Buying a forklift is a lot more complicated than buying a car.  There are many things to consider before taking the plunge.  Frequently we get buyers that aren’t prepared for all of the questions that we ask them in order to get the correct forklift for their purpose.  We’ve compiled a list of the best used forklift buying tips below.  Use these tips when purchasing your next used forklift as it just may save you time, energy and money!

Forklift Capacity ConsiderationsCapacity:
This is usually one of the first things you need to know in order to proceed.  Not just the capacity, but how the capacity is used.  We have some customers that need 12,000 lb. forklifts in order to lift 3,000 lb. loads.  This is because the forklift’s rated capacity is based off of a standard distance from the fork face (typically 24″) along with a lack of attachments.  If you’re lifting a load that has a center of gravity 6 feet away from the fork face, you will significantly diminish the forklift’s capacity.  Also, if you add a clamp, you’re automatically losing a few thousand pounds of capacity just due to the attachments weight, however, you’re also losing capacity due to how the attachment spaces the load further from the face of the carriage.

    1. Verify that the weights or measurements that relate to your products or facility are accurate.  Never assume you know them.
    2. Have an experienced forklift professional survey your facility before asking for a recommendation.  Dealers and manufacturers offer a variety of forklift options that can benefit the owner, substantially reducing the total cost of ownership for the life of the truck and this can only occur with the proper evaluation.
    3. Don’t assume that you can replace your old forklift’s capacity with the same capacity in a newer forklift.  Gross chassis capacity is rarely the actual net lifting capacity at the forklift’s full lifting height.


There are many different styles of forklifts to choose from

.  The correct one isn’t always cut and dry.  Some classes are designed for very specific purposes.  Some are quite flexible.  Lets look at some of the more common options.

Class I Forklifts Class 1: Electric Motor Riders In this class you will find 3 or 4-wheeled sit-down lifts and stand-up riders.  This is probably the most flexible class of electric lifts.


Class II ForkliftsClass 2: Electric Motor Narrow Aisle In this class you’ll find straddle stackers, order pickers (you go up with the load), reach trucks, side loaders, turret trucks, swing mast trucks as well as rider electric pallet jacks.  Most trucks in this class are fairly dedicated to a purpose and some will spend their entire lift in one part of a warehouse.  However, when warehouse space is at a premium, this the class to look at.


Class III Forklifts

Class III: Electric Motor Hand Trucks or Hand/Rider Trucks In this class, you will find electric pallet jacks, walkie stackers, walkie straddle trucks, and walkie reach trucks.  In general, this category is for walk behind lifts.  These are usually used either due to space or budget issues.  They are good on smooth surfaces.


Class IV Forklifts

Class IV: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Solid/Cushion Tires) In the United States, this class has dominated the transportation industry for decades.  It’s just in the last few decades that it has been slowly overtaken by Class I and Class II lifts.  These trucks are well liked due to their flexibility.  They can be used to unload trucks, transfer freight, or even stock shelves.  They can even be driven outside on smoother surfaces (asphalt, very compact gravel).


Class V Forklifts

Class V: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Pneumatic Tires) This class starts to venture out of the material handling industry and into the manufacturing and support industries.  The pneumatic tires make them best suited to rougher surfaces including asphalt and compacted gravel.  Yet, they also handle the smooth floors of a warehouse with ease.  These are often seen in lumber yards and farms for their all purpose nature.


Class VI Forklifts

Class VI: Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Tractors This class is rarely seen in the material handling industry anymore.  Though, it does have it’s niche in the airline industry.


Rough Terrain Forklifts

Class VII: Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks

These lifts are most frequently seen in construction.  They typically have aggressive tires and frequently have 4-wheel drive.  They are really the only style of lift that can be reliably used in dirt, grass, and mud.


Often, our customers don’t consider what attachments they will need or want on their forklift.  Sometimes the productivity increase for certain attachments far outweigh their initial cost.  There are so many attachments that there’s no way we can list out all of the possibilities, but here are the popular ones.

  • None Sometimes, you just don’t need an attachment or budget constraints don’t allow for additional accessories.  Also, sometimes the forklift just doesn’t have the correct set-up for an attachment (additional lever and all of the piping/hoses that go along with it).
  • Sideshifter Though it’s possible to get a forklift without any attachments, most come with a sideshifter.  This attachment does exactly what it is called.  It helps for fine adjustment of the forks/load from side to side.  It reduces the need for a forklift operator to have to re-approach the load/rack multiple times to get lined up just right.
  • Fork Positioner This attachment allows the adjustment of the fork width without the operator having to get on and off the forklift every time they need to pick up an odd sized pallet.
  • Clamp This category of attachments is broad.  Many people don’t know that forklifts don’t just use forks.  Clamps are a great way to pick up large bulky loads that aren’t palletized (mattresses, bales, refrigerators, roll stock, etc.).
  • Push/Pull (Slipsheet) This attachment is very purpose specific.  Generally push/pulls are used to pick up or drop off an entire skid of freight without the skid.  This saves room in trucks, but it also allows freight to be transferred from shelves and rollers to other pallets easily.  This attachment will require a sheet of cardboard to be under the freight in order to operate properly though.
  • Rotator This one is kind of obvious.  It rotates the forks or whatever attachment to a different angle (even upside down).  There are various uses for this attachment, but commonly it’s used to take a vertical load and lay it flat or vice versa.  Or it’s also frequently used for dumping loads.
  • Single Double This attachment is usually needed to spread the forks to fully support the load.  It is actually 4 forks that can be collapsed down to two.
Other Things to Consider

• Stick with a good dealer.  The dealer who gets back to you quickly is one to keep.  When lift trucks go offline, you start losing money.  You should stick with dealers who are responsive and get fixes done quickly.

• Consider that brand you are purchasing.  There are some brands out there that have little to no service or parts support.

• On every new or used lift truck acquisition, evaluate whether it is less expensive to rent forklifts long term (12 months or longer), lease or buy.

• Just because your staff is telling you they can’t keep using the forklifts they have, doesn’t mean you need to get another one.  An experienced and professional Forklift America consultant understands the specifications of the forklift truck and what’s appropriate for your application.  Our consultants can analyze your forklift fleet to help you determine the right mix and quantity of trucks to maximize productivity and give you the best possible return on investment.

• Stick with a good dealer.  The dealer who gets back to you quickly is one to keep.  When lift trucks go offline, you start losing money.  You should stick with dealers who are responsive and get fixes done quickly.

• Before buying a new or used forklift, you should understand your after-the-sale costs. This covers items like labor rates, travel time, shop supplies, fuel surcharges, environmental waste oil and filter disposal charges, parts pricing, planned maintenance program details, operator and / or instructor training costs and short term rental costs. Also you should consider technician response time and their proximity to your location, after hours service policies, possible overtime charges that may apply, technician training and tools on board their van, dealership reputation, financial strength and their service invoicing system. Better to have the dealer’s commitment on the issues that are important to you before you sign on the dotted line.

• Take your time when selecting the right forklift that will be safe for all involved.  A forklift is only a glorified fulcrum or teeter totter.  An untrained operator driving the wrong forklift, handling loads that aren’t within the rated capacity is a recipe for disaster and the source of significant company liability.  Don’t let an accident resulting in injury or a fatality happen on your watch.

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