Who Makes the Best Walk-Behind Forklift?

Written by EverythingForklifts Staff

Few things are more instrumental to a busy warehouse than a walk behind forklift. Requiring less training than the larger sit-down or reach trucks, a walk behind lift simplifies the moving of heavy pallets within constricted spaces. But all “walkies,” as they’re commonly called, are not created equal.

Of the four major brands – CAT, Crown, Yale and Raymond – two consistently rise to the top of user reviews for their durability and ease of use: Raymond and Yale. And of those two, there also seems to be a consensus on which is the best. Let’s start by looking and some of the claims and seeing how they stand up to the facts.

Comparing the major features of a walk behind forklift

All manufacturers currently offer their most popular models in the $4,000 to $5,000 price range. But what you get for your money can vary wildly. The key thing to remember when purchasing any large piece of machinery is that the sticker price is often only the beginning of expenses related to your purchase. Here are a few of the factors that can drive up the cost of ownership:

Moving Parts – The more moving parts, the more things that can go wrong. While many walkies offer fancy electronic bells and whistles, many also come with core construction that minimizes the number of parts needed to perform most tasks. For example, a Raymond walk-behind lift reportedly includes fewer moving parts than most other models, with users citing less maintenance, greater uptime and less cost overall. This is reinforced by the fact that one of their most popular models (the 8310) includes 40 percent less wiring in the handle, simplifying operation and maintenance through streamlined design. WINNER: Raymond.

Construction and Resulting Maintenance - Although costlier up front, a Raymond walk behind lift costs significantly less to maintain than cheaper models (reportedly 1/6 the cost according to some reports). Much of this can be attributed to a more robust construction. For example, a Yale walk behind forklift (MPB040E) includes a steel wrap-around bumper while the Raymond model includes steel reinforced components throughout, enabling it to endure more wear and tear. In addition, Raymond models integrate pull rods into their construction, as opposed to threaded rods that are known to strip, and use synthetic bushings that free you from having to grease the axles (eliminating one more line on the maintenance checklist). WINNER: Raymond.

Batteries – From walk behind lifts to their larger sit-down cousins, this is where one of the major expenses for a forklift comes into play. And it starts with the amount of routine maintenance required to keep the battery charged and filled with water (when applicable). Accessing a walkie’s battery is straightforward enough but, as is the case with the Yale model, there are always the hazards associated with “watering” the battery itself. Yale models use four 6V deep-cycle batteries. This is in comparison to the Raymond truck that includes the 24V maintenance-free power pack. The benefit in the Raymond design is that the maintenance requirements related to the battery are reduced to practically zero. Plus, the maintenance-free package also reportedly has a higher amp hour output (190 as opposed to 160) and can also be opportunity charged without adversely affecting the battery’s lifespan. However it is worth noting that when the maintenance-free batteries do eventually wear out, they are more expensive to replace than the “wet” models. WINNER: Raymond.

When evaluating different walk behind forklifts, it’s always best to do a little comparison shopping. That’s where a quality dealer can be a huge help, often providing the comparisons of different models based on your specific needs and budget. Be on the lookout for established dealers that can offer a good price and – most importantly – reliable after-sale service.