American Surplus logo

Helpful Tips to Consider When Buying a Used Forklift

September 12, 2013

The maximum size and weight of the heaviest load and average load
The height the product needs to be lifted
Whether it’s for outside or inside use
The aisle dimensions
Whether it’s electric or propane/gas/diesel
How many hours of use per day

Maximum Weight Required

Used forklifts are categorized based on several factors, with weight capacity being one of the most important. Small capacity three-wheel forklifts can hold up to 1,500 lbs., while a heavy duty four-wheeler can hold up to 30,000 lbs. It is recommended that you choose a forklift capacity that exceeds your maximum load weight. This will ensure you are never stuck in a situation where the load is compromising the lift.

Lift Height & Aisle Width Required

Another factor to consider when deciding on a used forklift is how high the product needs to be lifted. The lift height needs to be the height of the top of the deck you are looking to store the pallet on plus an additional 6 inches. The extra 6 inches is to ensure you can lift product off of the shelving or racking.

The width between each of your aisles must also be considered when choosing a used forklift. A standard used forklift will require a width of approximately 12 feet or more. For aisles that are narrower, a narrow aisle forklift is required, which can maneuver through widths of only 8 feet. There are also very narrow aisle lifts for aisles that are as little as 6 feet.

Electric or Internal Combustion

The following outlines the pros and cons of electric vs. internal combustion powered forklifts.


Cost Higher operating costs Lower operating costs
Indoor/Outdoor Both/Outdoor/Outdoor Indoor
Fuel Replacement 5-10 minutes 8 hours
Maximum capacity < 35,000 lbs. < 15,000 lbs.

Of the internal combustion types of forklifts, only propane can be used inside because it emits very little emissions. It is still recommended that propane lifts are used in well ventilated areas because they emit small amounts of fumes. Gas- and Diesel-powered forklifts cannot be used indoors with low ceilings because they produce more emissions.

Although electric forklifts are less expensive to operate than internal combustion, batteries can be very expensive to replace. If purchasing a used electric forklift, make sure to get the hours of usage on the forklift to determine approximately how much life the battery has left.

When an internal combustion powered forklift runs out of fuel, it typically takes 5-10 minutes to refuel, whereas electric can take up to 8 hours.

Why buy a used forklift over a new one?

Used forklifts are typically about half the cost of buying a new one, so there are certain factors you should keep in mind when making this consideration. Ask the buyer how many hours the forklift has been used, which is a more important factor than the model year. You also want to look over the maintenance records to see if it has been serviced on a regular schedule, and if any major parts were replaced.

ASI does something uncommon for its customers. We provide a 30 day ASI guarantee on all used forklifts to ensure the customer's satisfaction. If something is not operating correctly on the used forklift in the first 30 days, it can be sent back for a full refund (less a trial fee). All of our used forklifts can also be looked at on our website or viewed in person at our facility in East Providence, RI.