If you need to transport goods from a truck to a warehouse, the easiest way to do so without throwing out your back is by using a forklift. These heavy-lifting tools will come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and carrying capacities. So, how large is a forklift?
The average forklift will measure 4 to 7 feet in width and 8 to 10 feet in length, while its forks can extend up to 10 to 15 feet off the ground. However, the exact dimensions of a forklift will depend on its type.
In this guide, I’ll explain the various forklift types, how they differ in size, and how to determine what kind of forklift you should get.
Forklift Types and Applications
Whether you work in a warehouse or on a construction site, you will most likely rely on a forklift to literally do the heavy lifting for you. However, when it comes to forklifts, did you know that there’s more than one type?
I’ll explain the various forklift types down below, as well as what they’re most commonly used for.
The warehouse forklift is the type that you can almost instantly recognize when you lay eyes on it. Warehouse forklifts are used exclusively inside warehouses to help workers transport goods from one place to another. They usually have a loading capacity of 1 to 5 tons.
A side-loader forklift is a sub-type of warehouse forklift. The main difference is that it comes with a steel column to help raise large, heavy objects several yards overhead.
In addition, the operator stands on a side compartment, giving them a better view of how high the steel column is. This type of forklift is used mainly for transporting steel pipes and wooden logs across short distances.
Also known as large-capacity forklifts, heavy-duty forklifts are massive machines that are used to transport tremendously large cargo (up to 30,000 pounds) across short distances.
They’re mainly used for industrial applications, such as moving building materials for constructing warehouses and multi-floor buildings.
This is one of the rare forklift types that is used outdoors. It sits atop massive tires that give it traction, thereby preventing it from slipping on snow, ice, and mud.
Their forks are designed to carry irregularly shaped objects across uneven terrain. They typically carry between 6,000 and 8,000 pounds.
This is a semi-manual type of forklift. The operator stands behind it while cranking the handle to lift the forks a couple of inches with each pump.
Pallet jacks leave a tiny footprint, so you may find dozens of these even in medium-sized warehouses. However, they’re not designed to lift objects higher than 8 feet off the ground.
As stated earlier in this guide, the standard size of a forklift ranges from 4 to 7 feet wide and 8 to 10 feet long, with its forks rising up to 10 to 15 feet off the ground.
However, when looking at forklift sizes, it’s important to take note of the different forklift size classes. I’ll give a brief overview of each forklift class. I’ll also include a short chart that describes the size and loading specs of each forklift type.
Class I—Electric Motor Riders
This type of forklift is powered by a 24 to 80V battery. They’re light-duty machines that carry up to 3,000 pounds, though beefier models sporting larger batteries can lift up to 40,000 pounds without issue.
Class II—Electric Motor Narrow Aisle
Like their Class I counterparts, Class II forklifts draw power from a portable power source. The main difference is in its design—specifically, this type of forklift is narrower in size, thus allowing it to travel between narrow warehouse aisles. This type is designed with maneuverability in mind.
Class III—Electric Pallet Jacks
This battery-powered forklift uses a manual pump to lift objects several feet off the ground. It doesn’t come with a motor to power its wheels. Instead, it’s a walking model where the operators keep pace with the unit from behind.
Class IV—Combustion Engine
Starting from this class, forklifts will come with an internal combustion engine. It relies on liquid fuel to operate, which makes them more prone to maintenance issues over the long run. However, they are larger in size and are more capable of lifting large objects more efficiently.
Class V—Combustion Engine Pneumatic Tire
This is the kind of forklift that is used for outdoor applications. Its pneumatic tires come with deeper threads to give it more stability on uneven and slippery surfaces. Some models can carry up to 125,000 pounds at a time.
Class VI—Tow Tractors
This forklift class is mainly used for towing cargo. As such, its forks don’t extend very high, but some tow tractor forklifts can tug over 50,000 pounds per haul. In addition, they are designed for maneuverability and speed. They can run on batteries or liquid fuel.
Size and Loading Specs Chart
|Forklift Class||Width||Length||Height||Loading Capacity|
|Class I||41.5 in.||77.2 in.||80.9 in.||3,000 to 4,000 lbs.|
|Class II||31 in.||78 in.||51.5 in.||4,500 lbs.|
|Class III||28 in.||81 in.||47.2 in.||4,500 lbs.|
|Class IV||37.2 in.||86.4 in.||81.1 in.||3,000 to 4,000 lbs.|
|Class V||172 in.||64 in.||216 in.||90,000 lbs.|
|Class VI||32.5 in.||61 in.||54 in.||10,000 lbs.|
What Type of Forklift Do I Need?
Here’s a quick breakdown of the questions you need to answer to determine what type of forklift is best for you.
How high should it lift? Forklifts have varying lifting heights, with some not being able to lift at all. Take note of how high you need to lift heavy objects and what type of forklift meets the minimum height criteria.
Where will I use it? The tires and tare weight of a forklift will let you know whether it’s made for indoor or outdoor use.
How wide should it be? Measure the distance between shelves in your warehouse before choosing a forklift that’s too wide.
Can I try it out before buying it? Similar to purchasing a car, you should test-drive a forklift before spending upwards of $20,000 on one. That way, you’ll know whether it’s as maneuverable and as heavy-duty as you’d like.