For sheer versatility the farm tele-handler is hard to beat.

Interest in acquiring these day-to-day workhorses that can multi-task has steadily increased and the market is awash with options to suit most pockets.

A mooch through Marketplace throws up deals from £8250 for a many-houred Manitou to £27,500 for a high-spec JCB526S.

A handful of mainstream, established marques dominates the market, but the arrival of imported machines has added to the competition.

While JCB and Manitou tend to rule the top-end sales, in the middle ground the likes of Kramer, Matbro, and Merlo vie with relatively new entrants such as Dieci, say dealers.

Depending on the buyer’s budget, a late plate ’05-registered JCB526S with aircon cab, quick-fit headstock, pick-up hitch, warranty and under 400 hours could set you back £27,500 via one Welsh borders outfit; similar to recent prices at on-farm auctions for top-end examples.

But the choice is as wide as the buyer’s budget is deep.

Use is variable and not necessarily dictated by age.

Annual hourly usage varies widely from 350 hours to well over 1000 hours, depending on the previous operator’s business, explain dealers.

Important then to look at service schedules, certainly for newer, high-houred models, and warranty work undertaken to assess condition.

Common ailments include leaking ram seals, main mast wear pads/guides and worn pins – all of which are standard service items available off the shelf.

Of concern should be slack or sudden take-up in transmission when shuttling from forward to reverse or poor hydraulic ram operation, both of which can indicate wear.

Several advances in technology have crept into the market.

Drive-by-wire joystick controls are replacing direct-to-spool linkages.

There’s also a greater degree of operator comfort including aircon cabs.

Expect specification to add to purchase price, say dealers.

A telehandler is only as diverse as the attachments on the front and the market is served by an array of alternatives.

Buckets, brushes, forks, grabs, mortar mixers, safety cages and skips are all available direct from manufacturers, after-market suppliers and the machinery sales circuit.

As with all agricultural machinery, Health & Safety Executive officials point out operator knowledge of safe handling and operation is essential.

Training should be considered for new operators to ensure versatility and safety go hand-in-hand.