Avoiding Top Five Equipment Pitfalls

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Before purchasing new or used equipment, be sure its size and cost fit your operation. (DTN/The Progressive Farmer photo by Jim Patrico)

I have always had a fascination with farm machinery, both with the vintage stuff and the more modern lines. This is probably not very surprising considering I have been around these machines for most of my life.

Still, it is easy to forget some basics with farm equipment.

The University of Maryland (UM) Extension has a website dedicated to the success of beginning farmers. It includes a segment on understanding farm equipment needs. Now I understand most of you readers are not beginning farmers. But "never assume anything" is something I have learned in my 18 years as an ag reporter.

That said, one of the UM articles is titled "Avoiding Top Five Equipment Pitfalls" by Ben Beale, UM Extension educator.

Tip No. 1: Avoid buying equipment that the farm will never pay for itself.

Know the economy of scale and sizing equipment to fit is a critical first step in determining how much to spend on machinery. A high cost must be spread among many acres to be economically feasible.

Tip No. 2: Avoid buying equipment the farm doesn't need.

Do your homework first and remember the bill still comes due whether you use the equipment or not, Beale wrote. You would think this is self-explanatory.

Tip No. 3: Avoid improperly sizing equipment for the job at hand.

Be sure the power source, implement and the task at hand are compatible. Don't hook a 6-bottom-plow to a 40-horsepower tractor to till a 1/4-acre vegetable plot.

Tip No. 4: Avoid buying all new equipment

Both new and used equipment have a place on the farm, depending on farm size, your mechanical aptitude and potential use. Used equipment can lower initial costs and allow for younger or beginning farmers with a lower economy of scale to justify an equipment purchase. However, used farm equipment may require the operator to have more extensive mechanical skills.

Tip No. 5: Avoid buying equipment and never learning how to use it properly.

Take the time to read the operators manual, listen to others and request a set-up demo from the seller to learn how to properly operate a piece of equipment, the report said.

The UM equipment website is at…. The "Avoiding Top 5 Equipment Pitfalls" report is No. 3 on the menu at the left of the page.

Maybe I am a cheap guy (and I am sure my wife would agree), but I have never been one to just spend more money than necessary on anything -- farm equipment or otherwise. My thought when buying anything is (1) will it get the job done?, and (2) how can spend as little as possible for this particular item?

While this may be self-explanatory, I don't know if everyone follows this rule closely. I have known farmers who would purchase pieces of equipment and then rarely use it. Why did you buy it then if you are never going to use it?

There has to be, I believe, a happy medium here with used farm machinery. Somewhere out there is a nice used piece of farm machinery you are looking for. It might be some work to find it, but in the end, your due diligence will pay off.

Russ Quinn can be reached at



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