Is ProDrive worth its extra cost at auction?

We've analyzed auction prices to find the answer.

By Andy Campbell, TractorZoom.com

I was working with a friend and farmer, Dustin, in northern Iowa whose S670 is getting up in years. He knows his equipment better than anyone I know, and he was still debating over whether to continue to repair the harvester, trade it in, or buy a brand new one.  With so many options available on combines many farmers hit ‘decision fatigue’.

One of his unknowns was transmission options. “Is a ProDrive transmission worth the investment,” he pondered? If you Google that question, you will find yourself swirling down countless message boards with passionate, opposing opinions. We decided to put this question to the analytical test and determine how much residual value farmers saw in a ProDrive. 

There are a great number of reasons why a farmer may want ProDrive: smoother transition of speeds, different handling of hills and terraces, faster open-field and road speeds. 

We analyzed auction values of S670s and the percent premium that models with a ProDrive brought at auction, compared to those with a 3-speed transmission.  Since separator (sep.) hours are one of the biggest determinants of a combine’s resale value, we took this into consideration and looked to see if that "ProDrive Premium” changed as the combine aged and those sep. hours grew. 

Dustin was also contemplating buying new, so I needed that reference point for a ProDrive on a new S670. Though not exactly the newest model, we needed consistency for this analysis.  By calling dealers we found 2015 sales data on an S670 for $421,000, with the ProDrive optioncosting an extra $6,900. This represents 1.5%  to 2% of the sale price. 

Tractor Zoom has built-up a vast database of over 80,000 pieces of equipment with over 100 sales of S670.  Separator hours typically have a large effect on combine values. We accounted for this by measuring the curve that combine values fall on as these separators age. Above is a sample of auction prices on S670’s on the side with sep. hours found at the bottom of the graph. 

Want even more analysis? Here is a comparison of ProDrive vs. 3-speed transmission by 600, 1,200 and 1,800 separator hours. 

600 hrs.  1,200 hrs.  1,800 hrs.
ProDrive $184,455  $130,034 $98,199
3-speed $163,165 $122,087 $98,057
Premium  13%  7% 0%

The results affirm what the ProDrive advocates have been preaching. A ProDrive with 600 separator hours would sell for about $185,000 at auction. Its 3-speed counterpart would go for just $163,000. That 13% premium is greater than even the higher-priced option cost and percentage I found earlier! This indicates that those seeking combines at auctions do value this newer transmission type, if there is some life left in them. 

As the combine ages, so does excitement for the ProDrive. So much that it is essentially negligible at 1,800 hours. A likely explanation is the cost to repair a ProDrive. 

I find it is always important to filter down by auction type. Retirement auctions tend to bring higher premiums. Consignment sales tend to be lower and represent the market value floor. The unexpected challenge I discovered was that few S670 with 3-speed combines hit the retirement market. Conversely, very few ProDrive models  sold at consignment. This discrepancy is significant, but the cause is not as clear. Not yet. At least I can now tell Dustin to check out those retirement auctions for a combine with a ProDrive.

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