There is much to consider when buying a forklift. Choosing the right machine can have a big impact on your bottom line – affecting everything from operation costs and productivity to employee morale and stock damage.
The following is a list of elements to consider when searching for a new or used forklift. Our professional and friendly ForkForce sales team would only be too happy to walk you through this process step-by-step to ensure you get the best unit for your situation…
Step 1: Identify your main requirements
– What stock is the forklift handling?
– What is the heaviest load you need to lift?
– How high do you have to lift your heaviest load?
– What is the highest point the forklift needs to reach and for what load weight?
– What are your average load weights and typical lift heights?
– Do you need to unload or load shipping containers with your forklift (this decides whether you require a 2 or 3-stage mast)?
– Do you have any height restrictions such as ceiling cross beams or low hanging lights or angled roofing?
– What is the height of the lowest doorway or access point that the forklift must pass through (this dictates the maximum collapsed height of the mast)?
– Will you be using the forklift indoors or outdoors or both (this helps to determine the fuel type and tyre type)?
– What ground surface are you driving the forklift on – concrete, gravel, timber, dirt or rough terrain etc (this will affect your choice of tyre)?
– What is your preferred fuel type supply and storage wise?
– How much room do you have to manoeuvre?
– How wide is your narrowest aisle?
– How many hours per day will the forklift be used?
– What forklift attachments or accessories (if any) do you need to handle your stock?
- For example: cabin lights for night work or dark warehouse work, a registration plate to drive the forklift on public roads, a weight gauge for safer load lifting, a cardboard bale clamp or paper roll clamp, round drum handler, crane jib, a steel ramp to drive into containers, a safety work cage that can be forklift hoisted, or a sideshift or fork positioner to make moving the tynes or forks quick and easy for each differently shaped stock item.
Step 2: New v Used forklift
If you think your forklift will be used for more than four hours per day – which qualifies as heavy usage, you should probably buy a new (or near new) machine to get maximum use of its full mechanical lifetime.
ForkForce’s brand new Enforcer range all come with a 5-Year Parts & Labour Warranty to give you peace of mind for starters. Plus, the general prices for new forklifts have come down closer and closer to used forklift prices in recent years with the strong Australian dollar and huge rise in Chinese forklift production.
However, if you won’t use your forklift every day – and when you do it’s only for about an hour or two – then a quality used machine is the smartest economical option.
Step 3: Fuel options
Electric forklifts are powered by large rechargeable batteries that typically last for a 4-8 hour shift – depending on the frequency and weights of the loads, the distances travelled, the room temperature and the battery size and age.
Electric models are for indoor workplaces like warehouses because they don’t emit toxic or smelly fumes that will get trapped inside and endanger employee health. Electric forklifts are also generally not suited to the outdoors as rain damages their controls.
Even though electric forklifts are typically a bit more expensive to buy, they have lower operating and weekly ‘fuel’ costs, are much quieter to operate, have no fuel storage requirements, have fewer moving parts – reducing wear and tear, and are cheaper to service and maintain.
Recent innovations include fast-charge technologies which have significantly reduced battery recharging times overnight. Operations with two or three consecutive forklift shifts will need to stock extra batteries.
Alternatively, internal combustion engine forklifts may run on petrol, diesel, LPG or be dual fuel machines which can use both LPG or petrol. They are less expensive to purchase upfront, but their operational or fuel costs are higher.
Internal combustion forklifts are basically required for any loads weighing over 2,500kgs (although modern electric forklifts are getting much better and stronger) and they generally have better acceleration, power and rugged reliability.
Step 4: Tyre choices
Generally forklifts come with either inflated pneumatic tyres or solid rubber puncture-proof tyres, but there are also white non-marking tyres and cushioned tyres – each with their own specific use and environment.
Pneumatic tyres: for indoor or outdoor use; gives a smoother ride as they are inflated; not for really rough terrains or workplaces with sharps as they can puncture like regular car tyres; obviously they need to be kept inflated and have a shorter lifespan than solid rubber tyres; most useful outdoors on gravel or in yard work; longer and wider than cushioned tyres which is why they are primarily used outdoors.
Solid puncture-proof tyres: for indoor or outdoor use; gives a less smooth ride as they are totally solid rubber with no ‘give’; made for really rough terrains and hazardous workplaces with sharps as they obviously cannot be punctured; no need to be inflated; extremely hard-wearing and long-lasting.
Cushioned tyres: thin, low profile, inflated tyres for indoor use on smooth concrete surfaces or very light outdoor use on asphalt only; low ground clearance means they will bog in rough terrain; smaller turning radius makes them ideal for crowded warehouses with narrow aisles; less expensive and easier to source than pneumatics.
Non-marking tyres: for food and pharmaceutical type workplaces where hygiene is all important, the white sidewall and tread eliminate black driving and braking skid marks and the residue caused by tyre wear contributing to a cleaner floor environment.
Choosing the right tyres will really affect your forklift’s handling and safety, plus most forklifts have frames that will only accept a certain type of tyre. This is why choosing the right tyre basically means choosing the right machine as well.
Step 5: Choosing a forklift dealer
Make sure you choose your forklift dealer carefully. Do they…
(a) have a thorough knowledge of forklifts and forklift options?
(b) properly assess your workplace and business forklift requirements?
(c) run through all the questions/factors listed in ‘Step 1’ with you?
(d) have a wide enough range of new or used forklifts to actually supply your most suitable forklift in the first place?
(e) offer a warranty with their new or used forklifts?
(f) service and safety check the forklift before delivering it to you?
Dealers that offer multiple brands are generally in a better position to recommend the most suitable option. You will also want to work with a dealer that provides excellent after sales service and has been in business for a long time.