Forklifts: A Renter’s Guide


A Forklift Renter's Guide

Forklift Rentals

Forklifts are essential machinery that help to “get the job done” on a daily basis for millions of workers around the world. Many construction, industrial, retail, manufacturing, and distribution jobs simply couldn’t be accomplished without the help of forklifts. Now businesses that rely on forklifts have the convenience of renting forklifts for their temporary or seasonal needs. Renting a forklift helps businesses save money by reducing overhead costs, as well as create a more productive workplace. If you are considering renting a forklift for your commercial needs, make sure to check out this renter’s guide. We cover important topics such as benefits, industry uses, forklift types, factors to consider when renting, and overall cost.

Industries who benefit

Essentially, any commercial industry that regularly needs to move, lift, load, and otherwise handle heavy materials can potentially use a forklift. A forklift’s job is to create a safer, more productive and efficient environment for workers that handle materials. Forklifts can help with jobs ranging from preparing retail orders for shipment to fixing the roofing on a tall building. Take a look at some of the industries that most frequently utilize the help of forklift rentals:

  • Construction
  • City infrastructure 
  • Warehouses and retail facilities 
  • Manufacturing and industrial
  • Distribution centers 
  • Transportation and automotive
  • Lumberyards and landscaping 
  • Shipping yards 
  • Food and beverage facilities 
  • Oil and gas 

Keep in mind that different forklifts are designed to tackle different commercial challenges and tasks. If you have questions about the types of forklifts that your industry can benefit the most from, don’t hesitate to ask your supplier for forklift rental recommendations.

Benefits of Renting

Why rent a forklift instead of buy one? Renting is a smart and logistical choice for many different businesses. It can allow businesses to create a more productive and efficient workplace environment without incurring tons of overhead costs. Take a look at the top benefits to renting a forklift:

  • Cuts operational costs. By renting a forklift instead of buying, you avoid the upfront and ongoing costs involved with owning the machinery. Why let the forklift sit at your business location unused and incurring operational costs? Renting allows you to only pay for what you need, when you need it.
  • Fixed budget. Your rental agreement lays out the exact cost you will pay over a given period of time, so there’s no mysteries when it comes to budgeting. Renting gives your business financial predictability. 
  • Caters to seasonal or temporary needs. Many businesses who use forklifts only need them seasonally or temporarily. For instance, a big box retailer might have a warehouse that needs many forklifts around the holiday season, but less so when the holidays end. This case scenario would make renting the perfect option.
  • Avoid maintenance and repair fees. Owning a forklift means you incur maintenance and repair fees on your own over time as you use the forklift more and more. Forklift rentals help you avoid maintenance fees and similar ongoing fees, which makes your life a lot easier!
  • Convenient delivery and pick-up. Most forklift suppliers will conveniently deliver the forklift when you need it, and pick it up once your rental contract ends. You get to avoid the hassle of transporting the heavy machinery, unloading it, and returning it later. What’s more, the cost of delivery with forklift rentals is very affordable.
  • Enjoy new equipment. Most of the time, you will get the opportunity to rent brand new or lightly-used equipment. This is a huge plus, as the machine will run a lot more efficiently. Additionally, brand new forklifts will cost you a lot more to purchase on your own!

Note: if you plan to need the forklift for several years, we recommend doing a cost analysis to make sure renting is the most affordable and logical option. It’s possible that buying the forklift and reselling it down the line might be more profitable than renting for years on end.

Rental Options

One of the first things to know about forklift rentals is that there are two main forklift types - material handling equipment and aerial lifts (aka construction lifts). Material handling forklifts are used in warehouse, retail, manufacturing, or similar settings to efficiently move materials inside the commercial facility. On the other hand, aerial lifts are designed for construction sites or similar settings. To figure out which type you need, you can investigate the differences between material handling vs. aerial forklifts.

Material handling equipment rentals

Material handling forklifts are typically electric-powered vehicles that are designed for indoor use. They emit no harmful fumes, use rechargeable batteries, and run relatively quietly, making them great solutions for indoor job settings. They help workers move, lift, organize, relocate, and load inventory of different weights and sizes. 

Material handling forklifts come in various designs and sizes and are built for different purposes.  Make sure to look into these different types of forklifts to make sure you are renting the correct machine for your needs. 

Sit down riders
Rough terrain forklifts
Electric telehandlers
Narrow aisle forklifts
Order pickers
Pallet jacks 

Aerial lift rentals

Aerial lifts are also commonly referred to as construction lifts because they are most often used on construction jobsites or similar work settings. They are designed for outdoor use, use a gas-powered engine, and help workers reach high elevations or hard to reach areas. For instance, you might rent an aerial lift if you need to do outdoor landscaping or repair a roof. Some aerial lifts are attached to vehicles that can drive on roadways (bucket trucks) while others must be transported to job sites.

Like material handling equipment, different aerial lifts are equipped to help with different types of projects. Make sure to pay attention to factors such as maximum lift and weight capacities to find the right machinery for your job needs.

Boom lifts (Articulating, telescopic, and towable)
Vertical mast lifts
Scissor lifts (slab and rough terrain)
Bucket trucks 

Top Factors to Consider when Renting a Forklift

1. Weight capacity

Each type of forklift has a different weight limit. So it’s important to know how much weight you need your forklift to support before you choose a type to rent. The last thing you want is to rent a forklift only to realize it cannot safely support the weight you need it to (both in terms of the materials + worker on board). 

Also keep in mind that the same type of forklift in a different make and model may have a slightly different weight capacity. Make sure to pay close attention to the weight capacities of each forklift.

Also remember that different forklifts are designed to carry different types of items. For example, a pallet jack is better equipped to lift a stack of pallets off the ground than a heavy load off a top shelf. Make sure to talk to your supplier to find out which forklift is the best suited to your job’s needs.

2. Maximum lift height

Similar to weight, each type of forklift will be able to reach a different height. Lift height can vary dramatically depending on the type of forklift. For instance, a boom lift is going to reach as high as180 ft. whereas a scissor lift can only reach up to around 60 ft. It’s important to determine the maximum height you need to reach for your job, and then choose a forklift that can reach that elevation.

3. Platform size

Some forklifts have worker platforms that can hold several workers plus their tools. Others can only hold one worker at a time. These platform limits have to do with weight, but also have to do with the size of the worker platform itself. 

A scissor lift may have a larger worker platform compared to a bucket truck, which has a bucket that holds one worker. You will want to look at the specs and dimensions of each forklift’s work platform to make sure it will be suitable for your job.

4. Movement abilities 

Forklifts move in different directions. Some forklifts can move up and down as well as side-to-side, such as an articulating boom lift, which is helpful in reaching hard to reach or high elevations. Other forklifts can only move vertically, such as a scissor lift or narrow aisle forklift. This would be better for reaching heights in areas that are not obstructed by anything above, such as a warehouse aisle. The important thing to note here is that you need to find the forklift that can effectively move into the position that you need it to.

5. Electric vs. Gas-powered

There are two main types of power sources for forklifts: electric and gas. Most electric forklifts run by using a rechargeable battery, which means they have little to no emissions and are relatively quieter when running. This makes them best equipped for indoor use. 

On the other hand, gas-powered forklifts tend to be used for outdoor or medium to heavy-duty applications, such as construction sites. They usually operate using diesel gas, which means they do emit fuels and you will not want to use them indoors.

6. Duration of rental

For how long will you need to rent the forklift? There are different rental durations available. Rates start on a “per day” basis but are also available on a monthly basis. If you know you are going to need the forklift for several months, you can save a good deal of money by payingper month” rather than per day.” For this reason, we highly recommend contacting suppliers after determining the duration you will need to rent (close estimations will be ok) so you can get the best rate.

Helpful tip: ask your supplier about overtime charges. Some suppliers may charge more when you use the rented forklift for more than 40 hours per week.

7. Jobsite conditions

In addition to lift height and weight specs, you should get a good sense for the jobsite environment and conditions before choosing a forklift to rent. If you are working outside on uneven terrain, such as gravel, you may require a rough terrain lift or at least a specific type of tires. Similarly, if you are working only inside, it’s likely you will want to choose a rechargeable electric forklift.

If you are working indoors in a warehouse setting, you may also want to take note of the warehouse’s aisle widths to make sure the forklift’s turn radius will be operable. 

8. Existing damage

Inspect the forklift you are renting before signing the contract, noting any wear-and-tear or damage. Then, report this damage to the supplier you are renting from. This will help you avoid any additional charges for damage when returning the forklift.

9. Delivery fees

It’s common that suppliers will charge delivery fees when dropping off or picking up the equipment. However, delivery rates vary depending on the company. 

It’s common to see a $500-$200 delivery charge in your rental agreement. Normally, delivery charges cost more the farther you are from the supplier’s location. If the rental agreement you are considering has a hefty delivery charge, you may want to consider alternative suppliers closer to your area.

10. Insurance and safety

It’s important to make sure you are fully covered when it comes to forklift insurance and safety. When renting a forklift, normally the supplier will insure the machinery itself, but it’s good to double check. Make sure to always look into the logistics of forklift insurance.

Note that the supplier normally does not insure you against personal injury, safety complications, or material damage! Anyone who operates a forklift is required to undergo OSHA training and certification courses. Many workplaces provide this to their employees or anyone who will operate a forklift on their premises. But pay attention to your company’s policies for forklift training and safety precautions before operating the forklift.

11. Rental contract terms

As with any rental contract, make sure to read the entire contract start to finish, including the “fine print!” Different forklift suppliers have different rental policies, and it’s usually your job to take note of them. There may be terms and conditions you overlook, which can cause complications and extra charges down the road. Don't be afraid to ask your supplier about any terms or details you don’t quite understand.


The cost of renting a forklift is usually broken down into a “per day,” “per week,” and “per month” basis. This is why it’s smart to figure out how long you will need to rent the forklift before signing a contract. Normally, a supplier will offer lower per day rates when you rent for longer periods of time.

When looking at cost, there are additional factors to consider. Rental costs will depend on things like the forklift’s condition, features, and weight and lift capacities. For example, renting a brand new forklift that can support 10,000 lbs. in weight will cost much more than a used forklift that can support only 3,000 lbs.

Per dayPer weekPer month

To learn more about how much forklifts cost depending on their type, size, and condition, take a look at our Forklift Cost Guide.

Next Steps

Not sure whether you need an aerial lift or material handling forklift? Learn about the differences to decide which is a better fit for you.

While there are many reliable and affordable forklift dealers on the market today, we recommend comparing up to 5 different suppliers when deciding on a rental. This will help you ensure you are choosing the right supplier at the right price for your rental needs. You can start by using our free service to compare up to 5 forklift quotes that fit your specific needs.

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