Tractors manufactured in the late 1970s and 1980s are some of the hottest items in farm auctions across the Midwest these days — and it’s not because they’re antiques.Whenever I read about one of these disconnects between what companies are selling and what buyers want, I wonder what is behind it. I suspect in this case that the market the manufacturers want is the high-end one, where they probably make ten times the profit per machine they do on basic models. Enough buyers want the cutting edge to make that a decent strategy. A basic machine, after all, would just be in competition with all the used ones out there, a supply that has probably been jacked up by ongoing consolidation.
Cost-conscious farmers are looking for bargains, and tractors from that era are well-built and totally functional, and aren’t as complicated or expensive to repair as more recent models that run on sophisticated software.
“It’s a trend that’s been building. It’s been interesting in the last couple years, which have been difficult for ag, to see the trend accelerate,” said Greg Peterson, the founder of Machinery Pete, a farm equipment data company in Rochester with a website and TV show.
“There’s an affinity factor if you grew up around these tractors, but it goes way beyond that,” Peterson said. “These things, they’re basically bulletproof. You can put 15,000 hours on it and if something breaks you can just replace it.” . . .
The other big draw of the older tractors is their lack of complex technology. Farmers prefer to fix what they can on the spot, or take it to their mechanic and not have to spend tens of thousands of dollars.
“The newer machines, any time something breaks, you’ve got to have a computer to fix it,” 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,” Peterson said.
I am no Luddite, but I have myself wished dozens of times for the old, simpler technology rather than the latest buggy version. Why can't I buy it?