Top Forklift Brands
Today, there are several major players in the forklift manufacturing industry. We’ve compiled the 13 best-rated forklift brands — many of which we’re proud to offer at McCall Handling.
Note our numbered ranking is not meant to designate the overall superiority of specific manufacturers. Each brand is best for certain usages and applications. As such, always consider the full range of variables at play in picking the perfect forklift — variables we’ll discuss further in this guide.
Hyster is probably the best-known forklift brand in the world. Hyster was founded in 1929 to provide durable lifting equipment and material handling solutions. Today, Hyster has distribution centers in over 130 countries and has produced millions of lift machines. Hyster is a forklift brand name that’s proven trustworthy, especially in customer service attention.
McCall Handling is a proud supplier of industry-leading Hyster forklifts and other material handling related equipment. Hyster lift trucks are top-performing, low-maintenance machines offering tremendous benefits through increased productivity and cost reduction.
Yale was first known as a lock manufacturing company back in the 1800s. Yale produced its first forklift in 1920. Now it supplies forklifts worldwide. Headquartered in Cleveland, Yale ships across the globe and is a single-source supplier of three and four wheel ride-on lift trucks. Yale lifts range from 3,500 pounds all the way to 35,000. Construction, dock, warehouse, and farmworkers mostly use these quality forklifts.
Landoll’s line of electric Bendi forklifts is a leading brand for narrow-space applications, particularly material handling and racking within interior warehouses, loading and unloading docks and similar applications.
Bendi narrow-aisle forklifts are available in three-stage and four-stage masts and carry stacking capabilities for standard, double-deep and drive-in wracking layouts. This line of forklifts is specifically designed for easy steerage and stacking down long, narrow corridors and through doorways, plus maneuverability around tight interior and exterior corners.
Bendi forklift load capacities vary but start around 3,000 pounds and exceed 5,500 pounds. Stacking height ranges go from the standard 63” (1.6 meters) up to 84” (2.14 meters). Select this forklift when space is at already at a premium in your facilities, and you need a nimble material-handling forklift to improve racking speed, safety and organization.
Born in Ireland but distributed worldwide via a dealer network in 85+ countries, Combilift forklifts specialize in heavy and oversized loads. Combilift is known for its functional forklift designs, meaning there’s an emphasis on fewer frills and features and more machine muscle at the core of its models.
Combilift has also expanded its product line recently. Within the past two years, the manufacturer has developed three new machines for market — the Combi-CS, Combi-MR and Combi-WR. Alongside its burgeoning catalog, Combilift continues to provide durable, robust forklifts for long-load and heavy-load handling capacities. Choose Combilift for its globally renowned practicality, functionality and reliability across oversized load needs, especially timber, steel, concrete and shipping container transportation and wracking.
Landoll’s Drexel front and side-loading forklifts are user-friendly and multi-purpose machines for any manufacturing or industrial environment. Designed around its unique loading swing mast, a Drexel forklift boasts the capabilities of four vehicles in one — a standard counter-balanced lift truck, a reach truck, a sideloader and, finally, a durable turret truck.
The Drexel product line is available in either electric or IC-powered forklifts. Units come in conventional as well as narrow-aisle and very-narrow-aisle configurations capable of maneuvering down aisles five feet wide or less. Load capacities begin around 3,000 pounds and extend up to 12,000 pounds, with accompanying lift heights up to 31 feet. Its swing mast rotates cargo up to 90° in any direction, performing the unique front and side-loading functions for conventional pallet stacking or long-load stacking needs.
Produced by Landoll, Drexels provide the same durability and versatility its parent manufacturer is known for across its other forklift and industrial machinery lines.
6. Crown Equipment Corporation
Crown Equipment Corporation started operation in 1945. They’re headquartered in New Bremen, Ohio and have grown into one of the world’s leading suppliers of industrial forklifts. Crown is a technological leader with advancements in automation and fleet management. They supply basic forklifts up to 4,000-pound capacity and heavy lifts exceeding 6,500 pounds. Crown sells new machines as well as factory-reconditioned used forklifts. Warranty, servicing and component supply are key company focus points. Crown forklifts are best for warehouses and agricultural professionals.
Toyota is a huge corporation mostly famous for automotive manufacturing. Don’t let that fool you because Toyota has been building forklifts for 50 years. There are over 500,000 Toyota lifts in the United States alone with a diverse selection from pallet jacks to counter-balance machines. Toyota has full finance and maintenance agreements available. Many shipping and receiving companies use Toyota lift products.
JCB was named after its founder, Joseph Cyril Bamford. It remains a private forklift company since starting in 1945 and now runs 22 plants on four continents with 750 dealers worldwide. JBC has a wide variety of models and offers full financing and service packages. JBC forklifts are often seen on farms, in warehouses, around construction sites and are popular on military installations.
Komatsu is a Japanese manufacturer of mining, military and construction machinery. They began in 1921 and moved into a U.S. presence in the 1970s. Komatsu has an extensive forklift line and dealer network in America. Their integrated KOMTRAX monitoring system is exclusive to Komatsu. It allows remote equipment monitoring that alerts owners and operators of pending trouble.
10. Clark Material Handling Company
Clark Material Handling Company was founded in 1903 and built its first forklift in 1917. Clark is based in Lexington, Kentucky and is privately held with manufacturing and distribution facilities across the world. Clark has built over 350,000 lift trucks as well as pallet jacks, order pickers and stackers. They focus on medium duty forklifts for warehouse, manufacturing and construction applications.
Linde is a European leader in forklift manufacturing technology. Their global sales and service network spans 10 countries including a prominent American presence. Linde originally produced industrial trucks and hydraulics but switched to forklift manufacturing in 1959. Today, they’re a leader in robotics and automated lift equipment. Linde primarily focuses on warehouse needs.
Unicarriers is a recent forklift brand but they’ve been manufacturing equipment back to the early 1900s. Unicarriers are an acquisition series involving Nissan Forklift, Barrett Industries and TCM. Their combined experience has produced an excellent forklift brand that lends well to indoor warehouse use.
Mitsubishi Forklift Trucks is the original brand name for a wide range of material handlers manufactured by the Japanese giant. Mitsubishi partnered with Caterpillar to become Mitsubishi-Caterpillar Forklift America (MCFA), headquartered in Houston, Texas. Under this brand, they manufacture an across the board range from light to industrial duty forklift machines.
How to Determine the Best Forklift for Your Business
Few need reminders on how many factors and pieces of information are at play when determining the best forklift to buy. It can be a tough job with lots of indecision and second-guessing. Fortunately, lots of the heavy lifting has already been done for you.
To make the soundest decision, there are two sets of criteria to explore before making your purchase:
- A forklift’s operating conditions
- A forklifts component analysis
By prioritizing these two criteria groups, you’ll have a robust set of test factors informing a confident machine selection — one that goes beyond general specs, service promises and warranties.
1. Forklift Operating Conditions
The operating specs you should review include:
- Work cycle speed
- Energy efficiency
- Heat generation
- Regenerative loading
- Power curves
- Operator visibility
- Rider ergonomics
2. Forklift Component Analysis
Major forklift components to investigate may be:
- Maintenance levels
- Electrical components
- Wheels and brakes
- Safety features
Major Forklift Brands and Manufacturers
You’ll hear opinions about leading forklift brand names like Hyster, Yale, Clark and Crown. These forklift manufacturers have been in business for decades. They’ve produced machines in the hundreds of thousands ranging from small hand trucks to huge counterbalance ride-on lifts.
You’ll also hear comments on lesser-known brand names of forklifts. Some of these might be Columbia, Bendi, Drexel, Doosan and Jungheinrich. Likely, you’re also familiar with forklift brands called Linde, JBC, Unicarrier or Daewoo. These manufacturers also put out fine products, especially for specific niche markets.
Of course, these names will be familiar too. Toyota, Mitsubishi, Komatsu and Nissan are top forklift manufacturers. Caterpillar, John Deere and Bobcat are synonymous with quality American lift machines. All these fine companies have a strong presence in the worldwide forklift market.
During your research, you might come across famous machinery brands that are lesser-known for their forklift lines. Did you know Hitachi, Hyundai, Volvo, Link-belt and Yamaha make forklifts? How about Kawasaki? Samsung? Or Case, Parker and Kion? What about Hangcha and Anhui? They’re two of the largest forklift builders in the world.
Possibly, many of the world’s largest forklift brand names aren’t going to be familiar to you. Not recognizing a brand name doesn’t indicate it’s not top quality. An obscure brand may be your best choice. Choosing a lift by high-profile brand name alone may be a mistake. It simply depends on what you’re looking for.
What to Consider When Selecting a Forklift
Before zeroing in on a particular forklift brand, consider these variables.
1. Forklift Environment/Applications
Your specific business application is the first place to start. Forklifts are used in hundreds of thousands of businesses across the nation and around the globe. There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all in the forklift world, regardless of brand. The most common forklift applications include:
- Industrial facilities: Every industrial site is equipped with some form of forklift. Some of the machines are massive and lift thousands of pounds dozens of feet in the air. The oil, gas, mining and wood production industries would be at a standstill without their forklifts.
- Construction sites: These can be heavy-duty applications that move steel beams and girders or light situations where lifts of lumber and plywood are juggled. Most construction sites and lumberyards use powerful outdoor lift machines
- Warehouses: Almost all storage facilities and merchandise warehouses use forklifts. Delivery trucks need loading and unloading. Products have to be lowered and raised from shelves. Warehouse lifts include indoor and outdoor application and range from minor to extreme weights.
- Retail stores: Most of the big-box retail stores use some form of lift to move products. These might be pallet jacks, order pickers, aisle lifts or even ride-on machines.
- Airports: The airline industry would be at a standstill without lift trucks. Millions of pounds of valuable cargo are shipped by plane daily. All has to be transferred with some form of lift.
- Ports and docks: Ships, large and small, require forklifts to move containers and bulk cargo.
- Farms: Many commercial agriculture facilities require forklifts in daily operation.
- Disposal and recycling centers: Bulk pallets of compressed recycling materials require forklift transportation.
- Residential/private use: Even some homeowners use forklifts for their storage or renovation projects.
Ultimately, the situation where you intend to operate your forklift is the starting point for selecting your forklift type. All of these considerations are going to have an impact on the particular forklift brand you decide on.
2. Forklift Types
There are a number of different types of forklifts. Each depends on its specific intention and each forklift brand name will have their particular design and option. The most common forklift types are:
- Pallet jacks: These basic lifts are meant for light duty work where loaded pallets are shuffled about a business. Pallet jacks can be either manual or electrically operated.
- Pallet stackers: Stackers are a step up from jacks where light loads are able to be vertically elevated as well as horizontally moved.
- Order pickers: These forklifts are commonly found in warehouses and wholesale businesses. Order pickers are designed to optimize speed in picking stock from inventory and assembling a shipping order.
- Counter-balance ride-on forklifts: By far the most common and recognizable type of forklift is the counter-balance machine that the operator rides-on. Virtually every forklift brand has a number of ride-on lifts in production. Each brand offers many features and benefits depending on the specific application.
- Heavy-duty forklifts: Some of the leading forklift brands manufacture large machines for heavy-duty applications. Variations include powerful articulated forklifts, side-loaders, multi-directional and rough-terrain lifts.
3. Additional Forklift Considerations
Forklift selection factors don’t stop at the machine’s specific framework. Depending on the workplace material you’re using a forklift for and the environment, you’ll want to consider other factors. Each forklift manufacturer brand will present suitable options; however, the design parameters are universal.
Forklift factors to consider before settling on a brand include:
- Load capacity: What stock you’ll be lifting, the weight, average load and maximum capacity all need to be identified. So does your load width if it needs moving in aisles.
- Lift height: Your average lift height and maximum reach points are a huge factor. Also, think of any height restriction like ceiling height drops, low beamsand lights.
- Fuel source: There are two main power supplies used in forklifts. One is the internal combustion (IC) engine. The other is an electric motor. IC engines run on gasoline, diesel fuel or compressed liquefied propane. Electric powered forklifts rely on battery power. Some of the leading and innovative forklift brands are experimenting with alternate, environmentally friendly fuel sources like hydrogen cells.
- Tire selection: Depending on your application and workplace, there are different tires available for your forklift. All brands will carry selections of solid rubber tires, pneumatic tires, cushion tires and ones made from polyurethane. Most forklift brands also offer non-marking tire to keep warehouse floors streak and skid-free.
- Terrain and temperature: The climate and terrain boundaries you intend to operate are a major consideration. Most forklift brands have different designs that accommodate sites with extreme heat or cold as well as rough or sloped surfaces.
- Ergonomics: Forklift operators can spend many hours with their machines. It’s important for operator health and productivity that the lifts controls, seat and ride be ergonomically correct. Many forklift brands promote ergonomics a key design benefit.
- Training: Every forklift operator is required by law to be certified by an approved instructor. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) is strict about forklift operator licensing and training. Failure to ensure proper training may result in significant fines or workplace sanctions. Keep in mind whether the manufacturer provides training when checking the various brands that suit your forklift needs.
- Safety: Workplace safety is a paramount factor in selecting the right forklift. Selecting the right brand can greatly contribute to the safety of operators and nearby workers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were, on average, 88 fatalities and more than 7,000 injuries that resulted in time away from work each year from 2011 to 2017. The best forklift brands ensure their machines are designed to be safe and that operator training is available.
How to Select the Right Forklift Manufacturer
Yes, a forklift’s brand matters. One brand’s designs may be better suited to your applications or environment than another’s. Different brands also offer varying features, training, customer service and warranties.
Here are some significant brand factors to consider when deciding on the best forklift to buy.
- Machine availability: Does the particular brand you’re considering have the right machine available?
- Machine popularity: How many machines of this brand have been sold?
- Dealer location: Is the brand’s dealer representative conveniently located?
- Parts and service: Does the forklift brand have a suitable part supply and service plan?
- Warranty: What does the particular brand offer for warranty terms?
- History: How long has the forklift company been operating?
- Safety record: What is the brand’s safety reputation like?
- Economy: What are the reports on fuel consumption and maintenance costs?
- Budget: How does the forklift brand compare in pricing to other manufacturers?
- Financing: Does the forklift brand offer financing terms?
- Buy, rent or lease: Is the brand you’re considering available with acquisition options?
An important additional factor to consider when choosing a forklift by brand is the company’s reputation. Don’t just look at what the brand offers by features and benefits. What’s their track record? What are others saying about how the brand stands up?
Consider these factors when making your final brand determination.
- Consumer reviews: Nothing says “good” like a positive review by a satisfied owner of the same machine you’re looking at.
- Recognition and awards: Look for accredited awards given to a brand by industry peers, trade periodicals and government organizations.
- Help and support centers: Is knowledgeable assistance readily available when something goes wrong? Are call centers available for off-hours troubleshooting or just general maintenance information?
- Maintenance agreements: Leading forklift brands and their dealers offer maintenance agreements to support continuous and reliable operation.
- Training assistance: Does the brand you’re interested in have training assistance available in machine operation and maintenance?
Trends and technological advancements particular to a brand are other points to account for when making your forklift decision. New power sources, hi-tech computer controls, energy efficiency, operator visibility, noise reduction, vibration control and machine stability are all improvements that leading forklift brands continuously work on.
Find the Right Forklifts at McCall Handling
Check out the current Hyster equipment selection at McCall Handling, which includes the revolutionary Hyster Fortis forklift line. With features such as user-friendly operator compartments, highly efficient electronic transmissions, and advanced computerized control systems, Fortis lift trucks offer unmatched reliability and cost-effective operation.
McCall Handling has provided Lift Truck service to Delmar, Del.-Eastern Shore, Northern Va.-Chantilly, Forestville, Md., Washington D.C., Western Md.- Williamsport and West Virginia for over 65 years and is headquartered in Baltimore, Md.
A big reason why McCall Handling has been a preferred Mid-Atlantic forklift purchasing choice for more than 65 years is our people. Our team is committed to providing personalized service in all areas of our business.
If you’d prefer live assistance from one of our friendly and knowledgeable team members, feel free to give us a call toll-free at 1-888-870-0685. We’ll be happy to help.