Find Your Ideal Forklift Fuel with These Easy Steps

June 25, 2021

A truck from Forklift Inventory getting refueled with their forklift fuel type.

If you're unsure which forklift fuel type is best for your operation, rest assured. Forklift Inventory is here to help!

Choosing the right forklift fuel is essential to your company's success. Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of each forklift fuel type before you choose equipment.

In this article, you'll get the rundown on CNG vs. propane and propane vs. gasoline options. Before that, though, let's start by comparing electric vs. internal combustion forklifts.

Electric Vs. Internal Combustion

Internal combustion engine forklifts were the standard in the industry for many years. Then, electric forklifts were invented. Let's weigh the pros and cons of each.

Electric Forklifts

For in-depth information on this equipment type, check out our electric forklift blog. If you don't want to read all of that, here's a quick recap:


  • Electric forklifts are used to handle heavy loads indoors. They're best suited for flat, concrete surfaces.
  • Instead of operating on fuel, these forklifts use batteries. One battery charge lasts for an eight to nine-hour shift.
  • Electric batteries eliminate the need to burn fossil fuels. This creates a cleaner and safer space, positively impacting employee health. An electric forklift produces zero emissions during operation.
  • The lifetime cost is lower than other options.


  • The upfront cost is more expensive.
  • Batteries must be charged for at least eight hours. This is a huge amount of time compared to IC options, which take minutes to refuel. Look over OSHA's charging recommendations prior to purchasing an electric forklift.
  • While some models may be operated outdoors on certain surfaces, electric forklifts are only intended for indoor use. They need a flat, smooth surface and aren't weather resistant.
  • Since they have fewer moving parts, electric forklifts require specialized maintenance.

Internal Combustion Forklifts

An internal combustion forklift, like a car, uses fuel for operation.


  • Internal combustion forklifts are very versatile. These trucks can function in extreme heat and cold.
  • Internal combustion forklifts only take about five minutes to refuel. That's a fraction of the eight hours it takes for electric forklifts to recharge!
  • They have a low upfront cost.
  • Internal combustion forklifts can complete longer shifts than electric forklifts. They can also carry much heavier loads.


  • Only use these machines indoors if there is good ventilation. Without proper ventilation, multiple health concerns can arise. Keep in mind that certain fuel types cannot be used indoors at all.
  • Maintenance and operation costs are high. To prevent breakdowns, you will need regular maintenance on your engine. Oil changes, spark plugs, belts, and inspections all require frequent spend.
  • This maintenance creates more waste. This waste includes engine oil, transmission fuel, and other fossil fuels.
  • These forklifts require frequent refueling.

Fuel Types: CNG Vs. Propane Vs. Gasoline Vs. Diesel

If an internal combustion forklift sounds like the right fit, you'll need to choose a forklift fuel. We'll go through the forklift fuel types to help you in your decision.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)

Compressed natural gas (CNG) is made of methane, which is then filtered and compressed.

Methane is a gas, like propane. This causes some confusion when it comes to comparing CNG vs. propane. However, they are two completely different forklift fuel types.

To find out if CNG is right for your operation, see below.


  • CNG is environmentally friendly, producing fewer emissions. This makes for improved air quality. Due to this, CNG is one of the safest forklift fuel options. For instance, if a leak occurs, it will dissolve as water vapor and carbon dioxide.
  • This forklift fuel type is great for small, indoor environments.
  • You don't need to remove the CNG tank to refill it. This makes refueling fast - typically under five minutes! Faster refueling times will improve production by reducing downtime and operator strain.
  • Overall maintenance costs are among the lowest of any forklift fuel type. Since the engines are less corrosive, they typically last twice as long.


  • When comparing CNG vs. propane or propane vs. gasoline, CNG has the highest upfront cost.
  • These models are not as widely available, making replacement parts more expensive.
  • CNG forklifts need more fuel to produce the same amount of energy as other forklift fuel types. This means you'll refill more often.
  • Fuel storage takes up more space than propane or gasoline.


Propane is a naturally occurring gas made up of carbon and hydrogen. LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas, is another name for propane and refers to how it is stored.

We've already covered CNG. Now, to settle the CNG vs. propane debate, and start the propane vs. gasoline one, let's take a closer look at propane forklifts.


  • Propane forklifts are suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications.
  • A full propane tank lasts longer than compressed natural gas. CNG will only give you three to four hours of operation, but propane lasts twice as long.
  • When comparing CNG vs. propane or propane vs. gasoline, propane forklifts offer the best acceleration, travel, and lift speeds.
  • The carbon and sulfur emissions are very low, with virtually no pollutants.


  • Despite their reduced emissions, propane forklifts are not a good option for the food industry. The Food Safety and Inspection Service outlines many ventilation and cleanliness guidelines that are better achieved with electric models.
  • Propane forklifts have a lower energy density, meaning they require more fuel to run than other IC options.
  • Maintenance costs are higher than those of CNG and gasoline models.
  • Propane is one of the heavier forklift fuel types. It's flammable so it can ignite. This can cause suffocation and fire hazards.


Gasoline-powered forklifts are the least common forklift type. However, that doesn't mean they're useless.

This forklift fuel requires readily available refueling stations. To determine if a gas-powered forklift is for you, continue reading.


  • Gasoline-powered forklifts are easy to maneuver.
  • These forklifts are not quite as noisy as diesel models.
  • This forklift fuel is more powerful than diesel alternatives. Gasoline-powered forklifts have increased travel speeds and higher acceleration rates.
  • Gasoline forklifts have increased rear visibility compared to propane models because there is no fuel tank on the back.


  • These forklifts are only suitable for worksites with gasoline fueling stations.
  • Pressure switches and gauges are often in poor shape or are missing on used models. This could result in your equipment running out of fuel without warning.
  • Overall issues and problems are difficult to identify. Servicing for a forklift with unidentified issues will be more expensive because testing and evaluation are required.
  • Gasoline-powered forklifts are harder to operate than other IC models. This means operators need additional training before use.


Diesel is a fuel that is easy to obtain and use. It's lower grade, which makes it less flammable than other forklift fuel types.

If the advantages below outweigh the disadvantages, a diesel forklift is for you.


  • Diesel forklifts are the best at operating under tough conditions. A diesel forklift's durability withstands wet, dirty, and demanding environments.
  • This equipment is great for outdoor use. Diesel-powered forklifts are typically used to load and unload materials from outdoor stage locations. If you're operating in a lumberyard or receiving area, diesel is your fit.
  • Their larger size allows them to generate more power for an efficient operation.
  • Diesel provides the longest runtime.


  • The loud engines cause a lot of noise, which negatively impacts operators.
  • These machines are not as maneuverable as other models.
  • Diesel forklifts have the highest operating costs.
  • This fuel type produces very toxic exhaust emissions. Because of this, they are unsuitable for indoor environments.
A Forklift Inventory truck with a different type of forklift fuel from the other trucks.

Selecting and Purchasing a Forklift

At face value, a forklift is a forklift. However, every forklift fuel type offers its own advantages and disadvantages. We've taken you through each option to help you with your decision.

Once you make a choice, turn to Forklift Inventory.

All the information we need is in this quick form. Once you fill it out, we'll send you quotes based on your specific needs.

It's that easy! Find high-quality equipment for your business as soon as you're ready.

View Our Inventory of New and Used Forklifts for Sale.

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*Savings claims are based on used forklift prices when compared to new inventory prices. Savings is not guaranteed and is subject to change.