Used tractors from UK farms are popular worldwide and a strong export demand plays an important part in maintaining the prices farmers are paid for trade-in tractors.
Many of the used tractors shipped from the UK come from Cheffins, Europe’s biggest used-tractor auctioneers. It estimates that 70% to 80% of the tractors sold in its auctions are exported.
“If there were no exports and we relied on the domestic market, our auction sales would be smaller and prices farmers are paid for used tractors would be lower,” says Bill Pepper, a partner in Cheffins.
Ireland is the biggest export market for used tractors, many of them below 100hp. It is also a growth market, with shipments totalling 2850 tractors in 2004 and 3455 in 2005, a 21% rise, says the Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA).
Recent sales trends also include increasing demand from the new eastern European EC members, Poland being established as one of the biggest markets for tractors from Cheffins auctions.
“Russian and eastern European tractor makes have been difficult to sell, but this is changing,” says Mr Pepper. “These tractors are much more popular in the countries where they were built and we have seen a welcome increase in demand for some makes, including Belarus and Ursus.”
New EC countries also offer a market for tractors needing major repairs, as lower labour costs make it possible to tackle jobs that would be uneconomic in the UK.
At the top of the popularity table in the auctions is John Deere, says Mr Pepper. All the leading makes in the new tractor market sell well at auction, but Deere units generally attract more buyers and his estimate is a price premium of up to 5% over other makes.
“The newer Massey Fergusons are popular, the MF3000 series are more saleable than they were 18 months ago. There is also a demand for newer Case IH models such as the MX series, and there are always buyers for good New Holland tractors.”
Among older models, there is a strong Irish demand for good Ford 10 series tractors, especially with a front loader. A loader in good condition can add about £1000 to the value of smaller tractors suitable for livestock farms.
Another extra that boosts prices is a front linkage and pto. It can add at least £500 to the selling price, but only on tractors above about 125hp that can handle a range of front/rear machine combinations.
Equipment to enhance driver comfort and efficiency can also bring premium prices. Air conditioning is a plus, says Mr Pepper, and some buyers look for electronic information and control systems. On older tractors, power-steering boosts prices, but a fancy sound system is unlikely to encourage more bids.
External appearance is a priority in the auctions because it is a guide to the care taken by previous drivers. Evidence of a careful operator can add up to 20% to auction prices compared with a similar model carrying the scars of rough usage, says Mr Pepper.
More dents, rust patches, cracked or broken windows and torn seat coverings than normal for its age suggest the same careless approach to servicing and maintenance.
“If the appearance shows evidence of reasonable care it encourages confidence in the mechanical condition. But if a tractor looks like it has suffered from careless use, trying to cover up the damage before selling is not a good idea,” he warns.
The cost of a professional make-over is unlikely to be recovered in the selling price and a do-it-yourself job with touch-up paint and amateur panel beating may make buyers suspicious about other faults.
Don’t bother to replace worn tyres before selling a tractor, but an exception to the leave-well-alone advice is replacing equipment such as a missing or broken headlight.
“A missing headlight spoils the look of the tractor. A replacement may cost as little as £20 and if the result is a few more bids, it is money well spent,” says Mr Pepper.