What To Look For When Buying a Lift

Reprinted with permission of Professional Tool and Equipment News, May 1996

In buying a lift, our study shows that shop owners consider capacity, design, product features, safety systems, and the manufacturer to be the most important features. Since 87% of lifts sold are 2-post, surface mounted units, we will limit our report to this style.


Twin-post lifts range from 6,000 to 30,000 lbs. Deciding which is best is crucial, as one should never overload any lift.


Most lifts are “clearfloor” lifts. A crucial question is whether the lift uses a fixed position overhead bar to connect the two posts, or an adjustable height overhead hydraulic line. A fixed position bar may not fit in many shops (low ceilings), or will not allow the technician to fully raise taller utility vehicles.


One frequently overlooked feature is the swing arm height in its lowest position (to fit under low-riding cars). Another overlooked feature are the adaptors needed to service truck and vans. Don’t you forget either one.


All lifts should have 1) all-position mechanical safety locks, 2) infinite-position hydraulic safeties as a backup system, and 3) automatic engaging swing arm restraints. Make sure the lift you’re considering does.


Are you buying a name-brand lift, or an off-brand? A name-brand lift manufacturer will generally send his local rep to your shop to discuss your lifting needs and to recommend the best piece of equipment. That rep will also deliver and install your new lift. Name-brand manufacturers offer fully inclusive warranties covering parts and labor as well.

Off-brand lifts on the other hand, rarely have sales or service people visit your shop, and generally will drop ship your new lift. You install it, and you service it. If the lift isn’t perfect, they’ll talk you through the problems over the phone. The same holds true on lift warranties. Do you want to fix your lift that was bought over the phone (or through an equipment catalog) yourself, or do you expect that manufacturer to fix it for you? Will parts be available? Will that manufacturer still be in business tomorrow? Do a thorough background check.

The best advice is to go out and physically compare the different brands of lifts you’re considering. See how the lift is constructed, look at the welding, compare the cylinder sizes, and talk to other users. Choosing the right lift is a decision you should only have to make once, as a quality lift from a know manufacturer will last a lifetime.