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Compare the Top Rated Aerial Lift Brands - 2021 Best & Most Popular Aerial Lift Manufacturers

The industries that rely on scissor lifts run the gamut from construction to film to materials handling. Also known as aerial lifts, they are used for any job that requires a safe way to lift workers to heights of up to 50'.

Scissor lifts are popular because they have a smaller footprint than equipment that performs similar tasks, such as an overhead crane or forklift. And, they provide a safe, stable work platform.

To find the right lift for your job, you need to understand the equipment's capabilities, particularly lift height and weight capacity. In addition, you want to know the various types available. Finally, it helps to recognize quality design and manufacturing.

What Is a Scissor Lift?

All scissor lifts include four basic components:

  • Base: This anchors the lift, so it should be heavy and sturdy.
  • Lifting mechanism: This is what raises the work platform and gives the lift its name, as it resembles a pair of scissors opening. Larger lifts more closely resemble an accordian.
  • Work platform: Typically large enough to support a single worker and their tools, this usually matches the base's dimensions. Added features include extensions and safety rails.
  • Operator controls: The worker uses these to raise and lower the lift.

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The design of the scissor lift is why it offers such a stable work environment. The heavy base anchors it so well that the operator can even drive it with the platform extended.

It's important to note that this equipment is intended for use as an elevated work platform and not for materials handling.

The maximum height for a scissor lift is 50', which puts it behind boom handlers as far as height capacity. However, the excellent stability of these machines is why they remain popular, as the larger models feature weight capacities of up to 1,500 pounds, even when working on a grade.

Because the lift's footprint matches its base dimension, it's a popular option where space is at a premium. It also offers a tight wheelbase for easy maneuverability, making it a great choice for indoor job sites.

Choosing the Right Scissor Lift Brand

It can be difficult to make your choice when two machines are essentially equal. This is where brand comparison enters the buying picture.

Start by looking at customer reviews of the lift itself, paying special attention to comments about the unit's reliability, the controls, and maneuverability. Nothing beats the feedback of an experienced operator.

Next, look at the manufacturer. Have they received any industry awards? If so, are they from groups you've heard of, such as industry leaders or government offices? You want something that backs up the manufacturer's claim that they're the best at X, whatever X may be.

Look also at the support they offer. If you need parts or a repair, what's your downtime? Is there a live person available to answer your call? Are there local dealers you can turn to for support?

Finally, what do training and maintenance agreements look like? Training leads to improved safety on the job site. And, of course, a regular maintenance schedule ensures your lift enjoys its maximum lifespan.

Top-Rated Scissor Lift Brands

No matter what type of equipment you need, the best manufacturers produce reliable products and back them up with top-notch customer service.

  • Genie: This manufacturer entered the aerial lift industry in 1966, offering a wide array of all terrain and slab scissor lifts. In 2002, Genie became part of the Terex Corp. brand.
  • JLG: Founded in 1969, JLG manufactures all terrain and slab scissor lifts powered by either diesel engines or electric motors.
  • Skyjack: A Canadian manufacturer providing electric and all terrain scissor lifts since 1985.
  • MEC: This California-based company has over 40 years' experience manufacturing slab and rough terrain scissor lifts.
  • Hy-Brid: This relative newcomer is a subsidiary of Custom Equipment, Inc. and began manufacturing in 2004. Their lifts feature front-wheel drive and work well on delicate flooring thanks to their no-mark tires.
  • Snorkel: With over 50 years in the business, Snorkel is an industry leader in customer service and design innovation. They specialize in mini, slab, and rough terrain scissor lifts.
  • Teupen: For over 35 years, Teupen has provided scissor lifts to any industry looking for safe access solutions, including construction, landscaping, industrial, facilities maintenance, and entertainment and sporting venues.

Types of Scissor Lifts

Understanding the various types of scissor lifts helps you determine which option is ideal for your job.

  • Aviation scissor lifts: These are popular at airports because they allow easy access to cargo areas as well as parts of the plane that may require repair. Typically, these lifts include bumpers that protect the aircraft from damage.
  • Rough terrain scissor lifts: Also known as all terrain, these models feature a higher clearance and a tire traction design that allows them to move easily over uneven terrain. You find these lifts most often at outdoor job sites.
  • Slab scissor lifts: Built for maneuvering in tight spaces, these lifts have a low clearance and are best used on concrete and therefore indoor jobs.
  • Scissor lift tables: These small lifts are either stationary or attached to a handcart, used mostly by small retailers and in personal workshops.

What to Look for in a Scissor Lift

Before shopping for a scissor lift, you need to understand how you intend to use it and what you need it to do. This tells you what capabilities you need your lift to have and eliminate models whose specs do not meet your minimum criteria.

  • Lift height: What is the maximum height you need the lift to reach? You can use it without extending it to its full height, but if you regularly need to reach 50' heights, do not buy a 25' lift.
  • Folded height: How tall is the lift when not extended? If you want the lift for assembly line work, for example, it needs to be of a height that accommodates easy loading. You also want to make sure it fits through doorways and other spaces you expect it to pass through.
  • Weight capacity: How much weight do you need the lift to support? Typically, hydraulic cylinder size determines load capacity.
  • Load centering: Scissor lift design requires your load's center of gravity to fall within 30 percent of the lift's center. Off-center loading leads to premature wear. You can offset this by purchasing a lift with a 50 percent higher load capacity (i.e. an extra 50 pounds for every 100 pounds of required load capacity).
  • Electric vs. fuel-powered motors: If you need your lift to be mobile, such as if its intended use is maintenance or construction, you need a reliable power source. With indoor lifts, electric motors present little difficulty, as there is nearly always an available power source. This is less likely on a construction site, where you probably want a fuel-powered engine. Options here include gasoline, diesel, and propane.
  • Duty cycle: Scissor lift designs typically incorporate a 20 times per hour duty cycle. If your needs are greater than that, you want a rapid duty cycle model with the increased cooling capacity of upgraded bearings and hydraulics.

Scissor Lift Quality and Safety

Material quality and workmanship play a large role in the safety of your scissor lift. Look for the following:

  • Bearings: Preferred types include ball or roller bearings, particularly if you choose a lift with a high weight capacity. They should also have lube points or be fully sealed. Avoid designs with sleeve bearings.
  • Brakes: The brakes should lock when the lift is in use. And, if using on rough terrain, you also want outrigger supports that offer added support on uneven ground.
  • Fail-safe options: These are particularly common with pneumatic and hydraulic lifts and, when deployed, return the machine to its compact state.
  • Gradeability: This tells you what degree of slope the lift handles safely. The average rough terrain scissor lift has a 35 to 50 percent gradeability, which is why they're popular on construction sites.
  • Horsepower rating: Look at the hydraulic power pack's motor size for an indicator of high quality, since this is a common cost-cutting measure.
  • Hydraulic cylinder seals: This is usually the first point of failure so you want high-quality cylinders.
  • Material thickness: This is another common cost-cutting device but thinner materials reduce the life of your unit.
  • Tilt alarm: If the lift becomes unsteady and is about to tip, an alarm sounds, warning the operator that they need to perform a correction.

Author: Angela Escobar

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