• Scissor lifts - These use a scissor design to lift the vehicle without the need for permanent columns. They are available as pad-contact models for quick-lifting operations or with wheel-engaging runways for easy drive-on lifting.
Mobile column lifts - This design consists of four or six portable columns linked by a common control circuit. The columns are wheeled to the vehicle, then connected together via control cables for synchronized lifting. The columns engage at the vehicle's wheels.
Each type of lift offers various features, benefits, advantages and minuses, says Pete Liebetreu, product manager for lifts and racks at Hunter Engineering.
Sound purchase decisions come from examining some key considerations. The number one consideration is the types and number of vehicles being serviced, maintains Mohawk Lifts' Perlstein. "Determine ahead of time what vehicles you're likely going to be lifting and how much they weigh," BendPak's Kritzer adds. "Decide is this lift going to be for exclusively for vehicle repair, or will it also be used for vehicle storage."
Among the other chief considerations:
• Type and configuration of the lift.
• Accuracy and speed at which a vehicle can be properly positioned on the lift.
• Types of maintenance and repair services being performed.
• Efficiency, versatility and productivity features that make the technician's job faster, more accurate, safer and easier.
• Ergonomics and worker safety.
• Lift maintenance requirements.
• Lift quality (welding and material).
• Lift origin.
• Lift standards and certifications.
• Company history and reputation.
• Lift warranty.
• Accessories and options.
• After-sale support.
It is also important to think about facility layout - bay widths, ceiling heights, etc; future shop needs; and what types of vehicle maintenance and servicing may be added later on, says Liebetreu of Hunter Engineering. So, too, is shopping for the lowest overall total cost of ownership, not just a low purchase price.
"Figure out if a company builds the cheapest lift to buy or the least expensive lift to own," Perlstein advises. "Price and cost are two different things."
"Make sure the value that you're getting out of the vehicle lift matches how much you're going to pay," adds Kritzer. "It doesn't hurt to shop around for the best deal, as long as you stick to a pre-determined list of essentials that you are unwilling to compromise on."
Vehicle lift manufacturers stress the importance of considering a lift's safety features. Unlike other shop equipment, they say, if a lift fails, a technician can be seriously injured or killed.
"A lift is a product that you can't build good enough," maintains Perlstein. Consideration ought to be given to a lift's design, including mechanical safety locks that engage at various heights; wide column footprints - the wider the stance, the better the stability; types and size of bearings; and cylinders and lifting mechanism. "The 'beefier' the quality, construction and material used, the better the lift will perform and last."
When comparing lift construction, he uses the analogy: "You're going to jump out of an airplane tomorrow. Do you want the cheapest parachute you can get, or do you want the best one? You don't want any size vehicle falling."
Because not all vehicle lifts are built to the same levels of quality, it is also advisable to look for the certifications and standards. "ALI (Automotive Lift Institute) certification is probably the most important," says Liebetreu. Lifts that have this certification will have a gold label, signifying that the lift has been independently tested and verified to meets American National Standards Institute (ANSI) performance and safety standards that apply to automotive service lifts throughout the North American lift market, adds Rotary Lift's Rylee.
"The ANSI/OSHA safety verification and testing shows that the lift meets the one and only North American recognized safety standard in the lift industry, Perlstein notes.
An industry trade association founded by vehicle lift manufacturers in North America, the Automotive Lift Institute's mission is to promote the safe design, construction, installation and use of automotive lift products.