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Farmers are increasingly sick of high-tech tractors that are expensive to buy and usually impossible to fix yourself due to their integrated digital technology. According to the Minnesota Star Tribune, “Tractors manufactured in the late 1970s and 1980s are some of the hottest items in farm auctions across the Midwest these days.” To be sure, the farmers buying these old machines aren’t luddites. In fact, they often customize and retrofit them with contemporary tech like GPS for automatic steering. From the Star Tribune:

“The newer machines, any time something breaks, you’ve got to have a computer to fix it,” (BigIron owner Mark) Stock said.

There are some good things about the software in newer machines, said Peterson. The dealer will get a warning if something is about to break and can contact the farmer ahead of time to nip the problem in the bud. But if something does break, the farmer is powerless, stuck in the field waiting for a service truck from the dealership to come out to their farm and charge up to $150 per hour for labor.

“That goes against the pride of ownership, plus your lifetime of skills you’ve built up being able to fix things,” (Machinery Pete founder Greg) Peterson said…

The cheaper repairs for an older tractor mean their life cycle can be extended. A new motor or transmission may cost $10,000 to $15,000, and then a tractor could be good for another 10 or 15 years.

Folland has two Versatile 875s manufactured in the early 1980s in Winnipeg and bought a John Deere 4440 last year with 9,000 hours on it, expecting to get another 5,000 hours out of it before he has to make a major repair.

“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 said. “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.”


image: “John Deere 3020” by Artiez (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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