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FORKLIFT AMERICA'S FORKLIFT DIGEST

Understanding Your Needs Before Buying a New or Used Forklift

Used Nissan Forklift - St Louis Forklift

When your business lives and dies by how well it can move around heavy pallets of merchandise, supplies, or other loads, you need the right forklift. Whether you’re buying a new forklift or a used one, you’ll have to think about your needs. If you pull the trigger on a forklift just to find out it isn’t good for your needs, that’s a major problem. Before you buy a new or used forklift, make sure you understand your business’s needs. There are three main needs to consider:

  • Indoor or outdoor use
  • Carrying capacity
  • Reach, height constraints, and accessibility

Indoor or Outdoor Use?

The first thing you need to consider is how much you’ll be using the forklift indoors or outdoors. If most of your work is indoors, you’ll want to strongly consider an electric forklift. With electric, you don’t have to worry about ventilation. Since they don’t require a fuel tank, electric models also tend to be more compact, making them easier to handle and store. This is important inside a warehouse, where space is often cramped.

An electric forklift will also be cheaper to maintain and last longer. The batteries are replaceable, greatly increasing the longevity of the forklift. Of course, try using one outdoors in poor weather, and you’ll have serious problems.

Carrying Capacity of Your New or Used Forklift

No doubt, diesel is king when it comes to lifting loads. A diesel engine can handle up to 120,000 pounds, while an electric motor will typically max out at 12,000 pounds. A gasoline-powered engine is a little bit better, but still only handles 24,000 pounds.

Take a look at the table below for more differences between different types of motors in forklifts.

LoadSpeedUsePollutant
Diesel0 to 50 tons15-25 mphOutdoorYes
Gas0 to 6 tonsLess than 15 mphIndoor and outdoorLimited
Electric0 to 3 tons15-25 mphIndoorNo

As you can see, diesel is the best option in terms of carrying capacity, as it is able to move much heavier pallets and other loads. Diesel motors are also able to move the forklift much faster than gasoline engines and about as fast as electric. The main downside is that diesel forklifts tend to be larger and less maneuverable, and the emissions from the motor are usually too great for indoor use.

Reach, Height Constraints, and Accessibility

There are several other needs you should consider. For example, how high or far do you need the forklift to be able to reach? Does your warehouse have a low ceiling that might constrain your forklift? How heavy are your loads going to be?

If you’ll be carrying extremely heavy loads or recovering goods stored high up in warehouses, chances are you need a counterbalance or reach forklift. Counterbalance forklift, which come in two- and three-wheel models, are mainly indoor models and are very useful in combined spaces. A dense mass at the rear, as well as adjustable support legs, help to counter the weight of the load.

The reach forklift is even stronger and more maneuverable. Logistics companies and distribution centers use these because they work well in narrow aisles. With a reach forklift, a mast stabilizes the vehicle by holding the cab and driver on one side, the forklift on the other.

Choosing the Right Type of Forklift

Ultimately, your needs should drive your decision on which type of forklift you should purchase. Let’s dig a bit deeper and look at the various types of forklift available on the market.

  • The Order Picker

This type of forklift is great for handling, lifting, and stacking products and materials. It’s quick-moving and very comfortable to use, but only suitable for use on leveled ground with no more than a 10 percent slope. With a load capacity of 1 to 2 tons, the order picker is great for picking stock on both sides of a warehouse’s corridor.

  • The Four-Wheel Electric Counterbalance Forklift

A guiding wheel at each rear corner controlled by a double-acting hydraulic cylinder makes these forklifts extremely stable when turning and navigating confined spaces. Difficult environments like warehouses and construction sites are no problem, and it’s also good inside retail and hardware stores. The four-wheel electric counterbalance forklift has a maximum load capacity of 1 to 2.5 tons.

  • The Three-Wheel Electric Counterbalance Forklift

With this type of forklift, you’ll find one or two guide wheels mounted just below the counterweight. This has a slightly lower load capacity compared to a four-wheel counterbalance forklift, but it offers a much tighter turning radius. This makes the three-wheel electric counterbalance forklift great for use in tight spaces, like in retail stores, hardware stores, etc.

  • The Articulated Forklift

This is really more of a subtype of forklift, but can be very useful in extremely tight spaces. With an articulated forklift, the fork can rotate and tilt on a joint. Narrow warehouses and unloading trailers are a cinch with this forklift.

  • The Side-Loading Forklift

This is very similar to traditional forklifts, except the fork is on the side of the cab instead of in front of it. This offers better balance and less risk of tipping when you are carrying long loads, like lumber or lengths of pipe.

  • The Multi-Directional Forklift

This type has made the side-loading forklift pretty much obsolete. Multi-directional forklifts can rotate 360 degrees, making them ideal for uses that require agility and accuracy in very tight spaces. These are excellent for all types of loads, but especially long loads where you need accuracy in all directions.

  • The All-Terrain Forklift

Finally, there’s the fast, heavy-duty, versatile all-terrain forklift. If your loads are in natural environments with uneven terrain, this is probably your best bet.

Choosing the Right Forklift for Your Business

All of the above needs and details should be strongly considered before you make your purchase decision. A forklift is, no doubt, a sizeable investment, and you’ll be very disappointed if you end up with the wrong lift for your needs.

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