Is it really cheap to run?

26 September 1997

Is it really cheap to run?

Machinery running costs are becoming more significant as farming faces slimmer profit margins. Mike Williams has been adding up the cost of using an ATV

ONE of the big selling points for ATVs is the fact that their running costs do not impinge on the wallet to any great degree. Pleasing as this clearly is, it is still interesting to discover just how much – or how little – such machines cost a business.

The first independent costings came from the mechanisation department at Shuttle-worth College, Bedfordshire, where a three-year project using a 350cc Honda TRX350 ended in 1988.

Since then Honda has replaced the TRX350 and prices used for the project have become outdated, but performance figures in the test report are still a use-ful guide. The tests included fertiliser spreading, more than 100ha (247 acres) of slug pellet application, and spraying on the college farm. Results can be studied inTable 1.

All fuel costs in the table are adjusted for the current pump price of 64p/litre for unleaded instead of the 38p, 1980s price. A Vicon 600S was used in the fertiliser spreading tests, a Stocks Fan Jet spread the pellets, and a Team 5501 produced spraying data.

The Shuttleworth tests show how ATV work rates and fuel costs vary for different jobs, but there are also some limitations, including the repair and servicing costs, which are based on 5% of the capital cost instead of actual figures.

The actual costs were probably lower. Only spare part needed during the three years, apart from routine service replacements, was a fuel pump at £66, and oil consumption was "negligible".

Absence of any reference to diesel ATVs is another limitation. Using lower priced "red" diesel, plus the extra fuel efficiency of a diesel engine, can mean an 87% reduction in fuel costs, according to E P Barrus, the company which pioneered diesel ATVs with the D-BAT range.

Another limitation in the Shuttleworth results is that they cover mainly arable work and ignore the ATVs used predominantly as personal transport for stocks management, where running costs are likely to be different.

Tom Black, who farms 404.7ha (1000 acres) of upland at Letrualt, Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire, spends far more time on his ATV than on a tractor. He uses it seven days a week for checking sheep and beef cattle, sometimes with a trailer carrying a few hay bales or fencing tools.

Distance recorder included

Earlier this year he changed his old ATV for a new Honda Foreman which has a distance recorder included in the standard specification, allowing costs to be recorded more methodically. Records are kept daily, covering distances, fuel used and any servicing or repair costs. After six months his daily averages are 6.39 miles (10.28km) travelled for a petrol cost of £1.27p.

To provide an overall running cost, Mr Black adds £0.14p/day to cover servicing at 100-hour intervals, plus £2.73p for finance over three-years. This adds up to £4.14p/day.

"It is important to know exactly what things are costing these days, and the ATV is good value for money," said Mr Black. "It means I can run the farm single-handed, but I would certainly need some help if I did not use the ATV – and you cant get much help for £4.14p/day."

Ask ADAS how much it costs to run an ATV and the answer will probably be £4.24/hour worked, or £11.82 when a £7.58p labour charge is included. These figures were quoted by John Bailey, Essex-based mechanisation specialist.

"Farmers are more cost conscious these days, but I must admit I rarely get asked about ATV costs," he said. "Most of the farms in my area are arable, and I suppose the cost of running an ATV on this type of farm is quite small."

The figures Mr Bailey quoted come from Farm Machinery Costs 1997* published by Agro Business Consultants (ABC). They provide separate costings for ATVs from 200 to 285cc and for bigger models up to 500cc. In both sections there are costings for 300, 600 and 1200 hours annual use. Mr Bailey selected the figure for big ATVs working 600 hours a year. Some of the ABC costings are in table 2.

* Farm Machinery Costs 1997 price £30, details on (01664-840514).

ATVs: Now widely used in many different farming operations – from slug pellet application to shepherding. But how much do they cost to run?

Table 1: Shuttleworth College ATV tests

JobWork rate (ha/hr)*Fuel cons (l/ha)Fuel cost (p/ha)

spot netAux engine ATVAux engine ATV

Slug pelleting24 15N/A 0.2N/A 12.8

Fert spreading18.0 7.70.1 0.776.4 49.28

Spraying9.4 6.00.17 0.7210.88 46.08

* Work rate figures are averages apart from fertiliser spreading where the maximumfigures from several tests are quoted.

Table 2: ATV costings based on Farm Machinery Costs 1997



Annual hours



price (£)31004900

Annual fixed costs (£)


at 25%473747

Spares &

repairs 8%170269

Road fund




Operating costs (£/hour)

Fuel (@


Spares &


+Fixed costs1.271.94


Total ATV

costs (£/hr)10.3611.82

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