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Complete Aerial Lift Buyers Guide

An aerial lift comes in a few different varieties, but whether you're using the smallest model built for individual use or a large industrial sized lift, they're all used for the same basic purpose; reaching high levels for above ground projects. Both personnel and equipment can be transferred to higher levels for many reasons including maintenance, construction, painting, or simply moving items from lower to upper levels that couldn't be reached in another way.

These aren't the type of products that just any company needs to have on hand, but many businesses rely on them for getting work done and transferring staff and materials to work sites that aren't reachable on foot. These lifts can also be used to work on, rather than just working as transportation devices.

Buying vs Renting vs Leasing

Aerial lifts might be used for very particular projects in most cases, but that doesn't mean that there isn't plenty of need for them in other various industries that might require them only on a rental or part-time basis. In fact, choosing whether to buy, rent or lease a lift is a huge question plaguing business owners and company operators who look into these devices. The main rule to follow seems to be that if the equipment you're considering purchasing for your company is going to be used less than two thirds of the time then you might only want to rent or lease. There's nothing worse than spending large sums of money to have a certain piece of equipment on retainer and then find that you don't need it.

Unfortunately, some people find that renting these tools just isn't worth the money, because while it can be very reasonable to get a lift for a day, week, or even on a job by job basis, the delivery and pickup costs of equipment this size can be quite pricey. Choosing a service and equipment provider that is nearby to your place of work can help keep costs lower, you should also watch for hidden costs like refueling if you forget to fill up before it goes back.

Things To Consider Before Choosing A Lift

Before choosing to buy, rent or lease, or use an aerial lift at all, there are a few things to take into consideration. You need to think about things like the size of your company and the tasks being completed, as well as what sized spaces you'll be squeezing these devices into, and whether storage will be a problem. Below are a number of questions you should go over before choosing a model for your business.

  • Are there additional features to the lift, and if so do they meet the needs for your company or are they unnecessary and could a cheaper lift be found?
  • What are the price points from competitive companies and are you getting the best rate for your money?
  • There are many different styles and builds for these lifts, which model would work best for the jobs that your company works with?
  • Can the lift work around safety hazards such as high voltage or will it be a danger to workers?
  • What training and certification will be needed to properly operate the device?
  • Will the lift go as high as you require it to, and if not, is there one that might?
  • What is the maximum load that can be lifted by the equipment?
  • Where was the lift made, and will repairs be more costly due to overseas parts?
  • Is the lift powered by gasoline, battery, or other methods?

Types of Aerial Lifts: Boom Lifts Vs. Scissor Lifts

As mentioned above, there are a few different types of aerial lifts to choose from, and each one works more efficiently on individual tasks. The maximum height that the lift can reach, maximum load that it can carry, and how wide or narrow the equipment is can make all the difference to a project if you're not prepared. These lifts are categorized as boom lifts, scissor lifts, and personnel vertical lifts.

  • Boom Lifts: A Boom lift comes in two varieties, a telescopic boom lift, which has long arms that reach heights of 120', and can work at nearly any angle. These are most often used for construction projects because they have the highest and longest reach of all lifts. An articulating boom lift has bendable arms, and is often referred to as "knuckle booms"; they go around and over things to get the lift where it needs to go for maintenance and other projects.
  • Scissor Lifts: Scissor lifts are flat platforms that are used for moving people or equipment vertically up and down, and are primarily used in professions that require larger workspaces, rather than a traditional bucket. The smallest aerial lift is the personnel lift, which uses vertical travel as well and supports smaller loads in single user buckets.

Lift Heights and Capacity

The reason for the different lift heights and capacity is simple; you don't want to spend money to power a huge vehicle if you only need a small one man unit. Similarly, you don't want to try and operate a small single user lift for a job that warrants a much higher reach, and larger work space.

  • Boom Lift: With the most flexible reach of all lifts, this offers a horizontal and vertical reach lifting from 20 to 110 feet in the air, although most common boom lifts only rise up to 50 feet; they lift approximately 500 pounds.
  • Boom Jibs: A jib can add an additional 6 feet to the height of any boom lift and gives the bucket the ability to move up and down.
  • Trailer-mounted Boom Lift: These lifts are battery powered and are usually towed behind work vehicles rather than being driven, these reach heights between 30 and 50 feet.
  • Scissor Lifts: These vertical lifts offer a large platform on which to work and rise 19 to 50 feet up, but are usually on the lower end as far as height goes. These lifts can lift anywhere from 500 to 2,500 pounds, but most only lift about 1,000 maximum.
  • Scissor Lift Platform Extension: Platform extensions provide an additional horizontal reach of 4 to 6 feet, which is the largest workspace provided by any lift.
  • Vertical Personnel Lifts: These devices rise to heights ranging from 12 to 50 feet, and can usually lift up to around 300 pounds. This is perfect for a single user and small tools or equipment.

Typical Uses For Aerial Lifts

Aerial lifts have various uses, but are most commonly found in construction and industrial workplace settings. The boom lift, for example, is nearly always seen at a construction site, but can be called a "cherry picker" do to its long reach, which makes them good for getting up to high areas for maintenance, painting, or lifting tools and equipment. This is a larger machine, so it isn't commonly seen in city streets or private projects, but they can be rented or purchased for use on many different types of projects.

Scissor lifts work great in the backrooms of large department stores or warehouses for storage where large pallets of products need to be moved or reached. They have a large carrying capacity due to the wide size of the platform, making them the best model for moving objects rather than people. This differs greatly from the vertical personnel lift, which is used to lift smaller loads or workers. These are okay for outdoor or indoor use, and might be seen in narrow city streets for work on telephone poles and other projects.

How Much Does an Aerial Lift Cost?

The prices of lifts are determined by the size, height, and how much weight they can lift, among other factors. Each style of lift will run differently on the pricing scale, with the boom lift being the most expensive due to its size, and often increased height advantage. Boom lifts can range from anywhere from $17,000 to $80,000, with price points higher and lower based on whether it's used or new, and how high it can go, with the maximum reach of 110 to 120 feet being at the high end of the cost spectrum.

Scissor lifts can be found at much lower prices anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000, but similar to boom lifts, the costs can be higher or lower in price based on whether it's new or used, as well as whether there are additional parts added to the base model. This price is closer in range to the personnel lift, which usually runs within $4,000 to $6,000 but is determined by quality and size of the product.

Top Aerial Lift Brands

There are many aerial lift manufacturers throughout the world, with top brands such as MEC, Terex, SkyTrack, Genie, Snorkel, Aichi, and Cisolift.

These brands each have their own individual benefits, with varying costs and support features. You'll find that some companies are better known for their production of boom lifts, while others only manufacture smaller scissor and personnel lifts. Make sure that when you seek out a company manufacturing, selling, or renting aerial lifts that you specify what kind of projects you're going to be working with so that you receive the right equipment. Just because you need a boom lift, doesn't mean that any boom lift will suffice, be specific in the weight of loads and the heights that need to be reached.

Why Aerial Lift Training Is Important

Aerial lifts are very safe to use so long as they are being used appropriately and in job sites and projects that are suited to their size and specifications. Many major retailers and manufacturers offer brief online courses, but there are in depth hands on training classes for a better understanding of how to work with each unit. It's important to make sure that you're being trained for the piece of machinery that will be used, as each one differs in operation and functionality.

This training is not only excellent for safety reinforcement and to learn how to react in a difficult situation in or on the equipment, but is also beneficial because it can help your staff get to know the products better, so that even those who aren't operating it, but are simply working around it, will know what to expect during use.

Final Tips For Choosing an Aerial Lift

Finding the right aerial lift for your company or personal needs doesn't have to be a difficult task but it does require some serious considerations to what needs must be met, how large the jobs being completed are, and if there are additional features, extensions, or other accessories that should be purchased or rented at the time of buying. Businesses that utilize this type of machinery in their day-to-day work lives should know the difference between the different lifts and what types of duties they prefer. Understanding performance of this type of equipment can save money both long term and short term.

Aside from the basic differences listed above regarding how each model of lift works, there are also very specific and significant differences from manufacturer to manufacturer in both quality of product and the performance that it gives. For example, a 45 foot boom lift from one company and a 100 foot boom lift from another will have very different qualities. Not all booms are the same, just as not all scissors or personnel lifts are the same.

Other areas that should be researched before buying are warranty, materials used in manufacturing, and the safety history of the company that you're buying from. Most manufacturers suggest that you test a unit before buying so that you know exactly what you're getting and will likely have no complaints on how the machine runs. This testing is usually completed on site and can help you to better understand any performance restrictions that aren't listed in a specs form.