A vehicle lift is a big investment for anyone, but this is especially the case for a DIYer. If you make the wrong decision when you buy a vehicle lift for your home garage, it can cost you a lot of money. In this article, we’ll talk about:
- The typical lifespan of various types of lifts
- How specific lift features can impact vehicle lift lifespan
Most home car lifts will last a pretty long time if they’re maintained on a regular basis, but some lifts last longer than others. Here’s what you need to know.
The 4 Types of Vehicle Lifts
There are four basic types of lifts:
- Entry-level hydraulic lifts (usually, these are ‘scissor style’ lifts that go between the vehicle’s front and rear wheels)
- The Kwik-Lift (it’s in a category all by itself)
- 2-post lifts
- 4-post lifts
Most DIYers do not purchase a 2-post or 4-post lift, partially because of the expense and partially because of the requirements. You can’t necessarily install a proper 2-post lift without a thick concrete pad, and most 2-post and 4-post lifts require high ceilings, extra-wide garage spots, compressed air supply, and a 220V electric hookup.
Still, here’s information about the lifespan of each type.
2-Post and 4-Post Lift Lifespan
A properly maintained 2-post or 4-post lift can last decades. It’s not uncommon to find a used 2-post or 4-post lift for sale that’s 20, 30, or even 40 years old. However:
- There’s a huge difference in lifespan between commercial lifts and “enthusiast” lifts. A commercial 2-post or 4-post lift is designed to be used all day every day. Enthusiasts lifts are not.
- If a commercial 2-post or 4-post lift is properly serviced (cables need replaced every few years, lift needs regular lubrication), it should be good to go for a long time.
- Many lift owners report issues with the loosening floor anchors. This isn’t a lift issue so much as it is a concrete issue, but it’s a good idea to keep in mind.
Basically, commercial grade 2-post and 4-post lifts will last as long as anyone bothers to maintain them.
As for the ‘enthusiast grade’ 2-post and 4-post lifts, it’s a mixed bag. Some enthusiast lifts are actually commercial grade, but most are not. Most enthusiast lifts use inferior hydraulics, cheap cables, cheap guide rollers, etc. While a cheaper enthusiast grade lift will technically last as long as it’s maintained, the maintenance costs can nickel and dime you to death.
Finally, speaking of maintenance costs, it’s a good idea to compare the costs of refurbishing and maintaining an older lift against the cost of buying a brand new lift. Depending on what needs to be replaced, it may be cheaper in the long run to buy new.
Entry-Level Hydraulic Lift Lifespan
By definition, most entry-level hydraulic lifts are “enthusiast grade,” and never meant for commercial use. Typically, these lifts are offered with very low weight ratings (as little as 3,500 lbs) and come with light duty components in order to try and have the lowest possible price. Some manufacturers offer a ‘range’ of weight limits, despite the fact that every lift in the range is basically the same unit with slightly different specs.
While an entry-level or enthusiast grade lift will typically perform just fine for the first 3-5 years of ownership, they tend to have long-term problems:
1. Scissor style lifts that are essentially two seperate units (one lift for each side of a vehicle) will start to raise and lower at different rates over time. While there are some things you can do to compensate, at some point, two old lifts will raise and lower at different speeds. It’s inevitable. This makes the lift unusable at some point.
2. Entry-level and enthusiast lifts tend to have very inexpensive motors that can overheat easily. Once a motor overheats it starts to degrade. While some companies sell replacement motors, many do not.
3. Entry-level and enthusiast lifts tend to have low quality hyrdraulic fittings, hoses, and cylinders. These components will need replaced after a few years of use, and the cost of buying all these parts can add up to several hundred dollars. What’s more, some companies do not offer replacments.
Basically, while you certainly can make an entry-level or enthusiast grade lift last a lifetime, it might cost you a small fortune to do so.
The Kwik-Lift’s Lifespan
The short answer: We don’t know how long the Kwik-Lift can last. So far, we haven’t had anyone tell us their Kwik-Lift has “gone bad” in 20 years.
The Kwik-Lift is basically just a set of heavy-duty steel ramps, so it should last a lifetime. If the Kwik-Lift is lubricated occasionally – and if any scratches are painted over – it should last as long as steel lasts.
Finally, Don’t Forget Resale Value
A lot of people buy a vehicle lift assuming it’s the last lift they’ll need to buy. Of course, things can change. You may decide to move to a house with a bigger or smaller garage. You may decide to upgrade to a commercial lift or decide to work out of a commercial repair bay that you rent as needed.
If you decide to make a change, the resale value of your lift will be determined by the type of lift you’ve purchased and your maintenance records.
- If you’re selling a commercial grade 2-post or 4-post lift, the buyer is going to want to know about how old your cables/chains are, how often the lift was inspected and lubricated, etc. Keep your records and you’ll get top dollar.
- If you’re selling a Kwik-Lift, the buyer is going to want to know if the lift has any rust or damage. There’s nothing that can go wrong with a Kwik-Lift besides the obvious, so you should get top dollar.
- Since entry-level and enthusiast lifts aren’t designed for heavy use, and replacement parts aren’t always available, the buyer is probably going to want a deep discount to buy one. It’s easy to understand why – how much would you pay for a lift that you might not be able to fix if it breaks?
Granted, it’s anecdotal, but we’ve had dozens of Kwik-Lift customers tell us they were able to sell their used Kwik-Lift on Craigslist in a matter of hours. All they do is post some good pictures and it’s sold!