When Do You Need to Retire and Replace a Forklift?

05 Jul 2016

replacing a forklift

It is extremely important to know when the right time is to replace older, unsafe and less efficient forklifts. Replacing your forklifts at the optimum time will not only help you avoid safety risks, it can also reduce maintenance costs, improve productivity and overall save you money. The timely replacement of an unmaintained or under utilised forklift can significantly enhance your business, its functionality, and its profit.

So how do you determine the right time to make a new purchase which will be beneficial for both safety and financial purposes? We’ve put together a list of important factors to consider:

Forklift Lifespan

The useful lifespan or a forklift and the economic lifespan of a forklift are two separate things. A forklift may still be useful and functioning after 10 years of use, but this does not necessarily mean it operates economically. Every forklift has a limit to both its functional and economic effectiveness. Your forklift still works and is useful to your business, but is it safe and well maintained? In most cases, the cost to maintain or repair a forklift will eventually exceed the cost to replace it.

Determining the right time to replace your forklift is dependent on a number of factors, including:

  • The type of forklift (ICE or Electric) and the age of the model
  • The type of application
  • The number of hours it operates
  • The frequency of maintenance

The below diagram by Hyster provides a general economic lifespan for regularly serviced forklifts, based on some of the above factors. This is a guide only, actual lifespans may vary.

economic replacement time

Source: Hyster Company: Timely Replacement of Lift Trucks

Type of Forklift:

Electric forklifts will typically have a longer life than and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) forklifts. This is due to the fact that electric forklifts have significantly less moving parts in comparison.

Forklift Application:

Your application will have a major effect on the lifespan of your forklift. For example, a forklift used outdoors or exposed to extreme temperatures and corrosives will generally have a shorter lifespan that a forklift used in a clean warehouse with wide aisles.

Hours of Operation:

The economic life of your forklift will be affected by the number of hours you operate it each month. The replacement time of your machine may also be accelerated if you operate in multiple shifts. Manufacturers will sometimes provide a recommended maximum hours of operation for each forklift, but this will vary based on other factors.

Regular Maintenance:

Are you meticulous in keeping your forklift properly maintained and serviced? A regularly and periodically serviced forklift will operate more effectively, efficiently and longer than those which are only serviced when something goes wrong. Forklift owners must be fully aware of the maintenance requirements needed to keep their forklifts working safely and effectively, which includes checking vital fluids at the start of each shift. The best way to ensure your machine is maintained on time every time is to have periodically scheduled services.

A Planned Replacement:

The best method to replacing a forklift is to plan for it. As a general rule of thumb, most forklifts will last economically for around 10,000 to 12,000 hours. Keep in mind that this will always depend and vary based on usage, maintenance and upkeep of the machine in question. If you recognize that your forklift is underperforming, getting older or requiring extra maintenance, you should plan for a replacement. It is always a good idea to be financially prepared to rent or purchase a replacement forklift in the case that it breaks down or is unsafe.


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