A Guide To Scissor Lifts And Their Use

In construction, companies tend to evaluate experience and craftsmanship over machinery. After all, equipment can be relatively universal, depending on the job. Skill, on the other hand, is not. But skill demands the right tools. You wouldn’t trust an electrician without the right set of pliers. Or a mechanic without a wrench. And when it comes to industrial construction, you shouldn’t trust an operator who doesn’t know the basic differences between scissor lifts.

Scissor lifts aren’t cheap. Quality machinery rarely is. But they’re invaluable. And investing in the right lift means knowing their fundamental differences.

Not every scissor lift is going to be appropriate for every kind of job. Some can only be used outdoors as a result of emissions, while others can be used in enclosed spaces as well as out in the open. And while the right lift is somewhat dependent on the specifications of your job, knowing the difference between them will help save you time, money and injuries. If you’ve ever needed to know what type of scissor lift is best for your site, we’ve put together a quick introduction to help you decide.

What Is A Scissor Lift?

A scissor lift is essentially a motorized construction lift guarded by a railed platform which raise straight up. As opposed to other aerial forklifts (such as a boom lift), scissor lifts are capable of holding multiple workers at once—making the cost of rental or purchase ultimately more effective.

However, unlike other aerial forklifts, scissor lifts can only reach moderate heights. They’re ideal for intensive technical work, including close inspections, cable wiring, and storage material handling. But for jobs in which high elevation is critical, alternative aerial forklifts will be a more appropriate alternative. You also want to keep in mind that scissor lifts can only operate vertically, not horizontally or diagonally.

There are three types of specifications to keep in mind when using a scissor lift:

  • Stroke: The height range which can be attained.
  • Size: The dimension of the work platform
  • Capacity: The maximum amount of personnel or freight which can be safely supported

If you’re working primarily on sites where intensive technical knowledge is critical, you may want to consider a stationary lift. They’re generally more affordable; and while neither ideal nor convenient for all work sites, stationary scissor lifts adapt effectively to changes in temperature and elevation that mobilized lifts can prove resistant to.

Types Of Scissor Lifts

Hydraulic Scissor Lifts

Hydraulic lifts are one of the more basic and popular options for scissor lifts. Since they can be powered by both hand-operated and engine-driven hydraulic systems, they’re relatively simple to operate and don’t require extensive training.

However, it’s important to remember that hydraulic systems are operated by oil, which means they’re much slower to respond in colder temperatures as a result of subsequent viscosity. Unless you’re working indoors in a temperature controlled environment, you may want to consider whether maximum speed and horsepower are necessary for a hydraulic scissor lift to complete your project.

Diesel Scissor Lifts

While diesel lifts are one of the most common sights on construction jobs, they’re neither environmentally friendly nor quiet. You’re more apt to find diesel scissor lifts on outdoor sites where sound and emissions can be less hazardous.

The chief benefit of a diesel scissor lift is their scalability. Unlike other lifts, diesel scissor lifts can reach heights of up to thirty feet, and in newer models, even higher (a diesel scissor lift reaching 60 feet is not uncommon in newer, higher end models.)

Electric Scissor Lifts

One popular alternative to diesel and hydraulic models in recent years has been electric scissor lifts. And while they’re quieter and more environmentally safe, they can also be more complicated to operate. They’re better suited for indoor projects which don’t require intensive mobility and stroke.

Rough Terrain Scissor Lifts

If most of your jobs take place outdoors where terrain isn’t consistently level, it should come as no surprise that rough terrain scissor lifts are an ideal option. They’re well equipped to handle even poor weather conditions and come powered in a variety of options: diesel, gas, propane and dual fuel. With heights reaching up to 50 feet, rough terrain lifts can be invaluable in tackling even the most challenging of major construction jobs.

Pneumatic Scissor Lifts

One relatively new and affordable option for industrial construction has been pneumatic scissor lifts. Since pneumatic scissor lifts are powered by air pressure, they’re more sustainable if you’re looking to reduce emissions and fuel costs. Subsequently, they’re also limited in horsepower in comparison to traditional lifts. But since pneumatic scissor lifts simply require air to operate, they’re well suited for just about any environmentindoors as well as outside.


Are you looking for a wide variety of lift options and supplies for your construction needs? At Reno Forklift, we’ve been serving Nevada and California for almost 50 years. Why not find out what we can do for you? Visit us at renoforklift.com or call our certified contractor team at (775) 329-1384


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171 Coney Island Dr.
Sparks, NV, 89431

(775) 329-1384