Reach, platform size and stability are key factors to consider.
Scissor lifts are pretty straightforward machines: They lift people and tools up, using a scissor mechanism that raises and lowers the aerial work platform, to where the work is. (If you can’t get directly under where you need to work, you may need a boom lift instead.) But choosing the right unit to rent isn’t just a question of how high you need to go.
Here are five tips for renting the right scissor lift for your needs.
Electric or rough terrain?
In general, you can divide the world of scissor lifts into two categories: electric and rough terrain. Electric scissor lifts are mainly intended for indoor work (though they can be used outdoors) and rely on a battery for power, so there are no hazardous emissions to contend with. They tend to dominate the lower end of the height spectrum and are suitable for movement over smooth or solid slab surfaces. Some models are equipped with non-marking tires.
Rough terrain scissor lifts are often diesel or gas powered and can handle uneven, rough or muddy terrain. They can reach 50 feet or more and typically have a larger work platform compared with electric scissor lifts.
Hybrid scissor lifts, much less common, allow you to switch from battery to diesel as needed.
Vertical reach is the primary consideration when renting a scissor lift. 19-foot lifts are popular since they reach high enough to access ceiling and ductwork inside buildings with 10-foot ceilings and will fit through a standard doorway even with the guardrails in position — something most larger models can’t do. Their narrow width makes them highly maneuverable.
30-foot lifts are often chosen for work around power poles and telephone lines, while 50-60 foot lifts can reach very tall treetops or sixth floor exteriors. For high utility work, there’s even 60- to 70-foot scissor lifts.
A word about height: Most but not all manufacturers refer to the height of the platform itself, which in practical terms gives you about 6 more feet when you consider the height of the worker (the working height).
Load and personnel capacity
There are two load capacities to consider: the weight capacity and the personnel limit. It’s important, for compliance with OSHA standards and safety, to adhere to both. If you’re below the total load for a given lift, that does not mean you can add another worker to the platform.
Capacities vary greatly. At the low end, a 10-foot electric scissor lift may be able to handle a 750-pound load and might be rated for two people, while a 50-foot diesel model might be able to lift 1,500 pounds and be rated for up to 6 people.
How big of a platform do you need?
Platform size can make a big difference in efficiency and safety on the jobsite. Wider platforms offer better access and require repositioning the lift fewer times as the job progresses — but you need to be sure the lift will fit in the space available. Another option: Some scissor lifts can be fitted with powered deck extensions, which give workers more forward horizontal reach.
Know your terrain
If you’re working on uneven or sloped terrain, opt for four-wheel drive, available on many rough-terrain scissor lifts and even some electric scissor lifts (which may also feature pothole guards).
Ground clearance is another potential consideration. If you need to negotiate very rough terrain or travel over debris, you might want to look for a model with a higher ground clearance. This is rarely listed online in rental charts, so ask the sales rep.
Dave Johnson is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who has been writing about all aspects of business and technology since before there was an internet.