Cranes vs. Forklifts: How Do They Compare?

Posted on 05/04/2017 | Crane Repair Company|Cranes 101

You may find yourself facing a project that could benefit from either an overhead crane or a forklift. You know the job will require lifting and transporting loads weighing more than 100 pounds, and there’s no way you want your employees doing that kind of work themselves.

Both cranes and forklifts offer their own sets of benefits, but which one will help you get the job done the safest, quickest and most efficiently?

Learn more about the main pros and cons of an overhead crane versus a forklift, so you can choose the option that gives you the most muscle for your dollar.


Pro: Reach Higher Spaces

Forklifts can only stack product as high as the mast will elevate, meaning products may have to be stored over a wide space on a warehouse floor or yard. Overhead cranes allow for greater hook height, and therefore offer a more efficient use of space for your business.

Pro: Longer Life

Overhead cranes use electric motors, which are more efficient and have longer shelf lives than gas motors or batteries. Where forklifts have a short life expectancy of five to ten years, cranes can last over 30 years, saving you money on frequent maintenance, repair and fuel costs.

Pro: More for Your Money

One crane system with one operator can replace multiple forklifts, certified forklift operators and maintenance technicians — making an overhead crane more cost-effective and efficient.

Con: Pricy Acquisition

Overhead cranes have a more expensive initial acquisition cost than forklifts.

Con: More Space Is Required

Overhead cranes can’t always be installed in the small compact warehouse spaces where forklifts can maneuver more easily.


Pro: Compact and Maneuverable

From a history of warehouse, construction, and factory workers using pulleys, rope, and impromptu maneuvering systems to lift and lower loads, today’s models of forklifts increase safety and efficiency on the job site.

Forklifts are compact machines that can work in tight and narrow areas. They are highly maneuverable, offering flexibility and ease with lifting and transporting loads.

Pro: Varied Sizes

Forklifts range from small-capacity to large-load capacity that can lift over 1,100 lbs. No matter the amount of space you have, you can probably find a forklift that will fit.

Con: Requires Unobstructed, Spacious Pathways

Forklifts must follow clear paths and require large aisles in order to turn, as they are on wheels. Cranes have more mobility and only need a walkway to lift and lower loads from a distance.

Con: Two Workers Needed in Some Cases

With a larger load, one person usually has to drive the forklift while another person stabilizes the load. With a crane, one person can safely lift and transport a larger load.

Con: Frequent Repairs

In terms of maintenance, forklifts use tires and hydraulics that need somewhat frequent maintenance and repair, (about every few years) which can add up. If you’re using a battery forklifts, these batteries and their charging stations can be expensive.

Depending on the load size, location, and parameters of your project, each of these tools offer their own advantages. However, in most instances, an overhead crane surpasses a forklift in weight-bearing capabilities, hook height, efficiency and long-term cost.

Get more tips on how to improve workplace safety and productivity.

Join Our Mailing List
Your solution for all your crane and hoist needs.


Contact Us