The best car lift for a home garage is a commercial grade 2-post or 4-post lift, which is why they’re used in just about every vehicle repair shop in the world. The trouble is, these lifts don’t always fit in a home garage.
In fact, most of the time, commercial lifts do NOT fit in home garages. A commercial lift needs 11 foot ceilings and an extra-wide garage space (in terms of width). Most garages don’t have that kind of space.
So, the question is not “What’s the best car lift for a home garage?,” but rather “What’s the best lift that will fit in my home garage?”
The Best Home Garage Car Lift Is Safe, Straightforward, and Works With Almost Any Kind of Car
If you want the best car lift for your home garage, there are four features you absolutely need:
Safety. A lift that can fail during raising or lowering is dangerous. A lift that doesn’t properly secure a vehicle is life-threatening. Many of the lifts on the market today have problems with tipping front-to-back (because they lift a car between the wheels) as well as failures during raise and lower (because they use independent hydraulic mechanisms).
Simple, straightforward design. When you have time to work on your vehicle, the last thing you want to be doing is inspecting your lift, replacing fluid and looking for leaks, checking air cylinder pressures, or doing leak clean-up.
Unfortunately, most of the entry-level hydraulic lifts on the market have precisely these problems. This is because cheap hydraulics are infamous for random, unexplained fluid leaks and problems…and you can’t buy a cheap hydraulic car lift without getting cheap hydraulics!
Nearly universal vehicle compatibility. If you’re serious enough to invest in a vehicle lift, odds are you need a lift that works with nearly any type of vehicle. Who needs a lift with an absurdly low 3,500lbs weight limit? Or a lift that only works if a vehicle has 5″ of ground clearance? Or a lift that isn’t compatible with classic cars that don’t have unibody frames?
True portability, or park on top convenience. If your garage looks like most people’s garage, there’s not a lot of ‘extra’ space for your lift. So, you need a lift that you can other disassemble and stow away, or you need a lift you can easily park on top of.
As you might have guessed, the Kwik-Lift is all of these things. You can learn more about why you should buy the Kwik-Lift here.
The Worst Home Garage Car Lifts Have a Few Things In Common
There’s such a thing as an “entry-level hydraulic lift,” and the companies that sell them promise all the same functionality as a commercial lift, only in a smaller package. These lifts are always available at a bargain price too (amazing, huh?).
Most of the companies hawking entry-level hydraulic lifts say and do a few of the same things:
They emphasize “Look at it go up and down!” in marketing – Most of the companies selling entry-level hydraulic lifts put a lot of emphasis on the “gee whiz” aspect of their product. “Push a button and up it goes! Neato!” Indeed, the entire homepage of the website is dedicated to a video showing a lift go up and down.
Here’s the problem: Going up and down is maybe 2% of what a vehicle lift is supposed to do. 98% of the time, the lift has to be a safe and stable platform for you to work under. It shouldn’t wobble or seem unsteady at full rise height. It shouldn’t tip back and forth when you pull the rear axle or swap out your engine.
Misleading ground clearance specs. If you’ve got a vehicle with about 4″ of ground clearance (a Miata, a Corvette, a Porsche, most lowered vehicles, and so on), you need to make sure that the lift you’re looking at can actually lift you car. While most of the companies selling these lifts advertise that their lift mechanisms are 3.5″ tall (or thereabouts), and therefore state that the lift will slide ‘under’ a car with 4″ of ground clearance, here’s the reality:
- Most hydraulic motors in the ‘entry-level’ price bracket are just barely powerful enough to do the job
- When you fully compress the lift mechanism, the motor struggles to lift anything heavy
Check the owner’s manual or FAQ page for of any of these entry-level hydraulic units, and you’ll see some text about the lift needing “a little bit of space” or “run-up” before it can actually lift something. That’s fine if you’re trying to lift a vehicle with 5″ of ground clearance. But a Corvette or a Porsche? You might be driving up onto small blocks to get your entry-level lift to do it’s job.
Don’t drive over our lift! It’s incredible to imagine a vehicle lift that’s supposedly strong enough to pick up a car, but which has lift mechanisms that are too fragile to be driven over…but that’s what a lot of companies are selling. If you find a lift that can’t support the weight of a vehicle driving over it, how can you trust that lift to pick your entire car?
Not enough lift height. Last but not least, most of the entry-level lifts pick up your car by the frame (or frame pinch points) rather than by the wheels. If you have a vehicle with 4″ or 5″ of ground clearance, and you buy an 18″ lift that picks your car up by the frame, your lift is really just putting your vehicle 13″ or 14″ in the air. That’s not enough room to do much of anything.
Of course, you can use blocks to get ‘extra’ lift on one of these units, but that doesn’t really make the lift more stable or safe.
The best car lift for a home garage is a commercial lift, just like the lift used by your local mechanic or auto dealership. Unfortunately, this lift doesn’t fit in most home garages.
If you can’t fit a commercial lift in your garage, you have a couple of choices:
- Go with a safe, secure, and straightforward solid steel lift designed for home users (like the Kwik-Lift)
- Go with a bargain entry-level hydraulic lift that tries to be like a commercial lift, but comes up short
Obviously, we’re biased here. But if you read about why you should buy the Kwik-Lift, and you compare the Kwik-Lift to the other options on the market, we think you’ll see the value of our product. At the very least, we hope you see the problems with all the “entry-level” hydraulic vehicle lifts out there.