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Compact Tractor - backhoe or no?

 
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Location: North Carolina
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Howdy all,

I need some advice/perspective.  I'll explain my particulars below, but in essence I'm weighing getting a compact tractor with FEL and Backhoe versus NOT getting the backhoe and then renting a mini-excavator once or twice a year for the larger earthworks I'll need to dabble in.

SO - Tractor with FEL and Backhoe (About $30,000 for what I'll list below)
OR - Tractor with FEL and rent a mini-excavator (About $20,000 plus about $1K-2K/year in mini-excavator rental)

My plan:
Kubota L2501
FEL and Bucket
Added Third Hydraulic function on FEL (I anticipate getting a grapple soon to help manage the woods)
Backhoe, or No?
(existing 5' Bush Hog)
(existing scraper blade)

If I forgo the backhoe, I'll probably buy a grapple right off the bat (about $2K for EA Wicked 55 as a default).


Particulars of our situation:


We're in the process of slowly converting some woodlands in central North Carolina into a homestead/permaculture farm/third career (I'm semi-retired).  The land is almost all wooded in a mix of pine and hardwoods (patches of each, plus some truly mixed). There are a good number of acres available, but we only plan to work a portion now - perhaps 10-15 acres.

I plan to plant a decent number of trees soon (lots of pawpaw, some Asian pears, some Asian persimmons, figs, etc.), plus establish shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, a standard vegetable garden, chickens, etc. There are a few small old fields that I'm reclaiming for these uses.  I also plan to implement a good bit of hugelkultur as I have TONS of wood down from storms and general age, plus it seems like a good way to harvest some of the water.  Generally, I plan to put these on the down slope side of the small fields and clearings.

The land has a small house on it that we're improving, and some access roads and paths in need of repair/maintenance/expansion. Some swales will be added, and at some point a small pond or two.  Very small at first.

Due to all of the above, I'm in need of a capable tractor.  Given that this land is where we'll live out the rest of our lives (my wife and I are in our mid 50s), I want to get something solid that will not be a maintenance hassle (especially at first).  I've done a lot of research and basically have settled on what I listed above.  (I first researched used prices, but they are not much lower than new, and Kubota has some decent 0% financing offers.  That plus no desire for short term maintenance have me heavily leaning towards new, and the prices above reflect that).

Any similar experiences out there y'all can share?  Any questions I need to answer?

Thanks for your time to ponder this.

AB

 
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Andre,

Nice tractor.  I will jump in on my pretty strong opinion:  I would forgo the backhoe (really I didn’t mean to make that rhyme).  The backhoe is not only expensive, it is almost always used far too infrequently to justify the price.  Also, you will need a subframe that goes on under the tractor and sometimes interferes with the attachment of other implements (mid mount mower).

If you rent a mini excavator, you will get a much better digging machine, be able to rotate 360 degrees as opposed to less than 180.  It will be more maneuverable than a backhoe and generally dig faster/better/easier than a backhoe.  

If you want a very cheap temporary substitute for a grapple, consider clamp on loader forks.  I bought these last year and they are amazing for moving brush and logs.  Frankly I can move more material faster with forks than I ever could with a grapple.  Not long ago I dearly wished to get a grapple for my tractor.  Now I could not possibly justify the expense.  Indeed I was looking at the very grapple (enviously) that you are, but with a pair of $150 forks I no longer care.

All other aspects of the tractor I wholeheartedly recommend.  I personally think a tractor is indispensable on a new patch of ground.  I even kinda get the grapple, but I have seen a LOT of people who have purchased a backhoe only to never come anywhere close to recouping the cost.

For my opinion, I think your money could be better spent elsewhere.  But in the end this is your tractor and your money so you do what you think is best.

Eric
 
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Everything Eric wrote AND backhoes are a leading cause of farm related accidents.  
 
Andre Burns
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Thanks for your input, Eric.  I’ve seen some of your posts in other tractor threads, so I’m glad that you weighed in here.

Also, I as well am guilty of the “forgo the backhoe” phrase.  

The subframe mount on this tractor is not problematic for the mid mount mower, as there is no mid PTO and thus one can’t be used.  

I understand the mini excavator advantages, and am heavily leaning towards periodic rental of one.  I’ve written down all of the projects that I can expect, and the backhoe is listed on just a subset of them.  A sacrifice for sure as I imagine I would find many uses for one, but also $10,000 would pay for a large number of rentals....

Grapples..I will consider the pallet fork option, but with all the vines and brush that I have, being able to grab versus lift could be a major advantage.  I also have a non-trivial number of medium sized rocks in my soil (football to basketball sized), so a grapple would be a great aid in moving those.  There are rock piles all over the land from past farming efforts over the prior 175 years or so. My poor ancestors had to move them by hand....I don’t plan to.  

Thanks again for your input.  I hope others chime in as well.  If some regrets NOT getting the backhoe, I’d really like to hear from them.

AB

 
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Hi Andre,

Agree that for the things you want to do, the backhoe is probably not a great compromise, and renting the right tool might be better (and possibly cheaper) in the long run.  On the Kubota, I really like the HST option ~ so easy to drive without having to worry about shifting gears.
 
Eric Hanson
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Andre,

I am kinda humbled and pleased all at the same time that you found my other posts helpful.  I have owned a tractor now for about 15 years in addition to occasionally using my grandfather’s utility tractor and other equipment.  So I have had some experience using tractors before and if I can pass on any of my experience then I am honored for the opportunity.

I am really pleased that you understand a backhoe for me is a hard no, but I am speaking strictly for myself and I completely respect any decision that you make with your money on your endeavors.  There was a time when I pipe dreamed about getting a backhoe, I my case for digging an orchard, but I could not even come close to justifying one for a few holes I would dig into the earth.  A few rentals would easily accomplish my goals at a fraction of the cost.

The forks are something new I discovered just last summer.  Very much like you I wanted a grapple back when I owned a JD 2305 subcompact.  I too had a major woods clearing project after a major storm really devastated my 3ish acres of woods.  When I traded up to my current and last tractor, a JD 2038R, I came inches from buying it with a set of hydraulics already set up for a grapple.  I even went so far as to approach a 3D graphics engineer to model a customized grip with switching and wiring built into a 3D printed piece to fit my loader stick.  I am acquiring my implements slowly and since discovering the the forks, a grapple is now a distant dead last on my list of implements to acquire.  

Just this fall/winter my neighbor (who purchased my old 2305!) helped me trim back a living fence.  The fence had become terribly overgrown so the trimming job was a serious effort.  In the end he cut the brush off at the base while I loaded it onto the forks.  The forks have 5’ tall 2x4 rear guards so we could really pile on the brush which we could easily, carefully stack into place for chipping later.  I don’t know if you read my long running thread on composting woodchips with wine cap mushrooms, but the chipping, though arduous, was much more efficient than chipping piles here and there.  My point with this segment is that the forks not only loaded more brush than a grapple ever would, it laid the brush nicely into place near the chipping area so we could chip into one big pile without needing to move the chipper as well.  On top of that, they are cheap at $150/pair.  What did I/you really have to lose?

I will throw out one implement not mentioned that I had with my old tractor that might suit you well.  That would be a flail mower.  I have my eye on a Woodmaxx 5’ hydraulic offset model.  The beauty of these mowers is their ability to mow almost anything and leave it looking like it was finish mowed.  If you are thinking about cleaning up woody/shrubby or weedy/grassy areas, I would suggest at least considering a flail mower.  I had one for my 2305 and it was truly amazing.  Just consider.  I know that you already own a 5’ rough cutter and these mowers can compliment each other quite well.

Last implement to consider is another cheap one.  That would be a 3 point carry all.  The basic attachment is typically about $150, but then you customize it with any number of potential features,  I am considering a series of racks for chainsaws and long handed tools and a place to carry heavy items.  I don’t even have a set of plans yet, but when we do I will get them uploaded ASAP.

Andre, there are literally thousands of ways that you could outfit your tractor.  I am trying to offer up a couple of suggestions—you take or leave what you think is appropriate for you.

Good Luck and please keep us updated,

Eric  
 
Andre Burns
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I DO have a three point carry-all that I failed to mention. It is versatile and I plan to use it a good bit for moving things and as a ballast platform when I need to move heavy loads with the FEL.

Back to the grapple/pallet fork tradeoff. Given the ability to rake, drag, push, and generally abuse the first few inches of soil that a grapple allows, I’m not sure if a set of forks would get me the capabilities I need? I have several areas where I need to make and/or improve access paths and walking trails. Most such areas are full of vines, rocks, dead limbs, autumn olive, and some downed trees.

In the “if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth 10,000” vein, you can get a pretty good idea of what I have by going to YouTube and watching a couple of videos by Outdoors with The Morgans - videos #291 & #292. In those videos (in particular the middle portions of each), he’s doing a lot what I need to do. If you take his western PA woods, transplant them to central NC, and add in a bunch of rocks, vines, autumn olive, and more pine trees, you pretty much get my woods.

That’s just the trail aspects, though. He’s not doing permaculture. As noted I’ll be doing a good bit of mound building for hugelkultur, which is another area where I see potential utility in a grapple.

Thanks for helping me think through all of this!

AB
 
Eric Hanson
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AB,

Certainly a set of forks won’t rake.  Perhaps in your situation a grapple would be a better instrument.  When I first considered a grapple I did so to clear out deadfall from a recent devastating storm (complete with cat 2 hurricane force winds).  Basically I was looking for a way to carry out large debris.  Forks work great for carrying debris.  But then perhaps you are needing something different.

As I said in my first response, this is all your project and money.  You decide what is best.

But I do love talking tractors so any other conversations I would love to have!

Eric
 
Andre Burns
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Eric,

I appreciate your comments, especially those a bit contrary to my initial bias - that’s one of the reasons I started this thread.  I want to save myself time, money, and frustration by learning from the experiences of others.  The experiences that challenge my initial ideas are the most valuable, as they will either save me from going down the wrong path, or determine more clearly that my ideas are sound.

Yes, my solution will be my own, but it will be guided by those of others.  At least if I’m smart enough and pay attention enough to them!

I will keep adding to this post as I learn more.

Thanks,
AB
 
John F Dean
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You may also want to question how much a backhoe on a compact tractor will accomplish.  The buckets I have seen are quite small.  I don't know your needs or the prices in your area, but I bring in a backhoe with operator for a few hours and I am free to do other things.
 
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John F Dean wrote:You may also want to question how much a backhoe on a compact tractor will accomplish.  The buckets I have seen are quite small.  I don't know your needs or the prices in your area, but I bring in a backhoe with operator for a few hours and I am free to do other things.



Rent the backhoe.  If you're not running that machine 20 hours/week, it can be hard to pencil out.  The capital sunk in it, the cost and time to maintain it, and the space to store it outweight any benefit of owning.  Rent one for a few days and run it like you don't own it, and then send it back to town.  
 
Eric Hanson
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Christopher,

I agree.  Increasingly I see the backhoe as the most powerful, amazing, wondrous attachment a compact tractor does not need.

I have this vague memory of the first time I ever saw a compact tractor.  It was a Kubota back in the 80s when Kubota was about the only game in town.  It was working on a sidewalk in between a church on one side and a street on the other.  I doubt that it had more than 6 feet to work with.  I believe that the workers were plumbers working on some water line.  This was the perfect machine for this task—a small but powerful tractor that could get a backhoe in where nothing else would fit.

But these were professionals who charged hourly for for their work and equipment.  These people probably got working use out of that tractor on at least a weekly basis.  It was also a tax write off.

I think that most would-be or actual homesteaders have a small collection of backhoe-specific tasks, after which the payment continues and the work ceases.  But the backhoe must be stored and paid for.  I just have known too many people who bought the backhoe attachment only to never use it.  I just see renting as being much, much more practical.  I have a similar issue with wood chippers.  They too can be extremely useful but are cost prohibitive unless used frequently.  I simply can rent for much cheaper than I could ever buy.

But this is still my opinion and my money and really everyone has to make one’s own decision.  

Eric
 
Andre Burns
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I’m 99% sure at this point that I’ll be buying the tractor sans backhoe and later renting a mini-excavator. That sounds like the best balance for now.

Thanks all!

AB
 
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When I bought my last farm it was 200 acres of raw agricultural land.  I spent literally every cent I had to pay for it and went from there.

I went to work for a construction company thinking that if I worked for them for a few months or so I could likely get a decent deal on potentially hiring them to do my driveway and whatnot...   Wrong...   They quoted me a minimum of $25K just for the first 200 feet of my driveway..

I then located an old 1942 2U D8 DL cable blade Cat dozer and bought that for $5K and had it hauled to the property for another $500.  I then found an old 1968 Case tractor with a backhoe attachment and I picked that up for $3K.  I then spent the next six months digging and moving nearly 500 yards of soil to create my driveway.  By the time I I paid for all of the equipment, fuel, road fabric underlayment, an old 1949 grain truck/dump truck and gravel I invested a total of about $15k into my driveway and parking area.

I then used the dozer and tractor regularly over the next ten years building roads, logging etc on the place.

When I sold the place in 2012 I did not want to move everything the 13 miles to this new farm so I scrapped that old dozer, I got $6,450 for it with another $400 invested in having hauled down to the salvage yard.  One thing to think of is not just the initial investment but what you can get out the equipment later after years of use and abuse.  In the end I broke even on that dozer getting out of it what I had invested into it and the years of use were basically "free"...


I still have the old Case tractor and backhoe as well as a Ford County super six 4WD also with a backhoe attachment just a smaller system.  Having a backhoe has saved me a great deal of money over the years.
 
Andre Burns
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Artie Scott wrote:Hi Andre,

Agree that for the things you want to do, the backhoe is probably not a great compromise, and renting the right tool might be better (and possibly cheaper) in the long run.  On the Kubota, I really like the HST option ~ so easy to drive without having to worry about shifting gears.



Howdy Artie,

You are right about the HST.  I failed to indicate that I would definitely be going this route.  A non-trivial amount of my work will be moving mulch, rock, dirt, and wood chips in the FEL bucket.  For this, the HST should be the right way to go.

Thanks for that tidbit.
 
Andre Burns
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Roy Long wrote:Having a backhoe has saved me a great deal of money over the years.



Hi Roy,

That part I get too, and is part of my original reason for considering a backhoe on the tractor (in addition to a few identified short term needs).  

At some point, when I need to do a good bit of pond building and potentially other larger earthworks, I may consider buying a used excavator (or mini excavator). For a more focused piece of equipment, I don’t mind getting something with some time on it that needs some maintenance.  I just don’t want to be doing a bunch of maintenance on my daily use equipment - hence I’m heavily leaning towards a new tractor with a decent warranty.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.
 
pollinator
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Guess I'm a contrarian...I find the backhoe tremendously useful.  I don't get to use it as much as I'd like, but it sure is handy to have when I need it.  I'm generally chasing fires (figuratively) and don't get to do big, planned projects so if I had to rent, then it probably wouldn't get done at all.

I have a Kubota B21 ... and would really like the big brother M59 or M62 just so I lift more with the bucket.  These are in the Kubota TLB line meant for construction - that's a big deal b/c it makes a very different machine from the ag tractors. The PTO output is lower, but the four-post canopy provides fall protection (handy in the woods!), the tire stems are protected, the bottom is up-armored to prevent snags/stumps/ etc from ripping open your oil filter.  Since most of what I do with it is build, and rarely do the things that most ag tractors are meant for  - plowing, tilling, etc.


HST is great.

I'd add that the skidsteer-style quick attach bucket and implements would be really nice.  There are a bunch of specific implements for it - including dedicated forks that I'd rather have than the clamp on (largely the clamp on ones wander a bit and they move the lift point out that much further, effectively reducing the lift capacity).  The one fitting I'd really like - probably unreasonably - is front attached hydraulic post driver.
 
pollinator
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I'd personally forgo the backhoe attachment.  Those mid sized tractors weren't really meant for that type use.  Sure they will dig, but a machine made for digging will get more done in day.  The cost/benefit just doesn't pencil out for me personally.  I'd likely buy "more" tractor with the money and attachments and rent an excavator when I needed it.  You can rent a big machine here for around $2000 a week.  
 
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Well.....
An excavator is worth its weight in convenience and efficiency, but.......a good three point backhoe is hardly to be sneezed at, especially when your blisters are warming on a shovel for a deep fifteen foot long trench in aggregate.
Decide how much money you wouldn't miss and shop the farm / equipment auctions, frequently old implements can be found for a dime on the dollar of new prices, or a neighbor might have an old one he's willing to swap for an unreasonable and presumptuous quantity of your precious time!
When you need one, nothing beats a good excavator, but for that ten or twelve times a year when your digging chores exceed a comfortable fifteen minutes, the trouble of hitching up a small backhoe seems well worth it,......especially for a piece of equipment that falls off your taxable inventory as fast as you buy it, and will probably resell for as much or more than you bought it for, if you just keep your pockets full of money and purchase the bargains rather than the necessities.
 
Eliot Mason
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Interesting that this thread overwhelming tips to the "no backhoe" side while this thread https://permies.com/t/51337/Heavy-equipment-thread makes very strong cases for the backhoe being the greatest thing since sliced bread.

The only other thoughts I've had on this - transport!  One of the reasons I don't rent excavators is because I can't transport them - my trailer isn't beefy enough.  I can pay the rental yard extra for delivery, but for a day or two rental that extra $150 is pretty painful.

Transport is also essential to consider for maintenance of any equipment - if you can't haul it to a mechanic then your service options become more limited and more expensive.
 
Andre Burns
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Eliot,

Great to hear from the contrarian court - I really want to hear experiences from both sides.

I’ve researched the TLB line.  They are definitely more robust than the standard ag tractor line.  I really, really like that, but their commercial grade build comes at a commercial grade cost that I just can’t afford.  My local rental place has a B21 that I’ve considered renting.  

I have a reasonable amount of control on my schedule, so renting is not as difficult to arrange as it sounds like it may be for you.

I didn’t note it, but I will definitely be getting the SSQA system for the FEL.  I anticipate a fair bit of bucket / grapple back and forth changes.  I also get you on the front hydraulic post hole digger, as from what I gather three point hitch post hold diggers are:
A. A PITA to put on and take off
B. Often problematic in difficult digging situations due to no down pressure.  If I need to dig a bunch of holes, I may look into rental if not purchase of a front mount unit.

Thanks for speaking up for the Pro Hoe side!

Eliot Mason wrote:Guess I'm a contrarian...I find the backhoe tremendously useful.   CUT.  .

 
Andre Burns
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Walt Chase wrote:I'd personally forgo the backhoe attachment.  Those mid sized tractors weren't really meant for that type use.  Sure they will dig, but a machine made for digging will get more done in day.  The cost/benefit just doesn't pencil out for me personally.  I'd likely buy "more" tractor with the money and attachments and rent an excavator when I needed it.  You can rent a big machine here for around $2000 a week.  



Similar rental rates are available here.  Thanks for the input.
 
Andre Burns
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Bill,

I definitely plan to regularly scour the auctions and sales for supplemental equipment, like a mini-excavator or a medium sized standard excavator.  For periodic use, I can risk some down time on those that I can not abide by for my general purpose tractor.  So I‘m leaning towards purchasing the tractor and FEL now, quickly followed up by a grapple, then shortly rent a mini-excavator for about a week. Based on that experience, I should have a good idea if renting or searching for a well loved used excavator is the best path forward.

Thanks

Bill Haynes wrote:Well.....
.......
Decide how much money you wouldn't miss and shop the farm / equipment auctions, frequently old implements can be found for a dime on the dollar of new prices, or a neighbor might have an old one he's willing to swap for an unreasonable and presumptuous quantity of your precious time!.......

 
Andre Burns
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Eliot,

It is interesting to see the contrast.  I’ve read through some, but not all of the thread you reference.  I plan to finish reading the rest soon.

You make an EXCELLENT point about transport.  I may have access to a well used but serviceable old 16’ dual axle trailer.  With that I could transport a tractor at least as far away as the major service locations for tractors in my area (15-25 miles, no major highways).  Hopefully that works out.

That said, it’s not robust enough for hauling an excavator, so in that regard I’m in the same boat as you.  Partially due to this, if renting a piece of equipment and needing it delivered (which costs about what you reference), I plan to make it a full week rental to have the transport cost make more sense.  Clearly the balance would be off if only needing it for a day or two.

Great point - thanks for bringing it up!
 
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I don't know the terrain your in but here on the other side of the smokies on my land anyway tractors have to have tires extended as far out as possible to increase stability and prevent rolling over because land is so sloped and hilly.
something to think about. when I first got here I did not realize how top heavy a full size backhoe is and driving mine on the property is very scary. if economy did't just crash I would probably try to sell it and get a small excavator or something more stable like a track loader or even bobcat with hoe attachment, another option would be a used trenching machine with push blade and hoe, many times these machine can be found cheap and still in good serviceable condition. if money no object a 4wd Kubota tractor w loader , extendable front axle and rear wheels that can be turned out and backhoe attachment would be very useful
 
Eliot Mason
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Andre Burns wrote:I’ve researched the TLB line.  They are definitely more robust than the standard ag tractor line.  I really, really like that, but their commercial grade build comes at a commercial grade cost that I just can’t afford.  My local rental place has a B21 that I’ve considered renting.  



For those trying to keep up with the lingo, yes the TLB line is very different from most of the mid-size tractors.  They weigh significantly more - and the big brother of the line (currently the M62) can lift nearly two tons in the front bucket - while most other tractors in the 70hp range lift maybe 3000 lb.  This requires both weight as ballast and beefy front axles.  This may be why my experience with the backhoe is different from others in this thread - mine is simply "better" as its less of a compromise.  This does mean that they are expensive - forget the $10k bump to get a backhoe, I think the new 48hp TLB is about a $20k premium over similar hp mid-size tractors.

This premium compresses significantly in the used market.  But its still a difference that requires serious thinking about what one needs a tractor for.
 
Eliot Mason
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bruce Fine wrote: I did not realize how top heavy a full size backhoe is and driving mine on the property is very scary.



I've never had problems when operating the backhoe, but yes, when moving the unit the weight on the back is significant and has high leverage.  A tenant found just how high that center of gravity was and rolled the tractor while moving it.  No real harm done, fortunately.  But don't turn uphill when traversing a slope!  Better to reverse into a turn...

On the other hand, that backhoe is darned useful when the tractor gets stuck!  I do need to replace the front tires, but when its slick and steep, the backhoe can be deployed and pull the tractor out!  The extra weight is also helpful for stabilising the tractor when using the loader at capacity.
 
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I just bought a Kubota BX23s with loader and backhoe a month ago and it is the best thing ever. Currently we are on a bit over 3 acres and most of it is so steep that it is inaccessible to the tractor. However, just on the driveway and in the flattish area around the house both the loader and the backhoe have been in constant use. My daughter's partner took a 4-month heavy equipment operator course at a local university/trade school last year and is a certified operator. He was a little bit skeptical of the tractor backhoe until the first time he used it, and now is its biggest fan. In the past month, he's dug out a bunch of rotting stumps and put in a new driveway and parking area off the main driveway, for their new RV where they now live; built a series of level terraces for a new large vegetable garden; and hauled a mountain of topsoil from the bottom of my quarter-mile driveway up to the garden area, and mixed it with compost. Part of this mountain was used to pot up 400 nut trees in large grow bags and the rest was spread on the new garden. He's also been using the backhoe to pick up and move downed trees and brush, and once we get a chipper there will be lots more of that to be done. In the next little while, he's going to use it to re-dig the drainage ditch that runs alongside most of the driveway, and to level out an annoying slump at the bottom of the driveway that is like a speed bump that we keep scraping the bottom of the cars on. Once all that is done, I'm going to order a load of gravel to resurface the driveway and he will spread it with the loader. When we move to the new property, hopefully this fall, there will be about 1000 trees and shrubs to be planted. These are currently living in pots and grow bags in my backyard. The tractor salesman, when I told him I would be planting trees, mentioned that the bucket on the backhoe is exactly the size of a 5 gallon pot and is what he uses to plant fruit trees at his place. A lot of my plants are in containers larger than 5 gallons, so two or more scoops. That would be a painful amount to dig by hand. We'll also be contouring a slope with water-management earthworks and digging an irrigation pond, and putting in footings for sheds, gateposts, etc., so the backhoe will be getting quite a workout after the move.

My original plan, thinking about the limited access for a tractor to most of the present property and assuming we wouldn't find nearly as much work for one here, had been to rent a Bobcat excavator as needed. But I knew I would need a tractor at the next property and Kubota had a 0% interest financing deal, and the long-weekend 3-day rental for the mini excavator I had booked would have been equivalent to three months payment on the tractor. And I was pretty sure we wouldn't get all the digging jobs done in one weekend (and we wouldn't have, I now know for sure) plus there was that mountain of topsoil that otherwise would have been shoveled by hand into the pickup truck and then unloaded by hand. So far, the tractor has been in use for at least part of every weekend day for the past 6 weeks, most of those days involving backhoe for all or part of the day, and I can see another solid few days to deal with the remaining driveway and ditch jobs. By the time we're done with those, I think the savings on excavator rental will have paid for somewhere between 9 and 12 months of monthly payments on the tractor. The convenience of having the backhoe here all the time, as opposed to having to arrange a rental and delivery and then complete a job within a specific timeframe, is major too. It means that if you see a job that needs to be done you can just go do it.

One thing that daughter's boyfriend advised me to make sure to get was a 'thumb' for the backhoe, which means you can pick things up (like fallen trees). It doesn't come as standard equipment with the Kubota package I bought apparently, although the dealership I bought from makes sure it is on every backhoe they sell.
 
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I too am torn between the purchase of a compact utility tractor. At first I was definitely wanting a backhoe - the main reason was for digging swails, micro ponds, and experimenting with geothermal (6ft narrow trenches with corrugated pipe).

There are a lot of rocks in my area, and I'm afraid that a tractor mounted backhoe will take so much abuse that I'd be regretting the maintenance/repair work after a few years. I like the suggestions of renting a hoe to get one strong and heavy enough to handle everything you need.

What might take months of digging with a small, personal hoe (I would be more timid with my own if I dropped 8k on one!) I feel like could be accomplished within a week's rental on a more capable rented machine :)

Also, the L2501 is a nice tractor, but have you considered a Kioti CK2610 if there is a dealer near by? When comparing the specs and price, the Kioti looks good and it's reputation and warranty are very close to the Kubota.

I could not get financing, sadly - but I'm hoping another family member can help me with a down payment and now that I ax'd the backhoe idea the price will be a good amount cheaper!

 
Bill Haynes
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FWIW...
The used / refurbished market (grey market) Yanmars are hard to beat,
Yanmar is an old company that has millions of units worldwide and parts are common.....not neccesarily NAPA store common but not made from Chineseium (breaks on first contact) or Unobtanium!
These old tractors run forever, are dead simple and have a million posts online for solutions if ever needed, Tractors from the seventies are still clattering away, and cost a third to half of Jane Deere, Massive Furguson, and Klubyota.
While in no way a recomendation for this dealer;
http://www.biglittletractor.com
is a reconditioner in the NW and their wares are typical, even better is to find the estate sales where grandads tenderly cared for tractor is up for sale with its attendant accountrements.
As with everything else, a pocketfull of cash at the right moment can save thousands of dollars over planned deliberate purchases!
 
Eliot Mason
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I'll second Bill's point on gray-market tractors.  Here in the PNW we are close to Japan and we get a lot of these used tractors as well as the impossibly cute and useful Kei trucks.  They are nearly universally well cared for and have tremendous utility remaining.

Curiously, the Japanese don't seem to use front-end loaders on their tractors.  So they are available plain or with an after-market loader.

I regularly see 4wd, 20+hp tractors for $5-$7k.

 
Andre Burns
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Well, I did decide to get the Kubota L2501 but forego the backhoe.

The input here has been tremendous, and I sincerely appreciate it.  There is A LOT of good advice strewn throughout the responses.  

For me, I can get a significant amount of the work I need to do accelerated by getting the tractor, FEL, bush hog, and box blade active on the land now.  By omitting the backhoe, now means within the next week or so.  Also, by doing it this way and taking advantage of the Kubota 0% financing, I am able to buy the EA Wicked Grapple and Wicked Tooth Bar now.

So I'm going to hit things hard with the above equipment for the next few months.  I'll likely have several projects set up for a mini-excavator rental in the fall. That plan should work for now.  I'll reevaluate as I go along.

Thanks all!
 
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Ok you blokes, I got lost oin a good thread.
I thought Chinesiam was good and I have purchased unobtanium a couple of times.
BUt all these AFA's have caused me big misunderstandings as to what you are talking about??
FEL
HST
SSQA
TLB
FWIW
Can somebody help me please?
 
Eliot Mason
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John:  Yep, its a whole world of its own language!

FEL - Front End Loader - (front bucket)
HST - Hydrostatic Transmission - (non-geared, continuously and easily reveresed)
SSQA - Skid Steer Quick Attach (a system that started on skid steers but applied to the FEL, makes it easy to remove the bucket and put other tools on the front end, most commonly lift forks)
TLB - Tractor Loader Backhoe - a term that I think is only used by Kubota for their construction tractor line
FWIW - non tractor jargon!  "For What Its Worth"

Edit:As pointed out below, TLB is a generic term that other manufacturers use.  Guess I'm blind to colors other than orange...
 
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Eliot Mason wrote:John:  Yep, its a whole world of its own language!

FEL - Front End Loader - (front bucket)
HST - Hydrostatic Transmission - (non-geared, continuously and easily reveresed)
SSQA - Skid Steer Quick Attach (a system that started on skid steers but applied to the FEL, makes it easy to remove the bucket and put other tools on the front end, most commonly lift forks)
TLB - Tractor Loader Backhoe - a term that I think is only used by Kubota for their construction tractor line
FWIW - non tractor jargon!  "For What Its Worth"




Deere has a TLB model, there are surely others too... these are generally more expensive and more robust than ye average tractor that happens to come with a backhoe; built heavier, more like construction equipment.
 
Eric Hanson
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D, everyone,

D has a point here.  The model I remember was called (I think) the TLB 110.  I don’t know if it is still available, but it was essentially a beefier version of a larger compact tractor with a bucket and hoe.

I don’t remember a specific price, but if memory serves, it was in the 50s.  I don’t remember if it had s functional PTO or not.

It could be an ideal option, but it has been a while since I have seen one, but I am afraid I have more questions than answers.

Eric
 
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Eliot Mason wrote:John:  Yep, its a whole world of its own language!

FEL - Front End Loader - (front bucket)
HST - Hydrostatic Transmission - (non-geared, continuously and easily reveresed)
SSQA - Skid Steer Quick Attach (a system that started on skid steers but applied to the FEL, makes it easy to remove the bucket and put other tools on the front end, most commonly lift forks)
TLB - Tractor Loader Backhoe - a term that I think is only used by Kubota for their construction tractor line
FWIW - non tractor jargon!  "For What Its Worth"



You forgot 'WTF'....for when your FWA or FWD compact HST tractor is sporting a TLB and FEL via a SSQA.....and still gets stuck in the mud!  :-)

TractorStuck.JPG
[Thumbnail for TractorStuck.JPG]
 
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Andre, don't know where you are on your purchase, and I agree with most all of your choices BTW, here's my two cents:

I've got a Kubota L4240 HST, 9' Woods backhoe w/hydraulic thumb, SSQA bucket and pallet forks; plus a 72" tiller, chisel plow, disc bedder/plastic mulch layer. (one of three tractors, but the most similar)
I found the backhoe on craigslist and drove to Virginia to get it (nearly half cost of new + paint still on bucket teeth!) and had dealer install on my new machine before delivery.

The one thing you didn't mention was loaded tires. My tractor has them and it makes it quite stable, and I get full use of the loader capacity w/o the backhoe on.
Our place is tiny for this machine, but I do use the loader and forks near capacity often (I got the L4240 as it was the smallest tractor that accepted the largest loader) and the little tractor (BX2380) doesn't even come close...
The backhoe is a bit of a liability for me, working in tight quarters, near fences, vehicles, structures, and it's really nice when it is off the machine!

It is AWESOME to have the backhoe, to pull stumps and rocks on demand, and a thumb is indispensable! It has limitations compared to an excavator, like not 360* rotation and the tractor blocking a big part of the job site, and how you switch back/forth between driving backhoe and driving tractor... and need to turn around to use loader to remove spoils.
I also use it to crane things into place (built a 6' high retaining wall with boulders) and to unload things from my truck and trailer (though NOT as useful as one thinks, mostly due to <180* swing and outrigger placement)
My plan revolved around that retaining wall build, and it was a nights/weekend/fair-weather job, so rental was too much expense.

When I first got the machine, I was all over the internet and craigslist looking for attachments, but I really find that the forks and bucket handle most everything I need, the SSQA and the HST are the best thing ever.
I also considered buying a trailer for hauling it, but the purchase price, plus registration and insurance, exceeded the cost of hiring two hauls (a round trip) per year, every year for ten years...

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