Buying a new car lift is not exactly as exciting as a buying a new car. However, picking the best car lift is nearly as important as picking the car you’re going to put on it. There is nothing worse than thinking you’ve picked a quality product, only to learn later that it is substandard in design and, crucially, safety.
But with so many companies and brands of auto lifts to choose from, making the right choice for your auto needs can be difficult. It’s necessary to understand the differences between lift designs, and make decisions based on the quality of the lift and its manufacturer. Just like a car, if you want find out how well your auto lift will function, you need to “pop the hood”! Whether you’re a mechanic working in a full-scale garage or a car collector who needs a car lift for the home garage, you’ll want to consider these 5 things to buy the best car lift:
Car Lift Column and Lock Design
The Column and Lock design is one of the most important things to consider as relates to the safety of your auto lift. The leg and slider combo of a lift determines its rigidity— will it wobble, or will it stand firm under the pressure of your vehicle? To know for sure, all you really need to consider is whether the column and lock is designed as an “inside plastic slider” or an “outside steel sleeve.” The inside plastic slider is the design to avoid! These designs have a smaller plastic material block that rides inside an open-sided, bent thin gauge leg, to keep the sliders and lock inside the leg. Unfortunately, this means the legs can also pivot and wobble where the sliders meet the leg. On the other hand, outside steel slider joints are engineered much differently, because they use steel tubing to wrap around the outside of the leg instead of plastic blocks on the inside. Steel equals rigidity! An outside steel slider creates a solid joint that eliminates wobble and keeps your vehicle secure.
Picture this: you push the button on your lift to engage the power unit, and begin lifting your classic car. You’re approaching the garage ceiling, and it’s time to shut off the power. But instead of stopping, the motor keeps running— and your car keeps rising. In a matter of seconds, you’ve turned your classic into a crunch of scrap metal. How could this happen? Probably because your lift’s power unit came from an overseas distributor whose power units are prone to failure. A lot of Chinese units pull upwards of 30 amps, and only offer a 90-day warranty on the life of the power unit. You’re probably planning to own your auto lift for more than 90 days… so you should have a power unit that is also designed to last for much longer. Before making a lift purchase, do some digging to find out where the power unit has been constructed. For companies like us at Backyard Buddy, American-made power units (and our 5-year warranty) are the standard put into all our auto lifts.
What kind of stuff is your lift made of? From the cables to the lock linkage to the shape and material of the metal, how your auto lift is constructed will speak to its quality and safety. In considering cables, a respectable rule of thumb is: if you cannot see cable coming out of the lift’s threaded end cable, they aren’t good cables. Good cables have flexibility, strength, and intelligent design. Since cables are responsible for hoisting the weight of your car, these are three vital components you want your cables to possess! Lock linkage is another little detail that will give you a good indication of a lift’s quality, but it’s also one of the most underrated. Steel rods that are 3/8 inch, with precision rod ends, offer positive locking and a smooth quality feel. This kind of rod engages properly so your lift locks every time. In contrast, cheaply-made lifts usually use 1/4 inch rods with cheap ends; these rods can bend and fail to activate the locking mechanism on a lift— a safety hazard waiting to happen. Don’t overlook those little details! Finally, what metal makes up your lift determines the lift’s durability. American-made steel lift frames have been proven to outlast foreign steel, and be much stronger, because they lack the impurities that make “off-shore” steel difficult to weld properly.
No matter what you intend to use your lift for— working on your car, storing multiple cars, conserving space in the garage— you want a lift that has functionality within its space, and also compatibility with accessories that can increase lift functions. For example, if you’re a city dweller, where real estate is limited and storage is expensive, a residential car lift should afford you an increase in storage by stacking two vehicles safely on top of each other (so
you’ve got room for the minivan and the Maserati!). But what else can your lift do? Being able to add accessories, like hard rubber casters, increase functionality by making that auto lift easy to move around your space, so you can work in or organize your garage efficiently. The more customizable the lift, the better it’ll suit your lifestyle.
As mentioned earlier, you’re probably planning to own your car lift for a long time. Which means it needs to maintain working order for a long time. Any distributor that has a warranty full of caveats and asterisks, or a “ship and wait policy,” should automatically raise a red flag. An auto lift that offers a free, no-questions-asked policy, or has an extended warranty period, is going to give you the best (and most long-lasting) bang for your buck. For example, at Backyard Buddy, we offer a warranty of 5 years top to bottom, with no fine print to wade through. Extended warranties are also available at the time of lift purchase. When buying your lift, always ask about the warranty!
Once you’ve considered these 5 things while buying a car lift— column and lock design, power unit, construction, functionality, and warranty— you’ll be on the right track to choosing the best lift to fit your needs and your life. When it comes to car lifts, you truly get what you pay for. Considering the key elements that go into an auto lift, from the initial construction to the after-purchase warranty, will help you determine what is worth the most— a lift’s price, or its value? When you’re driving your car, you want that car to be safe, reliable, and maybe a little bit impressive. You should expect the same from your car lift!