If you missed parts 1 & 2  please go back & read those first. Because at this point, We are ‘knee deep’ into the facts behind compact tractors and what to look for when shopping for one. Today I will explain the different transmission options. PLUS we’ll discuss Lift capacities and wrap this series up with some strong words of advice.

  • TRANSMISSIONS. The lingo around transmissions in the tractor world can be seriously intimidating. But, really, the options are not much different than most cars. You have Gear Drive Transmissions & HST Automatic Transmissions.
  • GEAR DRIVE. (Basically 1,2,3 & R) These are strong and reliable, plus they cost less than other transmissions. However, If you will be changing speed and direction a lot, it may not be the trans. for you. Gear trans. is great when you are going in the same direction, at the same speed for a long time. Like plowing or mowing. Since the speed is governed by the number of gears, it does not require as much horsepower to operate one.
  • SHUTTLE SHIFT. This set up uses a clutch  like the gear drive, but it has a separate lever for forward and reverse. Once you pick a gear that provides the speed you like. You don’t change gears anymore. You just use the clutch and put it in forward, reverse or neutral.
  • HYDROSTATIC. (HST) These are generally considered to be the smoothest, easiest to operate of all transmissions. A pedal for forward. A pedal for reverse. It’s as easy as that. An HST allows for even the most novice operator to look like a pro. The HST allows for instant hands free direction changes. It is, however the most expensive transmission option, and uses the most engine HP.


  • LIFT CAPABILITY. This one is huge! It’s important to understand what your needs are and what you want your tractor to do. BUT also consider the size of the load you want to lift. “Lift Capacity” can refer to both the front loader and the 3 PT hitch.  Rear lift capacities are often rated at the lower link end, which means that the lift capacity is simply a guideline. The farther the Implement is from the back of the lower links, the less weight it can lift.  As with everything else We’ve talked about in this series, Buy a tractor with more lift capability than you need. You won’t overwork the tractor.


  • FRONT LOADER CAPABILITY.                                                                                              PLEASE PAY CLOSE ATTENTION HERE. IT MAY SAVE YOUR LIFE                                 Front loader capacities are Generally given at the pivot pin, which is behind the bucket. The farther you go forward from that pin, the lower the lift capacity.        For example: You can lift a heavier load inside the bucket than you can with a set of pallet forks that put the load further from the pins.

NOTE:  Manufacturers are only required by law to rate the lift capacity at 1 meter. Many brands rate it there because it makes the tractor appear stronger. Which is fine if you never want to lift over 3 feet. Try to find the rating at full height. Keep in mind that lift capacity at full height is always lower do to mechanical advantage (sometimes as much as 60%)

The bottom line with ratings is to USE COMMON SENSE. Do the numbers add up? There are tractor companies claiming 2,800 lbs. of lift when the actual tractor only weighs 3,000 lbs. 

So we’ll wrap things up here. Every Tractor manufacturer will have options for you to consider in nearly every hp range and size. You’ll find many of them are similar, maybe TOO similar. That’s because many of the tractor brands are produced by the same Company. As long as you aren’t buying a color (or your grandpa’s memories) you may be able to get a lot better tractor at a much lower price.

Get out there, visit some dealers and drive some tractors. If you do your homework You will find that perfect tractor. If you are in the Tennessee and Kentucky area. Stop by and see me for a FREE cup of coffee and a test drive.



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