Rural life is always better when you have the best compact tractor in the shed. But, what is the best compact tractor? The answer depends entirely upon the intended use, as the compact tractor is among the most diverse in scope and scale. According to the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, a compact tractor typically weighs 4,000 pounds or less, has a three-point hitch and between 40 and 60 horsepower. Most compact tractors can lift over 2,000 pounds with the loader and are big enough to easily handle hay equipment. Something of a “Goldilocks Model,” the best compact tractor is neither too big nor too small.
Mowing, road maintenance and snow removal are among the most popular uses these days, but harrowing, stump removal, trenching, pasture improvement and all kinds of fence work are also in the mix. Below is our list the best compact tractor choices out on the market today, and fans of the brands will notice that each of the major manufactures has a strong showing among one of the most popular pieces of agricultural equipment in America.
1. John Deere 4066M Heavy Duty
With a turbocharged diesel engine, eHydro Transmission and standard mid- and rear hydraulics, the John Deere 4066M Heavy Duty is among the best compact tractors out there today. With 65.9 horsepower in the engine and 52 horsepower in the PTO, the Big Green Machine has Category 1, Category 2 and three-point hitch options. Lift capacity of the 24-inch behind link arms is 2,500 pounds and the total open-cab unit weighs in at 4,290 pounds with a wheelbase of 73 inches. A key feature of the eHydro transmission is infinitely variable ground speeds in each range, which allows the operator better match speed to the job. No clutching makes for faster direction changes, and Twin Touch foot pedals provide quick and easy forward/reverse operation. Cruise control is standard across the models. Other features include wraparound-style wide-angle halogen headlights and fender-mounted working lights. Learn more here.
2. Compact Farmall 45C CVT
The Case IH family of compact tractors runs the gamut in terms of size and options, and shining amongst them is the versatile Compact Farmall 45C CVT. With a 45-horsepower engine and 38.2-horsepower PTO, Big Red features a CVT transmission and comes with or without an operator cab. Designed to work with the L350A as a compatible loader, the loader’s lift capacity at the pivot pin is 2,500 pounds. Meanwhile, the standard lift capacity of the tractor itself 24 inches behind the pin is 2,469 pounds, or the standard lift capacity at the lift pin is 2,756 pounds. Powered by a three-cylinder engine with a 10.6-gallon fuel tank with the ROPs or 12.4-gallon with the cab model, design comes by way of Fiat Powertrain Technologies. The CVT transmission offers smooth, seamless speed changes through varying conditions with just a single, press-and-go pedal, cruise control for mowing applications and an automatic adjustment for delivery of desired speed and match load conditions. Total machine weight is 3,770 pounds with the ROPs in the 4-wheel drive configuration. Learn more here.
3. Kubota L2501
Big and nimble, the Kubota L2501 is among the best of the smaller compact tractors for generalized use. With a 24.8 horsepower engine and 20.5 horsepower at the PTO, the 2,425-pound unit is the perfect size for someone looking for something a little lighter. The three-cylinder engine runs in conjunct with a 10-gallon fuel tank. The Kubota L2501 features a Category I 3-point hitch with 1,918 pounds of lift capacity at all point and 1,389 pounds at 24 inches behind the lift points. The two-wheel and four-wheel drive models feature a gear shift transmission system with eight forward and four reverse, while the HST four-wheel drive model offers a hydrostatic transmission and three-range speed. Overall length of the machine is 110.6 inches of orange, with 55.1 inches in width and 91.7 inches in height. Learn more here.
4. Massey Ferguson 1840E
It’s no surprise that the phrase, “Massey Ferguson 1840E” comes up when asked to name the best compact utility tractor. Gross engine horsepower comes in at 38 with 33.5 at the PTO, driven by the 1.8 liter, three-cylinder, liquid cooled diesel engine. The Massey Ferguson 1840E is among the newer models sporting the 8×8 Synchro-Shuttle 3-range hydrostatic transmission with open center hydraulics. This shuttle system offers quicker directional changes with just the push of a clutch and pull of a lever. This makes this particular unit great for heavy ground-engaging work, as third and fourth gears are synchronized eliminating the need to stop to shift. Designed to work on big and small operations alike, three-point hitch lift capacity at 24 inches behind the pins is 1,598 pounds. Loader options include either the pin-type or skid steer coupler, 60-inch bucket, the 72 inch bucket, and 38 inch pallet forks. Learn more here.
5. New Holland Boomer 55 Cab (T4B)
Big Blue continues coming through with its Boomer series of tractors, and the Boomer 55 Cab is among the farmers’ favorites. With 55 horsepower and a rated speed rpm of 2,600, the three-cylinder engine has an emissions level of T4B Final running off a 12.4-gallon fuel tank. An independent electro-hydraulic engagement PTO brings 46.7 horsepower to any job you need completed. This model offers some choice in terms of transmission with a 16×16 gear option, or the three range hydrostatic/dual pedal. The New Holland Boomer 55 Cab also has a synchro style gear/shuttle system with wet, multi-disc brakes. Three-point lift capacity at ball ends is 2,756 pounds with 2,116 pounds at 24 inches. Among the bigger units within the compact tractor group, the New Holland Boomer 55 Cab has a 73.2-inch wheelbase and is 128.1 inches of blue and white end to end and 69.1 inches wide. Height to top of cab is 94 inches, and the unit weighs in at 4,194 pounds. Learn more here.
The best compact tractor is the one that fits your needs, and as one of the more diverse groupings of tractors there exists a wide range of sizes and shapes. As always, knowledge is power, and the best compact tractor brings that by the bucket load.
Compact Tractor Attachments
Bestauto 49” Hay Spear
For a quick pick-up of round bales, the Bestauto 49” Hay Spear does the job. Weighing 58 pounds, the unit itself measures 25” in width by 18” in height with a 49” spear. A great match to the Massey Ferguson 1840E, the spear is built with a 3,000 pound weight capacity, the spear fits any Category 1 tractor and comes ready to assemble and install. Numerous online videos demonstrate the usage of a hay spear for those unfamiliar, but frankly it’s visibly apparent the manner in which one attaches the unit to the rear of the tractor and then backs into the bale, picking it up like a marshmallow on a stick.Check Price
Titan Middle Buster
Great for planting and harvest root crops, the 3-point Middle Buster replaces the pitchfork when attached to a compact tractor without any modifications. A great fit for the Kubota L2501, this Middle Buster doesn’t require a lot to handle. A nifty 69-pound attachment measuring 31” wide by 38.5” high, the blade is 19” x 11” and features a winged design. When used in the field it can produce up to 15” wide furrows. Powder coated to prevent corrosion, the unit can also double as a ditching tool.Check Price
Titan 6” Wood Chipper
A high-powered wood chipper and mulcher designed to work with tractors between 30 and 70 horsepower, this Titan model weighs 721 pounds and features a user-friendly PTO shaft with an operational rate of 540 RPM. A great fit for the big John Deere 4066M Heavy Duty tractor, this unit can work wonders around a wood lot or produce mulch for the garden. The rotor sports a diameter of 30 inches and the unit has a hinged feed chute which can be removed when not in use. The Titan chipper is designed to handle timber up to 6” in diameter. With a powder-coated finish, users don’t have to worry about corrosion or rust over time.Check Price
Questions & Answers
What are the cheapest compact tractors?
This is a tricky category when it comes to pricing. Compact tractors range between 40 and 60 horsepower and that can make for a big difference in purchase price. Consider that the Kubota L01 Series has MSRP’s as low as $13,652 with gross horsepower up to 47.3 depending on the model. Meanwhile, the Kubota L6060 comes in with 60 horsepower comes in closer to $50,000. As a rule, used models are less expensive than new. That said, make sure to inspect fully the tractor before buying it and see a history of its servicing.
What size compact tractor do I need?
Mechanical horsepower is defined as the power output of an engine, or the force needed to move 33,000 pounds one foot in a minute, or 550 pounds one foot in a second. The New Holland Boomer 55 Cab at 55 horsepower can easily serve as a bale loader, while plowing smaller fields, baling hay, and pulling a wagon. The John Deere 4066M Heavy Duty meanwhile comes in at 65.9 horsepower and offers roughly the same abilities much faster and with greater fuel efficiency. If heavy field work, or hauling through the mud is the goal, then the higher horsepower is probably necessary. Otherwise, for general mowing or snow plowing, something closer to 40 horsepower is probably sufficient.
What are the maintenance costs associated with owning compact tractor?
Cost considerations can be broken down into ownership costs and operating costs. According to the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach office, these can be calculated using formulas seen here and will vary widely depending on machine age and usage. As a rule, one can consider regular servicing such as oil and filter changes to be preventative maintenance and good care of a machine reduces operating costs in the long term.
September 28, 2021: Added the Massey Ferguson 1840E and some frequently asked questions.
We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.