In the old days, say three or four years ago, producers would have jumped at the chance to buy a new high-horsepower machine. Today, the balance of the equipment market is tipped toward the supply side, meaning farmers have more options and can buy machinery from farther afield to get the best deal.
“Because there are more choices out there, you can take a little bit more time, ask more questions and do more research,” explains Ben Bair, used equipment manager at 21st Century, a large John Deere dealer with locations in Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado.
That means producers must prioritize due diligence to ensure the machine they spot in an online marketplace is really as good as the seller claims. A seller’s unwillingness to answer whatever questions you have should be a red flag.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for more videos, pictures, build codes, warranty information, that type of thing,” Bair says. “It can eliminate a lot of the risk in buying used equipment from a distance.”
When you purchase from a local equipment dealer, you have the confidence of meeting dealers face to face and knowing who will visit your farm to make service calls. Purchasing outside of your region, by contrast, can be a little scary because contact is mostly or entirely done by email or phone calls.
Don’t skimp on getting enough information, and also don’t skimp on hiring safe transportation, adds Jeff Schultz, independent salesman with Blue Line Logistics, a St. Paul, Minn.-based company specializing in farm machinery transportation. He recalls one case where a farmer opted to drive his newly purchased used combine 300 miles from Illinois to his operation in Wisconsin, only to get a flat tire. The farmer called to ask how much it would cost to truck him the rest of the way.
“I told him at that point, he’s paying for a service call to change his tire,” Schultz recalls. “We’re booked two weeks in advance. We can’t just fly out there and rescue you on the side of the road.”
To adequately groundtruth and acquire an out-of-state machine, Bair and Schultz recommend a few ways you can have peace of mind and guesstimate the budget it will take to bring your find back home. Then you can begin your search on websites such as MachineryPete.com, the fastest-growing online machinery marketplace with more than 105,000 listings, to cast a wide net and find the best deal.
Tip No. 1: Ask For Information. Seek as many specific details as possible, and don’t be afraid to request something you don’t see. For example, you might ask for additional oil scans or inspections. Be prepared to pony up some cash if a dealer asks you to pay for some of these extras, Bair says. Another option is to hire an independent equipment appraiser to assess the machine and send you a report about its strengths and weaknesses. Keep a copy of serial numbers, total hours on the machine and other unique details in case the wrong machine is shipped to you.
Tip No. 2: Book A Flight. If it fits your budget, book a flight and visit the equipment in person. Literally kicking the tires can tell you a lot more about its fitness than any photo or video. “If you spend $100,000 on a machine, then a $400 plane ticket to go see it is money well spent,” Schultz says.
Tip No. 3: Factor In Freight. Dealers often factor freight costs into the final purchase price of a machine, Bair says. Schultz says it’s also critical to think through disassembly and reassembly costs for any implements over 13 ft. or wider. State rules vary, but machines wider than that size must be broken down to a road-worthy width, which adds labor costs, and receive a licensed escort with appropriate insurance. If you end up hiring a trucking company to move the machine to your farmgate, though, be aware it’s often cheaper than you think. For example, Bair can typically ship a load from western Nebraska to Indiana for just a few thousand dollars. Although the carrier will cover most insurance expenses if an accident happens, be sure to add the new machinery to your general farm policy before it is loaded onto the trailer for maximum financial protection.
Tip No. 4: Budget The Unexpected. Invariably, your equipment will arrive with a ding or an issue you didn’t predict, Bair says. Have some cash set aside to get the machine in peak condition. Be aware oversized loads must be permitted by the state, meaning drivers are required follow specific routes that can add a good 10% to 15% to the miles Google Maps identifies as the fastest path for your new machine to travel, Schultz says. State guidelines direct drivers “around construction zones, bridges and weight limit,” he says.
Tip No. 5: Explore Other Countries. Your best bet for good machinery outside the U.S. is likely to be Canada. Some equipment, but not a lot, moves across the northern border depending on the exchange rate, Bair says.
Tip No. 6: Cover The Details. Ask questions that will help you know whether it is set up to handle your local farmland and environmental conditions. If a tractor has options that don’t work in your region, it can be costly to return the equipment and find and purchase a new one.
Tip No. 7: Work With Professionals. Be sure to factor in the cost of disassembly, loading and transportation into your machinery purchase, Schultz advises. “Good trucking companies aren’t cheap, and cheap trucking companies aren’t good,” Schultz says. If you get the deal of a lifetime on equipment and fail to add those items to the final price tag, chances are good the dealer won’t want to spend any extra labor or resources to get it road-ready, he says. Also ensure the company trucking your equipment knows all applicable laws regarding which lids to tie down and secure properly.