Tips for shopping for used equipment

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If done right, buying something secondhand can save you a lot of money upfront. Whether you’re updating your wardrobe at the local thrift shop or buying a new-to-you car for the family, purchasing something used can definitely help your budget – as long as you pay your due diligence.

You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it and checking its accident history. (I personally would never buy a piece of clothing I haven’t tried on first, either.) But how do you make sure you’re actually getting a good deal with used farming equipment?

If you’re not sure exactly what you need, however, is an online guide to almost every make and model of tractor ever built. You definitely want to do your research before buying big.

The Farm Management Division of Extension at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has some great tips on where to start. When you need a tractor, a fence post driver, a baler, or something else, the first place to start when looking to buy used to ask your neighbors. Maybe they’ve upgraded recently and don’t need their old unit; maybe they’re retiring and looking to lighten their barn’s inventory.

You can widen your circle from there, checking local classified ads or using the internet to seek out nearby postings. Our flagship paper, Country Folks, often has a good amount of classified postings to peruse.

Local equipment dealers may also offer used pieces for sale in addition to the shiny new ones. The bonus here is that they are more likely to have detailed records of usage versus the previously mentioned sources.

There is also the option of attending local auctions and consignment sales. Auctions provide an opportunity to purchase machinery for a discounted price – and they’re social events, offering opportunities to network with other bidders. Maybe you can’t afford one big item by yourself … but if you and a couple of your neighbors know you’ll all be needing a skid steer at some point during the year, perhaps you can pool your funds to bid on something worthwhile.

A final tip I would offer is that you don’t always need the latest and greatest. Sometimes older equipment works just as well; it just may not be big enough for farmers that have grown their operations since they first bought it. I’m thinking of specifically of two pieces of equipment that my father received from his uncle: a gas-powered Briggs & Stratton wood splitter that brother inherited (and is now teaching my niece how to use with him), and a hay fork that probably belongs in a museum at this point, because it was first purchased by my great-grandfather around 1925.

Remember, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And if it’s only slightly broken and you know how to fix it, grab that deal!

by Courtney Llewellyn

Featured photo: Not the wood splitter as mentioned in the story, but still a solid used piece of equipment.

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