A tractor is like a best friend – always there to help you and never let you down, so buying a tractor is a big decision. They cost as much as a car and are expected to last nearly a lifetime. I have spent a few years looking for the perfect tractor for my yard, which is just shy of an acre. My eyes have been focused on major brands such as John Deere and Kubota. They both offer great traditional tractors. Earlier this year, a company called Ventrac reached out to us and invited us to Orrville, Ohio to see what Ventrac is all about. I have seen Ventrac tractors on the internet, but didn’t know what to think. They looked somewhat dated and kind of like an oversized garden tractor. Before we knew it, we were on a plane to Ohio (I had about 1 hour of sleep the night before and my partner in crime Eric was recovering from the flu!). We were zombies when we arrived at the Ventrac factory.
As soon as we walked in we were greeted by employees and even some family members of Ventrac. They walked us into a conference room where they had a half assembled 4500Z that they use for training. The first thing I noticed was the thickness of the steel and quality of the components. It was top notch commercial grade all the way. The entire tractor is designed to be weatherproof and rugged. It is powder coated and every electrical connector has a rubber gasket to keep moisture out. The accessories are plug and play, and they are prewired into the loom which keeps the factory harness intact and protected from the elements. I was amazed at all of the wires and hoses that run through this tractor. On the firewall of the motor there is a box with red LED lights. If there ever is a fault, one of these red LED lights will tell you exactly where the trouble is. The dash gives you a nice digital readout that is easy to read. The speedometer is digital and gives you exact MPH, like 8.1 MPH or 8.4 MPH.
Next, we went out on the production floor to watch precision cutting machines cut out the thick steel pieces that make up the tractors. Ventrac has 2 main models that come in a variety of configurations. For this article we’re focusing on the king of the hill 4500Z, which is powered by a Kubota 32.5hp gas motor (the motor can also run on propane for you environmentalists out there). After the tractors are built, a worker goes full speed forward and slams the tractor into reverse a few times to test for failure. You can custom order your Ventrac pretty much anyway you want it. Our 4500Z came with the optional category one 3 point hitch and 4 rear hydraulic ports. Originally, ours had two ports but we had the dealer install two more up front.
In the final part of our trip we got to play with the test units they had on hand. They took us out back to a huge playground of tractors and accessories. We received a brief intro on how to operate them and we were off! The Ventrac is operated with a steering wheel and a lever. They call the lever SDLA or the Speed, Direction, Lift and Auxiliary lever. It basically controls everything in one spot and is very intuitive. Overall, it was exciting to see an American company building a quality product right here at home. It was obvious that each and every one of those employees were proud to be a part of the Ventrac team.
The Ventrac is very easy to operate and we quickly got the hang of it. After we felt more comfortable, we were taken to “the 45 degree slope” that Ventrac uses to test their tractors (it is known for its 45 degree slope capability). Now I don’t know if any of you have been on this steep of a slope, but it is quite scary. It took me a while to be able to drive the Ventrac down the slope, but once I worked up the courage I was amazed with the handling. The Ventrac grips the hill like glue. Not many tractors, if any, can operate as steep as a Ventrac. Our test unit had the 8 wheel configuration which makes the wheel base wider. We were using an Aerator attachment and at one point I felt it start to slide down the steep slope. Little did I know, the Ventrac has a weight transfer lever. This ingenious lever uses springs to transfer the weight to the front wheels of the tractor which gave us more gripping power and eliminated any sliding caused by the heavy attachment.
We then got a brief introduction to the rest of the attachments for the Ventrac and were able to play with them. Ventrac has over 30 attachments for this tractor, from snow blowers to mowers – they pretty much have it all! The great thing about these attachments is how easy they attach, a single person could do it. You simply drive up and align 2 pins and you are all set! Sometimes you have to wiggle the tractor onto the pins but it still attaches rather easily. By the end of the day I knew I just had to have a Ventrac.
A few weeks later our 4500Z arrived with a finish mower attachment, a scoop bucket and a stump grinder. The first thing I noticed about the Ventrac is how it doesn’t tear up the grass, which is unheard of for an all wheel drive machine! The articulation basically leaves no tracks. I can honestly say I have never been more excited to mow my lawn as I was that day when I attached the 60” finish mower to it. I noticed a few advantages right away, one being that the out front design allowed me to get under trees. Also, the deck of the mower can be tilted for servicing and cleaning. I truly have never seen a better end result as I have when using the Ventrac. It leaves perfect lines every time thanks to the long steel roller than runs over the grass. The mower is powered by the front belt PTO and is attached in seconds via a lever that moves the pulley in and allows the belt to slip on. The entire deck is powder coated and there are Zerk fittings just about everywhere there is movement.
The next project we had in store was to remove some stumps from the yard. We quickly hooked up the stump grinder and got to work. The tractor uses the articulation to move the grinder from side to side to grind down the log. Above the grinder is a mirror that allows you to see what you are doing. It took me a few minutes to get acclimated to the view and shortly after I was quite comfortable with it. There were a few times that I dropped the grinder too deep on the log and stalled it – the loud squeal and smoke is what alerted me. When abruptly stopped, all of the energy goes to the belt at the PTO connection. Basically, the worst you can do is wreck a belt, which eventually I did. I probably removed about 20 or so stumps for friends and neighbors. I even took out a cottonwood stump that was at least five feet in diameter. The Ventrac took every bit of it without a hiccup. Once thing I did notice, however, was that after repeated articulating in the same spot, the tractor would leave imprints in the existing grass.
Finally, we attached the power bucket – now time for some fun! First we started loading it with bags of dirt to fill the stumps we had grinded. I also had some rose bushes that needed to be removed, and I was able to dig right under them with the bucket. It took a little bit of work to break up the ground and get under them, but the tractor accomplished it without any problem. I went on to dig out some flower beds for a neighbor, and returned to spread dirt across a low lying fence line. After hours of running through the yard I thought for sure there would be tracks, but there were none. The only limitation we noticed was when we were loading mulch on the trailer. Since the bucket remains low we were unable to lift up over the sides. We did work around this by driving the Ventrac up the existing pile and continued stacking. If you need high loading capabilities, Ventrac does offer a loader attachment.
Essentially, the Ventrac is 30+ machines in one and completes every task like a pro. The Ventrac is even used by municipalities around the world to keep city sidewalks and parks clear of snow, using either a plow or snowblower attachment. We used it to help out a local boat marina for a week and they loved it so much they wanted to keep it! It launched boats with ease – including some double the weight of the tractor! It had the power and grip to pull out the boats, even a wet ramp. The marina crew was very impressed, to say the least.
Overall the Ventrac 4500Z has impressed me with its function and quality. If I could change anything about the Ventrac, I would like to see a rear PTO and perhaps a different configuration of the headlights. They tend to easily move out of place and it makes the tractor look a bit dated. That being said I don’t think I could ever go back to a standard tractor. The quality and usability of this tractor completely outshines anything else I have seen on the market. Check them out for yourself – www.ventrac.com