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Aerial Lift Types

Some of the types of aerial lifts available include...

Articulated Boom

articulated boom lifts

Bucket Trucks

bucket truck

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What are Some Basic Considerations?

Before you purchase an aerial lift, you must know how high you want the lift to reach. Start by measuring the shelves that you want to reach with the lift, the work location, or the equipment that needs servicing. Include variations such as ceiling height, ground level, or doorframes.

The lift height is measured to the platform height. This is how high the bucket or the lift platform extends. The working height will be six feet above this point. If you have a lift with a platform height of 19 feet, then the maximum work height will be up to 25 feet.

You also need to consider the lifting capacity. This is how much weight the lift can support. We also call this the operating capacity. This may be around 300-2,000 lbs. A standard lift has a capacity of about 500-700lbs. This is enough for equipment and two workers, roughly.

Capacity and height have a limiting factor. A lift that has a greater capacity is going to be larger. If you need the lift to move in an indoor environment, then it might have to fit in tight spaces or through doorways. If you have an outdoor lift, it may have to fit through a trailer or a gate. You need to balance the physical requirements of the workspace you have with the capacity and height of the lift.

What Fuel Sources do Aerial Lifts Use?

Most aerial lifts use propane, diesel, electricity, or regular gas as they are self-propelled. An indoor lift will usually use electricity. For better workflow and power outside, a lift will run on diesel or gasoline. This allows you to run the lift for hours. You get more flexibility with a dual lift. These can switch between gasoline for outdoor use and then use propane indoors.

What are Rough Terrain vs. Slab Aerial Lifts?

Aerial lifts are split into two main categories, which are rough terrain and slab lifts. For smooth surfaces or indoor use, a slab lift is used.

For uneven surfaces, rough terrain lifts are more appropriate. The tires and power systems are the main differences between these lifts.

A slab lift is usually powered by electricity. They are used indoors and have solid rubber tires that don't cause marks. The rough terrain lifts are run by diesel or gasoline. They are dual powered and usually have pneumatic tires. This leads to better traction and stability.

What are Some Aerial Lift Features?

You will have to look at the features you want for your lift. You may need extras such as fluorescent bulbs, built-in carriers for tools, or welding equipment as these can make the lift more efficient. If you're in a muddy environment or place that is slippery, you need a four-wheel-drive unit that you can get as an add-on. Some lifts have traction-controlled systems that will distribute the power in response to the traction as it changes. If you choose an electric lift, you will want one with a built-in automatic charger and batteries. You can take these units and plug them into an outlet and charge the lift as you need to. An amp-hour battery will give you more power.

What Types of Tires are Available?

Lift Tires

There are several types of tires you can get for a lift which are as follows:

Pneumatic Tires

These tires are filled with polyurethane foam or air. When you have pneumatic tires with air, it provides a smooth ride on an uneven or bumpy surface. This runs the risk that you'll get a flat, but they are less expansive. You can get foam pneumatic tires that are flat-resistant, but they cost more.

Non-Marking Tires

These are a solid rubber tire, but thinner than pneumatic tires. These don't go flat, and they are designed, so they don't mark up floors. You get a rougher ride with non-marking tires. Since they are usually used indoors, this doesn't really matter much.

What are Aerial Lift Safety Considerations?

An aerial lift is a device that can be dangerous. Whenever you have a worker 20 feet or more in the air, there is always a risk involved. It's important to follow proper safety procedures and to ensure that equipment is properly maintained. Accident rates for these lifts are considered to be quite low

For scissor lifts, there are the ANSI A92.6 safety specifications, and for the boom lifts, there are the ANSI A92.5 safety specifications. The user needs to read these specifications. Even if you use a machine for just a day, you are responsible for the safe operation of that machine. The safety decals and operating manual provide you with information about the basic safety features of the unit. They show you how to use the equipment in the right way.

When you buy a new lift, the manuals and decals are there for you. On the loft itself, you should find the manual. When you buy a used lift, you need to ensure that the manual is included with the lift and that the important decals haven't been removed or painted over.

What are Some Safety Features?

There can be user error even if the safety features are followed. The machines gave other safety features that can prevent aerial lift accident such as the following:

    • High-speed cutout - Most lifts are drivable from the bucket. If the lift is extended, the operator is still able to move the entire lift. The high-speed cutout will limit the speed of the unit. When the lift reaches a certain height.
    • Protection from potholes - Many new lifts have pothole protection. When the lift is raised, the arms come out to stabilize the unit. If the unit hits a pothole when the machine is in operation, the arms keep the base of the machine from tipping kore than a couple of inches. This keeps the operator in the unit stable.
    • Warning levels - Uneven ground is one of the main causes of lift accidents. The uneven ground can destabilize the unit as the center for gravity has shifted. A level warning sound will go off, and boom operation is disabled if the lift senses that it's not level.
    • Restraints and guardrails - Another safety feature of these lifts are guardrails and restraints. These prevent the user from falling. For all lifts, these are standard and mandatory safety features.
    • Static Straps - if you use a lift that has non-marking tires, then it comes with static straps. The straps ground your lift, so there is no dangerous build-up of static electricity, which keeps workers safe.
    • Manual Descent Valve - This is another important safety feature. If the lift loses power while in the air, a person on the ground can use the valve and lower the lift to safety on the ground.
    • LCD Display - This provides you with information through sensors and diagnostics. You get up-to-the-minute feedback about the lift, which improved safety and gives you important operational status updates.

Are Warranties Available?

You will virtually always get a basic manufacturer's warranty on your new aerial lift.

You may get longer warranties on some subsystems such as 2-3 years for the powertrain.

A used lift will usually have a 30-day guarantee as these types of machines can take a lot of abuse, which the seller can't account for. Aerial lifts that are used, and low-end are virtually always sold "as-is." so make sure you thoroughly test it out before signing anything.

What do Aerial Lifts Cost to Purchase?

Prices for these lifts can naturally vary a great deal. For example, a 19-foot standard scissor lift is around $10,000 to $15,000. A model that is 20-30 feet would range up to around $50,000. A used lift can be around 60% less than a new lift. A 19-foot used scissor lift that is $11,000 new is now $3,500-$6,000 used, which is a huge saving. This will all depend upon the extras you get for the lift and the condition. A used 30-foot model would be around $7,500-$15,000.

A boom lift is usually more expensive. A new 20-40 foot boom would be around $30,000-$75,000 at the lower price range. A used model would be about $17,000-$40,000. A deluxe 110-foot boom would be over $100,000, and these are often upwards of $250,000 depending upon the extras that you get with it. A used machine would run around $80,000. A vertical personnel lift is the least expensive and runs about $8,500 new. A budget lift that doesn't feature propulsion would be around $2,000.

Some options, such as a four-wheel drive, will increase the cost. You will spend around $5,000-$8,000 extra for a four-wheel-drive unit. A rough terrain unit is generally more expensive than a slab machine.

What do Aerial Lifts Cost to Rent or Lease?

A standard scissor price rental for a lift around 19-30 feet will be around $90-$150 per day, $320-$500 per week, and $600-$759 per month. The larger lifts are going to cost more when renting. A boom lift rental is more expensive. A 40-foot boom would be around $280-$350 per day, $750-$800 per week, and around $2,000-$3,000 per month. A 60-foot boom is going to cost you around $400-$450 per day and $1,000 per week and $3,000 per month.

What are the Main Types of Aerial Lifts?

There are three main aerial lift types. You need the right one to complete your job. Here are the differences that you need to understand.

Boom Lifts

Buckets are on the end of jointed arms or extendable arms. If you must get over obstacles or reach up high, then you'll want to look at a boom lift. Other lifts just go straight up and down.

Scissor Lifts

These are flat platforms that go straight up and down. These are perfect for moving a large amount of equipment, product, or people around to a new height. They have more lift capacity and a larger workspace than a bucket lift.

Personal Lifts

These are vertical travel buckets for the single user. They are an economical choice for single-user operation where only vertical travel is needed.

What are Boom Lifts?

There are two main types of boom lifts. There are telescopic boom lifts, which are also called straight booms or stick booms. These have long arms that are extendable. These can reach up to 120 feet and any angle. These are used in the construction where the long reach of these lifts allows access to upper stories. These are best when you need the longest and the highest reach.

Boom lifts offer a lot of horizontal and vertical flexibility. Some models can position the bucket lower if needed. Boom lifts fall within a few ranges:

    • Platform height from 20-126 feet
    • Popular height ranges from 20-50 feet
    • A capacity of 500 lbs. is the most common

You can fit most boom lifts with a jib. This will give you 6 feet to the height. The bucket can then move up and down and, in some cases, side to side without having to move the main boom.

There is another boom lift, which is called the trailer-mounted boom lift. These lifts are battery-powered and are normally towed to a worksite as they can't move on their own. These reach a height of 30-50 feet.

What are Articulating Boom Lifts?

The arms on these lifts bend. They are often four-wheeled drive and are more maneuverable. Another name for them is knuckle booms. They reach over and around obstacles in the way. They position the bucket to where it needs to go. These are often used for utility work such as the work required on power lines or to prune back trees where the positioning of the bucket can be a problem.  These lifts are also used in plant maintenance, where the worker needs to get over equipment or immovable fixtures.

What are Vertical Personal Lifts?

This lift moves people up and down. This lift is less expensive when compared to other lift types. They are small enough to move through a doorway when they are collapsed down.

Some of the lifts can handle two people. The common specifications are:

  • Platform height of 12-50 feet
  • They have a lift capacity of up to 300lbs. (This is enough for one worker and tools)

Should You Buy, Rent, New or Used?

How often you intended to use a lift will determine whether you buy a used lift or a new one. If you have a large facility and a big budget, you will probably buy a lift new.  A newer lift has more reliability and lifespan, which makes it a valuable investment. If you need to save money on your purchase, a used lift is a good option. You do run the risk that the machine will break down more often as it's older. You may also have a harder time finding replacement parts for it. You will need a good service plan to minimize your risks. If you don't need it all that often, a couple of days of downtime won't matter. Make sure you get a used lift from a seller that is reputable as you'll have fewer problems this way.

If you just need some occasional maintenance work, need to take stock of your annual inventory, or other part-time work, then you may want to rent your lift. When you rent, you'll save a lot of money as the rental location is responsible for repairs and maintenance of the lift. If the lift breaks down, the rental place will fix the issue for you.

Additional Cost Considerations

The purchase price isn't always the main pricing factor when looking at aerial lifts. In the long run, sometimes it's better to spend a little bit more money on your lift. You want a lift that meets all of your needs from a high-quality seller. You may pay more for this, but it's going to be well worth it.


It's important to maintain your lift on an ongoing basis. You want frequent oil changes, and you need to check hydraulic fluid levels. You need to have a certified mechanic check it on an annual basis as this is required. You also want to ensure that the lift remains safe, so checks are required often.

User Modifications

You need to be aware of user modifications. This includes welding, cutting, and changing the lift to meet their needs. This can include changing the bucket wall or the railing. The work could look string, but it may have compromised the structural safety, or the lift may fail altogether. It's not a good idea to buy lifts that have been modified.

Check the Odometer but Ask How Old the Machine Is

Check the odometer to see how many hours are on the machine when you buy a used machine. The machine may look older than what the gauge says, so ask how old the machine is.

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