Reader Insights is a first-of-its-kind study series designed to give voice to how owners rate their farming equipment. Progressive Farmer commissioned this study -- and is building future equipment studies -- in collaboration with SOCAL Approach Marketing and Consulting Group.
Owners supplied detailed information on 7,062 tractors in this study. On average, each of 1,982 owners who returned the tractor study provided information on 3.56 tractors. Tractor evaluations were collected from 47 states. States with most respondents include (beginning with the highest return rate): Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Texas, Missouri, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
The Reader Insights Tractor Study divides tractors into three segments: small (less than 100 horsepower), medium (100 to 235 hp) and large (236 hp and above). Data were collected on 1,397 large tractors, 3,394 medium and 2,271 small tractors.
Fifty-two percent of the evaluated tractors received a rating of 5 for overall satisfaction (on a scale of 1 through 5, 5 being the highest), 34% received a 4 and 14% received a rating of 3 or below. Reliability and ease of operation were similar: Half of the tractors evaluated received top-box ratings of 5, and about 4% received ratings of 1 and 2.
On that same scale, 55% of evaluated tractors received a 5 or "extremely likely" when owners were asked if they would repurchase that brand again. Similarly, 56 to 58% received "extremely likely" scores when owners were asked if they would repurchase another model tractor by that brand, and if they would purchase any product from that brand. About 20% in each case received a 4 rating, and about 20% received a rating of 3 or below.
The picture shifts a bit when owners rated their tractors based on a list of attributes. Fewer numbers of owners gave their tractors top-box ratings for some of its components. For example, 34% of tractors received a 5 for cab comfort (with 11% giving ratings of 1 and 2); 33% of tractors received a 5 for their capability (with 8% receiving ratings of 1 and 2); 23% received a 5 for warranty coverage (about 19% received ratings of 1 and 2). Regarding warranties, it is not clear if this was related to the age of tractors in these groups.
Only 20% of tractors evaluated received a 5 for their advanced technology, while 32% receiving ratings of 1 and 2. Advanced technology problems most often noted were GPS systems, computers, sensors and line drift.
Owner relationships with their dealers are strongly connected to purchase decisions. Three-quarters of all tractors are purchased in part because of the dealer, owners told SOCAL and Progressive Farmer. Of the tractor owners who answered the question about the importance of dealers in making their tractor purchases, 40% said the dealer is very important; 35% somewhat important; 15% neither important nor unimportant; 3% somewhat unimportant; and 8% not important at all.
Owners also responded about tractor turnover. Larger tractors are generally newer than small tractors. In fact, for the oldest tractors, turnover approaches "never." Overall, about 4% of the tractors evaluated have been owned less than a year, 22% have been owned 1 to 5 years, 26% for 6 to 10 years and 48% more than 10 years. Large tractors rated tended to have less time in service: 9% were less than a year old, while 15% were more than 10 years old. The numbers were nearly reversed for small tractors. Only 2% of small tractors were less than a year old, but 66% were more than 10 years old.
Owners told SOCAL and Progressive Farmer that newer tractors are very expensive and sometimes overly complicated. Older tractors are often decades old and viewed as longtime trusty and dependable workhorses that are desirable for their durability and lower cost.
The Reader Insights Tractor Study found a fair number of owners paid for their tractors with cash. Overall, 60% purchased their tractors with cash, 38% financed the purchase and 2% leased their tractors. Financing trends differed across the tractor sizes. For large tractors, 39% were purchased with cash, 56% were financed and 5% were leased. Small tractors were dramatically different than their larger cousins. Owners paid cash for 79% of small tractors, 21% were financed and less than 1% were leased.
Here are the category winners rated by nearly 2,000 owners of more than 7,000 tractors.
SMALL TRACTORS (less than 100 hp)
-- Top small tractor manufacturer for Overall Ownership Experience: Kubota and John Deere (tied).
-- Top small tractor manufacturer for Owner Loyalty: John Deere.
-- Top small tractor manufacturer for Fewest Reported Problems Overall: Kubota (0.78 problems on average per tractor).
MEDIUM TRACTORS (100 hp to 235 hp)
-- Top medium tractor manufacturer for Overall Ownership Experience: John Deere.
-- Top medium tractor manufacturer for Owner Loyalty: John Deere.
-- Top medium tractor manufacturer for Fewest Reported Problems Overall: New Holland (1.25 problems on average per tractor).
LARGE TRACTORS (236 hp and above)
-- Top large tractor manufacturer for Overall Ownership Experience: John Deere.
-- Top large tractor manufacturer for Owner Loyalty: John Deere.
-- Top large tractor manufacturer for Fewest Reported Problems Overall: John Deere (1.00 problems on average per tractor).
Dan Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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