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5 Types of Lifts for Cars: Which is Right for You?

Whether you’re a car enthusiast or mechanic, you know that a car lift is the best tool in the shop. The alternative to having one in your shop is crawling around on cold concrete, which gets old fast. But with so many different styles, sizes, shapes, and options available, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you and your vehicle. This guide is intended to help you make a decision that makes sense for you. Here we will break down the five most common types of lifts for cars are available so you can make a knowledgeable decision.

Two Post Lifts

Two-Post Clear Floor Lifts

Two-post lifts are the most common type of lifts for vehicle maintenance commonly used in professional garages and private workshops. The lift pictured is referred to as a two-post clear floor overhead car lift for obvious reasons; hydraulic hoses and cables are routed over the top leaving the floor clear of obstacles. However, the cross member, which is nonstructural, limits vehicle height to typical cars and trucks. Sprinter vans, service vehicles and trucks with ladder racks may be too tall this style of lift (see base plate lifts for taller vehicles). Two-post car lifts are designed to hoist the vehicle to a desirable working position from its frame, or sub-frame. Two-post lifts are ideal for working on the underside of the car, as they provide plenty of clearance for mechanics to access the engine, transmission, and brake and suspension operations. They are also relatively compact, making them a good choice for smaller garages or home workshops. Requirements: Overhead lifts for cars begin at 142”, which is just enough under 12’ to accommodate a 12’ ceiling. Four inches of sound reinforced concrete in good condition is required up to 10,000 lb. capacity, and 6” for higher capacity lifts.

Two Post Base Plate Lifts

Two post base plate lifts, or floor plate lifts as they are often called are a popular choice for use in structures over 10’ but under 12’ ceiling height. Since Base plate lifts have no crossbar, they can lift most any vehicle without height restriction. They are easier to install and can lift a wide range of vehicles, from small cars to trucks and vans. Auto repair shops that service commercial vehicles choose base plate lifts for these reasons. The floor plate covers and protects delicate cables and hoses, but the plate can get in the way of transmission jacks and other portable tools. Requirements: Floor plate lifts for cars typically begin with 110” (nominally 9’2”) post height up to 10,000 lbs. and up to 120” for higher capacity lifts. A minimum of four inches of sound reinforced concrete in good condition is required up to 10,000 lb. capacity, and 6” for higher capacity lifts.

Two Post Base Plate
9,000 lb. Gold Series Compact Boat & Trailer Storage Lift / Adjustable Runway / Hitch Wheel Rest / Drip Trays / 7-Year Warranty / 130" W X 215" L / 4QJY4-9 4 post car lift

Four-Post Lifts

Four-post lifts are available in two basic categories: car storage lifts and car maintenance lifts. Four-post lifts are ideal for car, truck, ATV, or boat storage, as they provide a stable yet versatile platform. Four post lifts differ greatly from two post lifts in that they employ four posts rather than two, and lift from the tire rather than from the vehicle’s frame or hard points. They are also great for performing routine maintenance, as they provide plenty of clearance for mechanics to access the underside of the vehicle. Center bridge jacks are available as an accessory that allows the user to lift wheels from the runways for brake and wheel maintenance operations. Car storage lifts are generally available from 7,000 to 10,000 lb. load capacity and accommodate one, two and occasionally three or more vehicles. However, car maintenance lifts are designed for just one vehicle, and while a vehicle could be stored on one their primary purpose is for service as a car maintenance lift, or alignment lift. Of course, the downside to four-post lifts is the initial cost is higher and require more floor space.

Scissor Lifts​

Scissor lifts for cars are a type of lift that uses a scissor-like mechanism to raise and lower the vehicle. They are often used in auto repair shops and are great for performing routine maintenance tasks like oil changes and tire rotations. Some scissor lifts are designed for pit mounting allowing them to be flush mounted. Many scissor lifts are portable which improves versatility for some users. Lower capacity scissor lifts mat be a more affordable choice than other types of lifts, making them a popular choice for home garages and tire service centers. However, Scissor lifts top out at about 10,000 lb. load capacity limiting their use to cars and light-duty trucks.

Portable Mid Rise Scissor Lift 6,000 LB MRSL-6
Portable Car Lift

Portable Lifts

Portable lifts for cars are a great option for those who need to move their lift from one location to another. Portable lifts are available in three common configurations: single post, scissor lift, and quick-jack portables. They also make more space available for storage or other purposes. Portable lifts are designed to be lightweight, easy to transport, safe and easy to use. Portable lifts are a favorite of mobile mechanics or anyone with limited garage space. Portable lifts are available in a variety of styles and accommodate a wide range of vehicle types. Although portable car lifts may not have the same weight capacity as larger, stationary lifts secured to the floor, what they lack in weight capacity is made up for in versatility.

Other Lifts Types of Car Lifts

Olympic Equipment offers a variety of lifts for cars that include other lifts not lifted on this page. Click on the link below to browse through all the car lifts we offer.