Counterbalance Forklift vs Reach Forklifts: The Main Differences

Counterbalance Forklift vs Reach Forklifts: The Main Differences

Dec 1, 2017

Buying a new forklift for your business is not a light endeavor.  Forklift equipment is a major purchase, and there are many types of forklifts available with different options to serve a variety of purposes in different working environments.  You must consider price, capability, weight capacity, and even forklift type when making a purchase.  Once you determine your budget and decide on your price range, the next biggest decision to make is what type of forklift you need.  There are several types of forklifts, the most common are counterbalance forklifts and reach forklifts.  This guide explains the main characteristics and differences between these two types of forklifts.

Counterbalance Forklifts

Reach_forkliftThe most commonly used forklifts for handling materials are counterbalance forklifts.  These forklifts are the first that come to mind when people generally picture the equipment because they resemble what many consider to be the typical forklift.  The fork is on the front of the vehicle and it operates without the need for additional outriggers or reach.  Therefore, operators can drive right up to the load to lift it and right up to the racking spot to off load it.

Counterbalance forklifts get their name from the presence of a counterbalance weight, usually on the back of the forklift, that off sets the weight of the lifted load.  These forklifts can be powered by gas, diesel fuel, or electricity, and the size of the counterweight may differ depending on the weight of the battery.  Electric counterbalance forklifts can have batteries that weigh up to several thousand pounds which means that they generally have smaller counterweights.  The other main features of counterbalance forklifts include driver cabs, sideshifts, and mast tilt facilities.

3 Wheel Counterbalance Forklifts

One drawback of counterbalance forklifts is that they are tough to use in limited spaces.  The design of 3 wheel counterbalance forklifts makes maneuvering through tight spaces easier with a single rear wheel in the center of the forklift.  This rear wheel gives the forklift a better turning radius to handle racking and loading in small spaces.

Reach Forklifts

Reach forklifts have the capability to “reach” beyond their stabilizing legs, giving them much more lift height capacity than counterbalance forklifts.  These forklifts also have better maneuverability and they are designed for operation in tight spaces.  Reach trucks are most commonly used in warehouse settings because they can fit in tight isles and reach loads that are stored high in the racking.  They perform poorly in outdoor settings because uneven surfaces can cause damage to the low clearance undercarriage.  These forklifts are stabilized by the legs and battery, which means they do not need a counterbalance weight.  Some reach trucks can reach and lift loads as high as 30 feet.

Another common feature of reach trucks is a tilting cab mechanism to help the operator better see the load.  Many cabs on reach forklifts have an open overhead guard to help increase visibility, and some reach trucks may also have cameras for even better visibility.  The image from these cameras shows on an LCD screen inside the cab.

If you are considering a new forklift for your fleet, you must consider what you need out of the new forklift to help decide which type of forklift you should buy.  Both counterbalance forklifts and reach forklift are useful in many scenarios, but their different capabilities make them each better suited for different environments.  Professionals that offer new forklifts such as RHI Lifts can help you decide which type of forklift is better suited for your working environment.  Give RHI Lifts a call to learn more about your options for a new forklift.