When I was first looking to buy a tractor I started hunting down options and trying to understand, long-term, how some choices panned out for people. I have found lots of experiences here, and now, having been around for a while, recognize names and know some of the history of some of the others on this forum. Great! But when I was new to the forum and tractor research I didn't know the level of experience some had and it was more difficult to know what were the best choices when making a purchase. Hopefully, for somebody looking for a tractor, this post will help to answer some of the questions and confusion they're encountering based on my few years experience.
We've just passed the three-year anniversary of owning a 1025R (and a house and property to use it on). You can see it in my signature, I've a 1025R, H120 loader with a 54" bucket, 260 backhoe, 54" mower, 54" snowblower, and a 647 rototiller. How has each purchase panned out?
647 rototiller: a beast of a rototiller, it chews through hard clay like it's soft butter and makes walk-behind tillers look like a child's toy. We bought the tiller with the tractor (as we did for all of the attachments) in December when we bought the house, and while we knew gardening would be a significant interest to us, we didn't consider what our dirt might actually look like. Under the layers of leaves from years of unkept property we found grass that hardly grows because the topsoil layer is so thin and there's nothing but clay beneath it. It doesn't matter how much you till clay it still is hard and nothing grows in it. We've used the tiller a number of times in different areas turn the dirt but it's yielded few areas of good growable soil. In hindsight, if we knew how poor the soil was I would not have purchased the tiller. We've been building raised beds for most things.
54" front-mount snowblower: this is similar to the rototiller in that it eats up and spits out snow in a way that makes walk-behind snowblowers look like toys. We've got a twisting driveway with a circle in it, totally 250-275 feet in length. The snowblower is definitely the best way to move any notable amount of snow. But for, say, 3" or less, I can run through the driveway much more quickly with the loader, just pushing that thin layer of snow out of the way. Also surprisingly important is that you can't make a pile of snow with a snowblower. I can make big piles with the loader, which is often very much fun for my 8-year-old son. Certainly building piles of snow isn't the goal when the driveway is packed, but being able to provide my son with entertainment for sledding or fort-building means quiet time for mom and dad, which is also important! The snowblower is great but I'm not sure that it's a good fit for us. With a dirt driveway, large rocks that have been heaved up by frost, and many big trees around, the snowblower has been a bit of a chore to use. I've broken many, many shear pins, destroyed the impeller by feeding it a widowmaker log buried under the snow, and picked up a roughly 30 pound rock in one of the augers. I'm sure the snowblower would be a better choice for someone with a paved driveway. Getting the driveshaft and quick hitch pieces together takes a bit more effort than I'd like. Not really terribly hard, but certainly more effort than the other attachments.
54D mower: I chose this over the 60" simply because we have gates that open to about 58". It's worked well and gives a nice cut. Driving over to connect it is just as easy as the videos portray. I take the deck on and off a few times over the summer and don't hesitate to do so because it really will only take a few minutes. Reaching up to connect the driveshaft is pretty easy. (I do not have the AutoConnect system because I'd have to take it off to mount the snowblower anyway.)
260 backhoe: I didn't need this and debated skipping it. Renting a small excavator when needed would be less expensive, right? But between the ability to do things whenever I wanted (not only when we rented an excavator) and simply the coolness factor of being able to say "I have a backhoe" we went for it. I'm thrilled we did! In a somewhat surprising move, it has proven to be an excellent ballast for the loader and has seen lots of use to help me get unstuck from mud. For actually digging, it's loads of fun but definitely is a small backhoe. You can do a lot with it but it takes time and experience to use well. On and off are super easy, and I don't hesitate to drop it or pick it up any time because it'll only take a few minutes to unhook/hook-up (ok, after some practice). Most importantly, I'm happy to have it for the long-term. I didn't buy it for the projects I could do in the first year of owning the tractor, nor even the first five years. I intend to keep making use of it for decades and feel confident it's going to prove it's worth over that long term.
H120 loader: a must have. We were considering smaller tractors and I didn't think I really had need of a loader. When we decided a 1023E or 1025R might be worthwhile for us we were still not sure a loader would be worthwhile. I found many compelling arguments for it and also thought it would work well for snow removal. If I knew then how valuable I would find it now, I would be laughing at myself for debating about it. Now, I can't imagine owning a tractor without a loader. On and off are super easy -- literally two minutes.
And the 1025R itself: a great purchase. It sips diesel, has loads of power, and does everything I need it to. The tilt steering wheel is the thing that really caught my attention over the 1025R, and I'm glad to have sprung for it because getting on and off is so much easier thanks to it. I have found the cup holder to be adequate storage for me; the toolbox is largely unused. I'm disappointed to say that three years in, I still haven't broken 100 hours on the tractor (98.2 hours right now, I believe). I really thought I'd run it for a much longer amount of time by now. However, I am thrilled with how much work it has let me accomplish in so little time. A better measure would be to say look at how much work it's let me do in less than 100 hours!