A 3-WHEEL FORKLIFT OR A 4-WHEEL FORKLIFT
Updated: Jun 7, 2019
As with all forklift decisions, the answer depends on what you want to use it for and where.
3-wheel forklifts are ideal for small spaces
3-wheel forklifts have the smallest, tightest turning circles. Driven by the two front wheels, a 3-wheel forklift is steered by the rear wheel located centrally under the counterweight. The forklift can make a 90O turn — effectively within its own length.
That clearly makes 3-wheelers extremely handy in confined areas, such as narrow aisles in warehouses and storage areas with smooth floors and in and around containers.
3-wheel forklifts are powered by battery and driven by robust electric motor. Much smaller than most 4-wheel forklifts, 3-wheelers are available in configurations from 1 – 2.5 Ton capacities.
Their place is indoors where extreme manoeuvrability is needed, where rack loading and unloading is carried out in narrow aisles. 3-wheelers are especially favoured by retailers and distributors of light consumer goods, these units are also well suit for any areas where fumes are a concern IE cold stores food warehoused etc.
4-wheel forklifts can work harder in more places
4-wheel forklifts are more versatile than 3-wheelers. The 4-wheel configuration makes them more stable and they come in a variety of sizes ranging from small to huge. On top of that, they can be fueled in three ways: with LPG, diesel or electricity.
4-wheelers can handle loads from 1 Ton to 50 Ton and are generally quite at home on rough surfaces, gravel and unsealed ground, as found on construction sites.
The turning circles are larger than for 3-wheelers, owing to the fact that they cannot turn within their own length. This places some limits on their suitability for warehouse work, even the smallest models.
In common with 3-wheel forklifts, their electric versions are designed for minimum outdoors exposure.
The outdoor models are fully weather-proofed electricals, extra effective brakes and additional safety features like maximised headroom, built-in diagnostics, easy access to fluid level checkpoints and heavy-duty regenerative braking.
Typically your choice, greatly over-simplified, is between the nimbleness and small-space versatility of 3-wheelers and the greater versatility and size range of 4-wheelers. You may well need both.
There is considerable variation between various makes and models. The best way to figure it all out and decide which is best for you is to get impartial advice from an independent consultant whose advice is unclouded by brand loyalties.