It was very clear why Owen decided to buy C-3PO:

OWEN: What I really need is a droid who understands the binary language of moisture vaporators.

But they appeared to be really interested in acquiring an astromech droid since when the first one (R5-D4) blew up because of a bad motivator, they decided to get R2-D2.

What use would they have for an astromech droid?

  • 7
    Maybe they all come with the universal plug, which RDD2 uses in many occasions, to reprogram these vaporators
    – Thomas
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 15:16
  • 6
    Actually, Owen didn't buy another R2-unit, he bought an R5-D4. Although Luke (and possibly Owen as well) may have mistaken it for an R2-AG4.
    – SQB
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 15:35
  • 4
    Oh, I didn't know that. I was mislead by Luke's "This R2 unit has a bad motivator"
    – LcSalazar
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 15:36
  • 10
    Nitpick: Moisture vaporators. Basically the opposite of evaporator.
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 17:44
  • 2
    It seems like a very vital thing to have a droid that understands the binary language of moisture vaporators when you work on a moisture farm. The real question is, why didn't they already have one? Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 21:53

3 Answers 3


I agree it seems strange. R2 droids are specifically engineered to work on starfighters

this rounded, waist-high droid was made specifically to fit in military starfighter astromech slots

However, it probably retains the general purpose of an astromech droid:

a type of droid that served as an automated mechanic, performing a variety of repair duties

which means it would be handy to have around in a semi industrialized agricultural environment. We also see that R2 series is very high quality.

So this is a bit like buying the highest quality Swiss Army Knife -- sure it's engineered for military use, but it is handy in many other situations. Or maybe imagine buying a Humvee -- could be handy for some kinds of rural work.

Update: as @SQB pointed out above, Owen originally went for an R5 unit, which is the low cost budget version of the R2. Perhaps he gravitated to the R5 first out of frugal farmer instincts, but R2D2 (as a used unit) was a tolerable price.

  • 18
    That, and he might've gotten a discount for almost getting swindled by the Jawas.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 19:03
  • 5
    @Zibbobz I was also thinking that Tatooine has low demand for such droids, so they may be sold cheap when you find them.
    – user15742
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 21:31
  • 1
    To add to there rebels also uses astromechs for repairs on ground (imperial astros) and as messengers,...
    – Thomas
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 18:40

Interestingly, the novelization describes the droid Owen originally selected differently. He originally selected an agricultural droid.

Downcast, Luke directed his words irritably to Threepio and the small agricultural robot. He knew better than to argue with his uncle.


A minute later, something pinged sharply nearby. Glancing down, Luke saw that a head plate had popped off the top of the agricultural 'droid.


Leaning close, Luke peered inside the expectorating mechanical. He called out, "Uncle Owen! The servomotor-central on this cultivator unit is shot. Look..."


Breaking off the argument without taking his attention from the jawa, his uncle glanced quickly at him. Luke gestured toward Artoo Detoo. "We don't want any trouble. What about swapping this --" he indicated the burned-out agricultural 'droid -- "for that one?"

So, the Lars didn't need an astromech droid, they settled on one.

  • 1
    Also see my question: did Owen think he was buying an R2-AG at first instead of an R5 series?
    – SQB
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 9:13
  • @SQB yeah, but i see richard has already answered with the same basic info. do you think theres enough difference in the quotes to warrant a new answer there?
    – phantom42
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 11:55
  • No, I meant to say that I think the answer @Richard gave to my question agrees with your answer.
    – SQB
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 12:01
  • @SQB ah, gotcha.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 12:02

If you listen to C3PO's complaints while walking on Tatooine, and read the novelisation of Star Wars, you'll realise that Tatooine is a very harsh environment for a droid, with sand infiltration damage, jawas stealing everything that isn't nailed down (and probably some things that are), and sand people just smashing stuff.

The implication is that droids simply do not last, and the Lars family had a suitable droid, but lost the use of it as the result of one or more of the aforementioned hazards, and from another conversation between Luke and Owen suggests that Luke wanted to go to the academy and couldn't because the family couldn't afford the droids it would take to replace him until just then with their most recent purchase.

Buying two droids may well have been a case of hedging bets against one of the droids suffering a mishap, an eminently reasonable decision, since within about a day, C3PO has had an accident resulting in the loss of an arm.

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