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Compact Utility Tractors: What size is right for you?

What’s the Right Size Compact Utility Tractor for You?

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When you visit your local equipment dealership, you’ll be greeted with dozens of different tractors. Among them, compact utility tractors (CUTs) are a common tool for customers with large properties to maintain thanks to their manageable size and compatibility with attachments.

John Deere further categorizes its CUTs into sub-compacts (1 and 2 Series) and standard compacts (3 and 4 Series).

While logic might say an owner with a lot of acreage needs a larger tractor, and a smaller property owner can get by with a sub-compact model, this is not always the case. Below are five key factors that should be considered when choosing between a sub-compact and standard compact tractor.

Factor #1: The Landscape
When looking at tractor size, potential buyers should note all the characteristics that make up their property’s unique landscape. Does the property have features like fencing and hardscapes? Are there several shrubs and trees? What about uneven or rocky areas?

The Choice: Sub-Compact or Standard
A sub-compact tractor can fit through narrow gate openings and closely-spaced trees, as well as easily navigate around hardscapes and gardens.

A standard compact offers greater height clearance. On properties with uneven terrain and large obstacles on the ground, such as rocks, this added height ensures the tractor can clear obstructions without damage to the unit or disruption to the operator.

Factor #2: The Grass
Every property has grass and the grass needs to be mowed. The question is: What type of grass?

The Choice: Sub-Compact or Standard
A John Deere sub-compact tractor is offered with an easy-to-attach, under-mount mower deck. Compared to larger, tow-behind mowers, these under-mount models do a better job of clean, close cutting on common-variety lawn grass.

A John Deere standard compact can be paired with a tow-behind mower attachment which, in contrast to the under-mount model, does a much better job handling longer, thicker grass in sizable fields. 

Factor #3: The Animals
A customer who owns animals has unique factors to consider when determining tractor size. Does the property have fencing, corrals, or barns to contain the animals? How much feed and hay are required for the animals each day?

The Choice: Sub-Compact or Standard
A sub-compact tractor’s smaller size allows it to go between pens and buildings. The small size is also ideal for narrow gate openings in fences – in fact, the sub-compact might be the only size tractor that can get through them.

A standard compact’s larger size is a better choice if there’s need to move a lot of feed, hay, and other equipment and materials. A larger tractor can be paired with larger attachments like pallet forks and buckets needed for these chores.

Factor #4: The Applications
It has already been established that most tractors need to double as mowers. What other tasks are going to be required of the tractor?

The Choice: Sub-Compact or Standard
A sub-compact tractor pairs well with basic attachments used for simple tasks like lawn mowing, gardening, and light material handling.

A standard compact can be paired with nearly all the same attachments as a sub-compact, while offering greater capabilities in terms of capacity, lift height, and power.  

Factor #5: The Ownership
In most households, more than one person uses the tractor. What’s the comfort level of everyone’s maintenance and operation capabilities?

The Choice: Sub-Compact or Standard
A sub-compact tractor is often more appealing to newer operators. The smaller size feels more manageable, attachments are typically easier to handle and change out, and it takes less time to perform routine maintenance on a smaller machine – but keep in mind every tractor has daily and periodic maintenance needs, and will come with basic ownership costs.

A standard compact costs a bit more to maintain, in time and dollars. Its greater size doesn’t necessarily make it harder to operate but it is more machine to handle, and can be more intimidating to the novice operator. Rest assured, standard compacts offer ergonomic features and intuitive design so they’re just as comfortable to operate as their sub-compact counterparts. 

Because they’re not one-size-fits-all machines, it’s important to closely consider each of these factors when determining the right-sized CUT for you.

There’s no one-size-fits-all CUT for everyone. There is a size that’s ideally-suited to each individual, his or her property, and the primary applications for which the tractor will be used. A reputable dealership will help you find the best option for your unique needs.  


About The Author
Richard “Woody” Fenley is the Regional Sales Manager for the Southwest Ag region of RDO Equipment Co. 

For more information on choosing the right compact tractor and attachments, or servicing your existing equipment, visit your local RDO Equipment Co. store.