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Gas vs Diesel Tractors: Key Differences and How To Choose

Gas vs Diesel Tractors: Key Differences and How To Choose

Tractors are extremely important to agriculture. If you have your own farm, they are an essential part of your everyday life. So it’s important to know what kind of tractor is going to benefit you the most.

When deciding between buying a gas or diesel tractor, the initial cost, cost and use of fuel, durability, lifespan, power, and adaptability of the machine are all things that must first be considered. However, in almost every situation, diesel tractors are the better option.

To help you figure out which tractor would work best for you, we will look at the key differences between gas and diesel tractors in pro and con lists.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Gas Tractor

Pros:

  • You can get a gas tractor for fairly cheap, and although this is a seemingly small advantage, gas tractors and lawnmowers both run on gasoline. By having both your lawnmower and tractor on the same fuel, you’re killing two birds with one stone. This is a matter of slight convenience, but it can make a big difference for some.
  • If having an old farm aesthetic is important to you, buying a gas tractor will certainly add to it. They can have sentimental value that no diesel tractor can replicate.
  • Gasoline is cheaper than diesel.

Cons

  • They burn a lot of fuel really quickly. You will be buying more gas more often if you’re using a gas tractor.
  • Gas tractors are notoriously known for having bad resale value. As soon as it’s been used, no one will want to buy it from you because gas tractors have much shorter lifespans than diesel.
  • The design of gas tractors greatly limits any attachments or implements that you would want to add.
  • The older the gas tractor, the harder it is to find parts for it, making repairs difficult or even impossible.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Diesel Tractor

Benefits of diesel over gas for a tractor include a longer-lasting machine, less fuel use, and more attachment options.

Pros

  • First and foremost, diesel engines were specifically designed to last longer and produce more power than gas engines.
  • Diesel tractors take less fuel to do more than gas tractors can.
  • They can use significantly more attachments.

Cons

  • Diesel tractors are more expensive upfront. (Because they last longer and are more durable.)
  • Diesel fuel is more expensive.
  • Repairs are also more expensive.

Why Do Diesel Tractors Last Longer?

One reason diesel tractors last longer is because they have water-cooled engines. Ultimately, water-cooled engines run at more consistent and cool temperatures, thus reducing internal damage and extending the engine’s life (source).

Another reason they last longer is because they have fewer parts that are going to wear out quickly. Namely, diesel engines don’t have spark plugs, rotors, points, distributor caps, or a carburetor.

The diesel tractor’s lack of a carburetor is significant because carburetors are prone to gumming up after being stored for lengthy amounts of time, making them much harder to start when you finally do bring it out. Because of this, a diesel tractor can be stored for a very long period of time and start up again as if it had never stopped.

“A properly maintained diesel engine can easily run 10,000 hours or more without being overhauled.”

(Source)

How Do Diesel Tractors Produce More Power?

Tractors are rated in horsepower. On the surface, gasoline-fueled tractors are the more powerful option. However, looking at how they use that power to perform, diesel is much more effective.

Most gas garden tractors hit their peak amount of horsepower at 3000 RPM, but then the horsepower quickly decreases below that. Most diesel tractors hit their peak at 1500 RPM and can maintain their horsepower throughout their rpm range.

Therefore, when a gas tractor encounters a more difficult load, the rpm will fall and so will the horsepower. Because the horsepower is dramatically decreasing, the tractor will have difficulty keeping the RPMs up, and so those will fall as well. Once the horsepower and RPMs are low enough, the engine will stall.

Diesel tractors avoid that pitfall by having a more steady and consistent ability to generate horsepower. When the tractor encounters a difficult load the RPMs will begin to fall (like the gas tractor) but will only drop about 500 RPM. Then, the tractor’s RPMs plateau because the tractor is still producing horsepower. Thus, the diesel tractor will continue to effectively manage the load and not stall.

Summary: Side-by-Side Recap

As unfortunate as it is, with the great advances in diesel tractors there is almost no reason to buy a gas tractor anymore. In just about every category diesel tractors are superior.

Initial Cost: Gas tractors are less expensive upfront.

Cost of Fuel: Gasoline is cheaper than diesel fuel.

Use of Fuel: Diesel tractors use way less fuel than gas tractors. Thus reducing the significance of gasoline being cheaper because you’ll have to buy more gasoline more often anyways.

Durability: Diesel tractors are much more durable when considering both consistent usage and being stored for lengthy periods of time.

Lifespan: Diesel tractors last drastically longer than gas tractors.

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Power Production: Diesel tractors produce more power than gas tractors due to their ability to maintain horsepower, despite managing difficult loads.

Adaptability: Diesel tractors can easily add attachments and different implements to make the machine more useful as a whole.

Our Recommendation

Due to the obvious advantages of having a diesel tractor, you should probably choose that one!

Perhaps the only reason someone should be seriously considering using a gas tractor instead is if the gas tractor has become something of a family heirloom. Trading granddad’s old gasoline-powered tractor out for a diesel tractor would be more effective and efficient, but not nearly as nostalgic or sentimentally valuable.

Regardless of why you end up choosing a diesel tractor, it will be a great asset that will last for many years to come. They certainly are the more future-proofed option when you think about new/updated attachments that will come out and the need to find parts for repairs. You also will be spending less money in the long run, who doesn’t want to save money for an objectively better product?

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