Tips on Upgrading/Replacing Older Machinery

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Bob Coleman, PhD, State Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky, said the biggest decision about older equipment is whether to replace an old machine or spend a lot of money on repairs.

“You may end up with a very old piece of machinery that is very expensive, and it may still break down," said Coleman. "If you are always trying to get parts and keep it going, it may become more trouble than it’s worth. Usually when you really need it is when it will finally die.”

There might come a time when we have to trade up to a newer model. “Assess the pros and cons, and what it will cost to keep it going, and whether you can. Will you be able to get the parts in a timely manner and at reasonable cost?”

If you decide to upgrade, do you need a new one, or just a newer (used) model?

“Do the people you rely on for repairs know how to service the machine you might buy? Some of the newer vehicles and machinery are so sophisticated that very few people can work on them when something goes wrong. You almost need to be a computer tech to know what’s going on,” said Coleman.

“If you’ll be making hay, repair or update your machinery before haying season starts," he advised. "Otherwise you may be trying to fix the mower as the hay is getting too mature, or it’s already cut and you are trying to bale it before a storm. You want to be baling, not trying to fix the baler.”

Small square balers are hard to find, and hard to get parts for. “Making a change is more than just changing how you bale hay, but also how you handle and feed it," noted Coleman. "If you go to big bales, you need additional equipment to move those around.” 

Coleman said if you need a new piece of equipment, "Go to farm and machinery shows to see what’s available. Take a friend along who is familiar with the type of machinery you need. An experienced person at a farm sale can help you decide on what you might invest in that would work as an upgrade. Sometimes people donate equipment to fund-raising auctions, and you could find out what’s coming in. Take someone with you who knows as much or more than you do about machinery. You may be able to get good buys on machinery at a farm sale or auction.”

Coleman said it pays to shop around, whether you are shopping for new or used equipment, in the current economy. This is because some dealers who have large inventories may be willing to make a deal. "You may be able to replace a 20-year-old tractor with a newer tractor, and now you’ve upgraded, especially if it has a lot less hours on it,” he said.

Remember to get a mechanic or someone who knows the equipment to go over it before you buy. If you are buying from a dealer, it might be possible to get a warranty.