Spending all day under your car while flat on your back can do some real damage to your neck, shoulders, and back. Not only do you have to twist and turn your body in a cramped environment, but you may have to do so blindly while reaching for tools that always seem to roll just out of reach. If you’re anything like us, you’ve probably put off automotive work just to save some ache and strain on your lower back.
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Automotive businesses have a pretty good sense of how to get things done. One of their most invaluable investments is a car lift. Granted, car lifts look like they belong in professional garages, but that’s hardly the case. The selection of car lifts is vaster, easier to install, and cheaper than ever.
Double your Parking Space
Would you leave a $3,000 gaming rig outdoors all nightYou’d probably remember to bring a basketball inside, so why would you park your vehicle in your driveway where it’s susceptible to vandalism and stolen parts?
You could argue that your garage has enough floor space for one vehicle, and renovating your garage is a cost that you’re just not ready to make. Well, there’s some great news for homeowners with one-car garages: a car lift can double your garage by taking advantage of unused air space. Assuming you have vertical clearance, a car lift can list one of your vehicles into the air, leaving more than enough space for your second to park just below it.
This is a cost-effective solution for those with high-end sports cars who don’t want to expose their babies to nature’s harsh elements. During the winter time, just lift your previous up on the car lift where it’ll be safe from sleet, snow, and mud.
Not just for Cars
While car lifts are mainly used to keep automobiles off of garage floors, they’re much more than that.
If you have seasonal vehicles like motor boats, riding lawn mowers, motorcycles, lawn tractors, or speed boats – all of which take up a tremendous amount of garage space during the rainy and snowy months – then a car lift can help eliminate their floor prints.
With a car lift in your garage, you can use the extra space for other things likes building your woodshop or… storing other junk, you don’t use regularly. A car lift is a valuable space-saver by lifting things out of the way and out of mind.
Types of Car Lifts
Shopping for car lifts isn’t as straightforward as you might have hoped. There are several types of car lifts available that make finding the right one for your garage quite a challenge. Here, we’ll explain briefly the three main types of garage car lifts.
Hinge-Type Car Lift
This type of car lift raises the car off your garage floor through a series of jacks, hydraulic, or pneumatic systems and hinged beams. To lift your vehicle, you simply need to drive over lifts that lie flat on your garage floor and ensure that the lifts are appropriately positioned on the perimeter of your car’s frame (rocker panel boxes or suspension attachments). The maximum height of a hinge-type lift is 48 inches.
These are the most compact type of car lift that doesn’t need to be bolted onto the floor, allowing you to adjust its positioning when needed. However, the jack and hinge system lifting your car won’t leave any parking space beneath.
Two-Post Car Lift
Two-post car lifts are the most popular type around. It uses two metal arms that are attached to two metallic posts on the left and right to lift your car high up off the ground. They are further split into two different categories: symmetrical lifts that hold support the middle section of your car, and asymmetrical lifts with offset posts that allow you to open your car’s doors when lifted.
The maximum height of two-post car lifts can be anywhere from 70 inches to more than 140, more than enough clearance to pass a Hummer. And some are even strong enough to carry a Hummer!
Four-Post Car Lift
Instead of parking on lifts to raise your vehicle, a four-post car lift uses two runways where you drive your car onto before bringing it into the sky. Four posts support the front and back ends of the left and right posts by a hydraulic piston and heavy-duty cables. However, because all four wheels need to make contact with the runway, doing wheel-off maintenance requires additional jacks and beams to lift the car off the runways (dangerous!).
The height capacity is similar to the two-post car lift’s range – between 70 and 140-plus inches – but it can hold a heck of a lot more weight than two-posters.
Top 5 Best Hoist Car Lifts
Although car lifts have become increasingly cheaper in the recent past, you could still end up spending quite a bit of money on one, thereby making finding the right car lift that much more crucial. As a reference, we’ve included five of our favorite car lifts that are available online. Continue reading to learn a bit about each car lift model and whether one of them is right for your garage.
XK USA L1000 2-Post Hoist Car Lift
The first hoist car lift on our list is the L1000 from XK USA. This is a 2-post model with symmetrical lifts where both arms are equipped with rubber padding to prevent scratches and dents when (accidentally) opening your car’s doors while lifted. This set also includes mounting bolts if you’d like to keep it stagnant in one position in your garage.
The L1000 has a maximum carrying capacity rated at 10,000 pounds. The combination of its heavy-duty 5/16-inch cables and 5/8-inch base plate keep the car lift steady when lifting several tons of metal.
The posts measure in at 111-1/4 inches while the arms can raise your car to 78-7/8 inches off the floor. The distance between the posts is 100 inches – more than enough space for sedans and SUVs to park under safely.
The L1000’s 3-HP motor requires only about 60 seconds to lift a 10,000-pound vehicle to its maximum height. The self-lubricating nylon sliders ensure that the pulley system remains effective for many years.
This is a great 2-post car lift for those looking to do wheel-off maintenance. The arms are long enough to grasp onto your car’s frame using rubber pads, allowing the wheels to spin freely or detach entirely.
However, this isn’t the best car lift for trucks. The included truck adapter increases the lift height to 81 inches, but the arms are much too short to grab the frame.
XK USA L2910 2-Post Hoist Car Lift
Made from the same company, the L2910 is the little brother to the previous model. The 2-post, 111-1/4-inch model uses the same 3-HP motor and pulley system to lift cars off the ground with its frame-engaged, padded arms. Each arm also has the same padding to ensure your car door’s safety while lifted into the air.
The only difference between the L2910 and the L1000 is its maximum lift capacity. This model has a rating of “only” 9,000 pounds, which is far greater than the weight of an average SUV. Like the L1000, this model uses reinforced 5/16-inch cables and a 5/8-inch base plate between each post for maximum stability and reliability.
The L2910 can lift cars as high as 78-5/32 inches off the ground (81 inches with the truck adapter). This model also has a 100-inch drive-through width clearance so you can double your garage space by parking a second vehicle underneath.
Although this hoist car lift does an excellent job at lifting, the quality of the arms’ pads has been questionable at best. For sedans, the pads stay in place without any trouble, but trucks and other similarly sized vehicles may cause the pads to shift ever-so-slightly.
XK L1100 2-Post Hoist Car Lift
The L110 from XK USA looks identical to the previous two models. The L110, similar to the L1000, has a maximum lift capacity of 10,000 pounds.
There aren’t that many differences between the L1000 and the L1100. Other than their identical weight capacities, they have the same drive-through width clearance of 100 inches, the same self-lubricating nylon system, and the same arm reach distances.
The two most noteworthy differences between the two are the L1100’s increased post length of 143-5/32 inches and the slightly lower maximum lift of 78-5/32 inches. With the included adapter, this lift can lift trucks to 81 inches high. Also, the L1100 comes with two sets of truck adapters that let you extend the posts for extraordinarily tall vehicles and garages.
The motor in the L1100 is no different from the other XK USA models. It’s a 3-HP beast that requires only up to 60 seconds for your car to reach the maximum lift height. The chain and pulley mechanism should always be thoroughly lubricated with its self- lubricating system.
The L1100 is a larger version of the L1000 with the inclusion of a second set of truck adapters. In every other regard, they’re identical in every which way.
APlusLift HW-10KBP 2-Post Car Lift
APlusLift is another popular manufacturer of home car lifts. Their HW-10KBP model is a symmetrical 2-post lift that carries up to 10,000 pounds.
The HW-10KBP drives cars up and down using a system of hydraulic cylinders and chain drives on a pulley. The 3-HP motor raises cars to the maximum height in only 50 seconds. The drop speed is a bit slower, giving users enough time to move any obstructions that could damage your vehicle. A double-point safety forces users to check both sides before bringing the arms down.
This is a budget-friendly solution for those with large trucks looking to double their garage parking space. The arms can stretch out up to 49-1/5 inches for grasping a truck’s frame without the risk of the protection paddings slipping, making this a much better solution for truck owners.
The HW-10KBP has a maximum lift of 75 inches, but with the truck adapter installed, you can extend it to 81 inches. The 113-4/5-inch posts are made of durable 13/64-inch double-S-shaped columns for quick, snap-on installation while still ensuring very little movement when the arms rise and fall. The posts sit 100 inches apart from each other to allow another vehicle to park underneath your lifted truck.
APlusLift HW-10KOH 2-Post Car Lift
Finally, we have the larger HW-10KOH from APlusLift – another symmetrical 2-post lift with rubberized paddings on each arm to cushion your car’s doors when opened. At first glance, the HW-10KOH looks the same as the HW-10KBP. In fact, except for the taller posts, they are identical in every single way.
The HW-10KOH comes with two 143-3/5-inch posts positioned 100 inches apart. This car lift also has a maximum of 75 inches, but the included truck adapters increase the lift capacity to 81 inches for taller vehicles. The adapters are built of the same 13/64-inch steel in a double-S shape with quick-connect brackets for easy installation.
The lifting mechanism is powered by a 3-HP motor and hydraulic cylinders that only needs 50 seconds for lift off to its maximum height. Dropping the vehicle back onto the ground is much slower to guarantee a safe landing. The double point lock release system is extra insurance, so your car doesn’t bump into any objects on its way down.
Customers of the HW-10KOH can’t get enough of how easy the system is to use. Straight out of the box, everything is practically ready for setup. The only thing you’ll need is to make sure your garage floor can handle the large metal posts, and you’re good to go.
Hoist Car Lift Buying Guide
Although their price tags have become increasingly cheaper in the last decade or so, you’ll still need a healthy budget before purchasing your very own garage lift. To help you find the right lift for your home on your first try, take a look at our brief car lift buying guide.
Post and Lift Height
The reason why car lifts exist in the first place is to safely store heavy objects, such as sedans and trucks, off of the floor. The only way you can prevent damage to the roof of your vehicle is by ensuring that your garage is at least several inches – better yet, feet – taller than the car lift’s posts. Keep in mind that if you own a truck and have to use truck adapters on your car lift, then you may have to have more than a foot of clearance space above the top of the posts.
For obvious reasons, the weight capacity of a car lift is of the utmost importance. If you get something that’s too weak, then prepare to spend a small fortune on car and garage repairs.
Before choosing a car lift, check with your car’s manufacturer about its weight (while you’re at is, ask them about the height as well). This will let you know whether any of the five-car lift models mentioned above is right for you.
Sufficient Ground Support
Although most residential concrete garage floors are durable enough to support car lifts without cracking, it’s important that you stick to the specific guidelines provided by the car lift’s manufacturer. Two-post car lifts require stronger concrete flooring compared to four-posts since pressure is divided between fewer posts.
Not only should your floor be perfectly level, but it should also be a certain thickness and strength (PSI). Ask a company sales rep to explain how thick your garage floor should be and how much pressure it can handle before settling on a car lift.
Above- or In-Ground Car Lift?
Throughout this article, we’ve spoken exclusively about above-ground car lifts, but if you’re looking for something that will “beautify” your garage, an in-ground car lift could be for you.
In-ground car lifts are what you’ll typically find in professional garages. They use two cylinders that rise out of the floor to lift the arms or runways to lift your vehicle. However, there are a ton of installment issues you need to deal with before getting an in-ground lift. One such issue is digging at least 8 to 9 feet into your garage’s floor to install the cylinders – something which could cost several thousands of dollars to do.
One major drawback of in-ground car lifts is the inability to store anything underneath. The cylinders rise out of the floor, leaving no parking space below the arms or runways. Stick to an above-ground car lift like any of the models mentioned above and you won’t have to worry about this.
Frame-Engaging or Wheel-Engaging?
Frame-engaging car lifts, such as the five mentioned in our picks of the five best car lifts, use arms that lift your vehicle by its frame, allowing the wheels to spin freely. Wheel-engaging car lifts require you to drive the wheels onto the arms before raising it off the floor.
Deciding between the two is a matter of determining your automotive repair skills. Do you prefer doing your own off-wheel maintenance or would you rather trust a professional mechanicIf you’re just looking for something to save space in your garage, a wheel-engaging 4-post lift is for you. In this case, you’ll have to have considerably more cash on hand.
The chain, pulley, and even hydraulic cylinder systems take a tremendous amount of load when lifting several tons of metal off the floor. Because of this, it’s important that they are lubricated at all times, so they don’t snap or fail in any way, possibly resulting in dropping your car several feet onto the ground in less than a second.
The best models, such as the ones mentioned above, have their own self-lubricating mechanisms in place to guarantee smooth sailing for several years. As long as the lubricant tank is properly topped off every so often, you won’t need to worry about premature failure.
110V or 120V?
Manufacturers generally offer their customers a choice between 110V and 220V motors. The latter uses considerably more energy but can lift and drop your vehicles much quicker (but still safely) than the former.
We’d recommend sticking to a 110V motor. Choosing 220V means hiring a professional electrician to tamper with your garage’s circuiting by poking numerous, large holes into drywall. Another reason why 110V motors are preferable is that in the case of power failure, you can drop your vehicle by connecting the car lift to a portable generator.
Some car lift motors are designed to work on both 110V and 220V, but you should always ask the sales rep beforehand. Assuming dual-voltage capabilities could end up in disaster.
Safety is number one priority when it comes to owning and operating a car lift. Without the right safety features in place, in the event of a power outage or sudden failure, you can end up spending more on repairs than the actual car lift.
Keep an eye out for double-point lock systems; arm restrains, chain safety devices, and the rubberized padding. All of these are insurance measures that prevent damage from occurring to the body of your vehicle in the worst-case scenarios. It’s also a good idea to have a portable generator on hand.
There you have it, folks – a quick guide on what a car lift is, why you need it, and how to find the right one for your garage. We’ve also provided you with our picks of our five favorite car picks made by two extremely reputable manufacturers that supply to most parts of the world.
In a nutshell, the benefits of owning a car lift are two-fold: storage and simplified automotive maintenance. If you’d like to increase your garage space without physically expanding it by several square feet (an endeavor that would potentially cost over tens of thousands of dollars), or you would like the fix up your car from below without an aching back afterward, then consider investing in your very own car lift.