4 Tips to Avoid Costly Farm Equipment Repairs

Today’s farmers manage a wide variety of equipment from heavy machinery such as combines and tractors to smaller tillers and cultivators. Each piece of equipment is essential to the farm’s operations – which means keeping the farm running smoothly depends on a well-planned maintenance schedule to help avoid costly breakdowns.

4 ways to maximize the lifespan of your farm equipment and reduce repairs

Be proactive with maintenance

The daily life of farmers is not easy and finding the time to keep up with equipment maintenance can be challenging. But doing so is important, as studies show that improved routine maintenance procedures can reduce machinery repair costs by 25 percent. For example, an $80,000 tractor typically requires about $24,000 in repair costs during 5,000 hours of operation when receiving the recommended amount of maintenance.

To make things easier, create a farm equipment maintenance checklist that covers key items for regular inspection from checking valve stems to replacing batteries. By inspecting key items “under the hood,” you will have peace of mind that they will work safely and efficiently when they are needed.

While some farmers are still relying on notepads and whiteboards to track maintenance schedules, more are turning to software tools, especially when farms are spread across hundreds of acres. These digital tools have become so sophisticated that farmers are often unable to repair their own equipment because they don’t have the right diagnostic tools to do so, making them more dependent on expensive manufacturer repairs. Right now, Right to Repair legislation is in the works to provide farmers with the ability and confidence to fix their equipment when it breaks.

Consider joint ownership

Another option to consider, especially for smaller farms and start-up operators, is joint ownership of equipment. For farm neighbors who are on friendly terms, it’s a win-win opportunity. You share the expense of repairs and only use the machinery or vehicle when you need it. It can also be a space saver by providing more room for other materials or equipment in the shop.

However, consider all the implications of an arrangement before you decide on this approach. To ensure that everyone is treated fairly, create an official agreement on how the joint ownership of equipment will work. For example, it’s be important to keep good records of fuel and repair costs and schedule use of equipment and labor logs to avoid confusion that could lead to disagreements. Typically, payments at the end of each year are based on this information.

Make sure you ask all the right questions in this agreement. Don’t assume that an agreement is not needed if you are entering into the arrangement with family or friends.

Inspect used equipment

With so many other farm operation costs to consider, it makes sense to look at secondhand equipment as a solution. Just be sure to do your research to avoid spending more in the long run. Start by working with a reputable seller and understand the difference between the terms “certified used” and “as is.” “Certified used” equipment is repaired to bring it as close to new as possible prior to purchase, while “as is” means you buy the equipment with no promises, and the dealer is not responsible for malfunctions. Know what to avoid when buying used equipment and make sure to test the machinery and inspect it for any prior damage prior to purchase. This will offer protection from a poor investment and unnecessary expenses down the road

Rent vs purchase equipment

For farms of a smaller scale and output, renting agriculture equipment can be a great alternative to purchasing expensive equipment. Renting frees up cash to keep in reserves, and for farmers who struggle to manage budgets and may only have seasonal equipment needs, this may be the most financially responsible decision.

One of the biggest benefits of renting is that farmers aren’t obligated to plan for regular and unexpected equipment maintenance. When something unexpected happens or if you are unhappy with how the machinery is functioning, you can simply return it to the owner. Similar to when you lease a car, renting your farm equipment may also enable you to have the latest in features and technology, which will multiply your efficiency during a busy harvest season.

Rural Mutual is the number one farm insurer in Wisconsin. Contact your Rural Mutual agent to determine the best insurance for your farm and to learn more about our farm safety initiatives.