What is a telehandler?

A telehandler, also known as a “telescopic handler,” is a type of material handling equipment that is used to lift, move, and place materials from very high elevations to the ground level. They are one of the most versatile and widely used types of material handling forklifts, as they can support heavy loads, lift and reach high elevations, and turn around a tight radius. 

The telehandler combines a telescopic boom arm, which extends vertically (up and down) and horizontally (side-to-side), with an attachment that fits the needs of the job at hand. There are a few different types of telehandlers available, as well as different options for fitted attachments, that are designed to suit specific job needs.

Why Choose a Telehandler?

1. Maximum reach

Telehandlers provide the highest reach capacity out of any other material handling forklift. They can reach up to 60 feet vertically, which means they are capable of lifting and moving materials from the ground level to 60 feet in the air and vice versa.

2. High weight capacity 

In addition to their lift capabilities, telehandlers also have a high weight capacity. This means they are well-equipped to lift and carry very heavy loads. Many telehandlers can support up to 12,000 lbs. of material. Additionally, there are various attachments that can be added to add an extra layer of support when carrying heavy loads. 

3. Cost-efficient 

Because telehandlers have so many different attachments that can be added to the lift, they can accomplish several different jobs using just one machine. This makes them highly cost-efficient as they can handle many different job needs. Additionally, telehandlers are available to rent, which means you can use a telehandler for a set duration of time that fits your budget.

4. Hard-to-reach access 

Because telehandlers can move horizontally as well as vertically, they can be maneuvered easily in and out of hard to reach areas. Additionally, an operator can add a side swing or similar attachment in order to move the telehandler into confined spaces. Telehandlers can also be used to access elevated areas that would be hard or impossible to reach with any other type of forklift.

5. Rough terrain-ready

Telehandlers can come with heavy duty, four-wheel drive tires that are suited for rough terrains. There are various tire options available that can be chosen to accommodate the type of terrain you are working on. Also, many telehandler models have built-in stabilizers and leveling tools so that they are rough terrain-ready.

6. Indoor or outdoor flexibility 

Telehandlers can come in both electric or gas powered forms, depending on your jobsite. This means that no matter whether your job is located indoors on a level surface or outdoors on uneven surfaces, there will be a telehandler available that is well-designed for the job.

7. Versatile add-on attachments 

One of the most convenient things about telehandlers is that you can attach various different attachments to their telescopic arm. Whether you need to move pallets of material, dirt and soil, or bulky lumber, there will be a telehandler attachment that can help you securely and efficiently move the load. Learn more about the different types of telehandler attachments below.

Types of telehandlers

1. Fixed

Fixed telehandlers may not have the same range of motion (ie. side to side reach) compared to a rotating telehandler, but they can support very heavy loads. This type of telehandler cannot rotate horizontally. But if you are looking for a machine that can achieve maximum reach and support very heavy weight, a fixed telehandler is the way to go!

2. Rotating 

Rotating telehandlers, on the other hand, can rotate side to side at 360 degrees. This provides greater flexibility on direction and reach, and allows workers to maneuver the machine into hard-to-reach areas more easily. If you are working in a tight area and need a greater turn radius, a rotating telehandler is the way to go.

3. Compact 

Compact telehandlers are usually available as well. These are lighter machines that are easier to transport and maneuver at different locations. In fact, most can be easily towed to work sites behind a truck. They’re also great options for job sites where large rough terrain telehandlers can’t fit or reach, such as a narrow or compact area.

Industry uses

  • Construction: Moving materials at high elevations or cleaning up materials at a jobsite
  • Agricultural: Moving loads from place to place with bucket grab.
  • Industrial and distribution: Moving pallets of materials from place to place at a distribution center or warehouse 
  • Snow/ debris removal: Removing snow or other debris from streets or other areas
  • Waste removal and recycling: moving, carrying, relocating waste or recycling materials

Features and Capacities 

Weight capacity4,000-12,000 lbs.
Power sourceElectric or gas 
Reach capacity20’ - 60’
Movement functionsVertical, horizontal 
Tire optionsFoam-filled pneumatic, air-filled pneumatic, solid rubber tires

Tire Options

Depending on the job you are using the telehandler for, you can have your choice of tires. 

  • Air-filled pneumatic tires: These will be the least expensive but are best equipped for indoor or slab terrain. With air-filled tires you run the risk of a flat tire at outdoor job sites with sharp objects, such as nails. However, they have a longer lifespan than foam-filled tires.
  • Foam-filled pneumatic tires: These will be slightly more expensive (1x to 2x more) and work better on rougher terrain, such as a construction site. They add more weight and floatation to the machine. However, they have a shorter lifespan compared to air filled tires.
  • Solid rubber: Rubber tires are becoming more popular for telehandler users because they will last you 4-8x longer than pneumatic tires. They are also well-equipped for outdoor use on rough terrains without running the risk of a flat tire. 

Most telehandler suppliers will offer multiple options when it comes to tires. Just make sure to ask what their offerings are as well as recommendations for your specific job site and conditions.

Common Telehandler Attachments 

One of the most defining factors of a telehandler is that they have attachments, which can be switched out easily depending on the job’s needs. These attachments are attached at the end of the telehandler’s arm, and are designed to handle certain types of materials effectively as well as make workers’ lives easier. Below we have listed some of the most common types of telehandler attachments.

Pallet forks

Pallet forks are one of the most common types of telehandler attachment. They are used for lifting and moving pallets of material or other dense (rather than loose) materials from place to place. They are commonly used in industrial settings to move cargo, concrete blocks, timber, bricks, and similar solid materials. Pallet forks also come in a variety of sizes and their width can be adjusted according to the size of the materials you need to move.

Work platform

Work platform attachments can be added to telehandlers when operators need to perform work at the telehandler’s highest point. Most work platform attachments can support both a worker and their tools. When adding a work platform attachment, a telehandler can perform much like a boom lift.


Buckets are best for moving loose materials, such as soil or debris. There are various bucket attachments available which have different weight capacities and sizes. For instance, there are large buckets which are used for lighter materials as well as general purpose buckets that are used for dry soil. There are also grapple buckets, which use a hydraulic arm to “grab” and secure the load inside the bucket to prevent it from falling out. 


Carriages help position loads properly and securely as they are carried across a distance. When adding a carriage attachment, workers can adjust the positioning of the carriage to ensure the load will not fall from the telehandler during travel. There are several different types of carriages which move in different directions in order to secure the telehandler’s load:

  • Standard carriage: helps secure loads with no special requirements 
  • Side tilt carriage: tilts loads side to side to assist final placement 
  • Fork positioning carriage: allows workers to adjust pallet forks as needed without leaving the telehandler vehicle 
  • Side swing carriage: helps carry materials in narrow or confined areas 
  • Side shift carriage: allows operator to adjust the width between forks as they place materials 

Lifting hook

A lifting hook can be added to the end of a telehandler to hook and grab onto objects and raise or lower them to the ground. Lifting hooks can be used when fork pallets will not suffice for the material that needs to be moved. 


The cost of a telehandler will depend on the job you need to accomplish. This is because there are different models and types of telehandlers available, which are designed to handle different types of tasks. In addition, cost will vary based on the condition, age, power source, and attachments. When budgeting for a telehandler, note that the following factors will impact the overall cost:

  • New vs. used
  • Rent vs. purchase
  • Electric, gas, or hybrid power sources
  • Attachments required 
  • Lift and weight capacities 

However, there is a range in terms of pricing that you can expect. Pay attention to new vs. used and rent vs. purchase pricing when working on budgeting.

Rental pricingPurchase pricing
Per day: $200-$700
Per week: $500-$2,000
Per month: $1,500-$5,000+
New: $20,000-$75,000
Used: $15,000-$60,000

To compare the best telehandler prices available for your specific job needs, we can help! Just use our free online comparison tool to match with top-quality telehandler suppliers that offer the most competitive pricing and fit your needs.

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