers that way. Some parts dealers do not like to sell parts for a gray market tractor. In fact, dealers of some brands of tractors are being told by a higher authority that they can not willing sell parts for gray market tractors.

Diesel Engines

Make sure you get a tractor with a diesel engine. Diesel engines have better performance and usually last longer than gas engines. Implements also work better on diesel engine tractors.


Almost how many horsepower will you need? One horsepower (hp) is the amount of energy required to lift 550 pounds, one foot, in one second. In a tractor the energy is manufactured from torque and engine speed. A 100 hp tractor is one with a maximum of 100 horsepower available at the power-takeoff (PTO) outlet.

Nearly all Japanese tractor manufacturers include the power take off (PTO) horsepower (hp) in their model numbers; However, they do not include the engine (fly) hp. The first two numbers of the model number is where you find the PTO hp. The PTO hp is important because it is telling you the equipment working power of the tractor. It tells you what horsepower that equipment requiring a PTO will get from the tractor. Click here for a more in depth explanation of PTO.


Consider getting a three or four cylinder tractor. Three and four cylinder tractors are generally newer tractors and run quater and smoother than the two cylinder models. Transmissions

There are several different types of transmissions for tractors. If you are not knowledgeable about tractor transmissions, it would be a good idea if you familiarize yourself with the different types listed below, so that when you go out to shop for a tractor you will well informed.
Manual transmissions on tractors were made to be shifted while the tractor is not in motion. This will cause a grinding noise due to the fact the two gears that are trying to mesh are rotating at different speeds. Manual shift transmissions are known for their durability, however, they are not considered to be very user friendly. The sliding gear and the collar shift are two of the more common transmissions.

Synchro Shift transmissions are basically collar shift transmissions (a type of manual transmission, see above). The difference is the added synchronizers, which makes it so that the gears do not grind if you are trying to shift while the tractor is in motion. Some synchro shift transmissions only have one pair of synchronized gears, while others have all times synchronized, including forward and reverse. The synchronization of forward and reverse is called the shuttle shift. This synchro shift is a dependent transmission, however, just like with automobiles, the more 'tricky' the tranny is, and the more chance there is something going wrong or breaking.

A Power Shift transmission is an option well worth considering. Not those standard shift transmissions will not work just fine; However, often power shift is a nice little luxury, depending on what you are going to be using the tractor for. With a power shift transmission you can choose different speeds while the tractor is in motion, without needing to use the clutch pedal.

Hydrostatic transmissions operate in a closed loop, the flow of the pump is reversed, which in turn causes the tractor to reverse directions. The hydrostatic transmission is considered to be very dependable and is able to defend itself against 'operator difficulty'. Because this is transmission is controlled by a foot pedal, when you take your foot off of the pedal the tractor will stop, this is a nice safety feature. Hydrostatic is considered the best selection for such things as large mowing jobs because it allows for easy direction change and continual, unchanging speed.

Implement Adaptability

You will want a tractor with a Category 1, 3-point hitch and standard rotation PTO shafts. Most imported compact tractors are equipped with these items; However, there are a few that are not.

Implement Availability

Before you purchase aa tractor, make sure that good quality implements are available for it. It is a good idea to try to find a tractor with as many model-specific attachments as possible. These include things such as loaders and backhoes, which have custom-fitted mounts that are not interchangeable with other makes and models of tractor. You can often save money if you purchase the implements at the same time you purchase the tractor and some implements can be very expensive to add on at a later time.

Parts Manuals

Sometimes parts manuals can be very hard to acquire. Make sure there is one available for the tractor you choose. Ask how much the manual is, sometimes the cost can be over $ 100.00 dollars.


Find out what kind of a warranty comes with the tractor. Find out what it covers and for how long. Below is a checklist that you can print and take with you when you are out shopping for a tractor. Just check things off and take notes as you check over the prospective tractor.

Yes, it's a very long checklist, but well worth your time if you want to get a good quality tractor at a fair price.

Some things on the checklist may not refer to the type of tractor you are looking for; However, we believe that most folks will find the majority of information here to be very helpful.

Your goal is to ensure that the tractor you purchase is all that the seller says it is and does not have any hidden problems. Make sure you know what you are looking for. Know what options you must have on the tractor and which ones you might be willing to compromise on or be able to add later.

Tractor Buyer's Checklist

Make_____________________________ Model _____________________ Year _________ Hours

On Meter________ Asking Price $ ____________

Seller's Name _____________________________ Phone ______________

Tractor Location _______________________________________________

Yes / No Notes
Visual Exterior Inspection

Does the overall appearance of the tractor look as if it has been cared for?

Why is the tractor for sale?

Is the paint faded?

Is the sheet metal straight?

Are there a lot of 'dings' in the tractor?

Are there any decaying rubber or plastic components?

Are there any structural cracks? Look closely for hairline cracks.

Is there anything that looks like a 'makeuphop' repair job?

Are the tires in good condition with good tread left on them?

Is there a calcium mixture added to the tires for better stability?

Is there still good tread left on the tires?

Is the seat in good condition?

Does it have a standard 3-point hitch?

Are there any puddles of fluid under the tractor?

Are there any oil spots on the ground around the wheels?

Engine Inspection

Is the engine warm?

Are there oil and / or fuel on the engine?

Can you see any seals leaking?

Is there oil around the rear axles, near the rear wheel?

Is there oil around the PTO seals?

Are there oil leaks around the output shaft seals gearboxes? (4WD

Is the engine oil at or near the full mark?

Is the front axle dipstick at or near the full mark? (4WD)

Does the oil look clean? Black is OK for diesel engines.

Are there creamy white droplets near the top of the dipstick?

Are all the filters US made?

Is the air filter intact?

Does the air filter have any tears or holes in it?

Is the fuel filter clean?

Is the fan belt tight and in good shape?

Does the air inlet tube have any cracks or holes in it?

Is the water in the radiator dark green? This is a good thing.

Does the radiator water have a milky looking scum to it?

Is there flaking or discolored paint around the radiator cap?

Is there moisture along the bottom of the radiator?

Is there any slop in the steering links?

Did you closely look over the tractor a second time to make sure you did not miss anything?

Running Engine Inspection

Does the oil pressure register when you just turn the key?

Start the tractor. Does it start easily?

Does the oil pressure light go off or the oil gauge go up to about 30-80 psi?

Do all of the other lights go off?

Is the voltage meter (if it has one) charging a full 13.5-14.5 volts

Did you rock the steering wheel from left to right? Do this with the engine running if the

Tractor has power steering.

Does the PTO spin in all gears?

Does the 3-point hitch work properly?

Does the tractor continue to smoke after it warms up?

Driving The Tractor (This is the fun part)

Does the tractor work through all of the gears?

Does the power shift feel 'weak' when shifting?

Is there any slippage when you quickly accelerate into high gear?

Does the 4WD engage properly?

Does the clutch slip?

Do the brakes work well?

Did you check the brakes by pushing one pedal at a time in low gear?

Does the tractor make any clunking noises from inside the engine?

Does the charging system work properly?

Do the wheels wobble at all?


Are the control levers in good shape and not floating around?

Are the pivot pins badly worn?

Does any oil see out of the extended spools (control valves)?

Are the hydraulic couplers capped?

Does the hydraulics work correctly?

Post Driving Inspection

Did the temp gauge ever get above the recommended temperature?

Did the temp light ever come on while you were driving it?

Did the tractor overheat?

Did the tractor run well even after it got hot?

Do you see any new leaks from the radiator?

Do you see any new oil and or fluid leaks?

Did you see excess smoke when you removed the oil cap?

Did you closely look over the tractor a third time to make sure you did not miss anything?

I Hope this has been a lot of information that you where looking for and you will use this information to your advantage and be safe with it.

Source by Sherry Cochran

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