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5 Tips for Choosing a Forklift to Rent

To do the job safely and efficiently, know these jobsite qualifications.

Knowing you need to rent a forklift is not the same as knowing what type of forklift you need to rent. 

When you go to rent a forklift, whether it’s for the warehouse or the construction field, it helps to do some thinking in advance about your needs. 

Estimate your load range. What materials do you plan to lift — single pallets? heavy containers? wood? — and what is the heaviest load you’ll need to lift at a time? “People tend to underestimate the load capacity of the forklift they need,” said Scott Hill, an inside sales representative with United Rentals in the Gilbert, Arizona, branch. In the case of forklifts with telescopic booms, you need to consult the load chart to figure out the forklift’s load capacity.

Consider the size and shape of your materials. The materials themselves matter as you may need a special attachment to handle them depending on their shape and size. For example, with a heavy-duty crane hook attachment, you can lift items such as long beams or poles that require a sling to lift. Clamp attachments make lifting barrels a breeze. If your load is wider than normal, order longer forks. 

Know your lift height and available space. The height to which you need to lift materials will determine what type of mast you need (straight or extending, and how many stages, usually two or three).  Also consider the height of the space you need the forklift to clear and make sure the mast at its lowest height will fit. If you need to work in narrow spaces, consider a warehouse forklift. If you need to move the load to the side, look for a warehouse forklift with an available sideshift mechanism. For raising materials as high as 55 feet, you’ll need a telescopic handler, aka telehandler. 

Plan for indoor or outdoor. Will you be working inside or outside? A warehouse forklift won’t cut it if you plan to use your forklift outside on anything but a smooth, even surface. If you’ll be working indoors, an electric forklift, powered by rechargeable batteries, might be a good bet. They’re quiet and produce no emissions. They cost more than other models but they also save you a considerable amount on fuel. Of course you’ll have to take the time to recharge them. A liquid propane gas (LPG) forklift can operate indoors or outdoors. Diesel forklifts are typically reserved for outdoor use, though newer machines with Tier 4 engines can be used indoors because of their low emissions. 

For rough terrain, consider a telehandler. If you’ll be working outside on surfaces that are uneven or rough, soft, sandy or muddy, consider a reach forklift (aka telehandler). The telehandler can extend loads up and over obstacles and can lift as high as 55 feet. The larger 10,000-pound and 12,000-pound telehandlers have outriggers to stabilize the machine for heaver and higher lifts. If you have small loads to lift or move on rough terrain, a smaller reach forklift such as the Genie 5519 is perfect, according to Hill. “It is a shorter, more compact machine than the larger reach forks and more maneuverable in tight spaces.” For extra traction on muddy jobsites, consider renting a 4-wheel drive rough terrain forklift.

RELATED: Safety Tips for Rough Terrain Telehandlers

Get a truck with the right tires. Most forklifts are designed for a specific type of tire; so, chances are, if you’re using the right forklift for the terrain, it will have the right tires.

Pneumatic tires, filled with compressed air, can handle rough terrain and uneven surfaces. Forklifts with pneumatic tires are typically intended for outdoor work, though they can also be useful in large warehouses. Cushion tires, made from solid rubber, provide less traction and lower ground clearance and are intended only for smooth, level outdoor surfaces and indoor floors. 

United Rentals can assist you in selecting a forklift for your next project. Simply contact a United Rentals sales representative at a branch near you or call 833-451-5765.


Marianne Wait is an editor and writer who creates content for Fortune 500 brands. 

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