With manufacturing and construction on the rebound, demand for forklifts, pallet trucks, and aerial lifts is rising—and that's pushed prices up, according to Jeffrey Cohen, a business research analyst at the research firm IBISWorld Inc. In a recent study, Cohen found that over the past three years, prices for pallet trucks and forklifts have risen at estimated annualized rates of 2.9 percent and 2.0 percent, respectively. Related costs, such as operator training, maintenance, and fuel, have also ticked upward during that time.
The good news is that there are steps buyers can take to hold down some of these ancillary costs, Cohen writes in a synopsis of his research. For instance, they might be able to cut their maintenance expenses by switching to electric vehicles. While the actual cost of annual maintenance depends on a host of factors, a reasonable average for trucks with 2,500 operating hours a year would be about $500 for an electric truck and about $1,500 for a gasoline-powered forklift, he said.
It also pays to look at costs for fuel and fueling equipment, such as pumps. A liquid petroleum gas-powered truck that accrues 2,500 operating hours per year could see annual fuel costs of $5,000; a gas-powered truck with a lower purchase price will likely cost more in the long term, Cohen said. A higher-priced electric with the same number of operating hours would cost about $2,000 to power annually.
Companies that plan to use the equipment for a limited time can save big by opting to rent or lease rather than buy, Cohen noted. IBISWorld estimates that the average cost of renting a forklift is about $900 per week. That's a small sum compared with the $38,000 average purchase price of a new truck—and there are no long-term maintenance costs to worry about.