When it comes to choosing a car lift, shoppers need to know which type will best suit their needs. And because there are four types from which to choose, they need to do their research. The following are the four most common types of car lifts for home garages.
Four-post lifts are some of the most common types of lifts in both professional garage settings and homeowner shops. These car lifts feature one post at each corner, providing a stable and heavy-duty method of lifting a vehicle in the air. The user simply drives up on the ramps, secures the vehicle in park, and then activates the lift.
These car lifts can typically carry more weight more safely than other types. This makes them ideal for storage situations where a homeowner may want to park a vehicle underneath another for storage. However, because these lifts have large ramps and crossbars or drip trays, they tend to obstruct the user’s access to the undercarriage and chassis.
When it comes to servicing, fixing, or modifying a vehicle, two-post lifts are typically the best option. As the name suggests, these lifts have two posts, one on each side, and arms that extend out from the posts. These arms then sit on the frame under the vehicle, at which point the lift is able to raise the car off the ground without hindering access to underneath.
Two-post lifts come in symmetrical and asymmetrical designs. With the symmetrical designs, the posts are directly across from each other, and the arms are equal length. With asymmetrical designs, the posts are offset, helping to balance large, naturally unbalanced vehicles while also allowing access to the vehicle’s doors. Note that some models are both symmetrical and asymmetrical due to their arm design, despite the posts being directly across from each other.
Another popular tool for lifting vehicles in the air is the scissor lift. Scissor lifts feature crisscross frames that create a scissor action as they operate (this may even be referred to as accordion style). They have large platforms that rest on the vehicle’s chassis, providing a secure, low-height lifting method.
These lifts are typically affordable and offer relatively heavy-duty lifting capacities, though capacities vary by model. These lifts are convenient because they collapse to just a few inches tall, allowing the user to drive over top of the lift. However, they obstruct almost all access under the vehicle.
Portable lifts are great for home garages. They’re easy to set up, use, break down, and store—something most DIY garage keepers would appreciate. These car lifts are actually more lift systems, as they generally require two different sets of platforms that lift together in unison. Although the lift height is minimal, the convenience is certainly a factor.
Portable lifts are typically best for light service work, as they tend to crowd the underside of the vehicle. They’re best for oil changes, brake jobs, and wheel and tire rotations, but they can be helpful for some repairs.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Car Lifts for Home Garages
Even if the shopper understands the different types of car lifts for home garages, there are some other important factors to know and consider. The following are some of the most critical aspects of car lifts for home garages that shoppers need to know when choosing a model for their home repair shop.
Before choosing a model, DIYers need to ask themselves why they need a car lift and what purpose it will serve. By choosing the right type of lift based on needs, DIYers will have a much easier time narrowing down to one or two specific models.
For instance, homeowners who need a reliable storage system for their classic car should check out a four-post lift. However, those who plan to restore their classic SUV will need a two-post lift that provides plenty of working room underneath. Those who have garages that are compact or have low ceilings may find that scissor lifts or portable lifts are best suited for their needs.
One of the most important considerations to keep in mind when choosing a car lift for a home garage is the lift’s capacity. And, as one might guess, this has a lot to do with the vehicle or vehicles the lift will be raising.
For example, if someone is a fan of vintage British sports cars, the lift might need to handle only 3,000 or 4,000 pounds. However, if that same person hauls those little roadsters from track to track with a 1-ton pickup truck, the lift might need to handle 9,000 or 10,000 pounds.
And remember that it’s always better to go with a lift that offers slightly more lifting ability than needed to prevent the chance of a failure.
Not all garages are eligible or good candidates for car lifts. Garages with low ceilings or dirt floors are out of the picture, as the lifted vehicle may hit the ceiling or the posts may start to sink into the floor. For those garages with limited space, DIYers should consider scissor or portable lifts.
The garage floor’s condition and thickness also play a factor. Most manufacturers recommend that the garage floor be no less than 4 inches thick. However, for some larger, heavier-duty models, 6-inch slabs are the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Someone getting trapped or crushed underneath a lifted vehicle would be a tragedy. For that reason, car lift manufacturers build certain safety devices or measures into the lifts to avoid potential dangers when lifting or lowering.
Users should consider a model that features an auto-lock function on the way up. This device locks into detents as the vehicle is rising, allowing it to slip only a few inches at a time in an emergency. Arm restraints can also be helpful, as they lock the arms in position so the vehicle can’t move forward or backward on the lift. Also, for four-post lifts, look for safety chains and anti-sway devices to ensure the lift doesn’t drop on top of anyone or the daily driver stashed underneath it.