Forklift Purchasing 101: A Guide

Did you know there are approximately 856,000 forklifts in the United States at any given time? A forklift's condensed size and maneuverability, as well as its ability to transport and lift anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 pounds, make it a must-have for businesses everywhere.

If you have been thinking about choosing a forklift, you may see all of the options available and not know where to begin. Let us help you with our ultimate guide to forklift purchasing.

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Forklift Purchasing: Know Your Requirements

You need a forklift that can work in your environment and that fits your work requirements. What is the intended application of the forklift? Consider whether the forklift will work indoors or outdoors, on rough or smooth floors, and what kind of lift heights you need to get.

The kind of materials you need to move will also have an impact on the forklift options you consider. By narrowing down your application and requirement needs, you can narrow your choices to a more manageable level.


To keep narrowing your options down, you need to consider a number of criteria. Let us look at each one in-depth.

Load Capacity

You never want to choose a forklift with a maximum load capacity that is lower than you require. Before beginning your search, you want to consider what the average load weight the forklift needs to lift is as well as the heaviest load it may need to lift.

Consider the width of the load and what kind of stock it will be handling. This matters because there are specific forklift attachments that can make transporting certain loads more efficient.

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Lift Height

Knowing how high the forklift will have to lift the loads is also crucial and will affect its load-carrying capacity. An average forklift starts at a height of 8 feet and can go all the way up to 20 feet. There are, however, many forklift options that can reach higher than that.

You want to think about your warehouse size and the kind of business you run. To be sure the forklift meets the height capacity you need to consider:

  • What is the highest point the forklift will need to reach?
  • Are there any height restrictions like ceiling lights or beams to worry about?
  • What is the average height it will need to consistently reach?

You also want to think about the collapsed height of the mast if you need the forklift to fit under a structural obstacle like a warehouse door. Check the warehouse height and aisle widths before making a choice.

Fuel Types

Forklifts have two fuel options, electric and internal combustion.

A forklift powered by large lead-acid batteries is electric and has power for one standard eight-hour shift. It does not produce carbon emissions, which is a requirement for a forklift used indoors, and it is also more economical.

A forklift that runs with internal combustion uses a variety of different fuel options, including gasoline, diesel fuel, propane gas, and even compressed natural gas. They can operate in any environment and they can offer a higher capacity for weight. They also tend to have a higher reach than an electric forklift.

Forklift Tires

Depending on the environment in which you want the forklift to operate, there will be better tire options than others. The main three types of tires are pneumatic tires, solid tires, and cushion tires.

Pneumatic tires work in outdoor operations. They are longer and wider than cushion tires and they are made of rubber and filled with compressed air. Like car tires, these can suffer punctures.

Solid tires are highly durable. They will not go flat, suffer punctures, or pop so they are ideal for construction sites, lumber yards, and other similar locations.

Cushion tires are made of solid rubber and are pressed right onto the wheel. They have a smaller chassis so they sit lower on the ground, offering more maneuverability.

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Forklift Type

There are different types of forklifts, each with various capabilities. Let us look at some of the more popular options.

Hand Pallet Jack or Lift Truck

This type of forklift uses a hydraulic jack to lift pallets. It has wheels under each fork. To lift the pallets, the fork separates from the front wheels, creating clearance to move the pallets around the location.

Electric Pallet Jack or Lift Truck

A battery-powered electric engine powers this forklift. They are faster to use and more agile when moving pallets. The two main differences between this option and the previous one are the fork length and the driver standing position

Manual Stacker

This forklift option is hand-operated and made for lifting pallets. They need manual action to lift loads up to 5 feet. This option is most suited for double floor stacking and low-level racks.

Walk-Behind Electric Power Stacker

With this option, you get what is basically a pallet truck with a mast. They use the engine and battery compartments as counter-weights, and they come with lifting heights of up to 20 feet.

Counter-Balance Internal Combustion Forklift

With this kind of forklift, you get an option that has a combustion engine to power the lifting mechanism. The forklift has a counterbalance of what is usually an iron bulk at the rear.

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Counter-Balance Electric 3-Wheeled and 4-Wheeled

A 3-wheel counter-balanced electric forklift has dual steer wheels mounted under the counterweights. The 3-wheeled option can turn on a smaller radius than the 4-wheeled option.

The 4-wheeled configuration uses only one steer wheel on each rear corner which a dual-acting hydraulic ram controls. They offer higher stability than the 3-wheeled option and can work better on rougher terrain.

Articulated Forklift

The articulated forklift has a fork carriage that swings back and forth as it pivots on a joint. You can use it in narrow warehouses where you also need the loading and unloading of trailers.

Rough Terrain Forklift

This kind of forklift has a vertical mast and a pivoted boom. It can have a fixed length or variable reach and there are many attachments that can be applied. A rough terrain forklift is suited best for the outdoors.

Side Loader Forklifts

They are the first forklifts designed for long load handling. You can handle loads sideways so they work well in narrower aisles. They have holding platforms around the forks.

Multi-Directions Forklifts

Multi-directional forklifts allow the operator to move the forklift in any direction with greater precision.

New or Used For Lifts?

The hours the forklift will work for you will decide whether a new or used option is best. If you need to use it for under ten hours a week, a used option can be a good choice.

For longer hours each week, you want to depend on a new forklift. You can choose a forklift for hire, as well, which has low up-front costs.

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Find the Right Forklift

If you know you need a forklift, let us help you. At CheapMeNow, we will help you find the lowest prices for the exact forklift you want.

Contact us now and compare prices for your forklift purchasing needs!

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