Should You Buy a New or a Used Forklift? [2018 Comparison Guide]

The decision to buy a new or a used forklift often comes down to the cost, but there are plenty of other factors to consider before making your decision. Everything from your load type and work environment to your technology expectations and (yes) financial situation should be carefully considered. We’ve done the heavy lifting (pun intended) for you and compiled a comprehensive comparison guide to new and used forklifts so you’ll be prepared when your next purchase decision comes up. Topics include:


Buying a New Forklift

Cost Analysis of Buying New

Is a New Forklift Right for You?

Life Expectancy of a New Forklift

Buying a Used Forklift

Cost Analysis of Buying Used

Is a Used Forklift Right for You?

Life Expectancy of a Used Forklift

Comparison Chart: New vs. Used Forklifts

Buying a New Forklift

When purchasing a new forklift you can expect to pay the list price. It’ll end up being a higher upfront cost than if you purchased a similar used forklift. However, price shouldn’t be the only thing on your mind. Other considerations include: the model, availability, warranty and economic life.

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New Forklift Models

Though you’ll pay a higher price, with new forklifts you can potentially get exactly what you want. You have the ability to choose the newest model and add additional features or attachments. You’re essentially building your ideal forklift. Among other options, you can specify the mast height, special lighting and even whether or not you want cup holders.

New Forklift Availability

When buying new, keep in mind that you’ll have to wait to receive the forklift from the manufacturer. The lead time depends on the model, your mast height and any special options you choose. In some cases, lead time can be as long as 18 weeks.

Warranties on New Forklifts

Warranties on new forklifts are offered by virtually every manufacturer. They’re typically based on your usage and can last from 12 to 36 months depending on your situation.

Economic Life

The economic life of your forklift ends when it’s more expensive to repair the forklift than to purchase a new one. Since you’re purchasing new, you can expect the equipment to last longer in your facility than most used forklifts.

Read more on the economic life of your forklift.

Cost Analysis of Buying New

Pricing for new forklifts varies depending on the model, capacity, tires and a multitude of other factors.

For example: LPG forklifts are priced differently than electrics. Choosing one over the other should hinge on your application and preferences, rather than a difference in price.

Typically new electric forklifts will lead to higher upfront costs, lower maintenance costs and an overall lower cost of ownership. Meanwhile LPG’s require more maintenance due to the moving parts, engine, transmission and various oils involved in running the machine. Of course, more maintenance leads to higher maintenance costs.

See our energy comparison infographic of LPG vs. Electric forklifts.

Price of a New Forklift

With this vast difference in pricing, we’ll include ranges for each type of forklift rather than hard numbers. It should still give you a good idea of what to expect when buying a new forklift.

New electric forklifts can range from $20,000 – $35,000. The cost of the battery adds another $4,500 to $7,000. Not to mention the charger at $2,500-$4,500. Keep in mind that with electrics you’re buying all the fuel upfront.

New LPG forklifts can range from $20,000 – $60,000, though you could spend more.

Attachments are another added cost and there’s a huge variety of those as well. From paper roll clamps and carton clamps, to pulp clamps and single-double pallet handlers. A common attachment like a sideshifter could be $1,000 – $2,000.

Specialty changes or additions like paint color increase the cost too.

It’s clear that buying a new forklift is a serious investment, but forklift dealers offer plenty of lease options to keep the costs manageable.

Is a New Forklift Right for You?

We’ve determined that buying new is a big expense. It's an investment in your business. But let’s decide if a new forklift is really the best option for you.

Heavy Use Applications

Typically the ideal application conditions for buying new are heavy use applications. If your forklift will be used more than 1500 hours per year - or more than 4 hours per day, on a single shift per day - you’ll probably want to buy new. At that usage, the maintenance costs for upkeep on your used forklift would make a new forklift the better investment.

Load Type

Your load type could influence your decision too. Certain used attachments might be hard to find in your area.  For example: fork positioners aren’t commonly found used. So if that’s absolutely necessary for you, a new forklift might be the way to go.

Uncommon Mast Heights

For applications that require uncommon mast heights – whether it’s short or tall – you might have to buy new. Extremely short and extremely tall mast heights aren’t easy to find in the used market. However, if you’re looking for 187-inch or 189-inch mast you’ll probably find it.

Similarly, quad masts aren’t commonly found on used forklifts. Fewer people buy them new and that means there are less to trickle down into the used market.

Life Expectancy of a New Forklift

The life expectancy of a new forklift varies depending on your work environment, usage hours, operator behavior and maintenance practices. A new forklift, when compared to a used unit, will likely have a longer life in your facility.

You can further capitalize on your investment by calculating the total cost of ownership for each forklift and replacing it when costs exceed the value of output. Often dealers will offer trade in deals or pay you the cost of the forklift’s residual value.

Buying a Used Forklift

In contrast to buying a new forklift, when buying used you may be able to negotiate the price with the seller. The upfront cost for a used forklift will be significantly lower than the cost for a similar new forklift.

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Maintenance Costs

Since your forklift has been used, it has experienced wear and tear. This wear and tear, along with your regular use can lead to unplanned downtime and repairs. The result? Unexpected maintenance costs.

Completing planned maintenance at scheduled intervals can help reduce the risk of unexpected maintenance costs that drive up the overall cost for the used forklift.

Read more on the benefits of planned maintenance.

Features & Availability

When buying used, you may have to compromise on your forklift’s features or the model available.

You might be able to get that 3-wheel electric you’ve been wanting, but it’s not likely to be the most recent model. Instead of building your ideal forklift, buying a used forklift is very similar to buying a used car. It might not be the latest model with a key-less ignition system, but it gets the job done.

Warranties for Used Forklifts

Reputable forklift dealers are likely to offer you a warranty on used forklifts but single sellers won’t have that ability. Even the used forklift warranties that dealers can offer aren’t as comprehensive as the warranties you get with new forklifts.

Typically used forklift warranties apply for up to 60 days and cover parts and labor on repairs within that time. These warranties usually apply to reconditioned or restored used forklifts – not forklifts bought “as-is”.

Keep in mind - most dealers won’t offer a warranty on the forklift if you’re out of state.

See other considerations for buying a used forklift.

Cost Analysis of Buying Used

The price of used forklifts vary depending on their year, hours, capacity and previous application. So we’ll include a range of pricing you might find for a used forklift and examples of what used forklifts might go for. It should give you a good idea of what to expect in the used market.

Price of a Used Forklift

A used LPG forklift could be sold from $10,000 - $50,000 depending on the capacity and hours.

Meanwhile a used electric forklift can range from $7,000 - $32,000. The price of the unit may or may not include the cost of the battery. So make sure to clarify with the seller.

We typically recommend you purchase a new forklift battery – even if you’re buying a used forklift. A new battery lasts longer and as the heart of the forklift, you’ll want one in good condition.

Unless you have a charger, that will have to be added into the cost of the electric too. Used forklift batteries are fairly common though chargers may be slightly more difficult to find.

Specific Used Forklift Prices

Listed below are examples of pricing for used LPG and electric forklifts. Compare the two 5,000 lbs. units and the two 10,000 lbs. units to see how fuel and capacity can affect the price.

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A 2010 5,000 lb. Toyota 8FGCU25 LPG with 2,000 hours would be listed for around $18,400.*

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A 2010 5,000 lb. Toyota 8FBCU25 Electric with 2,000 hours would be listed for around $19,900.*

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A 2010 10,000 lb. Toyota 8FGC45U LPG with 2,000 hours would be listed for around $29,900.*

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A 2010 10,000 lb. Toyota 7FBCU45 LPG with 2,000 hours would be listed for around $31,900.*

*These prices are based on hypothetical forklifts and were calculated in June 2018. Pricing may change based on a variety of factors including year, capacity, mast height and hours.

Similar to new forklifts, if buying a used forklift outright isn’t the way you want to go, your forklift dealer will have lease options you can choose from.

Used Forklift Attachments

Some forklift attachment manufacturers, like Cascade, offer remanufactured attachments. They’ll be thoroughly inspected and restored. These types of attachments can be more expensive but more reliable than a used attachment that hasn’t been looked over and repaired. Depending on the attachment and its condition you could pay anywhere from $3,000 to $8,000.

In some cases you may have to buy the attachments new, even if the forklift is used. It’s uncommon to find used fork positioners, carton clamps, roll clamps and single-double pallet handlers. The supply of used forklift attachments may partially depend on your local market.

There can be an additional expense when adding attachments. For example a forklift configured for a sideshifter would have to go through major adjustments to accommodate a fork positioner. Thousands of dollars of changes may convince you find a different used forklift or buy new.

Is a Used Forklift Right for You?

It’s time to find out if a used forklift fits your application and usage requirements.

Low Use Applications

We recommend buying a used forklift for part-time usage. That’s 4 hours a day on a single shift or less. With heavy use applications, your used forklift can rack up a lot of maintenance and repair costs. It could get to the point that a new forklift would have been the better investment.

Load Types for Used Forklifts

Your load type can make a difference too. If you need a very specialized attachment, you may not be able to find it used. However, if the attachment you’re looking for is common in your area – you could find used options that work for you. For example: in an area with several paper producers, it’ll be easier to find used paper roll clamps.

Work Environment

The ideal work environment for a used forklift is typically indoors on smooth surfaces with a stable temperature like warehousing.

That doesn’t mean you can’t purchase a used forklift for other outdoor or even rough-terrain applications. However in many cases, you’ll get the most out of your used forklift in a light, indoor application.

Life Expectancy for Used Equipment

A used forklift’s life span in your facility is likely to be shorter than a new unit. It all comes down to how you treat your forklift. The economic life will depend on your application, your operators’ habits and your maintenance procedures. Essentially, if you take care of your forklift, it will last longer.

That being said, electric forklifts make very high quality used options. They don’t have nearly as many moving parts as an LPG which means less maintenance. In the end, you’re very likely to get a longer life out of a used electric than a used LPG.

Eventually, even your meticulously maintained used forklift will run out of steam. It will no longer make financial sense for you to keep repairing the forklift. When that time comes you can trade-in the unit at your local forklift dealer.

Comparison Chart: New vs. Used Forklifts

Take a look at this quick comparison chart to see the benefits and drawbacks to new and used forklifts.

Forklift TypeUpfront CostMaintenance CostFeatures/OptionsWarrantiesLife
New Forklift$$$$Unlimited12 - 36 MonthsLong
Used Forklift$$$$Limited60 DaysShorter

Deciding between a new or a used forklift doesn’t just come down to the cost. There’s a variety of other factors that may influence your decision. By now, you’re an expert on what you can expect from new and used forklifts. No doubt you’ll be prepared for your next forklift investment.

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