We get it. Purchasing material handling equipment like forklifts is a significant investment, so you want to make the right decisions. At Reliable Forklift Sales we believe in putting our customers and their needs first and foremost so helping people is second nature to us.

Unfortunately, many dealers care more about their profits and bottom line than about building strong relationships with folks. That’s why we’ve put together this no-nonsense forklift buying guide to help you, as a consumer, navigate the forklift world and make the best decision for yourself (and if you’re in Arizona we can help you directly, just contact us).

Now, let’s look at the most frequently asked questions (with answers) by people in need of lift equipment. Use the links directly below to jump right to the question you have or read it all by scrolling down the page.


Forklifts on a Truckbed

Forklifts are a big purchase, use the answers below to help you make an informed choice!


How do I know if I should buy a NEW OR USED forklift?

The industry standard is this: if forklift usage will be 3 or more hours per day, then you should buy a new machine. If the usage will be 2 hours per day or less, a quality used forklift can be considered. Our experience with clients backs up this wisdom. 


How do I know if I should BUY OR RENT a forklift?

This seems somewhat obvious, but there are some things to consider. Of course, for a short-term need, you would want to rent. And for a consistent long-term need, a purchase would be best.

However, consider this: if your application is going to change in the next year or so where you will need a forklift with different specifications, then you may want to rent for the time being.

Renting can also be useful when you’re having a hard time deciding what to buy. This gives you a chance to test (in real-world conditions) a specific brand or capacity for example. A good dealership will offer a demo or a short-term rental, allowing you to use the machine at your facility.


How do I know whether to LEASE OR PURCHASE a new forklift?

There are a few different ways to acquire a forklift.  

Purchase. Outright (write a check) or finance to own through a lending source. For new forklifts or used equipment.

Lease (Fair Market Value Lease). Making payments for an agreed-upon length of months, usually 36-60 months, and then return the equipment to the lender. For new equipment only.

Rent. Open-ended use of the forklift for a specified period of time (from 1 day up to many months).

Most of the time, the best option is to purchase or rent the machine.

You should consider a lease when you know your usage will be ~3 hours per day and you know that your application of the forklift will change in the next few years. This is the sweet spot where buying used equipment would not be wise, but also a long-term rental agreement would no longer make fiscal sense.


What are the maintenance costs of owning a forklift?

There are maintenance costs associated with a forklift. Usually, there is a minor planned maintenance service every 200 hours and major maintenance service every 2000 hours. Other costs incurred include fuel as well as any wear and tear or repairs.  Typically, a customer may purchase the forklift with or without a maintenance agreement. Most forklift dealers offer two types:

Planned Maintenance (PM) agreement; that is not a contract.  The dealer will service the forklift on a determined schedule (determined by hours of usage). With this basic plan, the customer is still liable for any breakdown maintenance that occurs after the warranty expires. 

Full Maintenance (FM) agreement, where the customer is charged a monthly fee that covers all PM and breakdown maintenance for a stated number of months.

This question brings up another consideration though: cost to own. Be sure to look at the lifetime cost of any equipment purchase instead of only the upfront cost. You can research this information online or get it from a trusted dealer.

You should also track how much your forklift(s) costs per hour (especially as it gets older or maintenance increases) so you know when it’s nearing the end of its life-cycle and when a new forklift purchase would be more cost-effective. The formula for this is simple: the total cost of maintenance that year divided by the number of hours of use (1500 hrs per year is typical).


Is there a significant difference between different brands of forklifts?

Forklift quality has dramatically improved in the last 30 years, but certain brands are built with different components that may make it more suited for particular applications.  Regardless of brand, it is equally important to choose the dealer that can best service and provide parts for the forklift after the sale. Once you’ve settled on a manufacturer/brand, it can sometimes be helpful to stick with them so that your crew can switch from one forklift to the next with ease.


How do I know what accessories or options I need for my forklift?

Forklifts can come with a variety of tire options and other accessories such as backup alarms, lights, mirrors, ergonomic support, and attachments. Be sure only to get what you need and not get caught up over-complicating things. Your dealer should be guiding you to select the one tire option that best suits your needs and only adding on the accessories needed for your use case.


How do I choose a forklift dealer and service provider I can trust?

Have they walked you through a process similar to this article to figure out YOUR needs? If so, that is a good sign that they want to get you the right equipment for your situation and develop a long-term relationship. You may also want to find out how long they’ve been in business, the experience level of their technicians, the variety of parts and service they provide, and how long their staff has been with the company. 

You can ask these questions to yourself or directly to the representative you’re working with, then trust your gut to make a character determination. You might also ask their customers, privately, about their experience(s).

Finally, online reviews from places like Google, Yellowpages, or Yelp are also something to consider (especially if the dealer does not provide references). Customers are more likely than ever before to display their positive or negative experiences with a business publicly.


Any other questions?

We hope the information above is helpful as you begin in your forklift buying process.

Here are some other questions to determine as you make your final decision:

  • How will you use the forklift(s)?
  • Will you need to stack?
  • In what environment will it be used?
  • What is the weight of your loads; Average? Max?
  • How many people will be operating the equipment? How often?

If you have any other questions you want to be answered in this article, or if you’re located close to Phoenix, AZ and would like to talk with our experts about your needs, please contact us. We’re happy to help!

Comments on "The Forklift Buying Guide: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers"

  • Arya Smith says:

    I totally agree when you said that the dealer should be able to inform you as well regarding the items that you need for the forklift. Actually, we are not buying one, but we are just going to rent because we do not have the resources to buy a forklift. However, this information will also be useful since we will be the ones picking the equipment that we need for the warehouse.

  • It’s great that this article mentions how you can buy or rent a forklift and they can come with different specifications. I like that you mention how you can determine which to get based on long-term or short-term needs. When choosing, it might be a good idea to figure out whether you want to buy or rent and then look online to find a forklift dealer that carries the kind you want to ensure that you can use the machine you get for your project.

  • Great content! Thank you for providing us with these tips.

  • I love that you mentioned that you can know that a forklift service provider will be trustworthy based off of their experience level. My wife and I have been talking about finding a forklift service to help us because we might get one soon. We are thinking that we could optimize our efficiency by getting one, so we are very interested in that option. I will be sure to consider their experience level when I am looking for a service provider.