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Selecting a UTV for a muddy farm

Landmaster 500Mark: I think the best solution for our access issues within our price range is a UTV.

Anna: Well, we have been saving to solve that exact problem and I did win the goat wars. So I guess I can let you have your way this time.

Mark: I think the best solution is a Landmaster 500. 479 cc engine, 8-inch ground clearance, 35x41" dump bed, 1000-lb weight limit. Suggested retail price $6,500.

Anna (after extensive internet searching): Hmmm. I hate to say it, but that sounds like a hobby farmer's toy. I don't think it would survive in our swamp.

Mark: Sigh.

John Deere gatorAnna: But what about this option: John Deere Gator XUV 825i: 812 cc (50 hp) engine, 11-inch ground clearance, 45x52" dump bed, 1400-lb weight limit, front and rear hitch receivers, steel skid plates. Suggested retail price: $12,059.

Mark (striking while the iron's hot and also pushing all of my buttons like only a doting husband can): Just think of how much manure we could haul with that! Can we get it tomorrow?

We're not 100% decided yet and would love to hear from folks who have used an 825i Gator in extremely rough and muddy terrain. I know we'll have to keep adding rocks to our swamp as needed --- the downside of any wheeled vehicle. But do you think the John Deere can handle the muck without kicking the bucket?

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Don't. Do. It. John Deere BAD BAD BAD. This brand is not what it used to be. You'll end up with goofy problems as well as big problems, and parts are difficult at best to get (even direct from a dealer - wait times are ridiculous) and they are not at all easy to work on, which you will be doing on a regular basis. Our Deere had huge trouble from the start. We nursed it through 10 years, and easily could have replaced the thing with what we put into it in repairs. My husband literally took it out back and shot it. There wasn't enough good about it to salvage anything worthwhile, not even a seat spring.

We have since bought a Polaris Ranger. LOVE this. We can't get it stuck (my husband has tried - deep mud, over the floorboard flood water. I literally use this everyday and zero complaints. I can even haul a large round bale with it and use the dump bed to drop it where I want. And it doesn't guzzle fuel like the Deere did.

Comment by Anonymous Mon Aug 1 09:02:29 2016
I would think a Japanese brand would be best, but I don't know much about UTVs cause I'm still using my 1984 Honda 3 wheeler for 'work and play'
Comment by Chris Mon Aug 1 10:46:09 2016
You're right about John Deere not being the brand it used to be. I had a salesperson at Lowe's tell me that when I was shopping for a new lawn tractor. I ended up with a Troy Built (lower end) and have been pretty happy with it, that's when I don't run it into rocks! :)
Comment by Nayan Mon Aug 1 11:20:16 2016

Have you thought about getting a small secondhand tractor (with a cart to haul stuff in)? Especially with a front loader. That would give you a bucket for dumping rocks and soil in the swamp and transporting logs, an attachment for spikes to pick up straw bales. Forks to pick up IBCs and other heavy stuff. And usually a power take-off at the back to power all kinds of things. Like a log splitter.

The older models (with mechanical injection) are simple and extremely rugged.

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Aug 1 11:30:19 2016

I'm going to second Roland's comment. Most people I know with UTV's need something else (like a tractor) besides their UTV to get their work done.

I know you and Mark are spring chickens, but using hydraulics to lift and move things is a very helpful if you want to age in place on your homestead. A bucket loader and forks for the front of a tractor are so useful for so many things.

Comment by Nita Mon Aug 1 12:04:30 2016

Anonymous --- I'm curious to hear what John Deere model burned you so badly? I spent an afternoon browsing forums, websites, reviews, etc., and this particular John Deere model has really good reviews. The next one down and the next one up, on the other hand, have really poor reviews. (I suspect the former is geared towards joyriders and the latter toward hobbyists, so the machines aren't really built for hard work.) The Polaris reviews were much more mixed, and Mark's experience with an older Polaris ATV has been pretty bad, which is why we didn't consider the Ranger very hard.

Chris --- We looked at the Kubota X900, but it seemed to be more money for less power. The Kawasaki Mule, based on various websites, seems to be much less capable in mud. Any other Japanese models you feel like we should have considered?

Roland and Nita --- You have very good points, but I don't think a tractor is really what we're looking for. What we need is something that can haul supplies and people from where we park our cars back to our core homestead, and our experience has been that wagons pulled behind a vehicle sink into the mud much worse than the vehicles themselves. That turned us away from the tractor, even though you have excellent points and the scoop would definitely be handy from time to time. Maybe in another decade, Mark will talk me into getting him a tractor too. :-)

Comment by anna Mon Aug 1 13:08:03 2016
Maybe a Yamaha Viking or a honda pioneer?
Comment by Chris Mon Aug 1 16:49:39 2016

Hi All,

I would really check out used farm tractors from your neighbors and friends! One local farmer had a friend give him a tractor he had given up on, a 1954 something. A new starter and it was like new and last time I saw him he was still riding on it :).

I have a 1944 Ford 9N. Nice machine. I use it for mowing. Easy to keep running and simple. We converted it to 12V many years ago.

My only regret has be echoed already. No front bucket.

Of course the stock one that long ago was mechanical.

A 'skid steer' has been recommended to me as another choice. I would like to be able to drag a 12-18 inch bar to break up the plow layer. I suspect you would find that most useful as you get your homestead more and more in order and 'solve' some of your water problems which I suspect would be greatly helped that way.

warm regards to all, John

Comment by John Mon Aug 1 17:12:50 2016
I am with Roland and the others for tractor. You can get a very good second hand 40-80hp tractor with way more clearance, payload, loader, 3pt attachments, etc. And still have money leftover compared to the gator. Only pro to the UTVs would be speed on dry flat land. Also most the UTVs now are all computerized. You could be stuck bringing it to a dealer to just get simple work done. There nice for getting around properties but with all the articles you've posted over the years on the road/creek/flooding that occurs a good sized tractor only makes sense.
Comment by Marco Mon Aug 1 17:14:36 2016

I have been on you for years to get a real tractor. An old tried and true ford like this from craigs list in your general area Then you need to find a local farm mechanic to keep it in good repair. (not a big $100/hour dealership). This is the real secret to continued success. In that part of the country they are there to be found by word of mouth.

Comment by tom Mon Aug 1 19:19:11 2016
When looking at your thread and doing a quick search for a UTV with a PTO (so you could have other options for attachments) I saw Polaris makes a diesel UTV ($18,000+) Probably too expensive but looked neat. I've seen some PTO powered trailers too but not sure how they would work on a UTV instead of a tractor.
Comment by Brian Mon Aug 1 19:49:21 2016

I stumbled upon a used 2008 Gator 2wd for 800 bucks that had been used on a golf course for maintenance and had a lot of rust underneath, I did some structural patching and hauled in to MN from GA and gave it to my 87 year old dad. He loves that thing, it has been VERY dependable. 16hp air cooled Kawasaki single cylinder.

I have owned JD lawn and garden equipment and unlike one of the other posters I have never had an issue and parts are available.

I would avoid any knock off brand ATV/UTV.

As far as tractors, I have two, and no homestead lol!

Comment by Eric Mon Aug 1 20:58:41 2016

W.r.t. trailers getting stuck, every tractor has attachment points on the back that you could attach a tractor rack (example from walker mfg) to.

The weight it can carry on the rear attachment depends on the tractor and the distance of the center of gravity of the weight to the rear axle, but it is not uncommon for a tractor to carry 500 liter spray tanks (say 1000 lb) on the back.

Comment by Roland_Smith Tue Aug 2 08:23:11 2016

I think a tractor would be the smartest buy, a used Kubota with 4wd and a loader, preferably ag tires. I Have several old tractors and they're great for certain things, but typically older tractors have poor brakes and manual steering, oil leaks and "non-live" PTO. Tractors lead to more implements ($) and the Temptaton to Till!

Comment by Chris Tue Aug 2 08:56:57 2016
I just wanted to give my opinion that I think you will be disappointed in a UTV for the purpose you've stated. If your ATV isn't able to haul things like you want the UTV won't be that much better. 11 inches really isn't that much clearance for mud and being heavier (especially hauling things) with a longer wheel base I'll bet you get stuck more often. My experience is that you either need something that can float on top the mud or sink down where you can get traction. Sinking down only helps if the mud is on the surface and you have dryer ground or rocks below. An ATV has large tires and can float on top somewhat but if you load it up you will get stuck. Something with tracks or more tires can spread the weight out and keep you on top better. A 6 wheel UTV would be a slightly better option than what you are looking at. I have always wanted an 8 wheel Argo amphibious ATV which I think would be a really good match if you really only want something to haul things to where you park. I have seen used ones with lots of accessories including tracks for pretty reasonable. I have a skidsteer which I wouldn't trade for anything because of it's usefulness but it struggles in mud. That is until I got tracks for it. You wouldn't believe the difference tracks will make. I would have a hard time trying to get it stuck now. I also think a big enough tractor with enough clearance would work and be very useful. They sink to the bottom so you can haul more weight. A big enough one will pull a trailer (the more axles on your trailer the more your trailer will float). I was once at a big lake that the water was extremely low that year. The water was below the boat ramp and no one could launch their boats because their their trucks and trailers would sink in the sand and mud and get stuck. Someone had a large tractor which easily pulled everyone out. They then connected to their boat trailers and easily took them down and launched them for them.
Comment by Anonymous Tue Aug 2 09:48:42 2016

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime