Diesel, Propane, or Electric Forklift: Which Should You Choose?

An electric forklift is the most commonly purchased or rented warehouse machine. However, there are other forklifts on the market that are powered by either propane or even diesel. Each power source has its upsides and downsides. However, how you use the forklift matters as much as how it draws its power. Here's how to know what kind of forklift to pick.

electric forklift in warehouse

Electric Forklift

Electric forklifts tend to be the most popular for indoor work such as warehousing, shipping hubs, and back of house for big box stores. Due to their construction, they're ideal for narrow aisles and relatively low shelves, such as those found in retail warehouses. Advantages of electric forklifts include zero emissions and offer a quiet operation. Additionally, these units offer fewer parts and are simple to "fuel up." Just plug them in after their shift and let the batteries recharge.

That said, you will need to ensure your warehouse has a charging area with the proper electrical wiring and conduits. They'll also need to charge for hours, won't perform as well in refrigerated environments and generally need smooth concrete floors to operate.

Propane Forklift

Propane forklifts have more power and can haul heavier loads and work for longer than most electric forklifts. They're ideal for light outdoor work and situations where you'll transition between rougher terrain and smooth warehouse floors. They're simple to refuel, which can be done quickly by swapping out propane bottles, and usually get a shift out of each bottle.

Although propane forklifts offer low-emissions, proper ventilation for the space is required. While propane does not leave the same amount of deposits on an engine that diesel does, there are still moving parts and thus more maintenance costs. These units are also not quite as nimble as electric forklifts and will need more space. Finally, you'll need to set aside an area to store propane in. While it's safer than some fuels, it's still a flammable gas under pressure and safety precautions need to be taken.

electric forklift lifting cargo

Diesel Forklift

If you're hauling cargo containers or have to cross rough terrain on a regular basis, it is best to look at a diesel forklift. Diesel forklifts have more in common with heavy construction machinery than warehouse forklifts. These units have the equivalent power and expense of a bulldozer or a backhoe.

Diesel offers the most power, with diesel engines able to lift tons of material. However, they need plenty of space to operate in and typically require a specially trained operator behind the wheel. Diesel forklifts require more maintenance and consume quite a bit of diesel even when conservatively used. Even a small diesel forklift should be exclusively used outdoors; diesel fuel can quickly flood ventilated enclosed space with smog and particulate matter.

If you need help finding the right forklift, start with the best. We offer an array of options, whether you're searching for a diesel, propane, or electric forklift. Contact us to get the best deal nearest you.