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Materials handling vehicles range in price from as little as $3,000 or less for a new manually operated “walkie” to $100,000 or more for a high-capacity forklift. So the forklift costs you should expect to spend will depend on how you plan to use your vehicle.
The first consideration is whether you plan on using your forklift indoors or outdoors. Electric forklifts produce no harmful emissions and are quieter than internal combustion (IC) forklift, which makes them a popular choice for indoor use.
Because they produce no emissions, electric forklifts are considered “greener” than IC vehicles, so you can expect the ambient air quality in and around the freight docking areas to be improved.
Internal Combustion Forklifts
Forklifts powered by gas or diesel generally cost more up front than electric forklifts with comparable capacity, but they are also generally waterproof (most electric forklifts aren’t), which usually makes them a better choice for outdoor use.
IC forklifts also are better for use on uneven ground, especially rough terrain forklifts that are equipped with heavy-duty pneumatic tires and that have an extendable lifting arm.
If your primary use is both indoor and outdoor, a forklift powered by liquid propane (LPG) might be your best choice. They produce less exhaust than IC forklifts, which means they can safely be used indoors without causing noxious pollution.
Height and Weight Requirements
The next consideration is the height and weight requirements of your new forklift. Some vehicles can lift as much as 15,000 pounds or more, but if you aren’t going to need that kind of power, you shouldn’t have to pay for it. More commonly, forklifts have a range of between 3,000 and 8,000 payload capacity.
Generally, electric forklifts max at about 10,000 or 15,000 pounds. So if you are going to be consistently lifting loads heavier than that, you probably will need to consider an IC forklift that burns gasoline, diesel or propane.
Height also plays a role in your decision. If you require a higher than normal reach — such as 15 to 20 feet or more — then you may need a double- or triple-stage mast for added stability.
Forklifts with average height and weight capacity requirements can be purchased new for between $15,000 and $30,000 in some cases. But the higher the operating capacity you require, the more you can expect to spend.
Hidden Costs of Electric Vehicles
One of the biggest mistakes buyers make when considering electric forklifts is the additional costs that are involved, such as additional battery packs, battery rechargers for each truck, battery swapping equipment, battery charging station space and the labor costs and downtime involved with swapping and charging batteries.
With IC forklifts, if you require pneumatic tires, you can expect to spend more than you would if you were to purchase a forklift with cushion tires. Pneumatic tires provide better traction and give you a smoother ride on rough surfaces, but cushion tires are ideal for use indoors or on smooth surfaces, so don’t spend more if you don’t have to.
Like most products, the top tier brands of forklifts tend to cost more than lesser known off-brands. But their technological advances generally gives you increased productivity and reliability. Plus, the cost of ownership is generally lower, they often retain their value longer, and usually you have access to a more established dealer network for service, parts and accessories.