Questions to Ask Before Buying Your Next Forklift
As your business expands, your fleet must grow along with it. You may be looking to invest in a new forklift to boost your fleet’s productivity or because your existing equipment can’t deliver efficient work. From lifting various materials like wood, gravel, sand and food to transporting heavy machinery and pallets of cinder block, forklifts keep your logistics running.
When you’re in the market for new or used equipment, there are 10 critical questions to ask. Thompson Lift Truck experts are here to support your operations when you need to transport and lift materials at efficient rates. Follow our forklift buying guide to learn how we can help you earn a high return on investment when adding to your fleet.
The Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Purchasing a Forklift
Asking the right questions can provide additional details when searching for a forklift and help you make the right purchase. It’s vital to evaluate a situation before investing in new or used equipment to receive a functioning and reliable piece of machinery. Adhering to our forklift buying tips helps you remain organized throughout the process.
1. What Is the Current Situation of Your Operations?
A forklift can increase productivity levels and minimize downtime in a variety of situations. But there are several considerations to make based on your existing conditions. Are you planning on expanding your company in the future? You may be at a point in growth where you need more space and a larger fleet. You will want to purchase a forklift that accommodates your plans.
Do you plan on increasing forklift hours as you gain more clients? If so, plan accordingly based on your previous operation hours. If your operators work 20 hours a week on a forklift, are you looking to double the hours? If your facility runs on one shift, are you looking to increase to two or three shifts? Whether you continuously work your machines or use them periodically throughout the week will help determine what unit will best fit your needs.
Other requirements to be aware of include what you want to accomplish with a forklift and if you require additional tool attachments. Do you work with loose materials that involve FIBC or bulk bags? Or, does your inventory consist of solid materials like wood and others that need pallets. Several attachments for forklifts include drum handlers, lift jibs and dumping hoppers.
Understanding where you’re at and where you want to be is a crucial
2. What Is Your Budget?
Take time to review your budget and other allocations. Are you in the market to buy the top machine with bonus features such as air conditioning, extra lighting and fingertip controls? Or, does your budget cover only the essentials? Determining a financial plan will help you save resources and money while also aiding you in narrowing your options.
In your budget, you should consider the total cost of ownership and maintenance. If you have too many other allocations to support, buying new may not be the right step for your company.
Renting, leasing or purchasing used equipment is always an option. Buying new machinery involves a high upfront cost with the benefit of new parts while purchasing used has the advantage of a lower upfront cost with pieces that will require maintenance. Renting is ideal for short-term projects. The pros and cons of each will help you make a decision on your monetary limits.
3. What Materials Are You Lifting?
Because forklifts can transport almost any material, determining your maximum load weights is critical. Even the dimensions of your products will affect how well the forklift can operate and how it disperses the weight. Think about the length, width and height of your inventory.
Invest in a forklift that can withstand more than your total load to give you leeway. On occasion, you may need to lift heavier loads. Having extra power than what you need can help avoid damages to the unit and provide continuous support throughout your operations.
How high you need to lift components also matters. Are you transporting various items from one location the next, or are you storing inventory on high shelving? Knowing the lift height you need will determine the mast type. What materials do you work with regularly? Do you lift food, flammable materials, stone or delicate items? If you opt for an electric forklift, it can deviate from emission contamination. Some forklifts work better with flammable elements in potentially hazardous conditions, too.
When you narrow down your load weight, lift height and materials, you can better match a forklift for the job.
4. Does Your Work Facility Have Space Restrictions?
Knowing the available space around, over and under the forklift can aid you in picking the right size and type of machine. Consider obstructions such as power lines, doorways, beams, ducting, loading bays, shelving and other material handling equipment. Some factors may cause restrictions for the forklift's lifting height and width.
What are the dimensions of your worksite? Your aisles may be wide enough to accommodate several machines or just a single, compact engine. Do you have narrow or wide aisles? Does the forklift need to turn at a tight radius? Think about the productivity levels of different forklift models that can operate in tight vs. open spaces. Will you also require the forklift to load trailers and trucks? Various elements of your worksite can dictate how a forklift functions.
5. Are You Operating Indoors or Outdoors?
One of the most imperative questions to ask is whether you work indoors, outdoors or a combination of both. A forklift can tackle jobs inside on smooth concrete or outside on surfaces like mud and asphalt. Invest in equipment that parallels your environment.
It all comes down to choosing the appropriate tires, fuel types and other features for your site. For example, most businesses prefer electric forklifts for indoor use to reduce harmful emissions in enclosed spaces. Other fuel options include diesel and gas, which primarily operate outside.
Tires also come into play. For internal use, forklifts have cushion tires that are perfect for loading docks and other level surfaces. If you’re working outdoors, the pneumatic tires of rough-terrain forklifts work best. They have better traction on uneven and tough landscapes, making them ideal for construction sites, farms, lumber yards and more.
Cabins are another consideration. Open cabins are great for indoor use, as they provide operators with superior visibility and allow them to better navigate around tight areas. You may also prefer a closed cabin if you cannot regulate the temperature inside a building. Forklifts that run outside do well with enclosed cabins. They protect your workers from the elements and give them control over the cabin’s temperature.
6. Where Will You Store the Forklift?
While many questions revolve around the use of a machine, what happens after everyone clocks out for the day? Before purchasing a forklift, consider how and where you will store the equipment. You will want to keep the engine protected from the elements.
If storing the forklift outside is the only option, ensure it can handle various temperatures throughout the year. You can invest in components like a hydraulic tank heater, block heater, oil pan heater and cold weather hydraulic fluid. Safekeeping your equipment inside is ideal where regulated temperatures and protection from rain, sun and snow are a given. If you purchase an electric unit, can you charge it in a sheltered location?
Regular inspection also comes into play after each storage period. No matter if you stow your equipment for an extended time or a day, regular assessments are crucial to ensure the engine operates at peak levels before each use.
7. What Are the Maintenance Costs of Forklifts?
Every machine will eventually require maintenance. Think about the potential costs of maintaining your forklift, such as regular greasing, changing fluids and topping off oil. While maintenance preserves the value of your machine and decreases the number of breakdowns, it also comes with a slight cost.
Inquire about the possible maintenance agreements a dealer has in place for forklifts to receive support. They may offer a planned maintenance schedule where the dealer performs service and repairs throughout a determined program. They can also provide full maintenance where they charge you a fee per month to cover maintenance and breakdowns.
Ask about the average lifespan of the retailer’s forklift and whether the engines are notorious for particular faults. If you partner with a trusted brand, you'll likely find that repair and maintenance services are available.
8. Does the Forklift Brand Make a Difference?
Investing in the right brand can make all the difference when it comes to forklifts. You never want to buy heavy machinery based on low prices and easy access. Instead, research which brands manufacture reliable forklifts that can withstand various load capacities and environments. Is one brand superior over others in terms of efficiency, load weights, ergonomics and safety features?
9. Should You Test a Forklift Before Buying?
When trying to determine how to buy a forklift, remember that it’s similar in many ways to buying a car. It’s smart to test drive the forklift before purchasing because it gives you insight into the unit’s operations, conditions and how well it functions. Request a demonstration of the forklift on your worksite or in your facility before signing any papers.
What are the ergonomics like? Is it simple to operate? Other elements to consider include visibility, turning radius, steering, reversing, running on different grades, stopping and parking. Testing a forklift gives you a feel for how the equipment works and if it suits your exact requirements.
10. Can You Transport the Forklift?
When deciding on the forklift that best matches your needs, your final consideration is transportation. Can you move the forklift from the dealer to your facility as well as from jobsite to jobsite?
If you make consistent additions to your fleet or require regular transportation of your material handling equipment, you may want to acquire a trailer. It can mean the difference between waiting for a machine to arrive vs. having one ready to go.
Sometimes, dealers provide heavy equipment transportation to your worksite. You can also rent a trailer. Depending on your particular needs and the distance between your facilities, buying or renting a trailer can be beneficial.
Understanding the various tips on how to purchase a forklift can guide you through what may seem like a challenging task. Once you have an idea of your exact forklift components, evaluate your options. Compare features, advantages and prices of various makes and models. You can also determine the support of the supplier and if they offer additional services.
In 2018, more than 250,000 forklift units were sold in North America — about a 3% increase from 2017. This includes all classes ranging from electric to internal combustion engines. Electric forklift sales grew individually at 2.8% compared to 2017. Throughout each year, growing numbers of construction sites, warehouses and other facilities rely on forklifts to power their operations.
Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Forklift
Buying new isn’t always the ideal solution for every company. You may prefer to invest in a pre-owned, high-quality engine to provide the most value to your business during one-time or specialty projects. When you invest in a forklift that parallels your application, it can increase your ROI and productivity levels to help maintain your daily operations.
Adding used equipment to your fleet also involves asking yourself and the seller specific questions. You can implement our top 10 questions while also incorporating other inquiries that are specific to pre-owned solutions. Tips for buying a forklift include the following questions to guarantee a well-maintained used engine.
1. Why Are They Selling?
Is the person or dealer selling because the equipment doesn’t operate correctly or because they no longer have a use for the unit? Figuring out the reason for selling can help you to assess the condition of the forklift.
You will want to invest in a used piece of equipment that is in excellent condition. The more details provided about the unit, the more confident you can be that it operates well. Avoid making a deal where the owner discloses little about its history, maintenance and other conditions.
2. What Is the Forklift’s History?
The history of the forklift’s maintenance schedules, repairs and operations will provide you with an overview of the engine’s current condition. How was it previously used? What loads did it carry, and what environment did it drive in? Did the owner maintain and store it well?
Make sure to receive the history of the forklift, whether it had one or several previous owners.
3. What Are the Abilities of the Forklift?
As you’re inquiring about a used forklift, ask about the following details — width, maximum lifting height and maximum load capacity. It’s imperative to have an idea of what your company expects from the equipment. You want to buy a forklift that can handle your particular weights, heights, materials and restrictions.
4. What Are the Maintenance Costs?
You want to look for equipment that has low maintenance costs that won’t deplete your resources and money. Can your business afford the necessary repairs and services? The cost of available parts also affects the total maintenance costs.
5. Are Attachments Available?
Tool attachments are vital in transforming a forklift from a one-purpose machine to a multifaceted one. Accessories can help you lift various loads and often eliminate the need for other equipment. Choose a forklift that can work with a multitude of attachments to deliver more functionality.
6. What Does the Hour Meter Indicate?
While the hours of operation don’t directly relate to the condition of the engine, it can provide insight into its performance. Compare the number of hours on a forklift to the average lifespan for that make and model to get an estimate of how long the machine will last you. Of course, hours of operation is just one factor, so be sure to conduct a thorough inspection of the forklift’s condition as well. A high-hour forklift that’s in excellent condition may indicate that the machine is extremely reliable.
Having a list of questions to ask before and during the buying process can mean the difference between investing in a worn-out piece of equipment and a pre-owned unit that operates at superior levels.
Critical Safety Features to Hone In On
Like working with any piece of heavy equipment, safety should be at the forefront of your concerns. Inspecting a new or used forklift for proper operation relates to the security of your workers. Questions to ask regarding the forklift’s safety include:
- Are there any cracks or damages in the overhead guard, forks, mast or other areas?
- Does the engine show signs of overheating?
- Are the tires damage-free and inflated at the proper PSI?
- Does the exhaust system produce sparks?
- Do the controls work well — lower, lift and tilt?
- Are the battery terminals covered and fuel connections tight?
- Does the horn work?
- Are there hydraulic leaks present?
- What safety features are available?
While new machines should have a 100% rating of well-functioning components, always ensure the safety of your employees. If investing in a used forklift is the best option, asking about safety concerns becomes more essential. Your question guideline will help you discover the performance of new and used forklifts and what safety attributes the forklift has.
Think about your workers, as well. Do they have the proper training and certifications to operate a forklift? Choose a piece of equipment with great ergonomics and high safety ratings to keep your operators safe throughout your projects.
Partnering With a Reputable and Trustworthy Dealer
Selecting the best forklift for your business can be a challenge, but when you rely on the experts at Thompson Lift Truck, we can point you in the right direction. We partner with you to understand your material handling needs, no matter if you’re in the construction, agriculture, warehouse or freight industries. Our specialists even provide insight, services and replacement parts when breakdowns occur to eliminate downtime.
Browse our inventory of new forklift equipment or check out our rental options. Thompson Lift Truck provides high-quality equipment that supports you throughout your operations. Contact us for more information about how we can guide you through the forklift buying process.