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What is a Boom Lift?

A boom lift is also known as a telehandler, cherry picker, man lift, basket crane, bucket truck, among other names. It is a type of aerial forklift designed to help commercial workers reach elevated heights or hard to reach areas.  A typical boom lift consists of a powered vehicle with attached work platform (such as a “basket”) and a hydraulic arm that lifts the platform up and down. There are two different types of boom lifts – telescopic lifts, which have a straight arm that reaches the highest elevations, and articulating lifts, which have a “bending” arm and can reach difficult or tight areas.

Purposes and Industry Uses

Boom lifts are used among a wide variety of industries for different purposes. They are used when workers need to reach elevated heights. 

  • Construction: Putting up scaffolding, hanging signs, and more
  • Industrial or manufacturing: Handling merchandise in elevated areas 
  • Maintenance and utilities: Electrical repairs or installation 
  • Painting and exterior cleaning: ie. Window cleaning 
  • Oil and gas
  • Commercial building or roofing
  • Agricultural: Fruit picking or tree pruning
  • Firefighters 

Lift Capacity 

The lift capacity, or the maximum height a boom lift can reach, depends on the specific type of boom lift as well as the manufacturer. For instance, telescopic boom lifts can typically reach higher heights than an articulating boom lift or a towable boom lift. The typical maximum lift capacity for a boom lift is around 130 feet, but some telescopic boom lifts can reach as high as 180 feet off the ground.

Types of Boom Lifts

There are several different types of boom lifts built for different purposes and industry uses. Each type of boom lift moves and operates in a particular way, has different height and weight limits, and has varying benefits. 

Keep in mind that factors such as height and weight capacity and power source will depend on the particular boom lift supplier and their available products. For instance, some suppliers will offer boom lifts with a higher height maximum than others. Make sure to check with each supplier to see what their particular boom lifts offer.

1. Telescopic boom lift

telescopic-lift

Also known as a “straight” or “stick boom lift.” These lifts have a single arm that extends out across a distance. Telescopic boom lifts can typically reach greater heights than articulating lifts. However, their arm does not “bend” like an articulating boom lift does. Their lift capacity can often reach as much as 180 feet.

Reach capacityWeight capacityPower sourceBenefits Industry Uses
40-180 ft.
8+ feet wide
600-1,000 lbs.Diesel gas or hybrid Greatest vertical reach capacity
Good on rough terrain
Operates across long distances
Superior strength 
Electrical repair
Construction sites 

2. Articulating boom lift

articulating-lift

Also known as a “buckle” lift, an articulating boom lift has an extendable arm that “bends” in various places, allowing it to fit into tight, crowded or difficult spaces. Articulating boom lifts are more flexible but do not reach as high as telescopic lifts. Their lift capacity is around 30-130 feet.

Reach capacityWeight capacityPower sourceBenefits Industry Uses
30-130 ft.
3-8 feet wide
500-1,000 lbs.Electrical (indoor)
Gas (outdoor)
Maneuvers both horizontally & vertically
Good for tight, compact work spaces
Good for indoor/outdoor terrain 
Urban building cleaning
Electrical work 

3. Towable boom lifts

towable-lift

Just as the name suggests, towable boom lifts are known for their mobility. These boom lifts are frequently used by construction companies and other businesses who need to easily transport the lift from one location to another. When arriving at your location, towable boom lifts can be set up and operating almost instantly, making them very convenient options. Note: most towable boom lifts can reach up to 50 ft., which may not be a sufficient elevation for some jobs.

Reach capacityWeight capacityPower sourceBenefits Industry Uses
20-50 ft.
3-8 feet wide
~ 500 lbs.Electric (most common) or gasEasily transportable
Simple set-up
Mobile/flexible  
Commercial/residential roofing
Window repair
Painting jobs 

4. Bucket trucks

bucket-truck

Also known as “cherry pickers,” bucket trucks are types of boom lifts. They have a long extended arm with a “bucket” platform at the end where a worker can operate. They are similar to telescopic lifts in that they use a long extended arm. However, bucket trucks have a sturdier “truck” base that can travel at normal traffic speed. They also have a wider operational radius compared to a traditional telescopic boom lift. You may have seen a bucket truck before being used by a city worker or agricultural worker (ie. tree trimming).

Reach capacityWeight capacityPower sourceBenefits Industry Uses
50-100+ ft.400-2,000 lbs.Diesel gasSturdier base
Larger weight capacity
Truck base
Moves at traffic speed
Agricultural
Electric and gas
Maintenance and utilities
Infrastructure

Electric vs. Gas Powered Boom Lifts

Boom lifts will either operate using a gas engine or an electrical battery. Some boom lifts are “hybrids,” meaning they use a combination of gas and electrical power sources. When a boom lift is gas powered, most frequently it will require diesel gas. Many boom lifts are available in both electrical and gas versions, depending on each supplier’s availability.

Most often, boom lifts designed to be used indoors will have an electrical power source. Boom lifts to be used outdoors will usually have a diesel gas source. You can use this as a frame of reference when you are searching for the boom lift that is best for your needs. If you plan to use the boom lift indoors, such as at a warehouse, choose an electrical boom lift (such as an articulating boom lift). If you plan to use the lift outdoors, choose a gas-powered or hybrid boom lift.

Typical Purchase and Rental Prices

The cost of a boom lift varies depending on whether you are looking to buy or rent. Rental costs for boom lifts typically depend on the type of lift – an articulating boom lift or telescopic boom lift. It will also vary depending on rental length, total lift capacity, type of gas required, among other factors. For instance, if you need to reach higher elevations, you will need a boom lift with a longer arm which will likely cost you more to rent per month.

Rental Prices

30-60 feet$1,600-$4,000 per month
60-100 feet$3,500-$10,000 per month
100+ feet$6,500-$13,000+ per month

Keep in mind that there will also be delivery fees, averaging about $100 depending on mileage, as well as insurance costs. Insurance is often available from your supplier through their rental contract, but make sure to read the fine print and inquire about insurance pricing.

Related: Forklift Renter’s Guide

Purchase Prices

Purchase prices for boom lifts vary greatly depending on the condition, size, brand, lift and weight capacity and more. You can purchase a used boom lift for as little as $5,000, and new boom lifts can cost as much as $100,000. 

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