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How to Properly and Safely Drive a Subcompact Tractor

We want to help you understand what you need to know to drive a subcompact tractor properly and safely.

And as a quick aside --- we are here to help you purchase a new tractor when the time is right.

Let’s get started.


Tractors come in all sizes --- featuring different engines with varied power. To learn more about selecting a tractor, please click here.

They also come in various types including Garden, Lawn, Subcompact, Compact, and Utility.

Operators have various uses for their tractor. Each use requires a specific implement and PTO (Power Take Off) mechanism.

Some tractors are used for snow plowing and blowing. Others are used with buckets for moving wood, stone, dirt, gravel, or mulch. Some operators attach forks to lift large logs, small dead trees, and other heavy objects. You may need to build a fence or till. And a large amount of tractors are simply used to mow a lawn. The uses are endless.

If you are using a backhoe, we have some excellent safety tips for you here.

All these uses require very specific training which you can get online or through local schools. That is beyond the scope of this article which is focused on driving the tractor only.


Driving a tractor requires three basic steps.

The three steps include:

  • Training

  • Inspection

  • Operation


First and foremost you must be trained extensively on basic tractor operation/safety as well as on the specific equipment you are going to operate.

You can get training from local schools, online resources, local governments, experienced operators, and your tractor dealer.

For farm hands or employees under 16 years old, you must familiarize yourself with OSHA labor standards regarding child labor.

Some jobs involving heavy machinery are too dangerous to be performed by less experienced workers. Better to be safe than sorry.

Please note that the FLSA prohibits anyone under 16 years of age from operating a tractor of over 20 PTO (power-take-off) horsepower, and from connecting or disconnecting implements or parts.

Also --- in some areas, it is necessary to obtain a registration to drive your tractor on the road (i.e.… UK and Australia) while other regions forego registration if your tractor displays reflective caution tape and is clearly visible.

You absolutely must know and understand these items.

Seeing as many smaller tractors come with a bucket, you need to know how to use it. You must be trained and practice.

A bucket is used for many things including:

  • Scooping and moving things such as dirt and gravel.

  • Hauling items such as junk and brush.

Follow proper driving safety when adding a bucket. Never drive with the bucket in the full "up" position. And always remember to raise it into the drive position so it's not dragging in the mud.

Training is a must for understanding and using tractor implements.

Not only do you need to know exactly what implement is right for what usage – you must know how to use your 3-point hitch to secure them properly and safely. You must also understand what to look for as far as damage or other mechanical issues.

Follow these safety precautions:

  • Make sure that nobody is anywhere near the tractor. This includes the front, back, and sides.

  • Back the tractor up slowly.

  • Practice a safe stop --- applying the emergency brake.

  • Put the transmission in neutral.

  • Dismount the tractor and hitch up.

NOTE: If any implements are heavier than the tractor --- make sure the implement has independent brakes that are in good working condition. You must also be trained in how to use them. Drive the tractor very carefully. Use the guidelines outlined in your owner's manual for each implement, attachment, and device.


Before you drive a tractor --- you need to give it a detailed inspection.

This way you can potentially catch a tractor problem, mechanical, or maintenance issue before you start driving.

Click here for a comprehensive list of daily tractor maintenance items.

Here are a few things to look for: