Often we get customers who ask us what the best forklift brand is to purchase. Since we supply forklift parts, our customers think we may have some insight in terms of what brand is best.
We’ll start by stating the somewhat obvious (since this is a blog) comment that this is purely opinion. Not fact, but something more than conjecture since we’ve been in this business for over 30 years.
Here are what we, forklift parts experts, consider the top areas to consider when evaluating one forklift brand over another.
- Good parts support. We sell forklift parts and every day we get phone calls from customers looking for parts that are either backordered by the forklift manufacturer, or simply out of stock. If we were buying a forklift, we’d want to make sure that parts are available and your equipment won’t be down and inoperable because a part is backordered.
Parts support comes in a few different forms. Certainly having inventory of a part is the most obvious measurement of whether or not the manufacturer supports the equipment. But other real world scenarios involve the support the manufacturer provides in the form of parts and service manuals. We’ve seen plenty of instances where the manufacturer couldn’t even come up with a part number for the part needed, let alone give an answer on whether or not the part was in stock.
What sort of components are used in the forklift? Suppose you’re buying an electric forklift. Ask who manufacturers the electric motor. Ask who makes the control system. Certain control systems are easy to find parts for (such as GE, Curtis, Zapi) but others can be real difficult to obtain parts for. Years ago Yale used Mazda diesel engines. Not a bad engine, but Mazda Japan’s only customer for diesel engines in the USA was Yale forklift. That became a problem years after the trucks were sold as there was virtually no aftermarket support for Mazda diesel in the USA.
- There are forklift mechanics who will work on the model and brand of forklift you’re looking at buying. This seems pretty simple. But some newer models sometimes require unique software which is only available to the dealer. That fact alone is not enough to condemn a particular brand of equipment since sometimes the software is only required for quite obscure repairs. But there are certain brands and models of equipment that forklift mechanics don’t like to work on for various reasons. Ask your mechanic if they’re OK working on the model of forklift you’re considering purchasing. If there is only one dealer or one mechanic willing to work on the brand/model of forklift you’re considering, you’ll have very few options in case your mechanic can’t figure out a particular repair. Ask whoever is selling you the forklift if there are non OEM mechanics that work on the brand of forklift you’re considering.
- Good parts pricing. We supply aftermarket forklift parts for most brands and models of forklifts. We see parts prices every day and we can make some general statements regarding parts prices of various brands. In general, forklifts made by American companies tend to be less expensive than European or Japanese brands.
Exceptions to this rule can be found but in general it holds true. Historically Japanese forklift manufacturers would keep their parts prices very high and defend those prices by pointing out to customers that their forklift was more reliable. The argument went something like this: Sure our forklift’s torque converter is expensive at $2200.00 but we only sell one torque converter for every 10,000 forklifts in population. Not a bad argument but pity the poor guy who indeed needs a torque converter and it costs 5 times the amount as an American built forklift.
- Easy to work on — not proprietary systems. Some brands of forklifts are difficult for mechanics for non OEM dealers to work on. Or for your own mechanic to work on. Check out if there are service passwords required to access key maintenance information on the forklift.
- Built in the region of the world where you are located. If you’re thinking about buying a forklift that has rarely been sold in your country, you’re probably asking for trouble. We’ve seen this countless times with obscure European brands coming to North America, and obscure American brands arriving in Europe. It’s very difficult for manufacturers to support equipment that is rarely sold in your area. Today they might say they have plenty of parts on the shelf, but what happens in 5 or 10 years when you still have the forklift but priorities have changed, parts for your forklift are considered ‘dead stock’ for lack of sales, and no one remembers the promises made to you. Which leads us to our final point.
- Lots of forklifts sold—you’re not a buying a unique or rare model of forklift.
Why? We’ve all heard the expression “success breeds success”. Well, it’s similar with forklifts. The more of a certain type of forklift that gets sold, the more likely there will be competitively priced aftermarket forklift parts, and the more likely that there will be technicians that can work on your forklift, and the more likely you will have competitive choices when it comes to maintaining your forklift.
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