Buying forklifts is a process. Prepare properly, and the process works for you.
I’ve worked in this industry for 40 years. In that time, I’ve bought and sold a ton of forklifts. I learned all the things to consider when you buy a forklift…things that will help you too.
If you know these seven elements, you’ll walk into a forklift dealer well prepared to buy a forklift. The buying process will go smooth and simple. Let’s get started.
Element 1: How Big & How Heavy are Your Typical Loads?
Most of the time, pallet loads fall within the same size & weight. 90% of the material handling industry uses GMA (Grocery Manufacturers Association) standard pallets (48” long x 40” wide). 95% of pallet loads don’t exceed 2000lbs.
If you want to double-stack in trailers, then you’ll want a 5000lb capacity forklift. 65% of forklifts are 5000lb cushion type (LPG or Electric), pneumatic type or cushion/pneumatic electric. Forklifts generally have a 24” load center, which means it can handle a 4-foot load at its rated capacity.
Element 2: How High Do You Need To Lift The Loads?
90% of all forklifts are 188” lift height. That also allows a down height of 83-85”. This common lift height hasn’t changed for 50 years. Narrow Aisle Electric type with go in 9-10ft aisle and usually 240”, 272” 300” and 321”. Narrow Aisle types mostly have only 3,000 or 3500lb capacities, at 36-volt.
The 188” triple stage came about with 2-high stacking, with 6” between the 96' load beams on racks and 90” trailer openings. Do you have tall ceilings in your warehouse? Use them! Price per pallet position will drop.
Element 3: Will You Use The Forklift Indoors, Outdoors, or Both? What Type of Fuel – LPG, Electric, Diesel, Dual Fuel?
If you plan to use your forklift on any type of non-smooth cement surface, then buy a pneumatic. However, a 5000lb pneumatic type forklift costs more, and alters your turning radius to 14-foot aisles. (Cushion type LPGs and Electrics have a 12-foot radius.)
Fuel type also matters at this stage. Electric trucks cost a little more up front, but they have the lowest operating cost of all types. Dual Fuel forklifts can use LPG and gasoline. Most "big" forklifts use diesel. Then there's LPG, the longtime standard in our industry.
Here are examples of the forklift types you can expect for indoor/outdoor use & fuel types.
I encourage you to consider an electric forklift, like our BYDs, if you're buying in 2019. The technology is incredible—100% green, no maintenance, no gassing, and they're rated for indoor/outdoor use.
Element 4: How Much Room Do You Have To Maneuver?
If you want to maximize the number of pallets your warehouse can hold, you may opt for narrow aisles (less than 12 foot). With narrow aisles, you’ll need to look at a 3-wheel electric forklift (indoor/outdoor), or stand-up trucks. You can get even narrower (80 inch) if you look at Aislemaster electric lifts.
Remember though: Set your warehouse up based on your input/output of goods. Determine your aisle requirements by the most efficient pallet positions. Then determine your forklift requirements based on the aisle requirements.
Element 5: How Many Hours Per Day Will Your Team Use The Forklift?
A good rule of thumb: If you plan to use the forklift more than 4 hours a day, buy or lease a NEW forklift. If your need isn’t that great, USED forklifts will fit the bill.
We talked about Forklift Cost per Hour in a previous newsletter. It can help you estimate how many hours you want to use the forklift daily, balanced against lifetime value.
Once you establish the hours needed, you can set a budget and decide whether to buy or lease. Leasing's growing in popularity, though we generally recommend buying.
Prefer used anyway? You have a huge selection to choose from. However, remember that when you buy a forklift under 10K and over 7000 hours, you get what you pay for. I know every forklift dealer in a 50-mile radius; some are bad ones. Most are good.
Element 6: What’s Your Budget?
Think of a forklift purchase as having three levels: Silver, Gold, or Platinum.
- A “Platinum” purchase is a new forklift. No hours on it, full price. You’ll have the longest lifetime usage, but also the highest budget needs.
- A “Gold” purchase is a 3-year-old forklift with around 3000 hours on it, at 75% of new price. Look into 5-year financing for a low monthly payment.
- A “Silver” purchase is a 5-year-old forklift with less than 6000 hours on it, at 60% of new price. Remember pricing for a new 5000lb forklift is approaching $30,000. Your budget is thus $18,000.
EXAMPLE: Pricing for a new/platinum 5000lb forklift will approach $30,000. If you selected the same forklift capacity on a 5-year-old model, your budget is $18,000.
If you’re looking at electric forklifts, your #1 requirement is getting a new or 80% reconditioned battery. New batteries average $7,500. Also, get a good warranty in writing, and a high-frequency charger with it. You'll get 25% better efficiency than the standard electric chargers with a high-frequency unit.
Element 7: The Forklift Dealer
The final element to consider is the Forklift Seller/Dealer themselves. For the most part, you will have a good buying experience with most dealers. Still, it always pays to do your homework. Look at 2-3 good forklift dealers. Read reviews. Talk to their customers. Make your decision from there.
When talking to a dealer, check to see if they do their own maintenance. They should. Forklifts do break, but with preventative maintenance, you reduce breakdown frequency and severity. Ask the dealers about maintenance programs for the life of the forklift.
Always review a maintenance lease carefully. Make sure there are no hidden costs. If someone comes in with low labor rates, it’s usually for a reason. Avoid them. When they say "FULL MAINTENANCE," watch out!
Always remember the safety features that go with a forklift. I would urge you to require back-up alarms, strobe lights, headlights, and seat belts on your trucks.
Knowing What Kind of Forklift to Buy Makes for Long-Term Satisfaction
When buying a forklift, you’re also choosing a forklift dealer that has the assets to support you. The dealer will provide the service and support to keep your lifts running smoothly, so it is important that you find one who is reputable, stable, and can provide top-notch service.
I hope this information helps you prepare for your next forklift purchase. We at Cromer want all our customers to have confidence in every forklift they buy, right from the start.
A good forklift dealer will understand what you’re looking for, if you use these elements to prepare.
(P.S.—Cromer Material Handling has 6 branches, 80 technicians, 12 parts personnel and over $18,000,000 in assets. Head to your nearest Cromer for your next forklift purchase, and we'll help you through this whole process.)
Until next month!
Marshall Cromer, The Forklift Boss
Cromer Material Handling