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  • Compact Utility Tractor Advice

    I know there's at least one landscaping professional on MIVE, so I thought I'd post this here and see what feedback the community has to offer. This post is super-long and mainly meant for one person, but if anybody has any input I'd appreciate it.

    We recently purchased a home on 4.2 acres. The property sits at the back of the lot and a very long drive leads to the house and splits to go to the attached garages (upper and lower, with entrances 90 degrees apart). The drive up to the upper garage is quite steep. The previous owners' idea of landscaping was to put rubber sheeting down and mulch about 1/4 acre, with pine logs as a border. They let the woods go completely. This is completely unacceptable to my wife.

    We have almost no yard right now, but that might change depending on the landscape design we go with. That 1/4 acre of mulch needs to be cleaned out, graded properly and then finished somehow (Maybe pavers or stamped concrete? Whatever it turns out to be will need to be at least three tiers). The pine logs need pulled out, cut up and burnt. We'll probably then clean up about a 12-15' wide donut of land outside of that all the way around the house and plant lawn or prairie grass or something. The idea is to make that area walkable. I also want to clean the thick brush out of the rest of the woods so that it's a pleasant place to walk around amongst the trees.

    I've thought a lot about it, and I think our best bet is to purchase a compact tractor to help out around the property. I don't want anything huge, but I also don't want to regret getting something too small. Here are the jobs as I see them:

    1) The drive is way too long for a walk-behind snow blower. I am a DIY kind of guy, so I dislike the idea of hiring a service.

    For that, I'm looking at a front-mounted snowblower in the ~60" range to clear the drive.

    2) The landscaping will be a huge job to start with cutting the brush/brambles out of the woods, removing all the pine log borders and pulling all the downed trees/limbs out of the woods, grading for the new landscaping and putting in retaining walls and whatever paving we go with (that last bit may be contracted out). Even after the initial job, I'll need to be able to keep the woods cleaned up and clean up the occasional downed tree.

    For all that, I'm thinking a hydrostatic, 4WD, compact tractor with a loader and a set of 48" forks for moving stuff around. I had been thinking about a ~5' rotary cutter for clearing all that brush, but I've been doing a lot of research and it sounds like a flail mower might be better suited to the task as it's much more compact (more maneuverable in the woods) and people say that they do a good job on the type of brush I have to deal with (think about fields of berry bushes and thorny vines).

    So, MIVE tractor people (especially Rob), do you think I'd be well-served by something like a John Deere 2032R with a Deere loader and forks, a 54" front-mounted snowblower for the drive, and then a generic box scraper for the landscaping work and a medium-duty flail mower (Caroni?) to knock down the brush? I tried the 1-series, but it's basically a big lawn tractor and didn't seem like enough to do the job. I also test-drove a 3046R at the Deere dealer. It's way more tractor, and it was a lot less pleasant to cruise around on. It's way more powerful, but I just don't need all that power and I'd rather have the 2-series taking up less space if it will do what I need to do.

    I also have a call in to the Kubota dealer for a quote on a B2650 and a L3200, but when I went to checked them out in person I didn't like the ergonomics as much as on the Deere. The Kubota L-series is way more capable, but it's probably more capability than I need and this thing (and all its implements) has to fit in my garage.

    Specifically, can anyone give me thoughts on the flail mower vs a rotary cutter? I really like the idea of the flail mower if it will do the job, as it will take up about half the space in the garage and I can drive it around easier in the trees. But I obviously don't want it if it won't do the job. I've run a bush hog, but I've never used a flail mower.
    Paul Parkanzky
    '09 Jetta TDI

  • #2
    I forgot to ask about tires. I know I don't want Ag, but I have different people telling me that I want either R3's or R4's. I'm leaning toward the industrials, since I'll be out and about in the woods in the summer. Is that the way to go?
    Paul Parkanzky
    '09 Jetta TDI

    Comment


    • #3
      Comment #1. I would suggest going with a plow instead of a snow blower. It will be more versatile as a tool instead of a single function snow blower. A plow would be a better value in service to pushing just more than snow around.
      Matt
      DCC #0
      ...we all started out with the same tools dream it, build it, breathe it.

      Comment


      • #4
        My only real experience is with Kubota tractors so that's my preference, but I will say that I disagree with dbot on the blower vs. plow. With a drive that long and the kind of snow you get in your area, you're going to need to get that snow out into the yard and away from the edge of the drive. The one I used was rear mount PTO which was a bit of a PIA, but it worked. The tractor was 4x4 with ag tires and chains for the winter. We had forks, a bucket, a rear grader and a snow blower. It was incredibly useful and well worth the money. I will say this, once you start using a tractor a lot, you will find lots of things to do with it and before you know it you'll wish you went with something a bit bigger.
        2009 | A4 Avant quattro | 2.0 TFSI.....2000 | GTI | AWD 1.8T.....1986 | Vanagon Syncro | Soon to be a 1Z TDI
        1969 | Beetle | 1914cc Flat Four Air Cooled.....
        1960 | Beetle | 36 HP | Maximum OG

        Comment


        • #5
          Paul, first off congratulations on the new house!

          Since these are smaller than what I use or research, I can't give you much on these particular models, but I will concur that I really like what Deere has been putting out there lately. We have a 2003 JD 110 backhoe (~45 horse) and it's held up really well after 2000 hours. We also just bought a 2014 JD tracked skid steer and like it, and have been doing some demos on excavators and have decided that when we pull the trigger on one it will also be a Deere. In my experience the perennial flaw with Deere is they are typically a tad underpowered comparatively to chassis size...so maybe heed Tim's advice and go bigger than you think you'll need.

          In general though, I will echo what most do-it-yourselfers/landscapers/excavators will tell you, and that is that tractors are almost never the right tool for the job...they're good at a lot of things but great at very few. Tractors just don't dig well. There's not enough front end weight and the loader arms are too long to generate sufficient force, and if you do your front axle is off the ground leaving you with no control. The forks are a good idea for general stuff like logs or fenceposts, but the models you're looking at don't have the hydraulic flow, horsepower or lifting capacity to lift a standard pallet of say pavers, bags of concrete or wall blocks. Without seeing the brush you need to mow down, I would generally agree that a flail should handle it. You can buy different teeth for some flails that are better suited for slightly thicker brush, too. I would also agree with Tim- on a long driveway I think you'll be better served with a snowblower only because you're using a small-ish tractor- it just wouldn't have the weight or speed like a truck to get the windrows out far enough, especially with a back blade.

          Overall, I use my Dad as an example. In the past few years he's sold off all his farm equipment because he no longer has livestock or cuts hay. He kept his 60's John Deere tractor over the other two much larger tractors because it's small and has a loader. (it's ~38 horse) It's great for hauling logs around when we're cutting wood, running his brush hog and tilling the garden, but anytime he has a bigger project like moving or digging dirt, spreading gravel on the driveway or moving boulders, he calls me to bring a skid steer over. Keep in mind that I'm a landscaper and have used skid steers regularly for almost 15 years now, so I'm a really good operator and therefore biased, but honestly if I were in your shoes I'd be looking at gently used skid steers. All the attachments you need would be available for skids and they are actually shorter than a tractor for storage purposes. The downfall is damage potential...if you'll be turning on finished lawn areas, obviously a skid steer will tear it up...Though Bobcat does make a "steerable" skid steer.

          Since the tractor is probably the better choice for your long term needs, I would go with the Deere and all the attachments you're looking at, but keep in mind that when you start tackling your landscape installation projects, you might need to hire at least portions of it out or rent a skid steer. Otherwise you'll spend five times as long messing around with the tractor, and end up breaking something and being generally pissed.
          Tuned and deleted Super Duty, An old Chevy with a Cummins, my wife's Volvo, a 5th wheel and a boat. I like to drink and work. My family is cool too.

          Rob

          Comment


          • #6
            Oh and I'd definitely go with the industrial tires- good traction without too much denting on soft ground.
            Tuned and deleted Super Duty, An old Chevy with a Cummins, my wife's Volvo, a 5th wheel and a boat. I like to drink and work. My family is cool too.

            Rob

            Comment


            • #7
              I did consider a plow Matt. They're much cheaper than a front-mounted snowblower and there's a lot less to break on them, but I came to the same conclusion as Tim and Rob. I'd run out of places to push snow after a couple storms with this drive (the woods comes right up to the drive on one side and there's only a small strip of lawn on the other side). You're right that I could push other stuff with a plow, but I'll get a loader with a bucket for the tractor either way. So between that and the box scraper, I will be pretty well equipped to push a pile of stuff around or level out dips. And the box scraper can do double-duty. With the scarifiers pulled all the way up and the front edge removed, I can use it to pull snow out of doorways and turnarounds where I don't want to go in forward with the snowblower.

              And you're right Tim, I definitely do want a skid steer. My father-in-law had one and I absolutely loved it, but when I looked at them they were way more money than a compact tractor. Especially the high-flow models you'd need to run a snowblower and flail mower. Then, the attachments for a skid steer are way more because you have to buy hydraulically-driven implements. A used snowblower for a skid steer costs more than a new front-mount snowblower with all the fixings would be for the Deere. The other disadvantage is weight. The huge capacity you get from a skid-steer requires them to weigh a lot. If I buy a compact tractor it will weigh under 3000# with the loader on it. That means I can transport it in a car trailer that a capable SUV can pull. A skid-steer requires an equipment trailer and a serious truck to pull it.

              It sounds like I am on the right track. I'll talk to the John Deere dealers in the area and see if they'll work with me on price for the package I'm putting together.

              Thanks!
              Paul Parkanzky
              '09 Jetta TDI

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by repacs0103 View Post
                Since the tractor is probably the better choice for your long term needs, I would go with the Deere and all the attachments you're looking at, but keep in mind that when you start tackling your landscape installation projects, you might need to hire at least portions of it out or rent a skid steer. Otherwise you'll spend five times as long messing around with the tractor, and end up breaking something and being generally pissed.
                This is a great point. I'm not against renting equipment or implements. For instance, if I ever have a project that requires a backhoe, I'll rent a proper backhoe or small excavator before I blow $10k installing one on my tractor that will be frustratingly under-sized and a pain to store when I'm done with it. The same goes with any attachments that I'll only use once or twice. There are stores around here that would rent me a tiller or harley rake when I need one and then I don't have an expensive implement taking up a big chunk of space and collecting dust in my garage.

                Thanks again for the advice. I don't know a lot about tractors, so the research has been a bit dizzying. It's a lot of money and it's hard to know if I'm making a good decision.
                Paul Parkanzky
                '09 Jetta TDI

                Comment


                • #9
                  Bottom line, just make sure she thinks your tractor is sexy...
                  Matt
                  DCC #0
                  ...we all started out with the same tools dream it, build it, breathe it.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I have had experience with both the smaller Deere's and the Kubota's, and I liked them both. That being said I have a friend with a 2032 and they use it year around on their farm. The tractor sits outside all year, fluid changes are seldom done when they should be and it is generally neglected. Even with all of that it runs great. I would recommend it. It is also worth noting that this tractor had turf tires, and it never got stuck even though I tried.

                    If you are blowing snow, you might want to try to find one with a cab. Blowing on our friends 2032 without the cab would suck, or at least it does on their farm where the drive is exposed to the wind.

                    Forks. Get them. You will be amazed how much you use them. They work better than buckets for moving trees, brush, trailers, etc. You can also add a pallet and make a redneck man lift.
                    Past - 2003 Jetta GLI :cry:, 2006 GTI, 2008 R32
                    Current - 2013 GTI Drivers Ed, 6 Speed
                    , 2014 BMW X1 M, 2007 Silverado 5-speed

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The thing about forks is you can use them as a make-shift tree spade, (think angled downward) and they actually work pretty good. My buddy has a Kubota B2620 with loader arms and bucket, got the forks and uses them all the time to move smaller trees around.
                      2002 Jetta TDI (216k), 2000 Golf TDI (432k), 1996 Passat B4V TDI (335k), 1977 BMW R100RS (166k)
                      (TDI Enthusiast/Specialist - rockfordTDIguy)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I looked at the cabs and the cab Deere is downright luxurious (The AC blowing right down your back on a hot summer day feels awesome!). It's a hard choice. My father-in-law has had tractors with and without cabs and the cab is great for climate control or keeping out of the rain but a bit of a pain to get in and out of. It's also much harder to maneuver around in the woods without scratching it up or breaking glass. In the end, the cab tractors don't fit through a residential garage door. I don't have any outbuildings at this point, so I have to get the fold-able ROPS if I want to be able to park my shiny new toy inside. That makes the decision easy.

                        I'm definitely getting forks. I had them quote the tractor with 48" forks instead of the shorter standard length. They'll take up a bit more room that way, but I think it will be worth it.
                        Paul Parkanzky
                        '09 Jetta TDI

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Sounds like you are on the right track. If you blow snow get snowmobile goggles!
                          Past - 2003 Jetta GLI :cry:, 2006 GTI, 2008 R32
                          Current - 2013 GTI Drivers Ed, 6 Speed
                          , 2014 BMW X1 M, 2007 Silverado 5-speed

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I got a quote today from the Deere dealer for a 2032R with loader (61", 48" forks, ballast box and a 54" front-mount snowblower on R4 tires. He's asking ~$28,750 out the door (including freight, assembly and taxes).

                            I also got a quote for a Kubota B3350 w/loader, quick attach 54” bucket, pallet frame and 36” forks, and 63” hd snowblower w/hydraulic chute rotator. List price is $32,059. Selling price is $29,682. Another $700 off if I pay cash. He didn't say in the email exactly what that includes. I'm assuming it includes freight and setup, but does not include taxes. I have an email out to him to clarify.

                            If it's true that the Kubota price doesn't include taxes, then the Kubota is a bit more expensive than the Deere. I think that the Deere is more than enough tractor for my 4.2 wooded acres and my drive (although I'd have liked the wider snowblower).

                            Right now I'm leaning toward the Deere based on the test drive I've had and the prices. I haven't driven a Kubota yet though and both dealers are trying to get loaders installed so I can scoop up a bit of dirt.

                            Thoughts?
                            Paul Parkanzky
                            '09 Jetta TDI

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Thoughts? You don't have to buy new, used diesel tractors run forever, and are way cheaper!
                              2002 Jetta TDI (216k), 2000 Golf TDI (432k), 1996 Passat B4V TDI (335k), 1977 BMW R100RS (166k)
                              (TDI Enthusiast/Specialist - rockfordTDIguy)

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