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Homestead Machine Recommendations Needed

Discussion in 'Compact Track/Multi Terrain Loaders' started by koselig, Jan 2, 2020.

  1. koselig

    koselig Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2020
    Messages:
    20
    Location:
    Two Harbors, MN
    Hi all!

    First things first - I know nothing! I have never operated any heavy equipment except for our antique tractor. I am very open to advice but I also have researched heavily and studied what should cover our year-round needs.

    I live and work with my family (wife and 4 children) on a remote property near Two Harbors, MN. This is the Lake Superior Highlands where we get more than the average Minnesota snowfall. Our driveway is around 1300ft of gravel through dense forest with a decent slope (unsure of grade) and turn. This is both our homestead and the location of my office/shop/studio, and we homeschool the kids, so we truly "live" here.

    Currently we have the following equipment:
    - 2014 Honda 420cc Rancher with plow
    - 1958 Ford 961 tractor with original loader (trip bucket) and back blade
    - 1994 Toyota plow truck, 4x4 with chains, Meyer blade (came with the property)
    - two-stage MTD walk behind snowblower I paid $100 for

    Warm-weather needs include:
    - taming rough/overgrown land and general landscaping
    - moving logs and rocks
    - road grading and spreading gravel/dirt
    - trail clearing/management (although a forestry mulcher is way out of my budget)
    - managing our small orchard
    - basic construction utility if we build our own pole barn, greenhouse, woodshed, or something. My son would like to build a tiny log cabin or sauna just for fun.
    - trailering to our rustic lake property for the same sort of work as above

    Cold-weather needs are dealing with snow of course. We plow the 1300ft driveway/road, and do what we can pushing piles in parking areas using the plow truck. I haven't used the tractor loader much to move snow because I don't have chains for it and am unsure how reliable it would be to depend on it in the cold. We plow with the Honda ATV when the snows are modest but it's not useful in big/heavy snow. It is nice for final cleanup.

    We got 3 winters of use out the "free" plow truck but it's obvious now that we need a real solution. To be perfectly frank I don't enjoy operating the tractor or the snowblower because of the exhaust smell getting everywhere. I know I could rework the exhaust on the tractor but I still have the same concerns about depending on it in the winter. It's mostly "fun" for restoration someday, pulling logs out of the woods, and eventually a hay wagon for the kids.

    I operate a product development technology business on the property which demands most of my time, and the rest of my time goes to the kids, so while I love machines and wrenching, I do not have any time for that at this stage in my life. So I need things that work and do not require a lot of fiddling.

    I would love for you all to suggest/discuss recommendations for a CTL/MTL suitable for our purposes. My requirements are:

    1. Must be able to tow with a common "skid steer trailer" and 1T truck
    2. Must have traction on sloped roadway
    3. Must be usable in Springtime mud or clay
    4. Must support easy attachment to blade, bucket, forks, grapple, post hole digger, and eventually maybe a blower without leaving the cab
    5. Must meet budget of 25-35k (40k if there is something really amazing) including a basic set of attachments and ideally a trailer - blade, bucket, forks?

    Questions:
    TRACKS OR WHEELS?
    I know lots of guys run wheeled skid loaders with tall tires and/or chains, and our plow truck has demonstrated that combo can go a long way. But I really don't think wheels would be the right tool in the warm seasons. We are in the forest - it gets wet and soft. A neighbor has an ASV tracked loader and it seems to do the job pretty well. With the slope on the driveway I know I will need the right tracks, but I am hoping I am right that tracks will be the right thing overall. I don't want to stud them or anything.

    CTL OR MTL?
    Does a CTL or MTL sound right for my purposes?

    MAKE/MODEL?
    I had been looking at the big Cat 299D or Kubota SVL90 but I believe these blow the #1 requirement due to weight. So maybe I am looking at a ~74hp unit?

    HOURS, AGE, HISTORY?
    A lot of the machines in my budget are >3000hr. Is there some threshold over 3000hr where these become too expensive to operate and maintain? I don't want to spend 30k on a machine then not be able to afford either the time or money (or both) to keep it running.

    Please share your thoughts and any followup questions to help narrow this down!
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2020
  2. KSSS

    KSSS Senior Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Idaho
    First thing I would address is the engine. Over 75 hp and you are into SCR assuming your looking at a Tier 4 final era machine. Being a homeowner, I would say you don't need the added performance of a high hp machine and the added expense and headache of SCR. I would suggest staying under 75 hp. I would also suggest getting a high flow machine, it will give you more options on snow blower and land clearing attachments. Obviously a cab machine would be wise.

    Wheels or tracks: If you have no problems with chains, wheels are better in my opinion than tracks, you may not even need chains them depending on what you got going on and the type of tires you run. If you want to go tracks, realize that track machines can get expensive once the hours add up. Its the cost of doing business as a contractor, but as a homeowner, replacing drive motors or tracks can be serious expense if the machine is not making you money. If your able to buy new or newer, those issues are less likely, but at 3K its a crap shoot and at $5-7K per drive, the stakes are high. If you go tracks, the ASV or CAT MTL's do one thing very well and that is snow. I wouldn't even consider one for dirt work doing what I do, but the track system does do snow well. Again, buy used and that track system is expensive to go through, way more than anyone's CTL and that is not even considering drive motors.

    Make: If you read through all these threads, every color has it's moments. They all do somethings well and other things not so well and everyone on here has their personal opinions, including me. Much depends on the make and the year of the machine as to potential issues, and of course buying used means knowing that particular machines exact condition. Usually, the newer you can buy the better.
     
    DMiller likes this.
  3. Mike_IUOE

    Mike_IUOE Active Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2019
    Messages:
    35
    Occupation:
    Operating Engineer
    Location:
    St Louis area
    I'm a fan of tracked machines. They are a lot more stable and more enjoyable to run in my opinion. Tires are nice on hard surfaces, but once you get out into softer material its no comparison. They're not good at pushing snow though. It's going to be rough (at least in my area) to get a good machine WITH multiple attachments and stay in your price range, especially if you're looking at a large frame machine like a 299. Do you really need a machine that large? If for just around the house I'd look at Bobcat T630 or T650 or Case TR310 or TV370. They're more a medium sized machine and not near as big and heavy as the Cat 299 or Bobcat T870. I'd get the lowest hours you can get... like ideally under 1000. In my experience once they get over 3000 they can be a real money pit. I got a deal on a Bobcat T300 with 3200 hrs on it. It was fine at first but it seemed to be one thing after another with it. By the time I was done, the money I spent on it could have bought a newer waaay lower hour machine. Most of the contractors I've worked for seem to trade them off in the 2500 - 3000 hr range. A Bobcat salesman told me that the trade in value really drops once it hit the 3k hour mark.
     
    DMiller likes this.
  4. koselig

    koselig Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2020
    Messages:
    20
    Location:
    Two Harbors, MN
    Thanks for your responses guys!
    Okay cool - so we focus on ~74hp machines. Adding a high-flow requirement sounds good, but I don't know how to filter listings by that necessarily unless I pick specific models/terms (like Cat XHP), right?

    @Mike_IUOE I really don't know if I need a machine as large as a 299. I am sure I could use it, our property is mostly wild, but it's also somewhat tight quarters until we push back the woods a bit. So between that factor, the >75hp engine issue, and the face that 299/svl90/T870 class machines are probably not practical for me to tow, I think I should put that option aside. I only considered it initially because there is a 2014 299D for sale with 3681hr for $29950. But I don't know it's history. I will check out the specific models you suggested! It seems like <1000hr is really hard to find for less than 40-50k+. I appreciate the advice on the 3000+hr, I kind of suspected that might be the case... diminishing returns.

    Regarding tracks - my thinking is that even if it isn't ideal in the snow, I am figuring it will be better all-around, especially in the soft mud/clay shoulder seasons. But @KSSS I get what you are saying that I could end up with an expensive maintenance visit within 1-2yr which would defeat the purpose of this purchase. That would not be good. Maybe if we focus on lower-end MTL's there might be something new enough in the 1-2000hr range which would give us some runway before it needs that maintenance?

    And yes - I am only looking at enclosed cabs.

    Should I consider buying a machine from a Southern state and having it shipped (~$1000) to MN? Or is that unwise? Any other tricks to finding used?
     
  5. Mike_IUOE

    Mike_IUOE Active Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2019
    Messages:
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    Occupation:
    Operating Engineer
    Location:
    St Louis area
    Its hard buying one out of state unless you can go look at it and see its true condition. Even then if you dont know much about the machines, its probably a good idea to find a dealer or mechanic that can inspect it for you. A few hundred to inspect a machine isn't really that much considering how much the machine costs. Most of my experience is with Bobcat and the dealers in my area give an option to buy an extended warranty on the machine. Usually around $800- 1000 for 300 hrs or 1 year. Sometimes they'll throw it in if they really want the sale.

    The best thing to do is contact the dealers in your area and demo the machine. It will give you a good feel for it and you'll be able to see if its a good fit for what you need it to do. Even if you don't buy from them it give you an idea of what size and type of machine you need.
     
    DMiller likes this.
  6. KSSS

    KSSS Senior Member

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    I am sure you can find something in Mn or very near you. If you want tracks I would try and find something around 1K hours up to 2K, but would not go over that personally. I like to trade mine out at 1500 hours. I like the CASE TR310 and the TV370, in full disclosure, I had a 310 on a long term rent and have run the 370 but never owned either one. The 310 is a midsized radial lift machine 74 hp, the 370 is a large frame machine with a vertical lift path. Doesn't sound like your loading trucks so radial would be fine, but probably would not matter for you one way or another. The CAT equivalent is a 289D. What I like about CNH (includes New Holland) is that they are DOC only under 75HP, they do not have a DPF. I think that is a pretty powerful selling point. I agree with Mike, do some demo's, talk to dealers and see who you would like to do business with and who's machine feels right to you. It will be pretty quiet in most dealerships for the next couple months, good time to shop, you might find a great deal as well. The end of the year purchases have been made, so anything still sitting is going to sit until Spring, especially in Mn. That is a good situation for you to be in.
     
  7. koselig

    koselig Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2020
    Messages:
    20
    Location:
    Two Harbors, MN
    Hi guys, quick update. A local owner/operator who I trust is selling his personal 2015 Kubota SVL90-2 with roughly 800hr for $45k. It looks essentially like new. I like the idea of purchasing from someone I know and trust, although with implements this will be way over my original planned budget. Also, I do think I would need new tracks in order to feel confident on our sloped driveway.

    How does that sound? Any thoughts on maintenance on the Kubota? I see the radiator tip-out. But generally the reviews sound great for this unit.

    His recommendation was to hire out hauling it when I need it at the lake property for $1-200 each time vs. worrying about a trailer, licensing, etc. and this does make sense to me. That is why I am not as worried about the larger machine.

    Thoughts?
     
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  8. Canuck Digger

    Canuck Digger Well-Known Member

    Joined:
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    Occupation:
    Business Owner, Equipment Operator, Fishing Guide
    Location:
    Mission, BC, Canada
    The SVL90 is a good machine. I've run one. My thoughts are for your purpose, you'd be better off going with a wheel machine and OTT tracks/chains. As great as track machines are, in my OPINION, you will not get the same life span and your maintenance costs will be double on a track machine. Most issues with the newer machines must be dealt with by the dealer. Most of the older machines, you can figure it out on your own. If you do want a track machine, I'd aim to get something pre emissions, circa of 2010-13; if you go that route, Takeuchi and Gehl would be on top of my list. Most models pre 2010 or so were prone to drive motor issues, so be careful there. Have a look across the border in Canada. With the $US you might be able to get a real good deal north. If you're a contractor and can bill the track machine at full rate, different story.
    Hiring out the haul of the machine is a pain. You're always on someone elses schedule. Can get frustrating. If you go the wheel machine route, I'd look for a bobcat S220/50, Case 445/50 or similar. Guys that maintain them get upwards of 6k plus hours out of these things. Good luck
     
    DMiller likes this.
  9. DIYDAVE

    DIYDAVE Senior Member

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    Take a look at ASV RC-30's, in your area. I think their mfg plant is in grand rapids. You might be able to rent one first, too. As they age/get more hrs on them, there are things that wear, though. An ASV and 3-4 attachments, will not overload a 1 ton, pulling a 6K trailer. A lot of times, you can rent the attachments, too, so get the basics, grapple bucket, dirt bucket, would be first on the list...;)
     
  10. KSSS

    KSSS Senior Member

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    Location:
    Idaho
    I would agree with Canuck, and try and go pre emission which includes T4i and find a T3 or a newer under 75 hp machine. I think your hard pressed as it sounds to justify a 90 hp machine and if are not going to work it, T4i and T4F can be an issue, Kubota has issues even if you do work them. Judging by the year I would guess that to be a T4i, but I cant say for certain. It would be tempting to buy a machine you know, but the guy isn't going to pay to maintain it once its yours, if you have the money and dont mind throwing some at it if you have emission issues, that would be a perhaps a different story.
     
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  11. DMiller

    DMiller Senior Member

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    Location:
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    For a Novice, rubber tire and OTT Tracks or just basic chains will do you a better traction than any track machine and teach you as you need to learn the nuances of operating. Track can be great but also unforgiving as in Snow, once hung they are a chore to unstick.
     
  12. koselig

    koselig Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2020
    Messages:
    20
    Location:
    Two Harbors, MN
    Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful comments!

    I definitely get the recommendations to look at wheel machines. I am not at all opposed to that, and despite my inexperience can totally see how tires with chains would be ideal on the snow/ice (our current Toyota 4x4 with chains has demonstrated that for 4 winters). But our property is quite wild with slopes, heavily forested areas, a lot of remaining brush, and an Alaska-like muddy season given our location along glacial moraine slopes inland from Lake Superior. This is why I still believe tracks would be best overall provided I can figure out a track pattern which would reliably get me back up the driveway after a plow :) Do you think I am completely off base with this assumption? I know ASV-style MTL's can be expensive to maintain but I would expect the fixed CTL-style like Bobcat, Kubota, and some of the CAT's should be at least not quite as expensive?

    The suggestion that it would be inconvenient to depend on someone else to haul really resonates, so I'll need a trailer. I would probably do a gooseneck and tow it with our 1999 F350 (7.3). I would not be hauling frequently, just for projects at the lake 70mi away and to the dealer if we need service.

    I do believe the 2015 SVL90-2 is T4i. I think they went T4f with the later SVL95.

    I understand these are large machines. But having a wild property to tame I have a feeling we could make use of it. If I knew of a trusted SVL75 for sale, or maybe a CAT 259D or something, I'd consider that too.

    Since this will effectively be our "tractor" I need to make sure we get as much machine as we can, but of course I don't want to end up with something impossible to haul or too large to get around our property.
     
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  13. check

    check Senior Member

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    Situation similar to yours...I live in Montana, driveway is a mile long and 7 to 8 percent grade. A plow truck is still the best way to keep it clear, Then I clean up with a wheeled skid steer and oversize bucket. A wheeled skid steer is a very useful machine to have around the property. I only have 10K tied up in my Cat 245 (open cab) and have put over 300 hours on it piddling around here. I have a Ford 640 tractor with a 8' back blade, a D4 dozer and a ATV with a plow but still use the plow truck for most of the snow removal.
    Find out if there is a place around you that rents skid steer attachments. It will increase versatility at little extra cost.
     
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  14. JBrady

    JBrady Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    NE OK
    I have a slightly different take on this- I would think about a nice, newer 4WD CUT tractor. Something in the 30-50 hp range. Most of the late model tractors in that range have the standard skid steer hookups on the loader so you can run the same implements. You didn't say how much land you are trying to maintain, but an ag tractor is pretty much a given on most acreages. Don't get me wrong, I cuss pretty much every time I get on my old Case IH, and smile every time I get in my Bobcat, but if you have never really been around heavier equipment, mixing inexperience, hilly terrain, and a skid steer can get you in trouble pretty quick. I also live in a very hilly region, and until you really get the feel of your skid steer, it can be pretty unsettling at times. I don't have to deal with snow, but we get plenty of mud with clay and the 4x4 Case will go places my bobcat wouldn't even think about. It's also nice to put an old $400 brush hog on the back of the tractor and just go to town at some overgrown pasture and not have to worry about overheating my hydraulics or running up the hours on the skid steer. Just my $0.02, other may disagree.
     
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  15. DMiller

    DMiller Senior Member

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    Not much in the way of traction belting for Rubber Track CTLs, they do have a Steel Track set up much as the old Track Loaders yet I have not had the opportunity to see what they are all about. Rubber Tracks are for One sole purpose, Low Ground Pressure where will be the proverbial Hog on Ice in snow on grade. Rubber Tire can add Steel tracks or chains or remove as the need dissipates, conventional rubber track you are stuck with regardless time of day week or year.

    This company offers Aggressive rubber tracks, may wish to consider prices:

    https://www.tracksandtires.com/mach...kUbmzSbbAcyArIETVnYfhjVR_52oUSCxoC_E8QAvD_BwE
     
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  16. koselig

    koselig Member

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    Thanks @DMiller - I had been looking at the zig-zag tracks, I have heard they are not too bad on snow and ice. I know pros use them for plowing all over MN, but I also know for our driveway a plow truck is probably the best for that specific purpose alone. I realize I'm trying to cram a lot of uses into a single machine, but I have to believe a snow blade on a loader of some sort would do a pretty good job.
     
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  17. DIYDAVE

    DIYDAVE Senior Member

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    Remember that rubber tracks can also be used with screw in snow studs, easily available, on the internet. Still best to rent before buying...;)
     
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  18. old-iron-habit

    old-iron-habit Senior Member

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    KSSS, I know you are the skid steer expert so I will address this question to you. Not sure about Koselig's spot in paradise, but Two Harbors and all of the lake shore region of Lake Superior is horrendous sharp shale rock country. A set of log skidder tires will be bald in two years, a set of chain mail chains last about the same. How do CTL tracks hold up in that kind of terrain. I know they have poor traction on ice and hard snow. 90+ percent of the commercial snowplow skid steers here are on rubber with studs.
     
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  19. koselig

    koselig Member

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    hey @old-iron-habit in case you know the area, we are up Drummond Grade straight North from Two Harbors. It was a railroad grade between Two Harbors and Tower until the 1930's. Lake Superior highlands, lots of gravel and rock amongst the moraines as opposed to the ledge rock closer to shore. We are near the Superior Hiking Trail and where the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon runs. Maple syruping country!

    you guys are doing a good job talking me out of it but my original thinking is/was that tracks would be best overall considering all seasons (including working in the clay at the lake property near you in Moose Lake).
     
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  20. old-iron-habit

    old-iron-habit Senior Member

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    Tracks might be the best for you. You know your ground best. I just know that country is real hard on wheels and tracks. Log truck tires to.
     
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