November 5

What Are the 15 Types of Tractors?

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Last Updated on February 25, 2022

Tractors have been around for nearly two centuries and in that time, they have diversified immensely. With all the changes over the years, today we answer the question – what are the 15 types of tractors?

The very first tractors pulled a number of implements across farmers’ fields. Pulling was their primary objective and design purpose. Unsurprisingly, the word “tractor” derives from the Latin verb “trahere,” which means to pull.

For this reason, the word tractor has been applied to several machines not commonly considered tractors. One example are locomotives that can tow a number of train cars. Another would be trailer-hauling trucks, which use a fifth wheel to connect to and disconnect from trailers. A true truck has the truck front and truck body permanently fixed together. 

Dozers were once referred to as track-type tractors, but not because they pull anything. Instead, they are actually designed for pushing. However, they were originally built using a common tractor body and a tracked undercarriage (opposed to a wheeled one). 

The most popular implement for the track-type tractors were bulldozer blades. During World War II, the Allies used quite a few of them. Media reporting on the war were unfamiliar with the equipment. For that reason, they inadvertently and repeatedly referred to the track-type tractors equipped with bulldozer blades as bulldozers. Following the war, dozers became more popular and the American public started calling the machines “bulldozers.” Dozer manufacturers eventually followed suit. 

Today, dozers have evolved into their own machine. They remain a separate machine category from the early and modern track-type tractors. 

The most popular job site for tractors are farms: crop farms, animal farms, hobby farms, etc. There, tractors perform many tasks: seeding, harvesting, animal feeding, lawn mowing, snow removal, fence post installation, and more. 

Some tractors are categorized by application, while others are categorized by feature. The first group of tractors we’ll discuss are categorized by the former. 

Types of Tractors - Row Crop

Row crop tractors

Compared to predecessors, row crop tractors are a lighter weight, lower horsepower, and higher ground clearance machines. Before their market debut, tractors were originally designed for muscle and not the nimble work performed by this tractor type.

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In the 1920’s, International Harvester became the first manufacturer to introduce tractors with trademark features of modern-day row crop tractors. 

As the name suggests, row crop tractors are designed for working among row crops. This includes corn, wheat, and others. They come in a wide power range too: 100 hp – 400 hp. The range helps accommodate the unique needs of different types of crops. 

Enhanced steering capability aids in the precise work these tractors perform, and increased fuel storage allows for longer working hours. Other features include user-friendly driving, greater maneuverability, PTO (power take-off), and a narrow profile.

Common applications are plowing, seeding, harrowing, watering, threshing, weeding, and leveling. 

Row crop tractors are one of several different types of agricultural tractors. The only unifying quality between them is their intended agricultural use. The term “agricultural tractor” came into being to differentiate them from industrial tractors. Those came into production during the interwar years.  

Current tractor models include:

  • Case IH Magnum Series and Connect Optimum Series 
  • John Deere 6 Series, 7 Series and 8 Series tractors 
  • Kubota M7 Series, M8 Series 
  • Massey Ferguson MF 5700, MF 5S, and MF 6700
  • New Holland Series T5, T6, T7, T8, T9

Orchard and vineyard tractors

These tractors feature a narrow profile, low-mounted cab, a tight turning radius for traveling among rows of trees or vines, and the stability to maneuver on grades. They also feature a metal shroud that encases components left exposed on other tractors. This is to guard them from branches. These tractors have tires with heavier-duty rubber for protection from thorns (common on some crops), and are wider for less ground pressure. They don’t need a lot of pulling power, but they do pull and power lawn mower and rake attachments. 

Current tractor models include:

  • Kubota M4 and M5
  • New Holland T4F and T4V
Types of Tractors - Lawn & Garden

Lawn and garden tractors

A lawn and garden tractor is a small tractor (up to 20 hp) that is sold to the residential market. They come equipped with or without a lawn mower. The latter may be called ride-on mowers. And although that is definitely one of the most popular applications, these tractors are more than just a ride-on mower. With the right attachments, they can become an aerator or a deseeder. They can also be used as a tool carrier or transportation device across large properties.

Current tractor models include:

  • Cub Cadet XT1 and XT2 
  • Husqvarna TS 100 Series, TS 200 Series, and TS 300 Series 
  • New Holland Workmaster 255

Utility tractors

Many tractors on this list could be considered quite niche machines, but not the utility tractor. These are one of the more popular and general purpose tractors. They perform more aggressive work, such as plowing and dozing. And they also have the power to run attachments that demand a lot of power to operate. Examples include snow blowers and lawn mowers. 

Sometimes these machines are referred to as implement carrier tractors. The reason is their ability to be attached to so many implements or attachments. 

Utility tractors are often equipped with front arms and a bucket for bin loading, lift and carry, and animal feeding applications. Other popular attachments for this type of tractor include threshers, tillers, seed drills, harvesters, hay cutters, and pallet forks. 

Current tractor models include:

  • Kubota M4 Series, M5 Series, and M6 Series 
  • Massey Ferguson MF 2600 H and MF 4700 
  • New Holland Powermaster Series and Workmaster Series
Types of Tractors - Industrial Tractor

Industrial tractors

Industrial tractors are nearly a century old. Numerous requests for wheeled and tracked versions led manufacturers to create dedicated lines of tractors for industrial use. These machines worked in factories, rail yards, and road construction. 

Many industrial tractors are built without parts that are essential for agricultural applications, such as a PTO (power take-off) or three-point linkages. They do have a drawbar and are built with stronger and more durable components and frames. 

Because industrial tractor refers to several groups of tractors, the category includes all tractors listed here that aren’t designed specifically for agricultural use.

Military tractors

Also known as artillery tractors, militaries deploy tractors with heavy guarding and reinforced frames for withstanding IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and landmines. They have great maneuverability when traversing tough terrains, and a high pulling power for tugging heavy loads. This includes supplies, equipment, artillery, and building materials. 

Tractors aren’t typically thought of in military applications, however, a tank is essentially a tracked tractor with a turret on it. Military tractors most often resemble a utility tractor or an industrial tractor that got a makeover from the A-Team. 

Exact machine features and specifications vary depending on the machine’s intended use. Some military tractors are used in construction applications, such as dozing, grading, earthmoving, building material placement, and lift and carry. They are purposed for transportation applications too as a prime mover for moving heavy loads. In military applications, they are used for deploying artillery and engaging in combat, and in several miscellaneous applications like snow removal. 

The environment in which a military tractor operates also influences how the machine is built. Ones that operate in cold weather most of the time may require a cold-start engine. Those that operate in rough terrain will need heavy-duty tracks and a higher ground clearance. And military tractors that pull heavy loads will need high horsepower.

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Compact tractors 

As stated above, tractors are categorized either by application or by feature. Compact tractors (25 hp – 75 hp) are defined by their size, but are used in limited applications to perform numerous tasks.

Compact versions of utility tractors and row crop tractors exist. The former can perform a lot of the same tasks as utility tractors – just on a smaller scale. The latter can do the same jobs as row crop tractors, but can fit among more tightly planted crops. 

Current tractor models include:

  • Bobcat 2000, 3000, and 4000 platforms 
  • John Deere 1 Series, 2 Series,3 Series, and 4 Series
  • Kubota B01 Series, Standard L01 Series, and L60 Series
  • Massey Ferguson MF 1526, MF 1800, MF 2800
  • New Holland Workmaster Utility 50-70 Series 

Sub-compact tractors

This is a very small category of tractors that takes the compact version one step further. They have most of the same functionality as compact tractors, but with smaller physical and power scales (15 hp -75 hp). 

Current tractor models include:

  • Bobcat 1000 platform 
  • Kubota BX Series
  • Massey Ferguson MF GC1700 

Two-wheeled tractors 

These tractors are walk-behind units. They perform much of the same functions as utility tractors, pulling implements like harvesters, seeders and tillers. Though they do so on a smaller scale (18 hp -30 hp). These machines don’t come equipped with loader arms on the front, so they can’t perform any lifting or digging. They closely resemble a walk-behind lawn mower, but with various handlebars and without the mower.

Current tractor models include:

  • BCS 600 Series, 700 Series, and 800 Series
  • Tilmor Power Ox
Types of Tractors - Three-Wheeled Tractor

Three-wheeled tractors

Three-wheeled tractors are also known as tricycle-type tractors. They have one tire on the front axle and two on the rear. Historically, some tractors have been made with one tire on the rear axle and two on the front. The single tire decreases the turning radius of the tractor. That is helpful for working in tight spaces and when finishing one row of crops and turning the machine around to start another. Three-wheeled tractors have largely been phased out in North America, and so there are no current models in production.

Four-wheel drive tractors

These are the largest tractors on the planet (300 hp – 700 hp). They are row crop tractors designed for the largest crop farms. They have a double set of tires on the front and rear axles. 

Current tractor models include:

  • Case IH AFS Connect Steiger Series  
  • John Deere 9R Series

Tracked tractors

Tractors most commonly come equipped with wheels, but they can be equipped with tracks. Usually a single track is on each side of the tractor, but quad-track tractors have two pairs on each side for even greater maneuverability. 

Current tractor models include:

  • New Holland TK4 Series
  • John Deere 9RT and 9RX Series

Half-track tractors

This machine looks like a tracked-type tractor from the rear, but a wheeled tractor from the front. Tires on the front axle are better suited for paved surfaces and faster speeds. Tracks on the rear axle aid in traction power and stability. 

These tractors aren’t available from manufacturers serving the North American market. 

Types of Tractors - Tractor Loader Backhoe

Tractor loader backhoe

This is a tractor with both a front-end loader attachment and a backhoe attachment. It is similar to a backhoe loader designed for the construction market. However, the backhoe loader has more of a wheel loader-styled body than a tractor body. 

Current tractor models include:

  • Kubota M TLB Series
  • New Holland Workmaster 
  • Power-Trac PT-2425 and PT-2430 

Autonomous tractors

Autonomous tractors are modern machines that can be programmed to perform certain duties. GPS locates the machine, so you can plot out its travel as it performs work. Since very little geography changes on the farm (compared to construction), automation is easier to add to machines. Seeding can be programmed so the seeds are dispersed for optimal and consistent spacing. Many other functions can be pre-programmed as well. Numerous implements for tractors come equipped with lasers and cameras for information gathering, decision-making, and automation. 

Current tractor models include:

  • Kubota 1CT
  • New Holland T9 Series with PLM Intelligence and T8 Series with PLM Intelligence

From row crop to autonomous, time and technology have definitely diversified tractors. What remains true of all 15 types of tractors is the continued usefulness to society. Whether harvesting crops or earthmoving, there is a tractor that meets the needs of every project. And if not, that invention just hasn’t been discovered yet. If you’re looking to get equipment for your project, then search no more. Municibid’s online auction has various tractor types to meet your needs.


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