13 Tractor Terms to Help You Buy with Confidence

Ease into the tractor-buying experience by brushing up on this key tractor lingo.

by Dani Yokhna

13 Tractor Terms to Help You Buy with Confidence
Courtesy Lesley Ward
Before buying a tractor, understand the terminology necessary to let the dealer know what characteristics you’re looking for.

Just like buying a car, a tractor is a huge farm purchase that has the potential cause you a lot of anxiety during the selection process. As a hobby farmer, buying a tractor might be your first major purchase outside of the land itself, and you want the experience to be a positive one.

Because you and your tractor will be spending a lot of time together accomplishing many a farm chore, it’s important that the machine you choose has all the features that you need and desire. Before heading to the tractor dealership make a list what these qualities are. While it’s true that the tractor hunt can be intimidating, this step will go a long way in ensuring you find the workhorse you’re after. Then, if you’re still lacking fluency on tractor speak, brush up on these tractor terms to ensure you can walk into the dealership with confidence.

1. Two-wheel Drive (2WD)
These tractors allow two wheels to receive power from the engine simultaneously. Many tractors allow users to switch between 2WD and 4WD via a mechanism on the control panel.

2. Four-wheel Drive (4WD)
Vehicles with four-wheel drive allow all four wheels to receive power from the engine simultaneously.

3. Ballast
Usually found in the rear of the  tractor, this added weight serves as a counter balance for a heavy load, such as one carried in a front-end loader.

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4. Forward/Reverse (F/R)
This is seen on tractors with standard gear transmissions. It’s a measurement of how many forward and reverse speeds are available to the model.

5. Front-end Loader (FEL)
A large bucket-like implement attached to the tractor’s front, a front-end loader is used to lift materials, such as rocks and dirt.

6. Gallons Per Minute (gpm)
This unit is a measurement of a tractor’s total hydraulic power, which is used in steering and in the operation of additional implements

7. Horsepower (hp)
This is a measurement of a tractor’s overall power.

8. Hydrostatic transmission (HST)
These tractors use a hydraulic-drive-propulsion system instead of a standard clutch-and-gear transmission. Hydrostatic transmissions tend to be easier to operate because they function like the automatic transmission in a car, though they are usually more expensive.

9. Mechanical Front-wheel Drive (MFWD)
This can be found in tractors with differently sized front and rear wheels, allowing them 4WD capabilities despite the wheel size difference.

10. Power Take-off (PTO)
This spinning drive shaft allows implements, such as a mower, loader or backhoe, to pull energy from the engine to run. Most tractors come with a standard rear-mounted PTO, but midpoint PTOs are also available on some models.

11. Roll-over protective structure (ROPS)
A frame on open station (non-cab) tractors provides a safe environment for the tractor operator in the event of a rollover.

12. Revolutions Per Minute (RPM)
This is a measurement of power for the power takeoff.

13. Three-point Hitch
A standard method of attaching implements to a tractor that uses two lower points and one upper point.


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