Tips

Buying a Forklift - Frequently Asked Questions


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 shift?
  • 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 not.
  • 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?

Note:

Be sure to check into the capacity of the battery when buying an electric forklift. A new battery is rated at 100%. This means it will go aproximatly 6 hours on a full charge. Batteries rated under 60% are a red flag. If the seller is unsure of the capacity, have him run a capacity test. We run a capacity test on all our electric forklift batteries. Our goal is to have the batteries rated at 80% or greater. We warranty all our batteries for 6 months.