Equipment wears out. Yes, no matter how many years of faithful service it has provided, that implement is going to need to be replaced sooner or later. The experienced farmer has, before that time comes, probably been checking out newer models and keeping an eye on what specials his local dealers have been offering—both in price and financing.
On the other hand, my grandfather didn’t trade in his equipment for newer machinery, Dad said, “because it wasn’t in his nature.” When Dad bought out Grandpa, beginning in the mid-1960s, he acquired mostly worn-out Case machinery. Over the next few years, he traded that to the local John Deere dealer, Briel’s, for newer John Deere equipment.
But Briel’s wasn’t the only implement dealer with which Dad dealt. I can remember many trips around southwestern Wisconsin to check out tractors and other equipment, when I was young.
In one instance, the Case dealer in Potosi advertised a John Deere 520 in the local newspaper. When Dad checked into the deal, he found that the dealer wanted to trade the Blue Book value of the 520 for the Blue Book value of Dad’s SC Case. “I wanted the actual cash value for my Case,” he said, “and I figured that the 520 wasn’t worth as much on a Case lot as the SC Case would be.
“So we kept using the Case until we knocked a rod out of it. (The oil pump would ice up in cold weather, and that’s what caused the rod to go, when the oil didn’t pump fast enough.) I got $200 in trade from Boebel Farm Service in Fennimore for a wheel disc.”
While Dad would look at tractors and equipment throughout the year, he said he could get better deals in the fall and would use waiver finance with John Deere credit. “You didn’t have to make a payment until the season you used the equipment. Dave Briel had several options but preferred to use waiver finance.”
When the season you were going to use the equipment rolled around and the equipment was delivered, Dad added, “You either sent Deere a check for the full amount or made the first payment. We always paid off the bill at that time.”
There was another advantage. “The other nice thing about buying in the fall was that Briel’s didn’t have to deliver immediately, either, giving them more time to prepare the equipment.”
Dad recalled another bit of haggling that occurred, when he turned a lemon into lemonade. “In the spring of 1973, we needed another tractor,” he said, “but tractors were scarce and hard to find. Dealers weren’t getting new ones, and used ones had a lot of hours on them. I found a brand-new John Deere 4030 at Hennessey Implement in Dodgeville. The tractor was delivered to our farm for $7,550.
“Unfortunately, that tractor was what could politely be called a lemon. We had nothing but trouble with it from the first day. It would jump out of gear and, later, it cracked a piston sleeve. We got along with it until 1977, when I traded it for a new John Deere 4240 with a Sound-Gard cab. When I went to Briel’s to trade, I was told the 4240 was coming in shortly. For $9,000 and the 4030, we got the 4240. Due to inflation, that lemon of a 4030 was worth as much as—or slightly more than—the original price I’d paid four years earlier.”
When Dad retired 27 years later, he privately sold the 4240 for $19,250 and, Mom added, “a bucket of your mother’s tears, when it went up the driveway.”
The last tractor trade Dad transacted occurred in early March 1994, when he traded our John Deere 2950 with cab and John Deere 2640 utility tractor (the first tractor on which I learned to drive) for a John Deere 6300.
“I ordered the 6300 in December 1993,” Dad said. “It was $51,000 with loader. The two tractors I traded brought the purchase price down to $17,000.
“Another neighbor, Doug Ketterer, was also looking to buy a new tractor at the time. He had an International that was worth an extra $10,000 rebate from Deere in trade for a new John Deere. Doug traded with another dealer, not Briel’s. As John Briel was on his way to our farm to talk about the 6300, he saw that other dealer’s truck with Doug’s tractor on it at the intersection just before our farm.
“Once John got to our farm and we talked a little, he asked if I was in a position to trade that morning. I said I was—at my price. John said he’d better take that price, since he knew he’d already lost one sale that morning.”
What are your memories of trading equipment? Was it a good experience or was it traumatic? Share your stories in the comments below.