4 Specs to Understand about Compact Tractors

posted on Monday, January 25, 2021 in Current News

John Deere compact tractor

Compact tractors are useful for a wide variety of applications, from basic residential tasks to farming work, there’s a long list of jobs that this equipment can tackle. They offer more power and functionality than a garden tractor while remaining more manageable to operate and afford than utility tractors. If you’re new to farming equipment, here are some key terms and features for first time buyers that are helpful to know upfront to make your decision-making process a little easier.

Tractor Horsepower vs. Power Take Off

You’ll often see these two terms listed separately, with a larger horsepower than power take off, which is more commonly listed as PTO. Both are important elements that refer to powering your equipment and the implements you’ll be relying on to do the work. Whenever you see tractor horsepower, or HP, listed alone, this is referring to the overall power your engine is capable of creating. PTO, on the other hand, specifically refers to the amount of horsepower your tractor can deliver to implements and attachments. Just having the tractor turned on is going to take up some of that energy. Implements and attachments have their own power requirements in order to run optimally. For this reason, it’s important to really consider your PTO and what kinds of tasks you have on your to-do list and which implements you’ll need to do them.

Gear vs. Hydrostatic Transmission Systems

In terms of function, the transmission system in your tractor isn’t dissimilar to the one you’d find in your car. It transmits power to your wheels and manages your ability to change directions and speeds. The two most common types of transmission systems available on compact tractors today are gear, also known as manual systems, and hydrostatic. Just like a geared car, geared transmission systems require more skillful operation because they rely on the use of a manually operated clutch and levers. Hydrostatic transmissions run via a pedal system instead, making operation easier by doing away with coordinated foot work and lever operating. This shift in operation also allows for this equipment to be less fatiguing for the operator when engaging in activities that require a lot of back and forth movement. Also worth noting is that there are variations on hydrostatic systems with even more convenience features to increase productivity and ease of use.

2WD & 4WD Systems

Your compact is either going to deliver power to the rear two wheels, 2WD, or all four wheels, 4WD. While an exclusively 2WD system can be a more cost-effective option, it can also be limiting since you lose out on some traction and stability. That may not matter much depending on your applications, but for others it can be a deal breaker. 4WD is better able to manage varied terrain, slippery conditions and heavier loads and can make better use of the available horsepower. Choosing between the two will largely hinge on the typical conditions under which you’ll be using your compact, the tools you’ll need, as well as the activities you’ll need to use them for.

3-Point Hitch Categories 

This spec aims to tell owners and operators the size of implements that are compatible with their equipment. Bigger implements and attachments weigh more and therefore need a whole lot more power to be operable and vice versa. When it comes to compact tractors, you’re primarily going to see options that are either classified as category 1 or category 2. You’ll also want to consider how these systems and implements attach to one another. Quick-connecting systems like those integrated into the compacts offered by John Deere can be attached without additional tools and spare you a whole lot of hassle.


We hope that these terms and features will help you have a better understanding of the specs you’ll be looking at as you start narrowing down which compact tractor is best suited to your needs. Have more questions or need assistance? Find your nearest Greenmark Equipment dealership. Our knowledgeable staff is happy to help you find the best solutions for your operation. Or, you can view our selection of available John Deere compact tractors here.

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