How to Choose the Right Forklift
New Forklift? Rent – Lease – or Purchase
When deciding to rent, lease or purchase a forklift there are so many brands, dealers and options that the decision can quickly become confusing and sometimes down right difficult. Here are some easy points to consider to help you come out of the deal with the equipment you need at the right price, along with great service after the sale!
- What is Capacity & Why Do I Need to Know It?
The rated capacity of a forklift is the amount of weight it is able to lift. Forklift capacity is found on the unit’s data plate along with other important information. Keep in mind that the higher you are lifting a load the lower the capacity will become. If you add an attachment this will also effect the unit’s capacity. Most capacities are rated at a 24″ load center. Before deciding on what forklift to purchase or rent, make sure you have a good idea of the weights and sizes of the loads you intend to lift. Any good dealer can help you with this if needed. The most commonly used capacities range from 3,000-6,000 pound units, however forklifts can range anywhere from 2,000-65,000 pounds or more. The more the unit can lift, the more expensive it is. It is important to know what capacity unit you need not only to make sure you get the job done, but that you get it done safely. Using a forklift with too small of a capacity can cause damage to the goods you are lifting and can be potentially deadly to operators and those around them.
- Lift Height & Collapsed Height
Along with capacity, you also need to know how high you want to lift your material and if you have any height restrictions. Lift height can be key if you are working on projects that reach above the typical 188″-189″ of a triple stage upright. “Quad” units have a fourth mast, allowing them to lift to heights of 240″ or more. A forklift’s collapsed height is measured from the tallest part of the unit to the floor, when the forks are completely lowered. This measurement is important if you have low doors or ceilings in the building you are working in, or in the trucks you are loading/unloading.
- What is My Application? How Does This Help Me Choose My Forklift?
When selecting a forklift one of the very first questions that should come to mind is “What am I using this forklift for and where am I using it?” The answer to that question is your application. What are you using it for: to stack pallets, move large rolls of paper, carpet or logs, piping? The possibilities are endless. Where are you doing the primary lifting: in a warehouse, outside on asphalt, gravel, mud, grass, in the woods? The product you are moving and the type of environment you are working in determines your application. The type of application you have determines certain specifications on your forklift such as the type of fuel, tires, and any attachments you might need. If you are working in an environment where certain safety precautions must be taken talk to your dealer about specially safety-rated units. If you are working outside in grass or mud and have heavy loads to lift, ask your dealer about rough terrain and four wheel drive units.
There are multiple attachment options available for your forklift. Carton clamps, rotating clamps, sideshifters, marble clamps, battery retrievals, drum handlers, carpet poles, push-pulls, fork positioners and hydraulic clamps are all examples. Once you have established your capacity and application with your dealer, ask about attachments and if they could benefit you. Special attachments may also increase the residual value of your unit. When purchasing a unit with more than one feature or attachment you may want to consider a forklift that has a fourth operating lever. Talk to your dealer to decide what attachment options are best for you.
- Fuel Options
You also have multiple fuel options to consider when selecting a forklift: electric powered, gasoline, LP gas, diesel and dual fuel gasoline/LP gas. Your application can help determine which fuel source to choose along with cost and preference. If you are working inside in a closed facility it is unlikely that you would want an internal combustion unit because of the exhaust fumes, so an electric powered forklift would be ideal. However, electric forklifts are generally more expensive to purchase, and their batteries require specific chargers and special care & maintenance. If you need a heavy-duty forklift chances are it will be diesel. Dual fuel forklifts offer flexibility and a little more mobility, in that if you run out of gasoline you can simply switch the unit over to LP gas to finish the job. The cost and availability of fuel is something to keep in mind, as this will be a required expense through the life of your forklift.
- Tire Options
Forklifts have numerous tire options. Cushion, air pneumatic, solid pneumatic and foam-filled are only some of them. Again, knowing your application will help determine the correct tire for your forklift. If you are working primarily indoors, on asphalt or cement then a smooth cushion tire will do. These tires are also available in a non-marking style, which will keep black marks off the floor. If you are working outside on rough asphalt, in gravel, mud or grass you will need a pneumatic tire. These tires have actual tread and add more of a cushion between the forklift and the ground. Keep in mind that forklifts do not come with their own suspension. The tires on your unit can greatly influence the comfort of your operators. Aftermarket tires that wear longer are also available. Consult your local dealer for your best options.
Just like automobiles, new (and sometimes used) forklifts come with warranties. A common forklift warranty covers major component repairs for one year/2000 hours, and wearable items for around 90 days. Certain parts may also be covered for a longer period. Extended warranties are available for an additional price. Be sure to ask the dealers you are consulting about the different warranty options that their manufacturers offer. Some are better than others, so check thoroughly. Before making any major repairs to your forklift always consult your dealer first. Even if the unit it is out of warranty there is still a possibility that the manufacturer will offer a little assistance, especially if the unit has low run hours.
- Maintenance and Service
We are so quick to compare purchase, lease or rental prices that we easily overlook the costs associated with maintaining our forklifts. This can lead to trouble in the long run. Manufacturers have recommended services that should be performed on their units at certain intervals. Review these with your dealer along with planned maintenance and periodic maintenance options. Planned maintenance is usually scheduled every 200 hours or 30-120 days, depending on how much you use your unit. This service includes oil & filter changes, fluid checks, lubrication and other various maintenance depending on your type of unit. Periodic maintenance is less frequent and covers differential fluid changes along with other less common maintenance, and occurs approximately once a year or every 2000 hours. A good dealer will offer you planned and periodic maintenance packages for your forklift, and come to your location routinely to perform them. This also gives the technician a chance to notice any existing or potential problems and correct them before they lead to larger failures. If you are leasing a forklift then you will have the option to purchase a full maintenance package and let the dealer take care of everything, or service the unit by your own means. The latter option, while presently saving you money, may cost you in the end if you return the unit from lease with failed parts. If you are renting a forklift as a short-term rental then all maintenance excluding damages/abuse, daily fluid checks & battery watering should be covered by the dealer.
- The Right Dealer
This is perhaps the most important decision you will face when looking to purchase, lease or rent a forklift. Not all dealers are created equal! Even if you are determined to stick with a particular brand, at least shop around a bit before going with the first dealer you come across that offers your favorite brand of forklift. Key factors when considering which forklift dealer to give your business to are: reputation of the company, quality of the equipment, convenience of the sales process, aftermarket resources, service capabilities, and overall customer service.
Reputation: It is highly recommended that you choose a local forklift dealer. You want a company that has been established in your area for some time and has a vested interest in your community. Local dealers are much more likely to stand behind their equipment and do what they can for you as a customer because their reputation is on the line. If you purchase equipment out of town, off of the internet or at auction then the person who sold it to you isn’t really going to care if you complain to your co-workers about the lousy machine they stuck you with. Choosing a local dealer also helps you support your community and keep business and money at home, something every town can benefit from.
Quality: Forklifts are not cheap. They are large, application-specific pieces of machinery that come with a hefty price tag. If your business or project is to the point where you require a forklift you want to be sure you make the wisest investment possible. Doing a little research ahead of time and having a general idea of what you want will help. Do an internet search for forklift reviews and see what’s being reported about the brands out there. Some brands cost more but last longer or offer better warranties, options or residual value. Some brands are less expensive because the give you less in the long run. Whether you choose a basic forklift or a unit with all the bells and whistles, you want to make sure you are getting what you paid for. Take the search results you find with you to your local dealer and discuss them. If you are in favor of a particular brand or model but there are some mixed reviews be honest with the salesman and ask him what he has experienced.
Sales Process: From start to finish the process of purchasing, leasing or renting a forklift should be as simple as possible. Again, this is why working with a local dealer will help you. Speaking directly to a salesman that is well versed in the equipment he or she represents can make all the difference in the world. Forklift varieties, attachment & tire options, financing, warranties and maintenance should all be covered before you are asked to make a decision. A good forklift salesman will make a strong effort to get you the correct equipment at the best deal possible, and follow up with you after the sale.
Aftermarket resources: These are points to keep in mind for after the sale. Does this dealer have their own parts department? Chances are if they stock their own parts they will be able to fix your unit faster when it breaks down, and that should include tires. Does this dealer have a rental department? When your unit goes down and you have to have something in its place, it’s a whole lot easier to get a short-term rental from the company who is fixing your equipment than it is to shop around for something yourself. Also, examining the dealer’s short-term rental fleet prior to purchase may help you decide which brand & model to go with. After market resources can also include miscellaneous items that assist in other aspects of your material handling, including racking and warehousing systems.
Service Capabilities: The service capabilities of your dealer will help ensure that your unit is well taken care of. Planned & periodic maintenance of your forklift, as well as manufacturer recommended services should all be presented to you upon purchase of your forklift. What is the dealer’s service response time – will they be out to fix the unit in a matter of hours or days? Are their technicians certified and trained properly? Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Customer Service: This final characteristic is perhaps the most important. Once you purchase a forklift from your local dealer you should expect continued high-quality customer service. No business is going to be able to immediately fix everything for you all of the time, but the dealer you choose should do everything within their power to assist you. They should have a friendly, helpful staff as well as convenient hours of operation. Scheduling a service call, ordering a rental or parts should should be a stream-lined, un-complicated processes. Local dealers will only thrive if their customers do, so taking care of you should be a priority to them.
Keeping these guidelines in mind when deciding on a forklift will help you save time, money and frustration in the long run. Remember to discuss any and all questions or concerns with your local dealer prior to the sale. This can help avoid confusion and possibly negative situations in the future. With these tips, your forklift purchasing should be a positive experience where you come out of the deal with the equipment you need at a price you can afford, knowing you have a strong team at your local dealer ready to help when you require service and support.
Following these general guidelines will help you make the most out of your short-term rental experience. Saving money, worry-free maintenance, instant response and quality customer service are all characteristics of a top-notch rental service. For more information or to experience quality leasing & short-term rental services, visit http://www.alliancemat.com/
Jessica Kolkhorst is Rental Manager for Alliance Material Handling, Inc.’s Winchester, Virginia branch. With four locations along the East Coast, Alliance has served the mid-Atlantic region since 1955 with material handling rentals, service, training, parts, new & used equipment sales, warehouse racking / systems. They carry many industry name brands including Crown, Clark, Doosan, Genie, Sellick, Terex, Princeton and more. Visit http://www.alliancemat.com/ today and let Alliance Material Handling become your provider of choice!