When to Replace a Forklift?

A forklift is more than just a piece of machinery. For businesses like large retail operations, distribution centers and warehouses, they play a key role in meeting deadlines and other goals. Between maintenance and leasing costs, forklifts contribute to a hefty portion of your overhead.

Knowing when to replace a forklift is necessary not just for your bottom line, but also for safety and productivity.  And while the decision to replace is not always a cut and dry, there are some factors which can help you make the choice.

Because sometimes investing in upgrades or repairs is the right way to go, and other times it’s simply cheaper and more convenient to replace unreliable or inefficient machines.

What’s the average life for a Forklift?

There’s a meaningful difference between the average lifespan, and the average economical lifespan of a forklift. Some forklifts can last up to 10 years and still be functional. However, it is unlikely these forklifts will act as efficiently and productively (that is, economically) as a new one.

Every forklift has an economic lifespan, and at some point, it will become cheaper, and more efficient, to purchase a new one. The way to determine if a forklift has outlived its economic lifespan is by looking at its type and how many hours of operation per month it does

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Different types of forklift

The type of forklift you have will typically determine how long it will be effective for. Electric forklifts last longer than ones with an internal combustion engine. The main reason for this is that electric forklifts have fewer parts, and so there’s less maintenance required.

How many hours of operation per month?

How often you use your forklift each month can determine its economic lifespan. If you use the forklift in more than one shift a day, that can wear it out faster, which would necessitate the need to replace it earlier.

What to consider when replacing a forklift?

Another way to determine if a forklift is at the end of its economic life is cost. And the easiest way to make this determination is by looking at the estimated maintenance cost per hour. 

What is the estimated maintenance cost per hour?

When you purchase a new forklift there should be next-to-no maintenance costs in the first year. Of course, this does depend on how often a forklift gets used, why type of forklift it is, and it is used for. We’re also not considering replacing tires, belts, or other parts that will always need replacing no matter how new or old the machine is.

Over time, maintenance costs can—and often do—reach a point where the maintenance cost per hour starts to outweigh the machine’s usefulness.

An example of this would be: say you use a forklift for 2,000 hours a year. And say, that last year the cost of maintenance and general repairs was $2,000, your cost of maintenance is $2 an hour. Which is manageable. 

However, if that cost ballooned out to $20,000, suddenly your maintenance cost is $20 per hour. This is when it becomes necessary to ask yourself if the forklift is worth $20 an hour in maintenance fees.

If you can’t estimate the hourly maintenance cost, there are a couple of other ways to determine if your forklift has outlived its economic usefulness.

For example: has the maintenance cost increased by more than double in the last year? When calculating this, don’t include replacing parts like wheels, belts, and tires. 

3 other ways to help you determine if it’s time to replace a forklift

Aside from maintenance cost, there are, at least, three other ways to determine if it’s time to replace a forklift. 

1 – Downtime

When calculating maintenance cost, something else is also costing you money. And that is how long the forklift is out of commission. After all, for every hour it is not operational is time your business is not being productive. 

Which is why downtime can be a good indication it is time to replace a forklift. If the forklift is spending more time not being used during work hours than being used, it’s time to look at a replacement.

2 – Equipment failures

Some equipment failures are benign. That is, a quick fix and the machine’s good to go. Other time equipment failures can be dangerous, and good indication they are no longer safe or practical to operate. If a forklift exhibits any of the following equipment failures it may be time to think about replacing it:

  • Equipment losing power or freezing up
  • Dropped loads
  • Jerking motions

3 – Out of date safety features

If the safety features on a forklift are out of date, it may pose a safety risk. And not just to drivers, but also to people working around the driver.

Why it’s important to replace a forklift

To successfully manage a fleet, one must have a strategy for planned replacement. This involves assessing the relevant costs to determine what it the optimal time to replace a forklift. This is not a one-size-fits all assessment. Part of the decision-making process is understanding the operating and application environment the forklift is in.

Having a replacement strategy can save you a lot of time and money by knowing when a machine has reached the end of its economic lifespan. Doing this can avoid unnecessarily expensive maintenance and downtime, which can also cause loss of revenue.

To keep your business at optimal capacity, and your machinery at optimal efficiency, replace your forklifts before they start costing more than their worth.

Replacing forklifts

If you are looking to replace a forklift, we offer a wide range of new and used forklifts for sale to suit a variety of business needs. Whether you’re a small business or a large corporation, we have forklift options to suit you. We also offer financing so you can get the forklifts when you need them, and pay as you can.

If you would like any information on forklifts, or how Southern Lift Trucks can help you, please contact us today.

FAQs about Replacing a Forklift

1.When should I replace a forklift?

You should replace a forklift when its economic lifespan is over. That is, when repairs and maintenance cost more than it would to buy a new forklift.

2.What signs should I look out for?

You’ll know it’s time to replace a forklift, when the repair and maintenance involves a lot of downtime, the equipment becomes dangerously faulty or the safety features are so out of date it’s an OSHA violation.

3.Is there a strategy I need to have in place around replacing forklifts?

Ideally, yes. You want to have a plan so that you’re prepared to replace one or more forklifts when they reach the end of the economic lifespan. This minimizes downtime and improves productivity and profitability.

4.What is the average life of a forklift? 

When evaluating the lifespan of a forklift, it is important to take into account both its average operational lifespan and its average economic lifespan.

There are instances where some forklifts will be functional after 10 years, but they will not be as efficient or economical to run as a new forklift.

5.What is the biggest cause of forklift fatalities? 

Forklift rollovers are the most common type of fatal forklift accidents. These can typically lead to considerable damage to the forklift, resulting in businesses having to replace them. 

6.What are the OSHA regulations for a forklift? 

One of the key OSHA regulations for forklifts is that only trained and certified individuals must operate one.

Additionally, any forklift found to be in an unsafe operating condition must be removed from service and replaced if needed. 

7.What are the benefits of a new forklift? 

A key benefit of a new forklift is that it’s a lot more efficient when compared to previous models due to the improved technology used in designing them.

Other benefits include newer designs, a greater deal of attachment options, and improved safety mechanisms. 

8.How can you make a forklift last longer? 

There are various measures you can take to make a forklift last longer. Some of these ways are: 

  • Ensure optimum tire pressure at all times 
  • Maintain them properly
  • Ensure all the fluids and oils are regularly topped up
  • Train your staff to maintain the forklifts well 
  • Make sure to use appropriately compatible forklift attachments and more. 

9.What are the different types of forklifts? 

There are two main types of forklifts – electric forklifts and internal combustion forklifts. The former typically last longer as they have fewer parts when compared to IC forklifts and are thus easier to maintain. 

10.What equipment-related factors must you consider when replacing a forklift?

While some types of equipment failure have easy fixes and can also be avoided with regular maintenance, some could lead to you having to purchase a new forklift.

These include losing power or the equipment freezing up, dropped loads, and even jerking motions. 

11.Why is replacing a forklift at the right time important? 

Replacing a forklift at the end of its economic lifespan is crucial as it prevents the need to spend a lot of time on maintenance and the potential loss of revenue over time.