Aerial Lifts Buyers Guide
Types of aerial lifts
Table of Contents
There are three main aerial lift designs. Choosing the right one for your job can be fairly straightforward once you understand the differences. They include:
- Boom lifts - Buckets on the end of extendable or jointed arms. If you need to reach up and over obstacles, you'll probably need a boom lift, as other types of lifts move mainly straight up and down.
- Scissor lifts - Flat platforms that travel straight up and down. Best for moving multiple people or large amounts of equipment or product to heights, offering more lift capacity and larger workspaces than bucket lifts.
- Personnel lifts - Single-user, vertical travel buckets. The most economical choice for single-user operations that only require vertical travel.
Boom lifts come in two distinct varieties. Telescopic boom lifts (also called stick booms or straight booms) have long, extendable arms that can reach up to120 feet at almost any angle. They're often used in construction where their long reach provides access to upper stories. These are best when you need the highest, longest reach.
Articulating-boom lifts have arms that bend and often include four-wheel drive for added maneuverability. Sometimes called knuckle booms, they can reach over and around obstacles to position the bucket exactly where it needs to be. They're popular for utility work where power lines, trees and other obstacles make positioning tricky. They're also used in plant maintenance, allowing workers to reach over immovable fixtures and equipment.
Boom lifts offer the best combination of vertical and horizontal flexibility. Some models can even position the bucket lower than the base if needed. Typical boom lifts fall within these ranges:
- Platform heights from 20 feet to 126 feet
- Most popular height ranges from 20 feet to 50 feet
- Most common capacity is 500 lbs.
Many boom lifts can be fitted with a jib. This adds about 6 feet to the height and allows the bucket to be moved up and down (and sometimes side to side) without moving the main boom.
Another variety of boom lift is the trailer-mounted boom lift. Unable to move on their own, these battery-powered lifts are towed to work locations behind other vehicles. They can reach heights of 30 feet to 50 feet.
Unlike boom lifts, scissor lifts only travel vertically. However, they generally offer larger platforms and lifting capacities. The larger platform provides more space for material and personnel while allowing access to a larger work area without repositioning the lift.
Many scissor lifts have a platform extensionthat provides a horizontal reach of 4 feet to 6 feet from the top of the lift. Though limited compared to a boom lift, platform extensions provide an important amount of flexibility.
Scissor lifts most often fall into these ranges:
- Platform heights from 19 feet to 50 feet (with the low end being much more common)
- Lifting capacities from 500 to 2,500 lbs (most commonly 500 to 1,000 lbs.)
Vertical personnel lifts
As indicated by their name, vertical personnel lifts move users up and down. They're less expensive than other types of lifts and are often small enough to be moved through a standard doorway in their collapsed state.
Some specialized vertical personnel lifts can handle two workers, overlapping with low-end scissor lifts. The most common specifications for these lifts are:
- Platform heights from 12 feet to 50 feet
- Lifting capacities around 300 lbs. (usually enough for one worker and tools)