HST vs. Shuttle Shift Transmissions

This was a rare morning on our farm, with nothing really to do but fill the troughs and mow the back pasture. So, with a little extra time, I thought I would take a few moments to touch on a question I hear frequently from our audience; “which transmission  is more desirable in a compact utility tractor. An HST, also called Hydrostat, or the more traditional shuttle shift”  (If only the answers came as easy as the questions)

My patented answer on the subject has always been “If 50% or more of the work your tractor will do is forward of the driver, i/e loader work, then an HST is better.  If most of the work you do will be with implements, such as mowing, choose a Shuttle Shift” Now I’ll give you a brief description of my experiences with both.


*An HST automatic transmission is operator friendly. So easy that the most novice user can operate like a Pro. It allows you to keep one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand on the loader joystick. All while controlling  forward & reverse movements with your foot. My personal tractor is a Branson 4720H. On this compact HST the throttle is tied in with the foot pedal. (There are different names for this type but Branson calls theirs the Hydromax) A super slick operation! As you push on the forward pedal to travel faster, the engine speed increases to compensate.

*A Shuttle Shift transmission (unlike the cheap semi-shuttle or mechanical styles) allows you to pick a transmission gear, depress the clutch and move a shuttle lever, next to the steering wheel, from nuetral to forward or reverse. If the transmission is Synchronized, You can even shift on the go. Just pick a gear you like. Then relax and enjoy the ride.


  •  An HST requires higher engine RPM’s to keep up with the transmission pump and operate an implement. Thus a hotter running engine that is also burning more fuel. The HST pump also tends to rob an engine of some horse power. An HST tractor will cost more as well. $1,000 – $3,000 more.
  • A Shuttle Shift takes a little more skill and a strong left leg. Picture yourself on an afternoon of moving a gravel pile from one place to another. You go into the pile, press the clutch, shift to reverse. Back up then stop. Press the clutch again, shift into forward. Repeating that process all day may not be to your liking.

Those are the basics folks!

If you live in the greater Nashville, TN. area. I’d like to invite you to stop by my store, Midstate Turf & Tractor for a test drive of both. You never need an appointment and you can find easy directions at http://www.TnTractor.com

Thanks for reading!


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