How to Choose the Proper Capacity for Your Forklift

Photo courtesy of Bryan Van Devender via

If you are buying or leasing a forklift, it’s important to get the right size vehicle. If you get one that is undersized or underpowered, your workers are going to continually struggle to get the job done.

But getting a forklift that is too big or too powerful is also a problem. You may be wasting money on fuel and maintenance costs unnecessarily.

The ideal forklift capacity is the one that is powerful enough to do the most difficult task, but nimble enough to perform as many jobs as possible through a typical shift.

Determining Forklift Capacity

The first consideration before choosing a new forklift is the typical load you anticipate carrying. Load size is measured by weight. Forklift capacity indicates how much weight a forklift can lift. Are you planning on moving palletized products or heavy equipment?

As accurately as you can, estimate the dimensions and weights of the typical loads your forklift will carry. If they are usually the same size, this will be easy. But if your load sizes will vary, try to anticipate the weight of the heaviest load.

Capacities of typical forklifts range from 3,000 pounds to 50,000 pounds, although there are some heavy-duty industrial forklifts that can handle heavier loads.

Height Capacity

Forklifts can be raised to different heights. So you want to make sure you get a vehicle that is right for the tasks you expect it to perform. The height of the highest shelf or work site you need to reach should be the maximum height of the forklift you get.

But the height of your shelves isn’t the only workplace consideration. You also need to know the width of your aisles. Forklifts come in a variety of widths so you want to make sure you don’t get one that is too big to fit down your aisles efficiently.

Work Capacity

On a typical shift, how long do you expect your forklift to be on the job without stopping to refuel? This is an important consideration because downtime in the middle of a shift can cost you money in terms of productivity and efficiency.

Then there’s the question of whether you will be using your forklift indoors, outdoors, or both. Vehicles with internal combustion engines can’t usually be operated indoors because of the exhaust fumes. Electric forklifts, on the other hand, may not be ideal for outdoor weather conditions.

Knowing how you plan to use your forklift is important information because it helps you choose the ideal vehicle for your specific needs.


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