Skip to content

Overview of the Most Popular Forklift Types and What They’re For

by Ion Rotaru 06 Jun 2023 0 Comments

Forklifts are the backbone of many industries, from construction to warehousing. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and capabilities, each designed to perform specific tasks, and each with its own associated cost. In today's forklift guide, we'll dive into the most popular types of forklifts and answer some common questions about them.

Types of Forklifts Infographic

13 Different Types of Forklifts

Here's a breakdown of each of the forklifts and what makes them different from one another:

Counterbalance Forklifts

Counterbalance Forklifts - Types of Forklifts

Counterbalance forklifts are the most common type you'll see out there. The part of the forklift that gives them their name is the weight in the rear to balance the load at the front, hence the name 'counterbalance'. They are straightforward to operate, as the forks protrude from the front of the machine, with no outrigging legs or arms, allowing the operator to drive up to the exact location of the load or racking. They are versatile machines, used in a variety of settings, from warehouses to manufacturing and retail.

One interesting comparison that people often make is with the electric pallet jack, a warehouse tool that, while similar, has some key differences. Read more about this comparison in our Forklift vs Electric Pallet Jack post.

Narrow Aisle Forklift / Reach Truck

Narrow Aisle Forklift - Types of Forklifts

Narrow aisle forklifts, also known as reach trucks, are designed to work in tight aisle spaces. They have two outer legs that distribute the load weight, with a wheel configuration of two or more wheels per leg. The driver stands or sits sideways in the cab. The forks, attached to a mast, can reach forward, allowing the machine to pick up loads on the racking that a standard forklift couldn't reach. They are predominantly used in specialized warehouses.

Order Picker Forklift

Order Picker Forklift - Types of Forklifts

Order picker forklifts are specifically designed for warehouse use where they pick and deliver material from racks. The operator platform raises and lowers with the forks, allowing the operator to manually load or unload the materials. This type of forklift is ideal for units that require manual handling.

Side Loaders

Side Loaders - Forklift Types

Side loaders are specialized forklifts designed to pick up long or wide loads in narrow aisles. The operator stands in a sideways compartment and the forks are mounted on the side of the forklift. This allows the forklift to pick up wide or long items with ease, making them perfect for handling items like lumber, pipes, or sheets.

Telescopic Forklifts

Telescopic Forklifts - Types of Forklifts

Telescopic forklifts, also known as telehandlers, are similar to standard forklifts but have a boom and extendable arm, which can reach heights that a standard forklift cannot. This makes them ideal for use in construction and agriculture, where they can lift loads to significant heights.

Articulated Forklifts

Articulated Forklifts - Types of Forklifts

Articulated forklifts are designed to operate in very narrow aisles and to lift loads to great heights. They have a two-part articulating carriage, which allows them to maneuver in tight spaces and handle goods in high, narrow aisle storage situations.

Heavy-Duty Forklift

Heavy-Duty Forklift - Types of Forklifts

Heavy-duty forklifts are designed to lift and transport extremely heavy loads. They are often used in heavy industries such as construction, manufacturing, and shipping. They are larger and more powerful than most other forklifts.

Electric Forklifts

Electric Forklifts - Types of Forklifts

Electric forklifts are powered by large, heavy batteries. They are quieter and more environmentally friendly than their gas-powered counterparts, but they also need to be recharged more often. They are often used indoors, in warehouses, or in other environments where noise and emissions need to be kept to a minimum.

Propane Forklifts

Propane Forklift - Types of Forklifts

Propane forklifts are a type of internal combustion forklift that uses propane gas as fuel. They are known for their quick refueling times and ability to operate continuously over long periods. They are versatile and can be used indoors or outdoors.

Gasoline/LPG Forklifts

Gasoline/LPG Forklifts - Types of Forklifts

Gasoline or LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) forklifts are also types of internal combustion forklifts. They are powerful and fast, but they also produce more emissions than electric forklifts. They are typically used outdoors or in well-ventilated areas.

Rough Terrain Forklifts

Rough Terrain Forklifts - Types of Forklifts

Rough terrain forklifts are designed to operate on uneven androcky surfaces. They have large, sturdy tires and a powerful engine, making them perfect for construction sites and other outdoor environments where the ground may not be paved or smooth.

Pneumatic Tire Forklifts

Pneumatic Tire Forklifts vs Cushion Tire Forklifts

Pneumatic tire forklifts have air-filled tires that provide a smooth ride over rough surfaces. They are often used outdoors in yards, construction sites, and loading docks. The pneumatic tires are durable and designed to withstand punctures and deflations.

Cushion Tire Forklifts

Cushion Tire Forklifts - Types of Forklifts

Cushion tire forklifts have solid rubber tires. They are designed for smooth surfaces and indoor use, making them a common sight in warehouses and manufacturing plants. Cushion tires are not designed for rough terrains but offer excellent maneuverability and require less ground clearance than pneumatic tire forklifts.

RelatedTypes of Electric Pallet Jacks

What is the most common type of forklift?

The most common type of forklift is the counterbalance forklift, which is why we had it 1st on our list. Its simple, straightforward design makes it versatile and easy to use, which is why you'll find it in warehouses and storage facilities all over the world.

What is a 3 tier forklift?

A 3 tier forklift, also known as a triple mast forklift, is a type of forklift that has three stages of elevation. This means it has three sections of the mast that extend telescopically when lifting loads. This design allows it to reach higher than a standard two-stage forklift, making it ideal for tall storage spaces.

These forklifts are commonly used in warehouses with high storage racks. The ability to reach these heights can greatly increase the storage capacity of a facility, making the 3 tier forklift a valuable piece of equipment in many industries.

Types of Forklift Masts - 3 section Mast Forklift - 3 tier forklift

What is a standing forklift called?

A standing forklift is often referred to as a stand-up forklift or stand-on forklift. Another common name is the 'electric rider,' because it's typically powered by electricity and the operator stands in a compartment on the forklift while operating it. This type of forklift is designed for quick, easy maneuvering and is commonly used in situations where the operator needs to frequently get on and off the forklift, such as in warehouse settings where goods are frequently moved short distances.

Standing Forklift - Stand-up Forklift - Electric Rider

Which forklift is best for heavy lifting?

The Heavy-Duty Forklift is typically the best choice for heavy lifting. These machines are designed to handle very heavy loads, often several tons or more. They're larger and more powerful than most other forklifts, making them ideal for industries like construction, shipping, and heavy manufacturing where large, heavy items need to be moved or loaded.

Another type of forklift used for heavy lifting is the Rough Terrain Forklift, which is designed to operate on uneven surfaces and can also handle heavy loads. However, the specific choice of forklift will depend on the exact requirements of the task, including the weight of the load, the conditions of the operating environment, and the height to which the load needs to be lifted.

Heavy-Duty Forklift Capacity

What are the different forklift classifications?

Forklifts are classified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) into seven classes:

Class I: Electric Motor Rider Trucks
Class II: Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Trucks
Class III: Electric Motor Hand or Hand-Rider Trucks
Class IV: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Solid/Cushion Tires)
Class V: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Pneumatic Tires)
Class VI: Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Tractors
Class VII: Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks

Each class represents a different type of forklift and the environments they are designed to operate in.


Forklifts are an essential tool in many industries. And understanding the different kinds of forklifts can help you choose the right one for your needs. Whether you're working in a warehouse, a construction site, or a dockyard, there's a forklift designed to make your job easier.

If you are located anywhere in Canada and need help finding your next new or used forkliftcontact us today. One of our specialists will be able to help you out and find a good machine for your needs.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

Thanks for subscribing!

This email has been registered!

Shop the look

Choose Options

Edit Option
Back In Stock Notification
is added to your shopping cart.
Compare ()
Product SKU Description Collection Availability Product Type Other Details
this is just a warning