John Hughes has a small hobby farm in the rolling hills of Narre Warren East, Victoria. In addition to the usual tasks of carting hay, collecting firewood and keeping the driveway graded, he had a big drainage project coming up so he decided it was time to look at a new tractor.
John is of Scottish descent so he likes to be canny with his money. He had seen various ads for Chinese tractors at significant savings compared to their Korean, Japanese and European counterparts. But the question was – is it worth taking the risk? We’ve all heard the horror stories of cheap, poor quality product coming out of China.
This is his story of how he decided to buy a Chinese tractor. Yes it’s true I did have some concern about a Chinese machine but I have also had some pretty good experiences with Chinese products (power tools, pumps, and a little petrol driven generator) so I decided it was worth investigating properly.
The first thing I discovered is it is possible to purchase a tractor directly from a Chinese factory and they will ship it for you. Once you pay duty, there still are some savings but the thought of having to fork out that amount of money without seeing the product first or having to deal with a Chinese factory directly if something went wrong just did not seem to be an acceptable risk for me.
So I narrowed it down to tractors I could purchase through a local distributor. Still the concerns I would have to address were: Will it have sufficient performance and reliability to do the job? Will I be able to get spare parts? Will the people I buy it off still be around in a few years time if I need back up?
I checked out a few brands – when you look at them on paper there is little that separates them in terms of performance or specification. And the reality is they are all pretty close in price. Much more is to be learnt when you see them at the dealership. These are some of the things that I think are worthwhile finding out.
- Is the distributor a tractor specialist or are they bringing in a few tractors as a sideline? If they have a yard or a showroom with a good stock of tractors and implements on display this will give you a pretty good idea.
- Find out how long the distributor has been bringing this brand into the country. If they have been at it for a few years they must be pretty happy with them and they would have had the time to iron out any bugs.
- Check out their spare parts price list. Does it appear to be comprehensive? Ask do they carry them in stock or do they have to be ordered from China. Even ask them to show you their stocks of spare parts!
- Ask to see their workshop. If it looks well organised and stocked this will give you an indication of how serious they are about their back up.
- Find out about their policies and procedures on quality control and warranty. If they can quote a formal policy there is probably some substance to it.
As you can see from the photos I ended up choosing East Wind. While each brand had its positives and negatives, the combination of the following factors helped me make my decision.
I have had a bit to do with sourcing products out of Asia. What I have found is the quality of the product is driven by the input of the people bringing it into the country. If they have the expertise to specify exactly what they want – that’s what they’ll get.
Midway Sales, the Australian distributors of East Wind tractors have been bringing them into the country for over 14 years. The people at Midway Sales have been involved in tractors for over 34 years and the second generation of the family is involved in the business. I even found out that they have a representative from the Chinese factory permanently employed in Australia managing quality and ensuring their products meet Australian conditions.
I found the East Wind tractors had a superior finish over other tractors I saw. While a roughly finished tractor may still do the job – it can be an indicator of a manufacturer with less commitment to quality.
I selected a 35 HP 4WD model, because of the great value of the tractor itself I had the pennies in the bank to fit a front end loader and backhoe. This has given me a very versatile machine suitable for tackling many projects around the farm.