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Sit-Down Counterbalanced

Sit-Down Counterbalanced Forklift Trucks

Sitdown counterbalance

Although there are several different types of forklift, it is sit-down counterbalanced forklift trucks that usually spring to mind for most people when hearing the word “forklift”.

This article will help you understand the differences between different types of sit-down counterbalanced forklift trucks, and will help you make a more informed decision when it comes to buying your own.

What Does ‘Counterbalanced’ Mean?

The forks on a counterbalanced forklift truck extend directly from the truck itself, allowing the operator to drive to the exact loading or racking point. This is made possible because of their in-built counterbalance weight design.

Counterbalancing works by fitting the truck with a significant weight to offset the weight of the loads it will be lifting. These counterbalance weights are usually at the rear of the vehicle, allowing it to carry heavy loads from the front – this is the most common design, however models do exist where the counterweight is at the side of the vehicle, in order to offset a side load.

Some electric powered counterbalanced forklift trucks require less of a weight to offset the load, because their battery can serve as a ballast as well as a source of power.

Maneuverability vs. Load Capacity

The type of sit-down counterbalanced forklift truck you need will depend on the kind of lifting or loading you will be doing, and the layout of your premises. Although there are several versions and models of sit down counterbalanced forklift trucks, they fall loosely into two types:

  1. Three-Wheel Counterbalanced Forklift
  2. Four-Wheel Counterbalanced Forklift

Each type of forklift comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks, but the most common differences between the two are: their ability to maneuver in tight spaces; and their stability when handling very heavy loads.

Three-wheel counterbalanced trucks normally have two front wheels and a single rear wheel, which is used for turning and maneuvering the vehicle. Because of the single wheel, these types of truck are perfectly suited for maneuvering with precision even in very tight spaces.

Although many three-wheel models are designed to handle equally heavy loads as their four-wheel counterparts, companies requiring regular heavy lifting without the need for tackling tight spaces generally prefer the four-wheel counterbalanced trucks, as they offer increased stability with increased loads.

Common Uses & Limitations

Sit-down counterbalanced trucks are very versatile and used for many tasks, such as:

  • Loading or unloading heavy goods from vehicles
  • Stacking or selecting stock on warehouse racks
  • Moving very heavy loads around the facility

Because counterbalanced trucks are the most popular type of forklift, you should perhaps beware – they are not ideally suited to every material handling role, and there are many tasks you could carry out more successfully with a different, and at times less-expensive machine.

For example, if you will be doing a lot of pallet moving around your warehouse floor, then the power and design of a counterbalanced forklift truck may well be wasted – you’d be wiser to invest in a fleet of pallet jacks that can do this exact job for medium weights at a much lower cost of ownership.

A common limitation of the popular sit-down counterbalanced forklift, is that of lifting or loading at extreme heights – the standard counterbalanced forklift is not usually designed to reach breakthrough heights (some reach trucks, for example, can reach up to 40 feet – whereas many sit-down counterbalanced forklifts offer less than 20); so if you run a warehouse that stacks at great heights, you would be better off investing in a reach truck – these are designed specifically for tackling loading at great heights, especially indoors. For outdoor use or for use on uneven surfaces however, a counterbalanced truck offers greater balance and stability.

Common Decision Factors

Once you know what type of forklift you need, the next things to consider are load capacity, maximum reach height, and maneuverability.

Once you have narrowed your choice down to 2 or 3 trucks that meet these requirements however, then it is useful to consider the following ‘non-essential’ decision factors that will help you get an even better truck, or even more value for money:

  • Ergonomics: You may not think that the comfort of your machine operators is a priority, but you might be surprised – no matter what your policies or rules are regarding shift patterns, working times or breaks, if your drivers are not comfortable, they will not perform to the best of their ability. For improved ergonomics, look out for features such as swiveling seats for easier visibility, armrests to prevent fatigue, and weighted suspension to absorb the shock of bumpy surfaces.
  • Fuel/Power: The kind of fuel your forklift runs on is not always essential to operations, but it can still be a very important decision. There are three main fuel types, each with their own advantages – gas forklifts tend to be cheaper to buy but more expensive to refuel; diesel forklifts offer more power and are cheaper to run than gas, but produce more pollution than both gas or electric; electric forklifts are the cleanest and cheapest to refuel, but the battery changing and charging process takes the longest amount of time, and they can be more expensive to buy to begin with.
  • Parts/Servicing/Durability: The longer a machine will reliably run for before needing servicing, the better – even if the machine comes with an SLA that includes emergency repairs, the more uptime you get from your machine, the more profitable it will be to your business. Older, second-hand models will generally be much cheaper, but will be at a greater risk of needing repair. To ensure any repairs and services you might need will waste as little uptime as possible, you should make sure the manufacturer is still trading and still willing to supply extra parts – tracking down spare parts from a manufacturer that no longer operates can be very difficult.

Specification Comparison

The following table will help you to compare the most common specifications of a range of sit-down counterbalanced forklifts from well-known brands. Note that not all models have certain specifications publicly supplied by their manufacturers – for more in-depth comparison of models, you can use our Quote tool:

Manufacturer/ModelLoad Capacity (lbs)Fuel TypeTurning Radius (In)Lifting Height (ft)
Crown SC 5200 Series (3-Wheel)3000 - 4,000Electric54.2 - 58.515
Crown FC 4500 Series (4-Wheel)4000 - 6000Electric69.1 - 75.315
Toyota 8 Series (4-Wheel)3000 - 6500Gas (LPG/CNG)76 - 93.3
Toyota 7 Series (3-Wheel)3000 - 4000Electric
Toyota 7 Series (4-Wheel AC Pneumatic)3000 - 7000Electric69.1 - 109.1
Yale ERP025-030VC (3-Wheel)2,500 - 3000Electric55 - 57.29 - 16
Yale GDO80DC (4-Wheel)17,500Diesel22

Price Range of Sit-Down Counterbalanced Forklifts

Most suppliers will not publish their prices, because they’d prefer you to get in touch – buying a forklift is a major purchasing decision, and with so many models and specification, it’s tough to pin an exact price. Some guideline prices that might help you work out the kind of investment you’ll need are:

  • Lightweight Counterbalanced Forklift: For a second hand – possibly refurbished – sit-down lift for loads of around 3000-4000lbs, you might expect to pay $5000 - $8000. Bought brand new, this could be up to $20,000
  • Heavy-Duty Counterbalanced Forklift: A sit-down lift for tackling heavier loads of 6000lbs+, you might get a second hand model for less than $10,000, whereas a brand new model could easily exceed $30,000
  • Industrial Counterbalanced Forklift: Super heavy-duty models for handling loads of 15,000lbs+ can be very expensive, with even second hand models being sold for around $40,000-$50,000

For an accurate price comparison of the models you are specifically interested in, you can use our Quote tool to get a quick feel for exactly what you could expect to pay.

Summary

A counterbalanced forklift is the standard workhorse of most warehouses and storage facilities. But it is not for everybody – some jobs can be done just as well (or better) by other, less-expensive forklifts. Other jobs require specialist forklifts designed for that specific purpose.

Before you buy a counterbalanced forklift, make sure this is the type you need. Once you’re sure, you should look primarily for a truck that can handle the weights you’ll be lifting, and the space you have to work with – 4-wheel trucks are better suited to heavier weights and rough surfaces, 3-wheel trucks are better suited to tighter indoor spaces. You should also consider how comfortable the cab will be for the operator, the cost of keeping the truck fuelled, and the likelihood of regular servicing.

Finally, once you’re ready, you can use our Quote tool to compare specific models and get exact prices.

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