Machinery Pete: Machines Buck the Trend

Machinery Pete: Machines Buck the Trend

Yes, commodity prices are down, which means it’s more challenging for grain farmers to make a profit. While we are more than 18 months into the downcycle, the negative forces have yet to cool values for older used tractors still in good condition. I’m talking 15- to 30-year-old models. 

Check out the data table below of auction sale prices on various makes, models and sizes of tractors. All of the tractors have sold since July 2013, when the price of corn tanked. Note the far right-hand column, “Pete’s Perspective,” that compares each sale price to our database that goes back more than 25 years. Almost every tractor holds the record or near-record auction sale price. It’s eye opening, particularly since they all sold when corn and soybean prices were low.

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s a powerful swirl of factors that contribute to values. The rising price of new equipment in the past decade has increased the value of older used equipment in good condition. In addition, it’s difficult to find a nice first- or second owner, low-hour 20-year-old tractor. So when they pop up for sale, interested buyers call from all over. Last, but not least, there’s the sim-plicity factor. Older tractors are easier to wrench on yourself. 

A lot of interest surrounded this 1984 Case 2594 tractor at a Clay City, Ind., farm retirement auction on Feb. 10, 2015. The tractor sold for $18,000.

As our data shows, farmers vote with their checkbooks, and prices are holding and even strengthening on 15-plus-year-old tractors in mint shape.

At an Aug. 22, 2014, west-central Illinois consignment auction, a 1998 Case IH 8950 with 2,124 hours sold for $88,000—a tie for the second highest auction price on that model. When it came time to sell the larger one- to five-year-old equipment at the same auction, prices were 15% to 25% softer for that size and age. 

Check out the date for the 1982 John Deere 4440 with 3,670 hours that sold at an east-central Nebraska farm auction: Sept. 13, 2014. Once again, that was during the period when late model machinery was tumbling in value, but the “so beautiful you could eat off it” 32-year-old John Deere 4440 sold for $40,000. Wow!

The month of March is the busiest of all months for machinery auctions. On March 15, 2014, at a consignment auction in west-central Michigan, a 1992 John Deere 4055 two-wheel drive with only 498 hours sold for a whopping $63,750, a new record auction price. The Machinery Pete YouTube video is fun to watch (visit 

Meanwhile, across the country, at a farm sale in north-central North Carolina, a 1992 John Deere 4455 two-wheel-drive with 3,850 hours sold for $64,000. That’s the second highest price I’ve ever seen on a two-wheel-drive model. The auctioneer told me he fielded calls from as far away as North Dakota for that tractor.

Most of the models listed below are in the mid-size horsepower range. We all know these tractors are the backbone of livestock and dairy operations, which have enjoyed their turn at higher commodity prices.

Looking down the road, I don’t see any signs this trend of strong prices for 15-plus-year-old tractors in really nice condition is going to reverse. 

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Spell Check

Matthew Trefz
Winchester, OH
4/16/2015 09:13 PM

  Just goes to show you there are still alot of guys out there with more in their wallets than in their heads.


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