The following information is intended to
provide a general overview only.
1. How do I
know what kind of forklift I need?
- Electric forklifts are relatively quiet
and have no fumes. The batteries do require attention; they must be kept
filled with water and charged regularly. When purchasing a used electric
forklift, be aware that two costly components are the battery & the
motors. Try to assure yourself of the condition prior to purchase. This
can be done by having a warranty on the components, or have a reputable
forklift service inspect the motors and take a capacity test on the
battery. Some forklift motors are easier to inspect than others.
Electric forklifts are typically used in the food industry and in
warehouses where aisle spacing is critical. Electric forklifts are most
commonly used as "4-wheeled sit-down", "3-wheeled
sit-down " & "stand-up" styles, although there are
other, more specialized styles available.
- Propane forklifts have an
engine and, as a result, generate some level of fumes. These forklifts
are OSHA approved to be used indoors. Propane forklifts are easy to deal
with in a low use application because you simply change the propane tank
when you run out of fuel. Typically, propane forklifts are a 4-wheeled "sit-down"
style & need a minimum of 12' to right angle stack.
- What type of surface will you be driving on
(i.e.) concrete, asphalt, dirt, gravel. "Cushion (rubber,
indoor) tires are for use on concrete and can be driven on asphalt to a
certain extent. On a very hot day, a cushion-tire forklift may sink in
the asphalt. Pneumatic (air, outdoor) tires are designed for use on
asphalt, hard packed dirt or firm large-stone gravel. These units are
also "higher profile" than cushion forklifts. All-terrain
forklifts, with large tractor-type tires, are needed for work in sand,
loose gravel and for construction sites. No type of forklift works well
in the snow, due to the weight per square foot contacting the ground,
but all-terrains are best.
- How much weight are you lifting, what are the
physical dimensions of the load, how high do you need to lift? In
determining the capacity that you need, keep in mind that typically,
forklifts are rated on a 24" load center. For example, a forklift
rated 5000# will lift a MAXIMUM of 5000# at a 24" load center. As
the forks raise, the capacity goes down. Also, as the load moves away
from the mast of the forklift, the capacity drops off quickly. Width of
the load affects the capacity, but also makes the forklift "tippy".
Height of a load is measured at the forks.
- What are your aisle widths? "Right
angle stacking" is the key to storing pallets on racking. If you
are in a confined area and have aisle spacing less than 11', you will
need a 3-wheeled unit or a stand-up forklift. These are typically
electric forklifts and typically the capacity is 4000# or less. There
are many different specifications available within these categories.
- What determines the price? A warehouse
forklift up to 5000# capacity, either electric or propane, has about the
same value new or used. The pricing is primarily a function of the age,
the condition, the special features and the brand, in that order. If you
want to keep the price down, you need to decide what you are willing to
sacrifice (i.e.) can you live with minor leaks? Do you really need side
- How many hours per week will you use the
forklift? Your usage will help determine which forklift will be most
cost-effective for you. For example, an older forklift can work well
under a low use application. By the same token, if you need a forklift
to be operated 7 hours per day, you should look at a newer unit.
- Will you be driving into tractor-trailers?
Some forklifts are designed to work in tractor-trailers, and others are
- Are you in the food business? If you are
in the food business, you must use an electric forklift.
2. How do I know if I am buying a "good"
used forklift? What is the warranty? Does it have an "ID"
tag-confirm the age with this information? How does it sound when it runs?
Test the brakes. Does it smoke? Does it shift gears/speeds properly? Does
it leak? Will the company allow you to "demo" the unit? Are you
buying it from a reputable company who will service it?
3. What determines the price?
A warehouse forklift up to 5000# capacity, either
electric or propane, has about the same value new or used. The pricing is
primarily a function of the age, the condition, the special features and
the brand. If you want to keep the price down, you need to decide what you
are willing to sacrifice (i.e.) can you live with minor leaks? Do you
really need side shift?