One of the most common questions people looking to invest in a new or used forklift have is “how long will it last?” The question behind the question, of course, is “how much return will I be getting on my investment?”
Like cars, forklifts have average lifespans; also like cars, the actual life of the equipment depends on the environment it’s used in, how well it’s cared for, and the quality of work done by the manufacturer.
But where a car’s lifespan is typically measured in miles, forklifts are measured in hours. This article will look at some of the factors that affect the lifespan of a forklift, and set expectations for some of the leading brands.
An important note to make here is that while forklifts may have a certain total lifespan, businesses ought to concern themselves more with the lift’s economic lifespan, e.g. how long the machine will last until it becomes too expensive to maintain. After this point, keeping the old forklift instead of purchasing a new one is akin to throwing money away.
Different measurements are used by different companies to determine this point for themselves.
Some track the work orders on each truck for a rolling 12 month period, and if there have been more than 4 or 5, consideration is given to replacing the truck. Others say if you are spending over 10% of the purchase price each year on maintenance, then it is time for the truck to retire. Another method is determining when the average maintenance cost per month exceeds the monthly payment for a new forklift. Still another method recommends retiring a truck once its annual maintenance cost exceeds its resale value.
For an average application, with regular maintenance and preventative upkeep, Everything Forklifts reports that the typical Toyota forklift can be expected to effectively perform for 10,000-20,000 hours, without needing any major repairs. Experts say that Toyotas in particular tend to last longer than other brands before needing significant repair work.
While these workhorses of the warehouse look tough on the outside, the fact is that continuously harsh or abusive use, failing to perform proper vehicle maintenance, and/or exposure to extreme temperatures or substances, can all significantly reduce the lifespan of any forklift. Operational time depends on:
-The severity of the application
-The frequency of maintenance it receives
-The type of forklift and the year it was made
-The number of hours it runs per month and year
The severity of the application:
Any forklift which is subject to extreme hot or cold temperatures, corrosives, brine, overly rough terrain, or similarly harsh environments will have a shorter lifespan than a forklift which operates in a clean, flat warehouse with less extreme temperatures. In addition, careless operating or rough use (such as continually pushing the limits of the truck for several shifts, or day after day) will reduce the life of the lift.
The frequency of maintenance it receives:
Having your forklifts on a regular maintenance schedule is very important to extend the life of the trucks. Giving attention to a lift only when something goes wrong is not enough; preventative measures need to be part of the regular routine. Operators should check fluid levels before each shift, and tires, belts, and other wearables should be checked for wear-and-tear. Periodic maintenance, such as routine oil changes, or refilling the water levels in the battery of your electric truck, can help your forklifts to operate more efficiently and for significantly longer.
The type of forklift and the year it was made:
In general, electric forklifts have a longer lifespan than internal combustion engine forklifts because they have fewer moving parts, and therefore less opportunity for something to go wrong. The year a forklift was made is also relevant because like everything else, forklifts get old and stop working properly at some point. On top of this, lift truck technology has improved over the years, and increases have been made in lifespan and efficiency for newer trucks.
The number of hours it runs per month and year:
For cars, a generally accurate rule of thumb for determining expected longevity is mileage. For forklifts, this rule applies to operating hours. A typical lift truck engine will last 10,000-20,000 hours if you care for it well, service it regularly, and perform preventative maintenance.
When purchasing a truck, some helpful information to take into account will be the number of hours you expect the truck to be operating per month. You can extrapolate this number to estimate how many years the truck will last in ideal operating conditions. This number will then be affected by other information, such as whether the truck is electric or internal combustion (again, electric trucks tend to last longer), the application for which the truck is being used (harsh environment or clean warehouse?), your forklift operators (careful and conservative, or demolition derby?), and if you have a planned maintenance program.
So, how long will your forklift last?
While the exact answer will vary from application to application, you can get a good estimation using the information presented in this article. If you have questions about how your specific application will affect the life of your truck, a dealer representative will often be able to speak from experience and help you make a solid estimate.