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3 min read

When to Buy an Electric vs. Lp Gas Forklift

When To Buy An Electric Vs. LP Forklift

One of the many tough decisions forklift buyers grapple with is whether to buy an electric or liquid propane gas (LP) forklift. For some operations, the choice is easy:

  • For safety reasons, food, pharmaceutical, and underground/limited ventilation applications must use electric forklifts
  • If the forklift will operate at a remote location and can’t be brought back to a home base for charging - a an LP gas forklift is the obvious choice.

For all other applications, answering a few simple questions and a helpful cost calculator can help you decide:

Forklift Price vs. Cost of Ownership

About two out of three buyers choose an electric forklift. If this statistic surprises you, keep in mind electric forklifts:

  • Have a significantly lower lifetime cost of ownership vs. LP gas forklifts
  • Are easier to maintain and have fewer moving parts to replace
  • Have zero emissions - they're clean and quiet
  • Can operate outdoors - even in the rain

What about charging and changing batteries?  In the past, many buyers avoided electric forklifts because they didn't want to deal with swapping batteries, but things have changed a lot in recent years. The majority of single-shift (and most two-shift operations) never need to change out their battery. New battery charging technology allows you to quickly recharge batteries during breaks.

If you’ve only used LP gas forklifts in the past, try the LP Gas vs. Electric Cost Comparison Calculator to see how much you could save by switching to electric. While electric forklifts cost more initially, most businesses recoup that money through fuel savings and lower maintenance costs within a year or two.

Electric vs. LP Gas Lift Truck Cost Comparison Tool

Electric Vs Propane Forklift Calculator

The image above compares the total cost of ownership (including fuel) for a 5,000 lb electric and a LP gas forklift used 2,000 hours/year. The left side compares costs for a leased electric vs. LP gas forklift, the right side compares the cost to own an electric vs. LP gas forklift. Electricity and propane prices are for Memphis, TN as of June 2020.

When to Choose a LP Gas Forklift

If your operation uses its forklifts throughout the day or if you run more than two shifts, an LP gas forklift may be a better choice. Constant use will require battery changes, which take a lot longer than swapping propane tanks.

LP gas forklifts are also better for certain work environments. If your application requires long drives, travel up and down ramps, or higher speeds, you’ll want to go with an LP gas forklift.

Heavy-duty applications, such as brick and lumberyards, typically use LP gas lift trucks. While there are large-capacity and high-capacity electric forklifts, internal combustion forklifts still do most of the heavy lifting.

Lastly, some operations choose a LP gas forklifts because they simply costs less upfront. If you have limited capital, an LP forklift gives you more power for your dollar. That said, our flexible financing options can help you get you as much forklift for your money as possible.

Pros and Cons of Electric and LP Gas Forklifts

LP Forklift Advantages:

  • Quickly refuel on the fly and in remote locations
  • Lower purchase price
  • Better for heavy loads, long distances, and ramps
  • Higher maximum speed
  • Consistent power, even as fuel tank drains

LP Forklift Disadvantages:

  • Propane tank limits visibility
  • Fuel costs more and price can fluctuate dramatically
  • Storing fuel on-site can be hazardous
  • Potential for lifting injury when handling fuel tanks
  • Can be unreliable in below-freezing temps

Electric Forklift Advantages:

  • No emissions and no hazardous fuel = a safer workplace
  • Extremely quiet
  • Fewer parts to replace, components last longer
  • No engine, transmission or radiator to maintain
  • Better stability ratings
  • Can operate in tighter spaces vs. comparable LP gas forklift
  • No propane cylinder blocking operator’s rearward view
  • Safe for food, medical and underground applications
  • Electricity prices are more stable than fossil fuel prices
  • Low cost of ownership

Electric Forklift Disadvantages:

  • Performance declines as battery discharges
  • Higher initial purchase price vs. an LP gas forklift
  • Fewer high-capacity  models to choose from
  • Changing and charging batteries creates inefficiencies for multi-shift operations
  • Standard batteries require weekly maintenance (lithium-ion and TPPL do not)
  • Battery charging area takes up space
  • Battery must be replaced within 5-10 years

Want to consult an expert before making your decision?  Our friendly and knowledgeable staff can help you choose the right forklift for your operational needs and budget. The Lilly Company is an authorized Toyota, Clark, Linde, and Komatsu dealership, serving customers throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and eastern Arkansas.

Contact us online or by phone 844-LILLYCO (1-844-545-5926) with any questions you have about new or used forklifts. Or come say hello at one of our 13 locations.

Arkansas - Jonesboro

Alabama - Birmingham, Dothan, Irondale, Madison, Mobile, and Montgomery

Mississippi - Belden and Richland

Tennessee - Jackson, Kingsport, Knoxville, and Memphis


Further Reading:

Different Types of Forklifts - A Beginners’ Guide
When's the Best Time to Replace An Aging Forklift?
Forklift Battery Basics

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