Farmers Are Buying 40-Year-Old Tractors Because They’re Actually Repairable



New isn’t always better than old. No one knows this better than farmers with John Deere Tractors. As new tractors become increasingly costly to repair, farmers are turning back to older models that they can fix themselves.

Farmers Buying Old John Deere Instead of New

If a farmer buys a new John Deere tractor and it needs a repair, not only do they have to take it to the dealership to be fixed, but the repair will cost them big time. This is because the equipment all comes with a built-in computer. (1)

These computers all come with digital rights management software, so the farmers are unable to do even simple repairs on their own. To side-step this problem, many farmers are instead purchasing 40-year-old, pre-computer models. (1)

Older is Better

Most of the repairs that these older models require the farmers can do themselves, saving a huge amount of time and money in the process. (1)

“These things, they’re basically bulletproof. You can put 15,000 hours on it and if something breaks you can just replace it.” said Greg Peterson, founder of the farm equipment data company Machinery Pete. (1)

Despite their age, tractors and farm equipment built in the 1970s and 1980s run just the same as the current models, just without the computer technology. Throughout the midwest, these older versions have become extremely popular as an alternative to the expense of a new John Deere. (1)

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Dollar for Dollar

These old tractors are in such high demand that they will still cost tens of thousands of dollars. Compared to the cost of a new version, not even including the expensive repair jobs down the line, they are still a steal of a deal for farmers. (1)

Let’s look at the average cost of purchasing each of these:

  • Old: $40,0000 to $60,000, give or take. (1)
  • New: $100,000 to $150,000. (1)

Clearly farmers are becoming more and more resistant to the idea of dropping a hundred grand or more on something that will be expensive and a nuisance to repair. 

“The newer machines, any time something breaks, you’ve got to have a computer to fix it,” explained Mark Stock, co-founder of BigIron auction. (1)

There are some benefits to the technology. For example, if something is about to break on the machine, the dealership will get a warning. This allows them to contact the farmer before the break happens, effectively solving the problem before it happens. (1)

The downside of course if something does break, is that the farmer can’t do anything about it. They are forced to sit there in the field and wait for someone to arrive from the dealership, only to have them charge $150 per hour for the labor alone. (1)

Even more expensive repairs on the older machines like a new motor or transmission, which costs $10,000 to $15,000, but this allows the tractor to last for another decade or even longer.

“An expensive repair would be $15,000 to $20,000, but you’re still well below the cost of buying a new tractor that’s $150,000 to $250,000. It’s still a fraction of the cost,” farmer Kris Folland explains. “That’s why these models are so popular. They’ve stood the test of time, well built, easy to fix, and it’s easy to get parts.” (1)

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The Right-to-Repair movement isn’t just about farmers, however, they have found themselves in the middle of this debate. The movement calls for people’s right to be able to repair their purchases themselves: This includes cellphones and electronics, particularly Apple products, and of course, John Deere Tractors. There has been a push for political leaders to call for national right-to-repair laws, however, it is uncertain whether those things will be put forward. (2)

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