Different Types of Car Lifts Guide

Ask any shop owner, automotive technician, and mechanic: what’s the most important investment you can make for your shop or garage? The majority will tell you that your vehicle lifts will be the most crucial. While in-ground types were most popular in the ’80s, today’s advancements in automotive technology and service technology allow the technician to have a larger variety of lifts than ever before with the surface-mounted lifts being the most popular.


In fact, there’s so much variety now that when it comes to choosing the type you need or want, you could easily get bogged down comparing. Whether you’re a new shop owner, an experienced mechanic or a hobbyist and enthusiast, we’ll go over the different types of car lifts and what they can do.


Types of Car Lifts


The average car lift falls under these basic categories:

Two Post Lifts

Four Post Lifts

Scissor Lifts

Portable Lifts



Two post lifts

Two post lifts are the most common and most popular choice for shops all over. They’re surface mounted and most often frame-engaging with swing arms that travel up the two columns. They can be synchronized in a variety of different ways: mechanically, hydraulically or electronically.


Two post lifts are a great choice for the shop just starting out or a small shop as they’re extremely cost-efficient and leave the smaller footprint in a garage for space-saving. These are highly recommended for drive-through garages.


There are a few different styles to two lift posts. They are:


Symmetrical lifts – These lifts are easy to identify. Their posts face each other directly and support arms assemblies each holds roughly 50% of the load. These lifts do have to be monitored to avoid bumping vehicle doors after you’ve driven it into a position for the lift.


Asymmetrical lifts – These lifts were created with the problem of accidentally hitting vehicle doors. Posts have been rotated at 30-degree angles of each other and the front arms are shorter than the back arms.


These usually require a 220-volt supply.


The biggest advantage to two post lifts is the smaller footprint they make in any shop as well as being extremely affordable for those just starting their business.


Four Post Lifts


Four post lifts are the wheel-engaging type auto lift, known as a type of alignment lift. They’re another of the most common solutions for those in the automotive repair industry. Four posts give additional support and are sturdier than their counterparts, the two post lifts.


Some of the four-post lift versions for the home won’t require anchorage to a floor, they are a great choice for hobbyists and professional technicians alike. Though if you do plan on going with a four-post lift for wheel services, you might want to invest in sliding bridge jacks as well to lift wheels off the runway.


Four post lifts have a wide variety of lifting capacities which can help narrow down a search for a specific weight group.


Open-Front Lift – This four-post lift comes with a front crossbar to easier entering and exiting from beneath the vehicle. It can make front end adjustments faster and less of a hassle.


Closed Front four-post lift – The aforementioned bar is in the front.


Lifting capacity ranges from 6,000lbs, 9,000lbs and even up to 40,000lbs.


Four post lifts are a bit pricier than the two posts.


Four post lifts only require roughly 115-volt power supply compared to the 220 of two post lifts.


Scissor Lifts


Scissor lift is a general and broad term but the name can encompass any type of lift that raises a vehicle with an accordion mechanism beneath runways. Depending on the cylinders and raising rods, scissor lifts can be either drive-ons or four-arm style. These lifts are most commonly employed for wheel services were lifting a vehicle to greater heights isn’t necessary.


X type scissor lifts – Most notable and recognizable by the X shape they lift forms. They’re often considered mid-rise and offer more working weight. For the home-garage and portability, they aren’t as easy to move about.


Parallelogram scissor lifts – Like the four post lifts, the parallelogram lift can come in a variety of lifting capabilities, all the way up to heavy-duty types with some of the top capabilities able to handle 100,000 lbs. They can be surface mounted, recessed or flush-mounted. One of the fantastic features of the parallelogram scissor lift is a near unobstructed under-the-vehicle access.


Pantograph Scissor lift – These lifts can also come in the double pantograph scissor lift variety. A set or two sets of vertically stacked scissors and generally raised by hydraulics. These consume less floor space. They’re another good choice for the tech looking for a lift that is low profile and pretty much hassle-free.


Portable Lifts


For the shop where every square inch of space is a premium or a small home garage, surprisingly, portable lifts may yet be your best bet. Especially if at the end of the day or when you’re done, you want to be able to pack away a lift for either more space or simply to clean up at the end of the day.


With portable lifts, you also have a great selection: two post, four post, scissor and even parallelograms. However, the main disadvantage of a portable lift is that the features and functions you get with the nonportable versions are often lacking. Also, portable carrying capacities may not have the necessary heft to lift large or heavy-duty vehicles.


In-Ground Lifts


For years, in-ground lifts were the norm when it came to any well established, larger shop or rental businesses. As the industry has evolved and technologies have changed to better suit our needs, in-ground lifts aren’t as popular as they once were. They’re generally more expensive than other options found today, as installation of an in-ground lift in a shop where there isn’t any most often involves cutting of and preparing the concrete floor. Their price points are significantly steeper than other options discussed above. In-ground lifts have also earned a bad reputation due to the fact they’re susceptible to leaks of oil, gas, and fluids which in turn can be harmful to the surrounding environments.

We hope we’ve helped clarify the different types of available car lifts you’ll find for your next job, or for your new dream shop you’re in the midst of creating. For more information about the different types of lifts and to see some of the most popular available today, check out our available lifts.

Let us help you pick the right car lift for your needs. Please contact us.

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