Forklift Buying Guide

Buying a forklift is a major expense so it pays to do your due diligence. This handy guide will help you make a smart decision when it comes time to buy a forklift.

When it comes time to purchase a forklift or a fleet of forklifts, it is critical that you do

your due diligence to ensure that you end up with the right types of forklifts to meet your needs.

First, let’s look at selecting forklift trucks that have the specs you need.

Choosing the Right Lift Truck for the Job

Many businesses shoot themselves in the foot by failing to think through their needs when it comes time to buying a forklift. A thorough review of your operation, how it can be optimized, how the trucks will be used and the available products within your price range needs to be done before you pull the trigger on your purchase. Often times it’s helpful to have another set of eyes and some outside expertise weigh in on your decision, which is why it can be extremely helpful to talk to your local forklift dealer to help answer your questions and assess your situation when choosing a forklift.

Business-based questions to ask before buying a forklift

  • Does brand loyalty matter? This can be a tricky question. If your material handling needs have changed, it can make a lot of sense to change brands to find the precise model that meets your changing needs versus trying to put a square peg in a round hole by sticking with the same brand. On the other hand, if your forklift operators are trained across your entire fleet of a single brand, and your needs haven’t changed dramatically, it may help your team move between forklifts more easily by remaining brand loyal.

  • How do I assess ROI on my purchase? Too many people get caught up looking at the upfront cost of a forklift when making a purchase. It’s important to get past the initial sticker shock and assess each purchase by the expected lifetime value. 

  • Should I try before I buy? Yes. See if your dealers offer a demo to let you see your potential purchases in action. If you’re torn between different models, renting a forklift in the short term can make sense so your operators can get a feel for the machinery and provide feedback to help you decide.

  • Is buying a forklift a better option than leasing or renting? This is a complicated question that depends on timing and the specific needs of your business. Take the time to do the math and compare the numbers on short term rentals, long term rentals and leases versus making a purchase. If you want to delve into this question more deeply, check out our guide on leasing versus buying a forklift

  • How do you decide when to buy? Clearly, your hand will be forced in certain situations, like when an older piece of equipment fails and needs to be replaced. However, not every buying situation is that immediate, and it’s important to follow market trends and to pay close attention to legislation that can work in your favor. For example, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 had a provision in it that went into effect in 2018 that allows businesses to fully expense immediately rather than capitalizing and depreciating it over time. This takes a big dent out of upfront expenditures like adding to your fleet.

Questions for finding a forklift with the right specs

  • Is this an indoor or an outdoor forklift? This is an easy question to answer based on your application that will dictate the type of tires you need on your forklift. Indoor operations will use cushioned tires and outdoor operations will require pneumatic tires.

  • Should I choose an electric forklift or a gas/diesel/LP internal combustion lift truck? If you’re in a sterile indoor facility such as a warehouse with food or beverages, you’ll need an electric lift truck to avoid problems with engine emissions. There can be a number of reasons to choose one or the other here, it’s often best to consult with your local dealer to help you decide which option will be most effective for your material handling equipment needs.

  • How often will these lift trucks be operated? If your needs are for a lift truck to be running two eight hour shifts a day, day and night, you’ll want to think about investing in new equipment. If you foresee lighter use, then a used forklift might be a cost-effective option.

  • Do I need custom features? If your application is unique and requires custom attachments or features, this may also drive your purchasing decision to models that have the necessary attachments to do what you need. 

  • What are the lifting requirements? You’ll want concrete answers to precisely determine what size the materials are that you’ll be lifting, the dimensions, the maximum weight, and also the maximum height they will need to be lifted. If you’ll be using the forklift to load and unload trailers, you’ll need to know the height of the trailers to make sure the lowered mast height of your new lift will allow you to get in and out of the trailers. Having specifics on all of these data points will help you zero in on the lift trucks that can do the job.

  • How do I determine the right size of lift truck? You’ll want to pay close attention to the size of your aisles, particularly if they’re narrow, to ensure that any pallet jacks or forklifts that you buy can maneuver through your facility with ease. 

  • What do I need to know about a used forklift? If you’re going to buy a used forklift there are a lot of factors you’ll need to consider. First, how much has the forklift been used? It’s a good idea to find trucks that are off lease or low-use rentals as they have likely seen much less use than trade-ins. You’ll also want to see the maintenance records for any used trucks you’re considering purchasing, have an inspection done by a qualified mechanic and take a test drive before you buy to make sure you don’t get a lemon.  

  • What are the availability of parts? If you choose to go after a used forklift it’s also important to look into the availability of parts should the truck need repairs. All the planned maintenance in the world won’t matter if you can’t get necessary parts when something breaks. Luckily, we offer aftermarket support for lift trucks regardless of make or model.

If you’re in the market to buy or lease a forklift, or have questions about which class of forklift is right for your application, contact your local dealer today.

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