Broken steps might be a clue to the condition of the rest of this tractor.

Consider Safety When Buying Used Farm Equipment - March 7, 2024

Used farm equipment is widely available today through dealers, private sales, and auctions. Purchasing used equipment can be an economical option, but safety is also an important consideration. Machinery causes many injuries and fatalities on farms, so always keep the following tips in mind to find safe, dependable equipment:

Match the Equipment to Your Needs

Create a list of tasks that you want to do with your desired machinery and look for models that can safely perform them. Make sure the horsepower, lifting, or towing capacity matches your work. Ensure that replacement parts are widely available for the make and model you are looking at and that your mechanic is willing to work on the equipment. Otherwise, you may have to pay a premium for repairs or be stuck with something that can't be serviced.

Look for Built-in Safety Features

  • Always opt for a wide front wheelbase with tractors, offering more stability than a narrow, tricycle-type front end.
  • Look for a two-post rollover protective structure (ROPS) or cab with a four-post ROPS and a seatbelt. Check for a ROPS certification plate so you know the cab or structure meets testing standards to protect the operator in the event of a rollover. If you are looking at equipment that does not have one, contact the National ROPS Rebate Program ( to see if there is a retrofit available and you could add a ROPS after purchase inexpensively.
  • Ask about safety features. Some examples include interlocks that prevent equipment from starting in gear or when the operator's seat is empty or backup beepers that help communicate to bystanders when changing direction.
  • Check for complete and undamaged guarding on moving parts, like PTO shafts and PTO stubs.  The older the equipment, the fewer guards it may have originally been manufactured with.  Opt for something with more protection to prevent exposure to moving parts. If guards seem to be missing or removed, ask the seller if they have them. NYCAMH sells replacement PTO shields if you need to replace missing shielding.
  • Check whether tractors have weights or the capability of adding them. Ballasting equipment by adding weights and filling tires offers more stability.

Observe Lack of Maintenance or Signs of Damage

Use the OSHA-approved pre-operational checklist to get an idea of things that may need repairs. Depending on what you find, you can decide whether the items that need repair now, or may need repair soon, are within your budget. In addition to the cost of repairs, broken parts or poor maintenance can also present a safety hazard.

  • Check for obvious leaks, dents, cracks, broken parts, or poor patch jobs.
  • Make sure that gauges and lights are operational.
  • Look for recently greased fittings and check the condition of filters to determine whether regular maintenance is being performed on the equipment.

Check Operator Ergonomics

Get into the operator's seat and make sure you can comfortably get on and off the equipment with the steps and handholds present. Check to see that your visibility is not limited and that you can fully reach and operate all of the controls and pedals. Check your comfort in the seat. You may be able to make seat or control adjustments. If you have physical limitations in the operator's seat or when attempting regular tasks like hitching equipment, you should look for a different model.

Request the Operator's Manual

Ask if the operator's manual is available for the equipment. If the seller does not have it, this may be a sign that regular maintenance has not been occurring. The owner's manual is important for safe operation and proper maintenance. If you buy a piece of equipment without one, you should purchase or obtain one separately. You may be able to find it through the manufacturer or online.

While cost is an important factor when purchasing equipment, your safety is priceless. These tips will help you find equipment that meets your budget and safety needs. To learn more about agricultural safety programs available to farmers in New York State through the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH), or for technical assistance, visit or contact us at 1-800-343-7527 or  NYCAMH, a program of Bassett Healthcare Network, is enhancing agricultural and rural health by preventing and treating occupational injury and illness.

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