Forklifts were used in the early 1900s to help in transporting luggage around train stations. In its 110 year history, it has kept up with the advancements in technology and continues to be a vital part of modern business.

One of the major advantages of a forklift is its ability to provide cost-efficient transportation for large loads. Having a single forklift on a job can reduce the amount of time that it takes to move a pallet by the number of hours. Also, forklifts minimize injuries on the job by keeping employees from having to handle dangerously heavy objects. Using levers and leverage, the simple flip of a switch can now provide the exact same power as an entire cadre of individuals.

Forklifts are of use in every industry from distribution centers to construction zones. They are referred to by many names; however, the reference is usually easy to determine based upon the size of the forklift.

  • Smaller model forklifts use a rechargeable battery that is built-in.
  • "Propane lifts" are medium-size forklifts that are propelled by propane tanks.
  • The largest forklifts are usually diesel fueled. These are of best use in lumber yards.

Major Parts

In order to purchase the correct forklifts for your business, you should understand the six major parts of a forklift.

  • The mast gives the fort the leverage that it needs to move the load.
  • The carriage is a support structure for the mast.
  • The load back rest keeps the load in place.
  • The forks support the load.
  • The hydraulic lift cylinder regulates the amount of distance that the mast, forks and carriage can move.
  • The overhead guard keeps the operator of the forklift safe from falling objects.

Capacity and Height

You will also need to consider the capacity of the forklift that you want. There are two major options when it comes to the amount of load that a forklift can handle.

The first model is rated from 3000 to 7000 pounds. The second model is rated from 8000 to 11,000 pounds.

Fuel Options

You have different options for fuel depending on the cost of fuel to your business.

The first choice is electric. Lead acid batteries power these types of forklifts. These are great for moving loads indoors as they are zero emission batteries. They also have the lowest cost per hour of operation for any internal combustion model forklift. The price tag, however, is the highest.

You also have a choice of internal combustion engines. These engines can run on propane, diesel, gasoline or compressed natural gas fuels. The huge difference between these engines and battery-powered forklifts is that internal combustion engines can be refueled without stopping the forklifts. They are cheaper than electric forklifts, but they cost more per hour to run. They are also the only type of forklifts that can handle more than 12,000 pounds of load.

Green Fuel

A relatively new advancement in forklift technology is the hydrogen fuel option. If you can afford one, these engines have zero recharging time. These engines also maintain consistent performance no matter what percentage of the engine is charged. They are also immune to changes in temperature. Most importantly to some, they are the most environmentally friendly fuel option that is available on the market today.

Tires & Add Ons

There are three major types of tires that you should choose from for your forklift.

  • Cushion tires are made of rubber and are the most maneuverable of all higher options. They are suited to indoor use and should not be used outside.
  • Pneumatic tires are the best for outdoor operation with a diesel lift truck. They are also made of rubber, but it is tougher rubber than cushion tires.
  • Polyurethane tires are your third option. They are the obvious choice for electric forklifts; however, they can only be used indoors like cushion tires. Between polyurethane and cushion tires, polyurethane has a longer lifespan.


Make sure that your seller has a good reputation and an open door policy. The best sellers will also provide technical service after the purchase, hopefully 24/7. Is also good to check their records to see how many forklifts they have sold that are similar to the ones that you are considering.

Test Drives & Buying Tips

Always testdrive your forklift on site before committing to a purchase. Be sure that it has the turning radius that you require as well as the maneuverability that you need. Stability is also absolutely essential. Lift a couple of loads on site with the seller that you are expecting to lift on the job.

Forklift Prices

The manufacturer of a forklift always matters when it comes to quality. A business may be able to save an initial amount of money by making the purchase of a lower tier brand; however, it will definitely pay for that in the future through less durability and dependability.

Reliability is the first characteristic of judging the cost of forklift options. Geography is perhaps the second most important aspect of determining forklift prices. There are many different inventories in different parts of the world based upon the availability of different parts. Use the Internet to minimize the cost of the more expensive parts in your area by ordering piecemeal if you have to.

As a benchmark, you should expect to pay around $30,000 for a 5000 pounds forklift that is electric. You may have to pay extra for a battery transporter depending on its weight rating. Internal combustion forklifts can run anywhere from $20,000-$40,000 in the mid-capacity range. If you are in the market for larger forklifts, you should look to pay around $100,000 for a 35,000 pound capacity top-flight forklift.

Training & Safety

There are many different training models based on the type of forklift that you purchase. Be sure that you match the training that your employees are receiving to the forklift that you are purchasing. The cost of training should also be considered along with the cost of forklift options.