Forklift Buying Guide

Many different types of businesses need heavy equipment to help with everyday tasks. Whether you work in warehousing, construction, storage, assembly, shipping, or manufacturing, this equipment can save your employees time and move your operations along quickly.

Forklifts are a versatile, durable type of machine that allows operators to reach high shelves, carry heavy loads, and transfer materials and shipments across your warehouse or distribution center. If you need a forklift, keep reading to determine which is the best option for you.

How to Choose a Forklift

Before diving into the factors you need to consider when looking for a forklift for your business, let’s go over the different types of forklifts you can choose from:

  • Reach trucks: These electric-powered lift trucks provide simplicity and power — ideal for when you need to access pallets stacked high up on shelves with an extendable carriage and forks.
  • Reach stackers: These stackers can lift over 100,000 pounds and stack containers and pallets up to five units high.
  • Pallet jacks: Best suited for moving materials around a site or warehouse, pallet jacks come in manual and electric models for speed and efficiency in navigating small, challenging workspaces.
  • Order pickers: These quiet forklifts can handle loads up to 3,000 pounds and have an electric order picker to help you fill orders faster and navigate your warehouse easily by reaching extensive heights.
  • Narrow aisle forklifts: If your warehouse has narrow aisles and shelves, these side-loading forklifts offer a specialized performance and solution.
  • Internal combustion forklifts: Whether you need a forklift with heavy lifting power or a compact forklift to fit into smaller spaces, you can choose from many different types of this model to fit your needs.
  • High-capacity forklifts: These are ideal for lifting maximum, high-capacity loads up to 70,000 pounds.
  • Electric forklifts: Electric forklifts are suitable for nearly any warehouse configuration and come in three or four-wheel models.

What You Need to Know Before Buying a Forklift

Before buying a lift truck or forklift, the most important thing to consider is how you intend to use the equipment and how frequently you’ll need it. Determining this first step will help you narrow down the factors influencing your decision. Consider the requirements for what you’re trying to accomplish.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself before going further in the process:

  • How high do you need to lift?
  • How much weight will you need to lift?
  • Where will you be driving the forklift — indoors or outdoors?
  • How wide are the aisles and doors in your warehouse?
  • How many hours will you need to use the forklift each day?
  • What kind of tires will you need?
  • Are there any specific options or accessories you will need?
  • Do you have properly trained operators that meet OSHA requirements?

Factors to Consider in Your Decision

Once you’ve determined how your business will use the forklift, take a look at some of these factors that can help you choose the right one to fit your needs.

Budget

The first step in your decision-making process is understanding your budget. Consider the following monetary factors to create your budget:

  • The initial investment cost
  • Cost of fuel
  • Storage expenses
  • Maintenance and service costs

Once you know your budget limits, you can determine whether you should rent or purchase a forklift and whether new or used equipment is the best fit for you.

New vs. Used

Next, you’ll need to decide if you want a new or used forklift. You should generally purchase a new forklift if you’ll need it for more than a few hours each day across multiple shifts or in the case of extensive use. However, a used option may be more affordable if you plan to use your forklift occasionally to reach high shelves.

When looking at used forklifts, you should ask your dealer how old the machine is — including its manufacturing date — and how many service hours it has, which will tell you how long it’s been used. You can also ask for a history of the machine to see how it was previously used and how fuel-efficient it is.

Purchase or Rent

Buying a brand new forklift isn’t your only option. Depending on what your business needs a forklift for, it might not even be the best choice. If the conditions are right, renting or leasing a forklift — or buying a used one — can be more cost-effective. For instance, you may only need the forklift during your busiest production season or as a temporary replacement for your current forklift that’s out of service.

You can always rent a specific model to determine how much you will need to use it before purchasing. However, if you know you’ll need it for extensive lifting or service time, purchasing a new forklift could be a better fit.

Brand

Most of the top-heavy machinery brands maintain quality, durable forklifts and provide excellent value. However, it’s worth your time to research which brand fits your needs best. For example, if you already have equipment from a particular brand, it might be easier to stick with the same one — especially if your operators are already trained on to use it.

If you decide to buy a used forklift, check its condition, overall appearance, how long it’s been in use, and its service hours. Check that there are no cracks, chips, or significant cosmetic damage. Turn on the equipment and test the alarms, lights, horns, seat belts, and other maneuvering features.

While you’ll need to check the general operation and concerns with an individual seller, buying from a reputable dealer will give you peace of mind that your used equipment is as efficient as a brand new model. At RWFC RENTAL, we inspect every piece of equipment through our qualified forklift mechanics, from the outside appearance to the engine, so you can trust that your used equipment will be clean and well-cared for.

Common Mistakes When Buying a Forklift

Because many factors go into buying a forklift, it’s important to review some common mistakes to avoid during this process — particularly for first-time forklift buyers.

  • Buying on price alone: While the cheapest up-front price may be appealing, consider how the forklift may perform overtime or any maintenance needs it will require if it’s not in the best shape. Spending a little more for a better investment can prove more productive for your business in the long run.
  • Buying before trying: If you know the make and model of the forklift you want, it’s a good idea to rent it out and try it in your work conditions, particularly if you’ve never owned a forklift before. Be sure to get the input of the operators, who will be using it daily.
  • Buying without a maintenance plan: Like every piece of heavy machinery, forklifts require regular inspections and servicing. Be sure that your local dealer has the expertise to provide you with service and support.
  • Buying from a risky seller: If you buy from an individual seller online, there’s no guarantee your forklift will perform as needed. Buying from a reputable dealer can protect your assets and help you avoid unexpected downtime.

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