Buying a Forklift: 8 Questions to Answer BEFORE Calling the Dealer

Updated: Oct 20, 2015

Forklift for sale in a warehouse

So, the time has come. You’ve decided now is the time to add a new machine to your fleet and replace that old relic, which seems to be in the shop more than its moving material. Now, you’re faced with some difficult questions.

How do you know what to look for? Which options you need? Or better yet, what chassis type is required? The next thing you know you’re talking to a dealer, frustrated because you don’t know which type of machine is best suited for YOUR operation.

Lucky for you, I’ve outlined the top 8 questions to answer BEFORE you start looking for a new machine, so you can walk into the dealer feeling like a pro.

What Surfaces Will The Forklift Operate On?

From polished concrete floors to mud that will overflow into your boots, the ground equipment works on can vary dramatically and will change the type of forklift and chassis you require.

The different classes of forklifts are all suited to different operating conditions, with some classes only suitable for smooth concrete and others which would be overkill in the same application. You might also need the forklift to work on multiple surfaces, which again will narrow your options. This question helps refine your search and eliminate a few classes of forklifts from the mix.

Indoor, Outdoor, or Both?

Although this question is self-explanatory, it plays a key role in guiding your purchase decision and understanding your climate. Operating outdoors for extended periods of time will, in most cases, be more comfortable with an enclosed cabin; whereas an open cab will offer better visibility in an indoor facility with a controlled climate.

This question will also help decide which fuel type is best for your application. Even with changing emissions standards, most customers prefer to keep diesel forklifts for outdoor use only. Propane is versatile and can be used both indoor and outdoor, however the fuel tanks are smaller requiring more frequent refueling than diesel. Electric options are most commonly used for indoor only applications; however some models are now able to operate both indoor and outdoor and on multiple surfaces.

What Do You Plan To Lift?

Load dimensions come in all shapes and sizes and in the forklift world, the weight of the object doesn’t always determine what capacity you need in a machine. Length, width, and height will determine the load center of the object which will ultimately affect the capacity of your forklift.

Take a measurement of the load you plan to lift and figure out a good approximation of the weight of the object. This information will help your forklift sales representative calculate the right lift capacity required for the job at hand.

How High Do You Need To Lift?

This question should NOT be answered by looking at the maximum fork height of your current forklift. Take a measurement of your highest racking or package to determine your required max fork height. Don’t forget to take into account any obstacles you may need to lift over when placing product onto racking or into position.

Are There Any Height Restrictions?

Height restrictions are any items that limit the overall lowered height of a machine – the height of the forklift when the forks are on the ground. This can include doorways, overhead ducting, beams, or trailer/van heights when loading cargo. If the forklift will be operating inside of a trailer or van, will you need to stack product while inside?

Understanding these height restrictions combined with lift heights will determine which mast type you will need. A standard mast will have better capacity retention and visibility but will increase the height of the machine. A triplex mast offers greater lift heights with a lower height than a standard mast however; capacity retention will be lowered along with visibility.

Where Will The Machine Be Stored?

Certain machines should not be stored outdoors while they are not being used. Your operation may be perfectly suited to see substantial savings from an electric forklift, but if there is no way to store the machine indoors while being charged, this solution won’t work for you.

The storage of the machine also determines particular options required depending on climate. Machines stored outside in northern climates will require cold weather options which can include a block heater, oil pan heater, hydraulic tank heater, and cold weather hydraulic fluid.

How Often Will You Be Operating The Forklift?

Does your facility run a single, double, or triple shift operation? Are you operating a continuous operation where a forklift is an integral component of production or is the forklift merely a support machine which is used periodically throughout the day? High usage operations will cause increased wear and tear and decrease the overall life of a machine, meaning a new machine is probably your best bet. If you’re equipment see’s less than 4 hours of run time per day, a used machine might be a suitable option.

Are There Any Other Additional Preferences?

The above questions cover the basics of what you will need, but maybe there are some options you want as well. These can include additional lighting, fire extinguishers, air conditioning, fingertip controls, or maybe even an air ride seat for added comfort. This is your chance to get the optimal machine for you or your operators, why not take the extra time to make sure nothing is missed?

These 8 questions will help take the stress out of buying a new forklift by giving you a better idea of what you need. If you’re ready to start looking at a new piece of equipment or you would like some help answering these questions, give Leavitt Machinery a call and one of our trained representatives will be happy to come by and complete a free, on-site analysis for you.