Different Types Of Forklifts, Classifications & Uses

There are many types of forklifts used for particular functions. Our guide of types of forklifts can help guide you when deciding on the ideal forklift for your application.

Trying to determine the best forklift type for your application? This forklift guide is designed to help you understand the wide-range of lift trucks and options available to narrow your choice.


Before shopping for a forklift, it’s important to know what your options are and how they align with your material handling requirements. Here’s a list of some of the most common types of forklifts:

  • Electric forklifts
  • IC (internal combustion) forklifts
  • 3 wheel forklifts
  • 4 wheel forklifts
  • Pantograph reach trucks
  • Moving mast reach trucks
  • Narrow aisle forklifts
  • Order pickers
  • Turret trucks
  • Hand pallet trucks


Many people have questions about the engines that power their forklifts. Should they use electric-powered forklifts or consider an internal combustion forklift instead?


Generally, electric powered forklifts will have higher upfront costs compared to IC forklifts, but tend to have lower maintenance costs and a longer operating life. Lower emissions also make electric forklifts ideal for indoor warehouses or enclosed environments. 

Run times are another important consideration when choosing a lift truck. Because electric forklifts need to be charged to operate, trucks that run longer than one shift eliminate the needs to stop in the middle of a shift to recharge a battery. Many Jungheinrich® branded electric forklifts have a 2 shift 1 charge guarantee that ensures 16-hour runtimes on a single battery charge. The benefits include the potential for more productivity from both the forklift operator and lower battery costs.

Our full range of electric forklifts include:


Internal Combustion (IC) forklifts are more commonly used in outdoor applications. They are designed to lift heavy materials. Our IC forklifts have a lift capacity from 3,000 – 36,000 lbs. depending on the model. These lift trucks offer dependable performance.
Learn more about our internal combustion forklifts:


Many forklifts are categorized by the number of wheels they have. In most cases, you have the option of selecting a forklift that either has three of four wheels. We will outline the differences below to help you choose the right forklift for your application.


Three-wheel forklifts have a smaller turning radius compared to four-wheel forklifts, which makes them ideal when working in tight spaces. Three-wheel forklifts have a counterbalance, which allows the forklift to lift heavy loads with just three wheels. Better maneuverability when compared to four-wheel forklifts often make these forklifts ideal for indoor warehouses or work environments where storage space is at a premium.

Learn more about our full-line of three-wheel forklifts:


When compared to three-wheel forklifts, four-wheel forklifts have better gradeability, or a forklift truck’s ability to operate on a slope.

Four-wheel forklifts are generally more powerful, have better stability than three-wheel forklifts and can operate with heavier loads. They are also designed to operate on uneven surfaces or surfaces that are not completely smooth. This makes four-wheel forklifts more ideal for outdoor environments, or areas where space is more open.

Our four-wheel forklifts include:


Reach trucks are designed specifically for use in warehouse environments. Their name comes from the ability to “reach” beyond their stabilizing legs at great heights. Similar to three-wheel forklifts, they have excellent maneuverability and are able to turn tight corners in a crowded workspace.

Reach trucks are categorized into several different areas based on their application, including moving mast reach trucks, and pantograph reach trucks.


Also known as moving mast reach trucks, the masts of these forklifts are designed to move horizontally. This makes it easier on operators to reach loads at high heights without having to move the base of the forklift. When correct fork placement is easier, productivity can be greatly improved.

To learn more about our range of reach trucks, visit our Jungheinrich Reach Trucks page.


Narrow aisle forklifts are also known as narrow aisle order pickers. As the name implies, they are designed to operate in narrow warehouse spaces. Narrow aisle forklifts can be categorized as Narrow Aisle (NA) or Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) forklifts.


Order pickers are specifically designed for order picking applications and to make the order picking process as simple and cost efficient as possible.

Order pickers are typically designed to raise or lower operators to the same level that the load is located. This type of forklift gives operators the ability to pick specific items from a pallet without lowering the contents of the pallet. Order pickers are often categorized based on the heights operators need to reach racks.

Learn more about our order picker models:


Turret trucks are very narrow aisle forklifts that allow the carriage to rotate 180⁰ to pick items within warehouse storage aisles. Because the forks of the turret truck can be rotated without moving the truck itself, the turret truck can retrieve items in narrow aisles with efficiency.

The following are examples of our turret trucks:


Also known as manual pallet trucks, pallet jacks and pedestrian-operated pallet trucks. These hand held forklifts are used to transport pallets in storage facilities and indoor warehouse environments. Hand pallet trucks are manually operated and make use of a hydraulic jack to lift a pallet load for transport.

Hand pallet trucks are designed for moving pallets at ground level and are not designed to lift loads at high heights or to stack loads on top of one another. They are not typically suited for outdoor environments or uneven surfaces. Hand pallet trucks are small, easy to operate and have a low overall operating cost. All of this makes hand pallet trucks a great addition to any warehouse environment.

Learn more about our hand pallet trucks:

Need help finding the right forklift for your business? Find a forklift dealer near you to get started.

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