What are the Three Most Common Forklift Types?

If you work in a warehouse or industrial setting, you’re likely familiar with forklifts. These powerful machines are essential for moving heavy materials, equipment, and products safely and efficiently.

However, not all forklifts are created equal. There are many different types of forklifts available, each with its own unique features and capabilities. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of forklifts, their power sources and performance, operational considerations, and how to choose the right forklift for your needs.


  Key Takeaways

  • There are 3 different types of forklifts available at Liftwise, each with its own unique features and capabilities.
  • Purchasing a forklift requires an understanding of your operational requirements, including type of materials, your environment, and the height and weight of the loads.
  • Selecting the right forklift types improves efficiency, also reduces the risk of damage to your materials and equipment.

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What are the three types of forklift?

The three most common types of forklift are lithium, electric, and internal combustion (IC) forklifts. Forklifts come in different types and sizes that are designed to meet specific needs. Power source is one of the primary considerations but there are also other types including counterbalance, pallet jack, walkie stacker and rough terrain.

Lithium Forklifts

Lithium-ion forklifts are becoming increasingly popular due to their efficiency and long battery life. They are also more environmentally friendly than other types of forklifts because they produce zero emissions and do not require fuel storage. Lithium-ion forklifts are ideal for indoor use, such as in warehouses or manufacturing facilities, where emissions and noise levels are a concern.

Electric Forklifts

Electric-powered forklifts are also a popular choice because they are quiet, produce no emissions, and are easy to operate. They are powered by rechargeable batteries that can be charged at a charging station. Electric forklifts are ideal for indoor use, but they can also be used outdoors in dry conditions. They are not suitable for wet or uneven surfaces.

Internal Combustion Forklifts

IC forklifts are powered by diesel, LPG, or gasoline engines and are suitable for outdoor use. They are more powerful than electric forklifts and can handle heavier loads. However, they produce tailpipe emissions and require fuel storage, which can be a safety concern. IC forklifts are also louder than electric forklifts and require more maintenance.

High Reach Forklift

3 Common Forklift Types by Operational Environment

It’s equally important to consider the type of work that needs to be done. For example, if you need to lift heavy loads in a warehouse setting, a warehouse forklift would be the best choice. On the other hand, if you need to move heavy loads in an outdoor environment, a rough terrain forklift would be the best choice.

Warehouse Forklifts

Warehouse forklifts are the most common type of forklifts used in indoor settings such as a warehouse or factory. They are designed to lift and move heavy loads from one location to another. Some of the common models of warehouse forklifts include electric forkliftspallet jacks, and reach trucks. These forklifts are ideal for lifting and moving heavy loads in a warehouse setting.

Narrow Aisle Forklifts

Narrow aisle forklifts are designed for use in narrow aisles and tight spaces. These forklifts are ideal for use in a warehouse setting where space is limited. They are designed to be compact and manoeuvrable, making them perfect for navigating narrow aisles. Some common models of narrow aisle forklifts include reach trucks and order pickers.

Rough Terrain Forklifts

Rough terrain forklifts are designed for use on uneven surfaces and outdoor environments such as a construction site. They are built with larger wheels and a more durable frame than other forklifts, making them ideal for use in rough terrain. Some common models of rough terrain forklifts include telehandlers and industrial forklifts.

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Choosing the Right Forklift

Here are some key things to keep in mind when choosing the right forklift for your needs:

Access Your Specific Requirements

  • Determine the type of materials you’ll be moving: Whether they’ll be pallets, heavy machinery, bulk materials, or specialized items.
  • Consider the size of your inventory: If you have a large amount of inventory to move, you’ll need a forklift with a larger lifting capacity.
  • Think about your environment: If you’ll be using the forklift outdoors or in rough terrain, you’ll need a forklift with a counter-balance to ensure stability.
  • Keep emissions and noise in mind: If you’ll be using the forklift indoors or in areas where emissions and noise could be an issue, you’ll want to choose a lithum or elecrtric forklift.

State and territory Safety and Regulations

  • Make sure your forklift meets all relevant safety and regulatory requirements in your state.
  • Do your research and choose a reputable company with a good track record. 
  • Make sure your forklift comes with a warranty and maintenance or repair services.

Before You Go…

Finding the right forklift types for your business is just the first step. Read Liftwise’s forklift buyer’s guide if you still have questions, or just fill in the following form – our friendly team is here for help!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most common types of forklifts found in warehouses?

The most common types of forklifts are counterbalance forklifts, reach trucks, and order pickers. Counterbalance forklifts are the most popular type of forklift and are used for lifting and moving heavy loads. Reach trucks are designed for narrow aisles and can reach high shelves. Order pickers are used for picking orders from shelves and are ideal for large warehouses with high shelves.

What are the differences between counterbalance and side loader forklifts?

Counterbalance forklifts are designed to carry heavy loads from the front, while side loader forklifts are designed to carry loads from the side. Counterbalance forklifts are ideal for lifting and moving pallets and are commonly used in warehouses and factories. Side loader forklifts are ideal for handling long loads such as timber, pipes, and steel bars. They are commonly used in timber yards, steel mills, and other industries that require the handling of long loads.

What should be considered when selecting a forklift for a specific operation?

When selecting a forklift for a specific warehouse operation, you should consider the following factors:

  • The weight of the loads to be lifted
  • The height of the shelves or racks
  • The width of the aisles
  • The type of surface the forklift will be used on
  • The type of load to be lifted (e.g. pallets, long loads, etc.)
  • The frequency of use


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