Electric forklifts have seemingly taken over the forklift market. Not unlike other industries, forklift sales have been pivoting as of late, with electric forklift sales rising steadily and gas and diesel forklift sales declining. In a world where environmental impact is a major consideration, it’s not surprising that electric forklifts have become a hot commodity. But are they the best forklift choice for you and your business?

We evaluated our electric and gas forklift inventory to uncover what makes these forklifts so different, how they are similar, and which one is best for various environments, operational considerations, and price ranges.

Should I Buy An Electric Forklift?

Electric forklifts are trendy right now and it’s easy to see why from an environmental perspective – renewable electric energy is cleaner and better for the environment than gas or diesel fuel. But how to electric forklifts stack up against the benefits of ICE forklifts?

Electric forklifts offer numerous benefits. While they typically cannot be used outside on varied terrain due to the reduced horsepower, they can be used around sensitive populations with air quality restrictions and around food, beverage, and healthcare operations. These forklifts also require less maintenance and are cheaper to refuel than ICE forklifts, saving money in the long-term.

The main aspect that tends to scare potential buyers away from electric forklifts is their cost. It’s true: electric forklifts are much more expensive than ICE forklifts upfront, typically costing around $10,000 more than their gas, diesel, or propane counterparts. Electric forklifts also require due diligence to ensure that the machine is charged and ready for the workday, as they require around eight hours to come to a full charge. More space is also required for electric forklifts due to the need to house the charging station in addition to the forklift itself.

Environment: Typically best for use indoors and safe for use around sensitive populations and food and beverage

Operational Impacts: Can be charged overnight to avoid downtime, but forgetting to charge can lead to major work stoppages

Affordability: Significantly more expensive upfront than gas, diesel, or propane forklifts, but require less maintenance and are cheaper to refuel

The Bottom Line: If the upfront investment is feasible and the forklift will be used indoors, electric forklifts are a better choice

Should I Buy A Gas or Diesel Forklift?

Gas-powered forklifts (also known as ICE forklifts) are the classic forklift choice. These forklifts feature an internal combustion engine that will either be powered by gasoline, diesel fuel, or propane. Forklifts with internal combustion engines have some key perks, the main benefit being a lower upfront cost. These forklifts also are able to be used indoors and outdoors and don’t require any extra space for storage, beyond space for the forklift itself. Gas, propane, and diesel forklifts are also ready whenever you need them, no charging required.

Forklifts fueled by gas, diesel, or propane do have a few potential drawbacks, and many of them come back to cost. While upfront cost-savings are a key draw for many when purchasing an ICE forklift, those cost-savings diminish quickly when considering the entire lifespan on the forklift. As with motor vehicles, forklifts with an internal combustion engine require regular maintenance, much more maintenance than what is required for maintaining an electric forklift. Factoring this regular maintenance in with the price of gas or diesel fuel, it’s easy to see how ICE forklifts could be more costly in the long-run than an electric forklift, often costing between $15,000-$25,000 more than an electric model over its lifespan. These forklifts also cannot be used around certain populations and in operations where food safety is a concern due to the potentially harmful emissions from the gas, diesel, or propane fuel.

Environment: Can be used indoors or outdoors, but not typically safe for use around sensitive populations or for food and beverage operations.

Operational Impacts: Can be refueled quickly and easily at any time, but will be unavailable at times for maintenance.

Affordability: Less expensive upfront, but require higher operating costs than electric forklifts.

The Bottom Line: Gas and diesel forklifts are a clear winner for those who need a forklift with some horsepower for indoor/outdoor use over varied terrain. If considering ICE forklifts only for their cost-savings, consider electric if your budget allows.

Do you have more questions about whether you should buy an electric or gas-powered forklift? Contact us today.

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