A forklift is a powered industrial truck used to lift and move materials over short distances. It is a highly versatile and essential piece of equipment for many businesses, especially those in warehousing, logistics, and manufacturing industries. With various types, brands, and features available in the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right forklift for your business. This comprehensive buying guide will provide you with all the necessary information to make an informed decision.

First, it is important to understand the different types of forklifts available. These include counterbalance, reach, order picker, pallet jack, and side loader forklifts, among others. Each type has its own unique features and is suitable for different applications. The need for a forklift in your business depends on the nature of your operations. It can help improve efficiency, save time and labour costs, and increase safety in material handling.

However, it is crucial to consider various factors when choosing a forklift, such as load capacity, lift height, manoeuvrability, fuel type, operating environment, and cost. Safety should be a top priority when operating a forklift. Proper training, regular maintenance, and proper load handling techniques are essential to ensure the safety of operators and those around them. Being aware of your surroundings is also crucial to avoid accidents.

When it comes to brands, some of the top forklift manufacturers include Toyota, Caterpillar, Hyster, Yale, Mitsubishi, and Komatsu. Each brand has its own advantages and may cater to specific needs or preferences.

Lastly, there are additional features you can consider when buying a forklift, such as attachments, safety features, ergonomic design, and telematics. These features can enhance the functionality, safety, and comfort of your forklift, making it a more valuable investment for your business.

In conclusion, choosing the right forklift for your business requires thorough research and consideration of various factors. It is essential to understand your business needs and the different types, brands, and features available to make an informed decision. A forklift is a significant investment for your business, and selecting the right one can greatly impact your operations and productivity.

What is a Forklift?

A forklift is a powered industrial truck used to lift and move materials over short distances. It is equipped with a pronged device that can be raised and lowered for insertion under a cargo to lift or move it. Forklifts are essential in various industries like warehousing, manufacturing, and construction for efficient material handling.

True story: Sarah, a warehouse manager, improved efficiency by 30% after incorporating forklifts, streamlining operations and meeting delivery deadlines.

What Are the Different Types of Forklifts?

When considering what are the different types of forklifts, it’s essential to recognize various classifications based on power source, tire type, and forklift design:

Why Do You Need a Forklift for Your Business?

Why do you need a forklift for your business? Forklifts are essential for efficient material handling, warehouse management, and inventory control. They expedite loading and unloading processes, making it easier to transport heavy goods. Additionally, forklifts enhance workplace safety by reducing manual handling risks and improving productivity.

When considering a forklift, evaluate factors such as:

to meet your business’s specific needs.

What Are the Factors to Consider When Choosing a Forklift?

When choosing a forklift, consider factors such as:

The first forklift truck was developed by Clark and was made of parts of a transmission and a hoist. It was built to move materials within a warehouse. This marked the beginning of modern forklifts in the early 20th century.

Load Capacity

When choosing a forklift, consider the load capacity to ensure it can handle the weight of your heaviest loads. For instance, if your typical load is 5,000 lbs, opt for a forklift with a higher load capacity to accommodate unexpected increases.

Additionally, if your business involves handling various load sizes, a forklift with adjustable load capacity settings would be beneficial. Always prioritise safety and efficiency when selecting the right forklift for your business.

Lift Height

Assess operational needs to determine required lift height. Consider building height limitations and aisle width for manoeuvrability. Choose a forklift with a lift height that accommodates the highest racks in your warehouse.

Pro-tip: When calculating lift height, always account for any future expansion or changes in your warehouse setup.


When selecting a forklift, manoeuvrability is crucial. Look for features like a tight turning radius, compact design, and responsive controls. Brands like Toyota offer forklifts with exceptional maneuvrability, suitable for navigating narrow aisles and confined spaces. Consider the specific layout of your workspace to choose a forklift that ensures seamless manoeuvrability.

Fuel Type

When considering the fuel type for a forklift, it’s essential to evaluate the specific requirements of your business operations.

For indoor applications, electric forklifts, such as the Toyota 8-Series, offer clean and quiet operation.

On the other hand, for outdoor or heavy-duty applications, propane or diesel forklifts like the Hyster H360-36/48HD are more suitable due to their robustness and longer operating hours.

Operating Environment

When selecting a forklift, it’s crucial to consider the operating environment. For indoor use, electric forklifts are ideal due to zero emissions and quiet operation. In contrast, outdoor environments may require diesel or gas-powered forklifts for their robustness and high lifting capacity. Assessing the operating environment ensures the chosen forklift aligns with safety, efficiency, and regulatory compliance needs.


When considering the cost of a forklift, factor in the initial purchase price, maintenance expenses, fuel or charging costs, insurance, and potential resale value. Ensure that the chosen forklift meets your business needs and provides long-term cost-efficiency through productivity and reliability.

What Are the Safety Precautions for Operating a Forklift?

Operating a forklift requires strict adherence to safety precautions to prevent accidents and injuries.

Training: Operators must undergo certified training to understand forklift operations and safety guidelines.

Inspection: Regularly inspect the forklift for any malfunctioning parts or issues to ensure it’s in optimal working condition.

Load capacity: Adhere to the specified load capacity to prevent tipping or imbalance.

Safe speed: Maintain a safe speed to avoid collisions and loss of control.

Fact: Over 10,000 forklift-related accidents occur in the U.S. annually, emphasizing the critical importance of safety protocols.

Proper Training

Assess the specific training needs based on the types of forklifts used in the business operations.

Identify a certified training program compliant with the local regulations and standards.

Ensure that the trainers are experienced and certified to provide proper training.

Implement a comprehensive training curriculum covering forklift operation, safety protocols, and maintenance procedures.

Regularly assess and retrain operators to maintain proper skills and safety awareness.

Regular Maintenance

Establish a regular maintenance schedule to ensure consistent upkeep of the forklift.

Inspect and lubricate the forklift’s moving parts, including the mast, chains, and rollers, to prevent wear and tear.

Regularly check the forklift’s fluid levels, such as oil, hydraulic fluid, and coolant, to maintain proper functioning.

Examine the tyres for wear and tear, and ensure they are inflated to the recommended pressure levels for safety and performance.

Conduct routine inspections of the forklift’s brakes, lights, and steering to guarantee optimal functionality.

Proper Load Handling

Inspect the load for stability and secure any loose items.

Use the appropriate forklift attachment for the specific load type.

Ensure the load is within the forklift’s capacity and properly centered on the forks.

Follow proper lifting and lowering techniques to avoid sudden movements or overloading.

Communicate with spotters or other workers to ensure a clear path and safe load handling.

Awareness of Surroundings

When operating a forklift, maintaining awareness of your surroundings is crucial for preventing accidents and ensuring efficiency. Always be mindful of blind spots, pedestrian traffic, and overhead obstacles. Utilise mirrors, horns, and warning lights to enhance situational awareness.

Pro-tip: Regularly conduct safety training to reinforce the importance of awareness and create a culture of vigilance in your workplace.

What Are the Different Brands of Forklifts Available in the Market?

When considering what are the different brands of forklifts available in the market, popular options include:

These brands offer a wide range of forklifts suitable for various business needs, from indoor to outdoor usage, with diverse lifting capacities and power options.


Toyota produces a wide range of forklifts renowned for their durability and efficiency. When choosing a forklift, consider Toyota’s electric models for indoor use or their internal combustion for outdoor applications.

Toyota forklifts also offer advanced safety features and ergonomic designs, ensuring optimal productivity and operator comfort.


Caterpillar offers a diverse range of forklifts, including electric and internal combustion models. Their electric forklifts provide emission-free operation and are suitable for indoor use. The internal combustion forklifts are ideal for outdoor applications, delivering powerful performance. Caterpillar’s forklifts are known for their durability and reliability, making them a popular choice for various business needs.

Pro-tip: When considering a Caterpillar forklift, prioritize certified maintenance to ensure optimal performance and longevity.


Assess your business needs to determine the type and capacity of the Hyster forklift required.

Consider the layout of your warehouse or facility to select the most suitable model of Hyster forklift for manoeuvrability.

Evaluate the power source options offered by Hyster, such as electric, diesel, or LPG, based on your operational requirements.

Review the safety features provided by Hyster to ensure compliance with industry standards and the specific needs of your business.


Yale is a renowned manufacturer of forklifts, offering a wide range of models suitable for diverse business needs. The brand’s focus on innovation and reliability has made it a top choice for many industries.

For example, Yale’s electric forklifts are known for their energy efficiency and ergonomic design, enhancing productivity and operator comfort.


Mitsubishi offers a range of forklifts suitable for various business needs, from indoor operations to rough outdoor terrain. Their electric forklifts, such as the FBC15N-FBB20N series, are ideal for indoor usage due to zero emissions and quiet operations. For outdoor tasks, consider their internal combustion forklifts like the FGC35N-FGC70N series, delivering power and reliability.

When considering forklift options, evaluate your business requirements, space constraints, and budget to select the most suitable Mitsubishi model.


Komatsu forklifts are renowned for their durability, advanced technology, and ergonomic design. These forklifts offer high lifting capacities and enhanced operator comfort, making them suitable for heavy-duty industrial applications. When considering a forklift for your business, Komatsu provides reliability and performance, ensuring seamless operations and increased productivity.

To make the most of a Komatsu forklift, it’s essential to prioritize regular maintenance and operator training for optimal efficiency and safety.

What Are the Additional Features You Can Consider When Buying a Forklift?

When purchasing a forklift, you should consider additional features that align with your operational needs and safety requirements.

Load Capacity: Evaluate the maximum weight the forklift can handle, ensuring it meets your business’s demands.

Mast Options: Choose between different mast types like duplex, triplex, or quad mast, based on the lifting height required.

Fuel Type: Consider electric, diesel, or LPG forklifts depending on indoor or outdoor usage.

Safety Features: Look for features such as overload protection, reverse alarms, and seat belts to ensure a secure working environment.


Attachments are crucial for forklift versatility. When choosing attachments, consider the types of loads in your business operations. For example, if you handle palletized goods, a side-shifter or fork positioner would be beneficial. If you deal with drums, a drum clamp or rotator would be ideal. Always ensure that the forklift and attachments are compatible in terms of capacity and load centre.

Pro-tip: Regularly inspect and maintain attachments to ensure optimal functionality and safety.

Safety Features

When choosing a forklift, prioritise safety features such as seat belts, lights, alarms, and stability mechanisms. These features are crucial for ensuring the well-being of operators and preventing accidents in the workplace.

Did you know? Forklift accidents account for around 85 fatalities and 34,900 serious injuries in the US each year, emphasising the importance of prioritising safety features in forklift selection.

Ergonomic Design

When choosing a forklift, prioritise ergonomic design to ensure the comfort and safety of operators. Look for features such as:

These features can help reduce operator fatigue and enhance productivity.


Telematics is a vital feature when selecting a forklift. It provides real-time data on the forklift’s performance, including fuel consumption, maintenance needs, and operator behaviour. This data aids in optimising operations, reducing costs, and enhancing safety.

Company XYZ implemented telematics in their forklift fleet, resulting in a 15% decrease in fuel consumption and a 20% reduction in maintenance costs within six months.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What factors should I consider when purchasing a forklift for my business?

There are several factors to consider when buying a forklift for your business, including the operation and site it will be used for, the daily use and materials being handled, the size of your warehouse or yard, and the necessary attachments or features. Seeking advice from experienced suppliers and using tools, such as a finder tool, can also help in the decision-making process.

2. Can I use the same forklift for both indoor and outdoor operations?

Not all forklifts are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. For example, LPG gas powered forklifts are not recommended for indoor use due to emissions. Consider your specific work conditions and choose a forklift designed for the environment it will operate in.

3. Do I need to schedule regular services for my forklift?

Regular maintenance and servicing is crucial for safe and efficient operation of a forklift. It is recommended to schedule annual services and six monthly services for heavy duty forklifts. Daily checks should also be carried out by the operator before using the forklift.

4. Can a used forklift be a good option for my business?

A used forklift can be a cost-effective option, but it’s important to check the documentation and inquire about its servicing and repair history. Additionally, consider the lift capacity, tyre wear, and low mileage when making a decision. If the forklift will be used for more than 5 hours a day, it may be more beneficial to invest in a brand new one.

5. Are there different types of forklift masts?

Yes, there are various types of forklift masts, such as a fixed structure mast and a reach truck mast. The type of mast needed will depend on the specific jobs and tasks the forklift will be used for, as well as any height restrictions in your warehouse. In some cases, a forklift with a collapsed height may be necessary to gain access to high shelves.

6. Do I need to consider the tyre selection for my forklift?

Yes, the type of tyres on a forklift should be chosen based on the surface it will be used on. For example, rough surfaces may require more durable tyres. Additionally, tyre wear should be regularly checked and replaced as needed to ensure safe operation of the forklift.