Should I Buy an Electric or Internal Combustion Forklift?

February 26, 2021

Red counterbalance forklift in a warehouse surrounded by pallets

Whether you need an electric or internal combustion forklift depends on your specific business needs. Each equipment type presents unique pros and cons.

Not sure which one is the best fit for your business? In this short article, we’ll compare electric vs. internal combustion to help you make a decision. Then, use Forklift Inventory to get pricing on different options in your area.

IC vs. Electric Forklift

The differentiating factor between an internal combustion (IC) forklift and an electric forklift is the power source. An internal combustion forklift runs on fuel. Typically, this fuel is propane, diesel, or gasoline. In contrast, an electric forklift is powered by a rechargeable battery.

Electric Forklift Pros & Cons

Pros: An electric forklift doesn’t require any fuel to operate, eliminating refueling costs. Of course, the rechargeable battery will tack two to six thousand dollars onto the initial price, but that should last you around five years with proper battery maintenance.

While a forklift battery may seem expensive, it’s cheaper in the long-run compared to fuel. On top of that, electric forklifts are generally known for requiring fewer maintenance costs over their lifetimes.

A battery-powered forklift is especially ideal for indoor operations because it functions with zero emissions. This is huge for both environmental and safety reasons. Warehousing industries often use battery-powered forklifts because of their small size. Narrow aisle reach trucks and order pickers are two types of electric forklifts commonly found in warehouses.

Narrow aisle reach trucks are easy to maneuver around tight warehouse aisles. Order pickers raise the operator, which is ideal for case picking and piece-part orders.

Cons: While electric models are still relatively new, they have come a long way. In the past, the idea that an electric forklift could have the power, longevity, and toughness of an IC model was laughed at. This is no longer the case, and many battery-powered forklifts can accomplish almost anything an IC forklift can. However, an electric forklift still may not be the best option for certain outdoor operations.

Internal Combustion Forklift Pros & Cons

Pros: While electric forklifts may be cheaper during their lifetime, they cost more upfront. An internal combustion forklift is more affordable.

Also, while many electric options are just as capable as their IC counterparts, some simply can’t handle tough outdoor conditions. An internal combustion forklift is best in extreme conditions and rough outdoor environments.

Plus, batteries take hours to recharge. On the other hand, an IC forklift can be refueled in a matter of minutes. Propane tanks can be changed almost instantly.

Different fuel types offer different advantages. Learn more about forklift fuel types here.

Cons: Keep in mind that an internal combustion forklift does produce harmful fumes during operation. Either operate these models outdoors only or set up a proper ventilation system inside to protect employees and visitors.

Red electric forklift loaded with boxes on a pallet

Making a Purchasing Decision

Now that we’ve compared the pros and cons of electric vs. internal combustion, you might have a better idea of which one you need. If not, that’s okay! Receive pricing on both IC and battery-powered forklifts with Forklift Inventory.

We can help you compare all of your options online for no cost. Simply fill out this short form to let us know what specifications you need. Then, we’ll filter through our inventory of quality equipment from pre-screened dealers to find forklifts that match. You’ll receive free quotes on each of these matches.

It’s that simple. Compare IC vs. electric forklifts from the comfort of your home. Use Forklift Inventory to browse all of your options online today.

Find an Electric or Internal Combustion Forklift for Your Facility.

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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.