Compact Tractor Transmission Types: Hydrostatic vs. Manual

Posted on November 14, 2019

Understanding the differences between manual and hydrostatic transmission types can make it easier for you to decide which Bobcat® compact tractor is right for you.


Bobcat Company offers an extensive 15-model compact tractor lineup for all kinds of jobs and operators. These do-it-all machines deliver the size and power to match nearly every application for homeowners with acreage, agriculture producers, professional landscapers and grounds maintenance specialists.

Tractor transmission types

Bobcat compact tractors offer four transmission types: manual-shift 9x3 transmission, manual synchro shuttle transmission, hydrostatic transmission (HST) and electronic hydrostatic transmission (E-HST). 

Understanding the differences between manual and hydrostatic transmission types can make it easier for you to decide which Bobcat compact tractor is right for you. Here’s what you need to know so you can select the tractor size and transmission that best fits the work you do on your acreage, farm or ranch.

Manual-Shift 9x3 Transmission – available on CT2025, CT2035, CT2040

Manual-shift transmission is the classic tractor transmission that many people remember from growing up on the farm. The economical, reliable transmission offers nine forward and three reverse gears. Bobcat compact tractors with manual transmission are well-suited to jobs that require constant speed since a manual transmission requires you to stop the tractor to shift gears. 

Manual transmission tractors are a good choice for PTO-demanding work and perform well in large, open areas doing jobs that include straight-line mowing, tilling, spraying, seeding or broadcast spreading.

Manual 8x8 Synchro Shuttle Transmission – available on CT4045, CT4050, CT4055 

Similar to the stick shift on a vehicle, the manual synchro shift transmission provides ease of use for those who prefer a manual transmission with shift-on-the-go functionality. The synchro shuttle transmission allows you to clutch and shift across eight forward and eight rear speeds as you travel. 

Tractors with the synchro shuttle manual transmission provide an increase in PTO horsepower over those with hydrostatic transmission options. The increase improves the efficiency and performance of PTO-demanding work and implements compared to hydrostatic transmission options.

Hydrostatic Transmission (2-range HST and 3-range HST options) – 2-range standard on all 1000 Platform models; 3-range available on CT2025, CT2035, CT2040, CT2535, CT2540, CT4045, CT4050, CT4058

Customers with little experience operating tractors or manual transmissions may be more confident operating a tractor with the hydrostatic transmission (HST). Its similarity to the automatic transmission of a car makes it a good choice for novice tractor operators. 

Instead of gears, HST uses hydraulic pressure to change your speed. Two-range HST tractors offer low and high ranges, while the 3-range HST models offer low, medium and high ranges, for an infinite number of variations of speed and torque within a range. 

A simple independent two-pedal design enables quick and easy direction changes: one pedal moves you forward, the other moves you in reverse. The ability to change direction without sacrificing gears means better performance when maneuverability is essential, such as when cleaning stalls, working around buildings or moving materials. The maximum ease of fast, simple direction changes makes it extremely effective for frequent front-end loader work, mowing or maneuvering in wooded areas while clearing brush. 

The HST tractors offer greater hydraulic performance for front-end loader work versus gear transmission tractors that are better suited to PTO-demanding work. Hydrostatic transmissions are also ideal for grounds maintenance tasks and other jobs of maintaining larger acreages that require a high degree of maneuverability.

Electronic Hydrostatic Transmission (E-HST) – standard on all 5000 platform models

Electronic hydrostatic transmissions (E-HST) offer the simplicity and ease you get with HST – plus the extra functionality of an electronic linked pedal, a speed limit switch and an anti-stall function that prevents engine stall during high-load operations. 

E-HST also includes true cruise control to keep you moving at a constant speed. Even when driving up a slope, there’s no need to adjust the travel pedal to maintain your compact tractor’s momentum. 

Learn more about the full Bobcat compact tractor lineup to find the compact tractor that best suits your needs.

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