Buying a forklift

Considerations when purchasing a used forklift. March 28, 2001

I need to purchase a forklift to handle sheet goods and hardwoods. I need a lift capable of off-loading large delivery trucks. My parking area is gravel. I need to buy used. I am not sure what lift capacity I should be looking for. What other features are important?

Forum Responses
In a local gas station, look for a Trader magazine that advertises tractors, cranes, skid loaders, and tractor trucks. The magazines are usually published weekly. Be patient until you see what you're looking for as far as lift capacity, fuel type, total height of the forklift assembly, price, and of course, location.

If you will be using your forklift in an enclosed building without fresh air coming in, you either have to go electric or get good ventilation in the shop during and for a while after use. I was an assembly line supervisor in Houston and quit that job because there was "NO threat from the exhaust fumes!" Then a couple years ago after I'd moved up north, even the local Minnesota news told of a company in Houston, Texas where nearly every employee was taken to the hospital, overcome with exhaust fumes. That was my ex-employer. All operations were shut down pending OSHA investigation. If you can "get by" with an electric forklift, by all means do so!

Propane works well inside and has very little fumes. Side shift is almost a necessity (and definitely very useful). A unit of 3/4" particleboard or melamine weighs about 4,000 lbs. We have a 6,000-lb lift and it handles anything we need. If you’re operating on gravel, you’ll have to go with pneumatic tires.

Pneumatic tire, 4 to 6,000 pound, LP powered lifts are a commodity item. The upper end of that size range would do best while giving you the tight-quarters ability. Three stage mast and side shift are commonly demanded features and make the machine more useful.

We have had good luck with machines from a reputable lift dealer that are 2 to 3 years old and have 1000 to 2000 hours on them, have been well maintained and don't look beat up. Older machines are harder to get parts for. We bought our first auction machine last winter and ended up putting a new motor and transmission in it.

Talladega Machine Sales is a good place to look at both machines for sale and comparable values. Ask around for reputable dealers in you area and get three proposals. Once you buy a machine, don't forget preventive maintenance and some sort of operator training program.

We bought a 5000# Cat from a dealer (it had come back off lease). It was three years old and a little more than 1/2 new price. Side shift is really nice, triple mast for stacking high, too, but both decrease lift capacity, so you need a 5000# machine to handle typical 40 sheet units. Propane is fine indoors for the little you will probably be running it. If you buy electric, check the price of new batteries first! Our machine has "cushion" tires. They look like pneumatics but won't go flat from screws, etc. Your operators will need to have official training to meet OSHA requirements--get that out of the dealer as part of buying the machine.