There are several things to consider when buying a tractor. Size, condition, and price are important, but you also need to know what jobs you expect it to handle. For most jobs, you'll need a loader or a 3-point hitch and some implements. To use those implements, you'll need to know the difference between the 3-point hitch categories.
3-point hitch categories tell you what size implements can be used with a specific tractor. Smaller categories like 0 and 1 are typically found on lawn tractors, compact tractors, and sub-compact tractors. As the category number goes up, the implements get bigger and heavier, requiring a larger tractor with sturdier lift arms. The easiest way to differentiate the categories is by the lift arm pin diameter, which ranges from 5/8 in (16 mm) to 2 in (51 mm).
These are the standard size categories:
|Category||Tractor Power||Top link pin diameter||Lift arm pin diameter||Lower hitch spacing|
|0||Up to 20 HP||5⁄8 in (16 mm)||5⁄8 in (16 mm)||20 in (510 mm)|
|1||20-45 HP||3⁄4 in (19 mm)||7⁄8 in (22 mm)||28 in (710 mm)|
|2||40-100 HP||1 in (25 mm)||1 1⁄8 in (29 mm)||34 in (860 mm)|
|3||80-225 HP||1 1⁄4 in (32 mm)||1 7⁄16 in (37 mm)||40 in (1,000 mm)|
|4||More than 180 HP||1 3⁄4 in (44 mm)||2 in (51 mm)||48 in (1,200 mm)|
You may notice some sub-compact tractors, such as the John Deere 1 Series, have a "limited" category 1 hitch. This indicates that the hitch is lower to the ground and may not lift as high or open as wide as standard full-size category 1 hitches. Some implements are made specifically to work with limited category 1 hitches, like the Frontier BB20L Box Blade or Frontier RB20L Rear Blade.
Anyone who has used a 3-point hitch will agree that they can be a pain to deal with. Quick hitches take that pain away, allowing operators to hook up implements without leaving the seat. Quick hitches are made to fit standard hitch categories, like the John Deere iMatch Quick Hitch which fits category 1 and limited category 1 3-point hitches.