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Now is the time to buy a platform

Machinery Insider 11/05/2013 @ 9:06am The Successful Farming/Agriculture.com Machinery Insider is your source for all the latest auction price data and analysis on the used farm machinery marketplace.

If your cutting platform is getting long in the tooth or you’re looking to upgrade to a wider head, now is the time to be looking for a deal on a late-model used replacement. My certainty of this fact was borne out by a shopping trip I took to Marion, South Dakota.

Marion is home to Wieman Auction (wiemanauction.com), which holds a massive consignment sale each year before harvest. By massive, I mean that nearly 140 corn heads or platforms sold in a day in addition to hundreds of combines, tractors, tillage equipment, and more. Acres of iron were up for sale.

Prior to the Wieman sale, I had been researching the prices of used combines. Word was circulating that we were heading for an oversupply of good used harvesters.

An abundance of cutting platforms

So I headed to the auction to see what was happening in the field and discovered that harvester prices had slumped somewhat. What caught my eye at this sale were the abundance and the price of good used platforms.

I staked out John Deere 635F HydraFlex (35-foot flexing) heads for comparison. There were two of them sitting back-to-back at the auction: a 2009 and a 2010 model, both in excellent shape.

Before the sale, I had gathered price data on 635Fs for comparison, selecting only heads built after 2009 and discovered two things:

  • Between June 2012 and October 2012, such platforms were selling for an average of $22,938.

  • Between November 2012 and March 2013, similar units averaged $20,346.

That certainly represents a drop in price. Because late winter is not a prime time for header sales, what would the two platforms I was comparing go for just prior to harvest when such iron is in highest demand?

The 2009 unit had a final bid of $19,000; the 2010 platform brought $19,750.

That is definitely a trend. To confirm my suspicions, when I got back to the office, I accumulated final bids on 24 model 635Fs that sold from June to October 2013. (See the details in the “Pocket Price Guide.”)

A 25% drop in price

The average price of all these heads (including the “Never been in the field” head that sold for $38,000) was $17,397. That represents a 25% decrease in value in just one year.

A quick review of similar-size competitive platforms confirmed that after years of record-high bids, good used platforms were now a bargain.

If platforms were selling at a discount prior to harvest (when I accumulated these values), they are certain to be even a better deal this winter when you are often less apt to buy harvest gear.

To be fair, I had assumed platform prices would be soft prior to making this comparison. So a 25% drop is huge.

I queried Derek Wieman of Wieman Auction about the price decline. His explanation was a single word: “Drapers.”

Wieman went on to explain that the high interest in draper platforms the last several years has put downward pressure on conventional auger platforms.

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