Cranes vs Forklifts: How They Compare

Posted on 07 August 19


Are you facing a project that could benefit from both an overhead crane and a forklift and you are confused about which one to get? Well, cranes and forklifts each have their specific roles when it comes to material handling. Many people don't understand the difference between the two and which would get their job done the safest, quickest, and most efficiently. Read on to find out the difference between cranes and forklifts and which type would be right for you. 

The principal differences between cranes and forklifts

  • While both cranes and forklifts are used for the purpose of material handling, there are some core differences between the two. 
  • Forklifts use a mast and fork full configuration. Even though newer forklifts arriving in the market have extended arms, forklifts are commonly categorized by their primary two-prong fork mechanism.
  • There are different types of forklifts that look similar to cranes, but they aren't cranes. 
  • Forklifts always lift materials from the bottom while cranes rise from above. 

Capacity and roles

Cranes are more commonly used to manage massive and heavy loads of all kinds. On the other hand, forklifts are typically goods carrier which requires some platform for secure handling. Since cranes have a higher capacity, they are much more efficient when it comes to moving huge amounts of heavy materials quickly. 

Thus, cranes can carry much heavier materials than forklifts. This is due to the hydraulic arms on cranes that can lift and maneuver goods of several tonnes at a time. 

Forklifts, on the other hand, are mostly used indoors for the movement and management of commercial goods. While there are heavy duty forklifts that are capable of lifting heavy materials, the handling environments and operational needs are still quite different. 

Advantages and disadvantages of cranes and forklifts


A higher reach
A Longer life
A higher value for money

An expensive investment
Need more space



Compacts & maneuverable
Avialable in different sizes

Spacious and clear pathway required
Some forklifts require two people
Needs to be frequently repaired

Crane or Forklift: Which one is right for you? 

Cranes - If your facility is limited by floor space and stacked with goods which are close together, it probably means that there is not enough space to drive and lots of blind spots. In these situations, cranes are better suited from a safety and productivity point of view. With cranes, you will be able to move goods above your crowded facility and lower the risk of potential accidents. Cranes are also an effective solution for lifting operations which are repetitive and short-cycled in nature. 

Forklifts - If your facility has enough open floor space, forklifts would be an ideal solution for your moving requirements. These can be used to move goods quickly in an expansive building or from one bay to another or a loading dock. There are also forklifts available which are designed for specific jobs. 

Curious to know the difference between a Stand-up and a Sit-down Forklift?

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