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For businesses that must move heavy items, few pieces of equipment are as effective or as valuable as a forklift. Distribution depots, warehouses, lumber yards, manufacturing plants, and other work environments handle loads weighing 3,000 to 30,000+ pounds. They commonly use forklift trucks to keep their operations running smoothly. Although lift trucks are a big investment, the amount of man hours it can save makes the purchase of one more than worthwhile. But, to make sure you don't buy more than you need it is important to understand your business' requirements and the different types of forklifts that are available.
Types of Forklifts
Forklifts can be categorized in two major ways: by the structure of the forklift, and by the type of fuel that it uses. Based on structure, the following types of forklifts are among the most popular:
- Standard: A typical warehouse forklifts can lift 3,000 to 5,000 lbs. up to a height of around 20 feet.
- Reach forklift: Sometimes called a narrow aisle forklift, this type of machine is often used in warehouses and distribution centers where space is at a premium. A narrow construction means that it can't carry as much as a standard forklift, but its extendable mast can lift loads up to about 40 feet.
- Telescopic forklift: Also known as a telescopic handler, telehandler, or extendable reach forklift, this type of truck is a more rugged, heavy-duty version of a standard forklift with a telescopic boom that can be raised up and also extended out. It is often used in rough terrain, and can move loads of more than 30,000 pounds up to 70 feet high.
- Straight mast forklift: This type of lift truck is also commonly used in rough terrain, but unlike the telescopic forklift, a straight mast forklift can only move loads vertically, up to 12,000 pounds to a height of 10 to 30 feet.
When breaking down forklifts by fuel type, the following types are available:
- Electric: Electric forklifts use large, heavy, rechargeable lead-acid batteries that can run for 5 or 6 straight hours. They are ideal for indoor use and a popular choice because they produce zero emissions and have a relatively low cost per hour of operation.
- Internal combustion: These types of forklifts can run on a number of different fuels, including gasoline, diesel, liquid propane, and compressed natural gas (CNG). Compared to electric forklifts, internal combustion forklifts are easier to refuel, can carry heavier loads, and accelerate better, although they tend to be more expensive to operate.
- Fuel cell: Hydrogen fuel cell forklifts are the next big thing in forklift technology, providing the zero emissions and quietness of electric forklifts with the fast refueling capability of an internal combustion machine.
Forklift Average Cost Samples
Actual forklift prices vary considerably based upon your location, requirements, and individual dealer. The prices given below are only intended to provide you with a basic idea of how much a forklift costs.
- A brand new, standard capacity electric warehouse forklift might cost approximately $15,000-$25,000 or more in addition to around $2,500 to $5,000 for a battery and charger.
- A comparable internal combustion forklift costs around $15,000-$30,000 and up.
- A 10,000 lb. capacity internal combustion forklift might cost around $25-$50,000.
- A high-end forklift capable of handling 35,000 pounds or more could cost $100,000+.
- According to one vendor, an internal combustion forklift with a 5,000 lb. capacity and pneumatic tires costs around $20,000,the same vehicle with air-cushion tires costs around $18,000, and a comparable electric forklift with battery and charger costs approximately $25,000.
- A used, re-conditioned 3,000 lb. electric forklift might cost between $5,000 and $10,000.
- A used 5,000 lb. internal combustion forklift might cost $10,000 to $15,000.
- Operating costs per year, based on a 250 day work year and two shifts per day, is around $1,500-$2,000 for an electric forklift, $12-$15,000 for a diesel forklift, and $10-$12,500 per year for a forklift running on liquefied petroleum gas.
- Forklift maintenance costs (based on around 2,500 operating hours per year) might work out to around $500 per year for an electric truck, and $1,500 per year for an internal combustion forklift.