How to pick a good used 150hp tractor

Tractors around the 150hp mark are now some of the most sought after second-hand buys and finding a good one is no easy task.

Nick Fone takes a look at a few of the top models with the help of Andy Doel of Wilshire-based Southwick Tractors.

It’s no coincidence that pretty much every one of the 150hp tractors in our selection is a best-seller.

All hover around the 150hp mark – in line with the average power for new tractors – and their popularity means there’s plenty of advice about (and spare parts) for when things go wrong.

That said, all have a reputation for being pretty trouble-free.

The contenders

  • John Deere 6920s
  • Massey Ferguson 6480
  • New Holland T6080
  • Wildcard – Fendt 714 Vario

John Deere’s 6020-series often come up in the FW favourites list as good value second-hand buys.

There’s a simple reason for that. They fall mid-way between what are widely regarded as some of the best tractors the green giant has ever built – the 10-series – and the more modern, gadget-packed 30-series range.

So although they don’t offer the technological sophistication of more recent models and lack the iconic status of their predecessors, they hold their own as reliable performers but without the associated price premium.

No surprise then that the range-topping 160hp 6920-S features in our selection. In all but power and specification it’s pretty much identical to the standard model but ‘S-spec’ machines gained an extra 10hp through electronic power boost and came as standard with an AutoQuad transmission.

It’s still a 20F x 20R five range mechanical box with four-step powershift but it can be set to run up and down through those four powered ratios automatically according to load and speed.

The alternative transmission was Deere’s ZF-sourced AutoPowr stepless CVT. To operate it was a dream – completely seamless acceleration and infinitely adjustable speeds. Owning CVT-equipped 20-series tractors wasn’t quite such a painless past-time.

Reliability didn’t initially measure up to Deere’s usual standards and the AutoPowr box earned itself a bad reputation – something that seems to have been put right in both newer 6030s and the latest 6Rs.

However the bad name stuck and consequently 6020 CVTs can now be had for up to £3000 less than their mechanically-transmissioned PowrQuad and AutoQuad counterparts. Ironic given that that was approximately the premium paid by their original purchasers when new.

John Deere 6920-S – £28,000

Year 2006
Hours 5000
Tyres 50%
Power 160hp
Spec AutoQuad 20F x 20R mechanical gearbox with 4-speed powershift50kph with air-brakes, TLS front axle suspension, front linkage and pto (adds £2000)

Comments

Expect to pay up to £3000 less for stepless AutoPowr CVT gearboxes as these have a poor reputation for reliability

 John Deere 6920s

New Holland’s T6000 tractors came in all sorts of shapes and sizes but as the flagship for a number of years, the 155hp T6080 was the definite six-cylinder favourite.

Fans of the ubiquitous Basildon-blue paintjob liked the tractor for its power-to-weight ratio and curvy four-post cabin.

As the biggest model at the time (it lost that title when the 165hp T6090 was introduced in 2010) it came with just one spec badge – top of the tree, whistles-and-bells ‘Elite’. That means those models got cab and front axle suspension, electronic engines with boost, auto shifting gearboxes, load-sensing hydraulics and headland turn sequencing as standard.

All in all, a pretty high-spec package then.

On the gearbox front there is plenty of choice. You’ll find T6000s with both RangeCommand and PowerCommand transmissions. The former has six powershift steps and three manually selected ranges while the latter got powered range changes.

In standard format both were 40kph 18F x 6R set-ups but the Direct Drive option added an extra forward speed. Cleverly this diverted drive along the pto shaft to the rear diff, reducing the power losses associated with running through a powershift box.

As an option it adds about £2000 to used values and comes in either 50kph or 40kph ‘Eco’ formats, the latter reaching top speed at a frugal 1800rpm.

New Holland T6080 – £35,000

Year 2009
Hours 4500
Tyres 40%
Power 155hp
Spec PowerCommand 19F x 6R powershift, 50kph with air-brakes, front axle and cab suspension. Front linkage (adds £1500)

 New Holland T6080

Comments

RangeCommand and PowerCommand gearboxes differ little on price but standard 18F x 6R 40kph transmission will knock anything up to £2000 off the price

Massey’s 6400 range has been around in various shape and sizes for almost a decade – there are long ones, short ones, heavyweights, more nimble ones. Some have four cylinder engines while others are six-pots. Some use Perkins power while their stablemates get their muscle from Scandinavian sister-company Sisu.

Smack bang in the middle of them all is the 6480. As the largest of the range’s short wheelbase machines, it pumps out a maximum of 157hp under boost. (Earlier Perkins-powered 6480s came in 2hp under this).

In 2007 the 6400 range went under the surgeons’ knife and facelifted models gained a curvy hood with big grilles that accommodated the cooling pack necessary for Tier III emissions regs. As an 09-plate, out candidate fits that bill.

All 6480’s came with MF’s 24F x 24R Dyna-6 gearbox which has a six-step powershift sandwiched between four powered range changes. Although complex, it rarely gives trouble.

Massey Ferguson 6480 – £33,000

Year 2009
Hours 4500
Tyres 60%
Power 147hp
Spec 24F x 24R Dyna-6 semi-powershift, 40kph, front axle and cab suspension

Comments

Different packages were available for MF buyers. As an example our 6480 has the ‘Comfort’ pack which added automation to a lot of the in cab controls and an air-suspended seat. Don’t be misledby the ‘Comfort’ tag – axle and cab suspension were extras. That axle needs some TLC so be sure to check to see that the grease-nipples have had regular attention.

 Massey Ferguson 6480

Fendt 714 Vario – £25,000

Year 2001
Hours 9000
Tyres 50%
Power 136hp
Spec 50kph Vario CVT, front axle and cab suspension, front linkage. Parallel lift loader adds £3,000.

Comments

If you want a highly-specced tractor with a stepless transmission for sub-£30K then you’ll need to accept it’ll probably be very high hours. Fendt 700-series Varios go on and on and are pretty dependable given the level of electronic jiggery-pokery they bristle with.

The big expense comes with a transmission rebuild. To spot an issue there’s a diagnostic menu screen in the in-cab computer. Get a Fendt fitter on the phone and ask them to talk you through it when you’re looking the tractor over.

 Fendt 714 Vario


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