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Forklift Equipment

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Forklift Buying Guide

Forklifts have been around since the early 20th century, when they were used to move luggage around train stations. Since that time, the forklift has evolved into a variety of designs for a wide range of uses. These designs include hand-pallet trucks, rider low-lift trucks, towing tractors, electric forklifts, and others. Forklifts make manual labor easier and save time and money. They also make heavy lifting jobs a lot safer for employees, greatly reducing the chances of injury.

With a forklift, an employee can easily move heavy objects from place to place, and as the name implies, they can lift heavy objects and place them on shelves above the ground. They can also use forklifts to bring heavy objects down from high places to lower shelves or to floor level. They are used in warehouses, loading docks, construction areas, and many other locations for a variety of heavy lifting jobs.

Capacity and Height

There are a couple of ways you can break down forklifts into categories. You can do it according to fuel type (more on that in just a little bit), or you can do it based on the size of the machine. Forklifts can be small, medium, or large. The small machines are generally powered by rechargeable batteries and run on electricity. Starting capacities for small machine are generally about 3,000 pounds. “Height” when classifying forklifts refers to the height the machine can reach, not the height of the machine itself. If you need the forklift mostly to ferry objects back and forth, and to lift a short distance, a small forklift with a low height may be suitable.

Forklifts can also be medium or large, and may carry up to 120,000 pounds at the upper end. For construction sites where heavy lifting is required, a large, high-capacity forklift may be necessary. Medium and large forklifts may also offer more height, which may be necessary in warehouses, showrooms, and construction sites. You will want to measure the exact height you will need to be able to reach with your forklift before you go out and buy one. Also keep in mind that you may need more height in the future. It is better to be safe than sorry, so go with a machine that is going to offer you a little more height and capacity than you expect to use.

Fuel Options

While small forklifts are usually powered by electricity, medium-sized forklifts are usually fueled by propane. Large-capacity forklifts generally are powered by gas or diesel. There are pros and cons for each. Electricity is great because it is economical and also produces no emissions, making it great for indoor use. These forklifts operate quietly as well. While the batteries will typically get you through an eight-hour shift, they take about the same length of time to recharge, plus an additional eight hours to cool down. You will need to be able to set up a charging station in order to use batteries.

Forklifts which run on diesel, propane, or gas provide you with less downtime, since you do not need to wait for anything to recharge. All you need to do is refuel them when you run dry. These power options are used for larger-capacity forklifts and allow you to lift more weight. The drawbacks are high operating costs and emissions. You will need to weigh all these pros and cons when selecting a machine. If you are looking for something that lifts 10,000 to 15,000 pounds, you probably want an electric lift. For a higher-capacity lift, you will probably get an internal combustion model. Think about refueling time, costs, and indoor vs. outdoor use.


A number of factors weigh into the price of a forklift. Electric forklifts cost more than internal combustion models. Certain brand names carry a higher price. New forklifts will cause more than used forklifts. Forklifts with higher capacities and capabilities will generally be more expensive. You also may pay more or less depending on your location.

You can expect to pay around $20,000 to $25,000 for a brand new electric forklift with a 5,000-pound capacity. A battery will run you another $2,500 to $5,000. A battery transporter will add another $5,000 or so. An internal combustion lift with the same capacity will cost somewhere between $20,000 to $36,000. Again, you will pay more for additional capacity and lifting height. If you are looking to save money, look for a low to mid-range brand or a used forklift.

You will want to not only take initial costs into account, but long-term costs for usage as well. Operating costs for forklifts are ongoing, and generally far more expensive for internal combustion lifts. An electrical machine may only cost about 10% of what an equivalent internal combustion lift costs to operate.

Forklifts Buying Tips

  • Always think about the capacity and height you need before you purchase a forklift. Plan to buy for a machine that offers you slightly more than you expect to use.
  • Think about the operating environment, who will be using the machine, downtime, and expenses before you choose an electric or internal combustion lift. Remember, long-term costs are important to account for, so think about operating the machine. How cost-effective will it be? How convenient or inconvenient will it be?
  • Consider renting before buying. Get a feel for different types of machines and then make up your mind.

Doing your research and taking your time will save your company a lot of time, money, and hassle, and ensure that you purchase the best forklift for your needs. While you are shopping for a forklift, start training your employees, or look for a company that will provide OSHA training. OSHA training will protect your employees by preventing accidents, and will also protect your company should there be one. OSHA training must include practical hands-on training. There is no other way to earn a certification, so keep that in mind. You may be able to receive customer on board instruction from the same company you buy your forklift from.

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