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What Are the Different Types of Vehicle Lifts?

Automotive being raised by a mid-rise scissor lift

Stationary and mobile vehicle lifts raise and lower vehicles, giving mechanics the access they need. Different types of car lifts offer various height capabilities, weight capacities, stability levels and mobility.

What Are Car Lifters?

Car or vehicle lifts are structures that raise cars or heavy-duty vehicles for easier access. Floor jacks can partially raise vehicles for minor repairs, but a vehicle lift raises them high enough to perform small and large repairs. Different kinds of truck lifts and car lifting equipment can raise and lower light and heavy vehicles to various heights. 

Automotive being lifted by a two-post vehicle lift

Important Vehicle Lift Considerations

Vehicle lifts come in many styles, sizes and capabilities. Smaller automotive car lifts can handle lighter vehicles, while stronger lifts can hold heavy-duty trucks, buses and emergency response vehicles. Lifts also vary in the space they require and how they operate. Ensuring your lifts provide the under-vehicle access you need is essential. Before purchasing lifts for your automotive repair shop, consider the following factors.

Symmetry

A lift’s symmetry determines which parts of a vehicle you can access. Certain structures can block a vehicle’s doors due to how they hold the vehicle, so it’s important to understand the symmetry. Consider the following differences between symmetrical and asymmetrical hydraulic car lifts: 

  • Symmetrical: A symmetrical two-post lift holds the vehicle at a mid-way point, latching the front and back sections at an equal height. You can use a symmetrical lift to easily work on a car, but you cannot open the car’s doors while using it. The lift creates a narrow space between the posts and the car, requiring you to remove the car from the lift to access the car’s interior.
  • Asymmetrical: An asymmetrical two-post lift can rotate up to 30 degrees, allowing mechanics to access the car’s interior while it is elevated. 

Lift Height

Lift height is an important factor when choosing vehicle lifts for a repair shop. It indicates the maximum height you can lift vehicles and how much access you have for under-car repair. If your business focuses on wheel and tire repairs or body work, a lower lift height provides the hoist capabilities you need. A greater lift height is necessary if you perform underbody repairs and maintenance.

Load Capacity

A vehicle lift’s load capacity is its strength, indicating the maximum weight it can withstand. Load capacity depends on a lift’s size, stability and structure. For example, four-post and mobile column lifts have greater load capacities than two-post lifts because they support vehicles on all four corners. Additionally, a larger lift typically has a greater load capacity than smaller lifts. 

To determine the ideal lift for your shop, you must consider the heaviest type of vehicle you service. If you exclusively work on light, compact cars, a lift with a lower load capacity is sufficient. However, load capacity should be a priority if you often or occasionally work on heavy-duty vehicles such as fire trucks or buses.

Lift Speed

Lift speed indicates how quickly a vehicle lift can raise and lower a vehicle. The government regulates vehicle lift speeds for safety purposes, so it’s important to choose an option with a fast and safe lift speed if you manage a high-volume repair shop. 

Types of vehicle lifts infographic

Types of Auto Lifts for Garages and Auto Shops

With so many different types of lifts available, choosing the right model for your shop may seem challenging. Understanding each lift’s capabilities, applications and advantages can help you choose the best option for your needs. Consider the differences between the following types of automotive car lifts.

Two-Post Vehicle Lifts

two-post car lift is the most common type of vehicle lift in professional garages and shops. It’s stationary and can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. A two-post lift consists of the following components:

  • Four adjustable arms
  • Two posts
  • One hydraulic power unit
  • Cables
  • Hydraulic cylinders
Two Post Automotive Lift

Two-post vehicle lifts typically cost less than other types, making them one of the most affordable options on the market. They are also easy to use and smaller than other models — ideal for garages with limited space and a tight budget. 

These lifts are excellent options for maintenance and repair shops that are getting started in the industry. Keep in mind that they are less stable than four-post lifts, so they are better for garages that work on smaller cars and are not the ideal choice for heavy-duty vehicles. 

Four-Post Vehicle Lifts

four-post vehicle lift is the best option for garages that work on heavier vehicles or need more access during repairs. This drive-on vehicle lift can lift up to 14 feet, and it consists of the following main components:

  • Four posts
  • Two lifting cross rails
  • Two drive-on runways
Four Post Automotive Lift

Two drive-on runways allow a driver or mechanic to drive the vehicle directly onto the lift’s rails. The lift is also easily adjustable, and it’s an incredibly safe option due to its stability. A mechanic can allow the wheels to sit on the lift while performing undercarriage work, or they can use rolling jacks to remove the wheels for brake or wheel repairs. Supporting the vehicle on four corners keeps it secure during repairs and maintenance.

Four-post vehicle lifts cost more and require more space than two-post ones, but they can handle heavy-duty vehicles and offer a higher lifting capacity for more versatile work. You can anchor a four-post lift or leave it as a free-standing structure, making it a mobile option if you require a flexible setup. Since it is much wider and taller than a two-post lift, it’s important to ensure your repair shop has the required space. 

Four-post lifts can also provide excellent storage options. Since they offer up to 14 feet in lifting capability, you can store a car on the lift and park another car underneath, allowing you to keep more cars inside your shop overnight if necessary.

Scissor Vehicle Lifts

A scissor vehicle lift consists of a base that extends two platforms in a zigzag pattern via retractable levers. Some scissor lift models are portable and contain wheels for easy transport, but you can also choose a model that bolts to the floor for increased strength and weight capacity. The portable version is best for smaller vehicles.

Scissor lifts contain hydraulic lift mechanisms and typically operate on electricity. Choose a scissor lift if you value the following advantages:

  • A lift that accommodates quick vehicle repairs
  • Compact size for a smaller repair space
  • Sleek design
  • Ease of use
  • Affordability
Scissor Vehicle lift

The scissor lift typically offers a minimal lift height, so it’s usually ideal if your vehicle maintenance and repair work requires little underneath access. Even so, Liftnow offers scissor lifts with various height capabilities, allowing you to lift a car or truck up to six feet.

Scissor lifts offer less stability, so extra attention to safety is required to prevent tipping. For this reason, it’s better suited for minor repair work and smaller vehicles. Since unbalanced weight can cause a scissor lift to tip, it’s not recommended for removing heavy components like the engine from a vehicle.

A different lift type may also be best if you work on vehicles with low ground clearance. This is because the lift’s base sits three to four inches high when in a flat position.

Parallelogram Vehicle Lifts

drive-on parallelogram lift is a type of hydraulic scissor lift, and it’s the best option for hoisting heavy-duty vehicles. A parallelogram lift consists of two drive-on runways so heavy-duty vehicles can drive directly onto them. While other lifts move vehicles in a vertical motion, the parallelogram lift moves vehicles slightly backward or forward to hoist and lower them. It can lift a vehicle up to six feet.

A parallelogram lift is stationary, making it challenging to move. At the same time, it increases safety for heavy-duty vehicle maintenance because it distributes weight evenly. Parallelogram lifts also offer easy setup and fast operation, and they increase floor space for easier access underneath. They have no columns to navigate around, giving mechanics more space and visibility to work.

In-Ground Vehicle Lifts

An in-ground vehicle lift is a hydraulic lift you can install under your garage floor. The in-ground model’s lifting assemblies remain under the floor, and an enclosure holds the system’s hydraulic components until you need them. 

In Ground Lift

You can install an in-ground lift in your garage whether you work on small or large vehicles. This type of lift can utilize one or multiple scissor mechanisms or hydraulic pistons, depending on the weight and type of vehicle. You may need to employ one or two pistons to work on a lighter vehicle, or use two scissor mechanisms for a heavier one. In-ground lifts are available in different styles and weight capacities to meet your shop’s requirements.

An in-ground lift often has a higher installation cost than other lift types, but it offers an excellent space-saving advantage. With no columns or pillars, you can maximize your garage’s floor space.

Mobile Column Vehicle Lifts

Mobile column lifts raise vehicles by the wheels. They are battery-operated and free-standing, making them easy to transport between work sites. You can use mobile column lifts in sets of four, six or eight columns depending on the type of vehicles you service. Each column features adaptable forks that attach directly to a vehicle’s wheels. You can then set the columns to lift each wheel simultaneously, ensuring the vehicle raises and lowers with an equal weight distribution.

While mobile column lifts have limited lifting capacity compared to structural lifts, they are the easiest type to transport. They require more setup before servicing a vehicle because you must position each column correctly, but they allow you to perform maintenance in various workspaces. With a set of mobile lift columns, you can travel to the vehicles you service and offer your customers enhanced convenience.

set of mobile column vehicle lifts is one of the most economical options on the market. It also saves space because you can store columns out of the way and use them outside, creating a larger workspace at your shop. Using columns in a loading area or parking lot allows you to service more vehicles and perform other important tasks inside your garage.

Low-Rise and Mid-Rise Vehicle Lifts

Mid-rise and low-rise vehicle lifts operate similarly, but they offer different vertical lift heights. A low-rise vehicle lift is ideal for servicing low-clearance vehicles with small profiles, and it fits best in a garage space with a lower ceiling. Low-rise lifts can lift a vehicle up to 28 inches off the floor. 

low rise and mid rise vehicle lifts

A mid-rise vehicle lift works best for servicing light-duty vehicles with higher clearances because it can typically lift vehicles up to 74 inches. Mid-rise lifts are available in various configurations such as scissor, flush-mounted and portable.

Low-rise and mid-rise lifts allow you to perform wheel, tire, brake and exhaust services. A mid-rise vehicle lift offers a taller height clearance to complete more complex body work and perform collision repairs.

While low-rise and mid-rise shop lifts offer less versatility and under-vehicle access than other lift types, they allow you to customize your lift to your shop’s space and needs. They are also cost-effective for smaller shops and garages getting started in the automotive maintenance industry.

Two mechanics working underneath a car raised on a scissor lift

Importance of Vehicle Lift Safety

Choosing the right vehicle lift keeps employees safe as they perform inspections, maintenance and repairs. It also prevents vehicle damage, keeping the cars or heavy-duty trucks secure while you service them. A lift of the right style and size allows you to safely work on the heaviest-duty vehicle your company services, preventing the lift from tipping while you work. 

It’s important to follow required safety procedures to keep your lift in good condition and prevent accidents. Training employees on safe automotive lift operation is crucial to ensure each individual understands how to secure, lift and lower vehicles properly.  

A mechanic looking at a tablet

Find the Right Lift for Your Automotive Maintenance Needs at Liftnow

Performing automotive maintenance and repairs requires the right lift. You must be able to easily reach all the right components to complete the necessary work, and you must ensure each vehicle is secure. While smaller lifts allow you to work on light-duty vehicles, heavy-duty vehicles require strong, sturdy structures to remain stationary. A high-quality lift allows you to work efficiently with peace of mind that your workspace is safe.

Liftnow offers a wide selection of vehicle lifts from the world’s leading manufacturers. Our team works hard to develop the right lift solution for your requirements, transforming your space and enhancing operations. From basic two-post lifts to heavy-duty in-ground vehicle lifts, we have the equipment you need to provide top-tier services for your customers. 

Our technicians have the experience, knowledge and tools to maintain and repair vehicle lift equipment. You can depend on our certified inspection team to thoroughly examine your lifts so your shop complies with regulations and remains safe for employees and customers. Liftnow offers nationwide products and services to meet your needs in any state.

Contact us to request a quote and learn more about how we can help enhance your automotive repair business.

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