There are literally hundreds of different vehicle lifts on the market, made by dozens of different companies. Every one of those companies wants you to buy the lift that you really need, but choosing the right lift for your shop is not a simple matter. While price is a major consideration, it might not be the most important. You need to consider the kind of work it will be typically used for, how much space is available, who will support/maintain the lift … the list goes on. You should also assess your business so you can choose lifts based on what you’ll be doing in the future, not just on what you’re doing today.
Choosing a lift dealer may not be simple either, but there’s no doubt that the better lift dealers know the questions you need to ask yourself in order to help you make the right choice. In this section we’ll explain the basic lift designs and show you some of the questions you’ll face.
Why do you need a lift?
An automotive lift is a device that raises a vehicle to a comfortable working height off the floor. It’s used for two main reasons: to increase the shop’s productivity and to preserve the health and safety of the workers. These are simple concepts, but they can be easily overlooked.
A lift does more than just reduce the time needed to do specific jobs; some jobs almost can’t be done without one. That means the lift has to be the right tool for the job. A lift used primarily for general service and repair work may not be the right choice for something more specialized, such as alignments or exhaust work. It’s also important to make sure the lift doesn’t take up so much space that it prevents you from doing other jobs in the bay when the lift isn’t being used.
A lift does more than make a job easier; it saves wear and tear on your body. It’s possible to do brake work all day long with just a floor jack and jack stands, but over time even young and fit technicians can suffer real and lasting injuries working that way. When the weather is nasty and the shop floor gets sloppy, having the job at “a comfortable working height” becomes an important safety issue.
So as you make your way through the decision process, be sure to remember these two main reasons for owning a lift: productivity and safety.
A lift is a piece of capital equipment, possibly the most expensive piece you’ll buy for your shop. Price is definitely a major consideration, but the purchase price and installation costs are only part of the total cost of ownership. Like all machines, maintenance, inspection and occasional minor repairs will be required. Those costs are influenced by how well the lift is built, maintained and matched to your real needs. A lift that’s often over-worked, poorly maintained or otherwise misused can wear out faster. After the warranty expires, one major repair can easily cost 50 percent of the original purchase price.
Ask the dealer about a lift’s overall cost of ownership. The costs of repairs and downtime from a cheap lift can more than outweigh any upfront price savings. You want a lift that has a proven track record for consistent uptime with lower lifetime repair costs. When comparing the purchase price of lifts from different suppliers, be sure to ask what is included in the quoted price. Does the quote include accessories like rolling jacks, alignment kits and adapters, or are they additional costs? Ask about shipping and the price of professional installation.
And don't forget about safety. Do you want to stand under the lowest-priced lift you can find?
There are six main types of lift used in professional automotive service facilities: in-ground, two-post surface, four-post surface, scissor lifts, parallelogram lifts and low/mid-rise lifts. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and some are intended for specific types of work.