Tom Haug


When purchasing a new or used forklift, there are many factors, besides the forklift price, that must be considered before signing the check. This guide serves to help you determine what the appropriate forklift is for your unique set of circumstances by walking through several key points of consideration.

First, what is the environment the forklift will be operating in? Will it be used indoors or outdoors? How much space is there to maneuver? While there are many different environments where a forklift can be used, we will keep things simple and look at only three scenarios.

  • Setting 1: The first setting is an indoor operating environment with lots of tight corners and narrow aisles such as a warehouse. In this setting, the best choice would likely be a small to medium-sized electric forklift with cushion tires. Electric forklifts are more maneuverable than internal combustion lifts and can operate smoothly on even surfaces. Since they are zero-emission, electric forklifts can be used indoors without the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or contamination of goods, such as food.
  • Setting 2: The second setting is at a loading dock moving heavy loads. Due to the mixed indoor and outdoor usage, a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) powered lift with pneumatic tires may be ideal. Pneumatic tires give better traction on rough and uneven surfaces. LPG lifts have low emissions and can be used safely indoors and out.
  • Setting 3: Finally, let’s consider an outdoor-only setting, one with the task of moving palettes of bricks or sand. Here, the power of a diesel lift would be well suited as there is no concern over emissions, plus the increased energy efficiency of diesel over LPG can result in cost savings.

Where the work is being done is not the only consideration. The work type and duration are also critical components to making a final decision. In terms of work duration, each forklift class excels in some situations and falls behind in others. LPG forklifts are versatile but have a low fuel capacity resulting in many refueling trips during a long shift. Diesel lifts are more fuel-efficient; they take a long time to run out of fuel but burn a lot when idle. Electric forklifts can be left idle for long periods with limited losses but cannot be ‘refueled’ quickly. In summary, if you expect to use the lift constantly with little downtime, internal combustion is superior. If you expect lots of downtime during your work hours, then electric forklifts should be your go-to. However, it should be noted that lithium-ion batteries charge up to eight times faster than the more common lead-acid batteries, meaning a lift may only need two hours of downtime before it is ready to be operated again. Furthermore, draining a lithium-ion battery to very low charge levels has a much smaller effect on longevity than with lead-acid batteries.

The most important consideration to make is the type of work the forklift is expected to do. Measurements of the required height and lift capacity should be taken for the loads your forklift will be expected to handle. Keep in mind that a lift that can handle up to 20,000lbs, does not necessarily mean it should be chosen for a 20,000lb workload. Running anything at its maximum capacity is going to decrease its lifespan by increasing wear as well as create a bigger risk of accidents. It is entirely reasonable that an operator may accidentally overload the lift, not only risking injury to the operator, but also damaging the lift and its cargo. A good rule of thumb is to keep at least a 25% reserve capacity. For example, if you expect to move 20,000lb loads it is a good idea to purchase a lift with a 25,000lb capacity or higher to account for the odd heavy load and to reduce wear on the machine.

Lastly, you should consider what brand you plan to acquire and whether to buy new, buy used, lease new, or lease a used forklift. If you expect to work a forklift hard and want to get the most usable life out of it then purchasing or leasing a new forklift is the better choice as it will have many more hours of usability. If you just need a backup lift or don’t expect to work it into the ground, then buying or leasing a used forklift in good condition is an excellent option. Finally, if you expect to replace your forklift within a few years or don’t want the liability of holding the asset, then a lease from Meridian is the best option for you.

If you’re looking for a new or used forklift, the industry experts at Meridian Leasing will work with you to help you determine the right forklift for your business objectives and financial needs. Call +1 (855) 980-4578 or send an email to [email protected] for more details or to speak with a material handling equipment specialist.