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Forklift vs. Telehandler: Which Machine Is Right for You?

by Ion Rotaru 16 Oct 2023 0 Comments

When it comes to warehouse work, having reliable machinery to help you lift, move, and pile supplies daily is a necessity. Not only does it streamline your daily processes, but it also prevents unwanted accidents and expenses by choosing the appropriate equipment.

On the market, there are many different types of lifting equipment available. Still, two of the most used are forklifts and telehandlers. Today, we will discuss the various features of these two versatile machines so you can find the best one that suits you and your warehouse needs. Let's get started!

How to pick between a Forklift and Telehandler

Telehandler vs Forklift

Here are 5 factors to help you choose the right machine for the job:

  1. Assess your primary needs

    For palletized indoor work: Forklifts, especially the electric models, are more suitable due to their maneuverability in tight spaces, lower emissions, and quiet operation.
    For extended reach & versatility: If you need to lift loads over obstacles, or at significant heights, a telehandler is preferable. Its telescopic boom allows for both horizontal and vertical reach.

  2. Consider the terrain

    Smooth & indoor surfaces: Forklifts excel in these conditions. Their compact design allows them to navigate narrow aisles and spaces easily.
    Uneven & outdoor surfaces: Telehandlers are designed to cope with rough terrains, making them ideal for outdoor tasks like construction and agriculture.

  3. Think about attachments & versatility

    If you need a machine that can take on various roles by changing attachments (e.g., buckets, muck grabs, winches), a telehandler offers that flexibility.

  4. Space & storage

    If space is a concern, the compact nature of forklifts might be advantageous. Telehandlers, especially those with longer booms, may require more storage space.

  5. Budget & costs:

    Initial purchase price, maintenance costs, and the price of attachments (if needed) should be considered. Depending on the specific requirements, one may prove to be more cost-effective than the other.

This is just a quick introduction to get you started. If you want to learn more about the differences between forklifts and telehandlers, keep reading. We'll go over what forklifts are, what telehandlers are, what industries they're mostly used in, and more.

What are Forklifts?

Toyota electric forklift Montreal

Forklifts are equipped with two fork-like prongs or blades that are used to slide under pallets or other loads. These forks can be raised and lowered to lift and transport materials. They're designed for lifting and moving heavy loads, typically on pallets.

They come in various sizes and models, each with a specific lifting capacity. The lifting capacity refers to the maximum weight a forklift can safely lift and carry. Different forklifts are designed for different weight ranges.

What are Telehandlers?

Telehandler Montreal

Telehandlers, also known as telescopic handlers or boom lifts, are versatile lifting and material handling machines used in various industries (more information on these industries below).

Technically, telehandlers are a type of forklift. But they have a key defining feature: the boom. The boom, attached to the rear of the vehicle, extends both horizontally and vertically. This telescoping feature allows for greater reach and versatility in handling loads.

Telehandlers come in various sizes and models, each with a specific lifting capacity. This machine is known for its versatility, as it can handle a variety of attachments, including forks (similar to those on forklifts), buckets, and material-handling arms. These attachments enable telehandlers to perform various tasks, from lifting and carrying loads to digging and scooping materials.

Where are telehandlers used?

Telehandler used at a worksite

Due to their versatility, these machines are widely used in the following industries:

  1. Construction Sites: Lifting and placing heavy materials at height, such as bricks, blocks, or trusses.
  2. Agriculture: Loading or unloading bales of hay, grain, or other materials. Moving large bags of fertilizer, seeds, or other supplies.
  3. Forestry: Loading and unloading logs or timber and assisting in tree-cutting operations by lifting workers or equipment.
  4. Mining & QuarriesTransporting heavy materials or equipment and assisting in maintenance tasks at elevated heights.
  5. Ports & Shipyards: Loading and unloading cargo from ships. Lifting heavy equipment during ship maintenance.
  6. Festivals & Events: Setting up stages, lighting, and sound equipment.
    Lifting large tents or marquees.
  7. Utilities & Infrastructure: Assisting in maintenance or construction of bridges, tunnels, roads, and railways.
  8. Waste Management: Handling large waste containers and assisting in recycling operations.
  9. Manufacturing Industry: Lifting heavy machinery or components and assisting in maintenance tasks.

As you can see, telehandlers are used in various applications, making them indispensable equipment for many industries.

The differences between Forklifts vs. Telehandlers

A comparison picture between the forklift and telehandler

Now that you know the defining characteristics of each machine, let's get down to their features and benefits. How exactly do these two machines compare to each other, and which one is better to use?

 Forklifts Telehandlers
Come in various sizes and lifting capacities, ranging from small electric models to larger diesel-powered ones Capable of lifting heavy loads to significant heights; features a telescopic boom that can lift loads to significant heights
Has excellent maneuverability, allowing them to navigate through narrow aisles and tight spaces in warehouses Can be operated on uneven surfaces and in outdoor environments
Popular for indoor use due to their lower emissions and quieter operation Can handle a variety of attachments for carrying loads and scooping and digging materials
Often equipped with safety features like horns, lights, and backup alarms to alert others in the vicinity Features load sensors, stability control systems, and alarms to ensure safe operation


The primary difference between forklifts and telehandlers lies in their reach. Forklifts lift loads vertically, while telehandlers can extend their booms both horizontally and vertically, offering more versatility.

Because of their compact build, forklifts are highly maneuverable and excel at navigating tight spaces indoors, whereas telehandlers are better suited for outdoor and rough terrain use. However, there are specific forklift models available that are suitable for all terrains, such as this Komatsu All Terrain Forklift we have in stock at WarehouseWiz.

Used all terrain forklift Montreal

Additionally, forklifts are ideal for lifting and moving palletized loads within a warehouse. On the other hand, telehandlers shine in applications where extended reach is necessary, such as loading trucks or handling materials over obstacles.

Ultimately, selecting between a forklift and a telehandler depends on your specific needs. A forklift might be the better choice if your warehouse primarily involves indoor material handling with palletized loads. On the other hand, if you require a machine that can handle various tasks, including outdoor work or extended reach, a telehandler could be the more versatile option.

Looking for warehouse equipment?

Understanding the key differences between these machines is crucial to making the right choice for your business needs. Whether you opt for a forklift's precision or a telehandler's versatility, both machines will prove to be essential tools for your warehouse in the long run.

If you're in need of high-quality forklifts or other warehouse equipment, look no further than WarehouseWiz. We offer a great selection of pallet jacks, forklifts, and even dock plates to fit your needs. Our equipment is high-quality and affordable at the same time. Don't wait! Shop forklifts, pallet jacks, and dock boards online. Or contact us if you need help making a choice.

Get a quote on a forklift

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