Preparing a modern tractor for sale is not just a case of washing and polishing it, as Simon Henley found when he visited McCormick dealer Colin Catley.
Colin Catley’s agricultural engineering career began in 1995 when he started as an apprentice technician at Sharnford Tractors, Frolesworth, Leicestershire.
Keen to develop a business of his own, in 2007 he established himself as a man-with-a-van mechanic, based on the farmyard of Leicestershire arable farmer Mark Hill.
Having noted his determination to succeed, in 2008 Mr Hill decided to build a new workshop on his farm, from which Mr Catley could base his business. This would become known as Catley Engineering, and the company was soon joined by James Barker, who is today the workshop foreman.
In 2011, Catley Engineering took on the McCormick franchise, and soon began selling tractors to farmers and contractors in the surrounding area.
The company’s landmark achievement with McCormick was the first retail sale of a McCormick X7 Series tractor in the UK back in 2014.
Since that time, it has become one of the most successful McCormick franchises in Britain, recently adding the sale of the UK’s first range-topping McCormick X8.680 to its list of achievements.
Having spent almost 25 years in the agricultural engineering industry, Mr Catley is eminently qualified when it comes to valuing, buying and selling used tractors, whether they are purchased through the trade, or taken as trade-in models against a new machine.
A USED SALE STARTS WITH A NEW SALE
THE notion that selling a tractor requires thinking about its resale value before you have even bought it, by definition seems rhetorical.
However in today’s world, where a new 150-200hp tractor will typically be traded or sold within five years of purchase, it actually makes a lot of sense, says Mr Catley.
“The process of preparing a tractor for re-sale starts when you sell the farmer a brand new tractor.
“One of our responsibilities to our customers is to make sure the tractor they buy brand new, is equipped to maximise its resale value when they come to sell it or trade it in.
“For example, if I am selling a 150hp model like the McCormick X7.660, which is a popular size of tractor, I would strongly recommend buying that machine with front axle suspension. A tractor without front axle suspension may cost less, but the tractor’s trade-in value will ultimately be reduced, because most second-hand tractor buyers demand this feature.”
He adds: “Options such as front linkage and a 50kph transmission could also help to stabilise a tractor’s resale value. Furthermore, with the advance of GPS technology I would also recommend buying a tractor, which is automatic steering-ready.
“McCormick does not offer this as a standard feature, but being autosteer ready, even if it is never used, will add to the value of that tractor when it comes time to move it on.”
According to Mr Catley, buying a high-specification tractor model may also help to uphold the tractor’s resale value, however, he concedes that over-speccing a tractor can just as easily waste the buyer’s money.
SOFTWARE UPGRADES TELL A TALE
MR Catley says: “One of the things that frequently gets overlooked are software updates.
“These can only be installed by an authorised dealer, and software updates are an important part of the servicing schedule on modern tractors which you cannot afford to ignore.
“Software updates may apply to the engine, transmission, or the PTO, and may be as simple as a recalibration of the clutch and transmission.
“An authorised dealer will know if a specific tractor has been updated or not the moment he connects to the tractor’s ECU.
“A five-year old tractor that has an incomplete software update history identifies two things. Firstly, that the tractor has an incomplete service record, and secondly that it has not been serviced by an authorised dealer.
“Both these factors will help to reduce its trade-in value.”
SO what are the rules when it comes to servicing and maintaining a tractor? Mr Catley says: “A service history is absolutely essential on a modern tractor when it comes to trade-in.
“In the past, farmers would consider tapping out the air filter and changing the engine oil and filter at service, but this no longer applies. Modern tractors are far more complicated in their design.
“The checklist for a 1,000-hour service on a McCormick X7 tractor identifies 58 points which require inspection, servicing or replacing.
"These include not only the engine oil and filter, but the fuel system, cooling system, air-conditioning, front axle suspension, steering, transmission, hydraulics, linkage, pick-up hitch, clutch, PTO, cab filters, electronic controls and instruments, in addition to the tyres, wheels and brakes.
“Many tractors these days spend a high proportion of their time on the road. As part of our service routine, we jack-up the front of the tractor and check the trunnion, ball joints, tie rods and the driveshaft, and we check for wear on the front axle components.
“On the McCormick X7 tractors, the brake actuator rods under the cab require periodic mechanical adjustment. If you are not a trained McCormick technician you will not know that, which is why a dealer service is important.”
SO what else can be done to keep a tractor in tip-top shape and fight any unnecessary depreciation?
Mr Catley says: “Cleaning a tractor is as much a part of maintaining a tractor as servicing it.
“We generally find that many younger drivers are keen to keep their tractors washed and polished, but there are a few things you need to avoid.
“Steam cleaners are a modern tractor’s worst enemy. In the wrong hands they can remove paint, decals and even damage trim. Pressurised steam can also find its way into electrical components, which can wreak havoc with the tractor’s control systems.
“My recommendation is to think about what you are putting onto your tractor’s paint. Use a pressure washer, but turn it down and do not use caustic road film removers. Using good quality automotive products is all that is necessary to clean the tractor’s paint.
“Where cab interiors are concerned, I recommend blowing the cab out with an airline. Use a reliable upholstery cleaner to remove stains and fingerprints, and a reputable interior polish to clean the control consoles.
“Cosmetic appearance has never been more important,” says Mr Catley.
“The condition of a tractor is a window to its past. If it looks bad it has probably not been properly serviced, and a tractor with dents, poor paint, broken mirrors and smashed light lenses will command a lower resale value every single time.”