When to Replace a Forklift

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For warehouses, distribution centers, large retail operations, and other businesses, forklifts and lift trucks are more than just a piece of equipment — they play an essential role in helping you meet your goals. Through both leasing and maintenance costs, they also account for a significant portion of your ongoing overhead expenses.

As your fleet ages, making proactive decisions about repair and replacement is essential to the bottom line. Several factors will determine the optimal time to replace a forklift truck — and often, there are no easy answers. Sometimes, it makes the most sense to invest in repairs or upgrades to your fleet. Other times, replacing an inefficient or unreliable machine is the right choice.

Ultimately, each business is different — so it’s our hope that the video and resources on this page will help you better understand the pros and cons of each option and make more informed decisions when it comes to your fleet.

If you prefer watching a video instead of reading, click below!  Please note that “ice trucks” mentioned at 1:37 is referring to internal combustion engine forklifts.

Factors That Affect Forklift Lifespans

The average forklift will have a lifespan between 10,000 and 12,000 hours, or around seven years of regular use. However, several factors can affect this, including:

  • Type: Generally speaking, electric forklifts last longer than IC forklifts. This is because electric models have fewer moving parts that can wear out and, as a result, they require fewer repairs. It’s also because, when an electric forklift does need service, it is often less involved and as a result more economically viable.
  • Application: For obvious reasons, forklifts that operate in rough terrain or harsh environments will incur more wear and tear, and have a shorter lifespan as a result. Exposure to industrial chemicals, bumps and jolts, and frequent accidents will all cause premature wear. This is one of the main reasons why it’s appropriate to choose a model that’s suited to the task.
  • Frequency of use: Likewise, a forklift that is used more often — even in clean warehouse conditions — will wear out faster. Most manufacturers and mechanics consider 2,000 hours per year to be “average” use. More use than that will require more frequent maintenance or other special considerations.
  • Maintenance: Finally, the most significant factor affecting the lifespan of a forklift is maintenance. Regular preventative maintenance is the single best thing you can do to extend a machine’s life. Routine service from a qualified professional will help you identify potential problems before they lead to unanticipated downtime and make more informed repair vs. replace decisions.

The Pros and Cons of Forklift Repair

As a forklift reaches the 10,000-hour mark, repairs are likely to become more costly and come with fewer long-term benefits. At this point, most fleet managers will begin to consider replacement. If a machine is in otherwise good condition and can be expected to provide several more years of use, repairing it can help you avoid the expense and hassle of replacement.

However, past a certain point, keeping an older machine in service will lead to reliability issues, higher operating costs, and other expenses. It can also delay making upgrades to your fleet — switching to an alternative fuel or narrow-aisle forklift, for example — that will make your business more efficient and cost-effective in the long run.

Working closely with a mechanic who will give you an honest assessment of a machine’s health, and considering that assessment in terms of your broader business goals, is the best way to proceed.

The Pros and Cons of Planned Replacement

The planned replacement approach to fleet management involves automatically upgrading your lift trucks when they reach a certain age. This is known as the “optimum economic replacement threshold.” Planned replacement takes the guesswork out of repair vs. replace decision-making. It helps you anticipate and incorporate the cost of a replacement into your budget and overall business planning. It also ensures your team always has access to new, modern, and efficient forklifts, which improves overall productivity, safety, and job satisfaction.

Check out the video on this page for more information about planned forklift replacement. For help with all aspects of forklift fleet management, get in touch with a McCall Handling representative in your area today.