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When to Retire or Replace Your Forklift

by Gregg Robinson on December 22, 2016
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when to retire or replace your forkliftKnowing when to retire a forklift can be a tough call. You don’t want to get rid of equipment that still has plenty of life in it. But a forklift that is slow or frequently in need of repair causes your business to be less productive and can frustrate staff.

You may have read online that the “right” time to replace your lift truck is when it’s reached the end of its economic life.  But how do you determine when that is?

Estimate Maintenance Cost per Hour
A new forklift should have little to no maintenance cost of ownership during the first year. But over time, that cost will reach a cost per hour that outweighs its usefulness.

For example: Let’s say your forklift is used an average of 1,500 hours a year. Last year it needed a $1,500 repair. The maintenance cost per hour is just $1/hour.

If the total repair bills reach $15,000/year, now you have a $10/hour maintenance cost of ownership.  At this point, it’s time to ask yourself if the cost to keep that forklift is more than the value it provides to your business.

If you’re not able to estimate maintenance cost per hour, here are two other ways to determine if you have a “problem” forklift.

- Has your maintenance cost more than doubled in the past year?
(Don’t include the cost of preventative maintenance or the cost of parts that need replacement no matter the age of the truck like wheels, belts, and tires).

- Have more than four work orders have been opened in any 12-month period?
(If you are a TMHNC customer, we can look this up for you).

A sharp increase in maintenance costs may be a sign your lift truck is ready to be retired, but it’s worth taking a few minutes to determine the reason for the repair.

- Is the equipment being adequately maintained?
- Was there a one-time accident?

Not only are these are preventable problems, they’re fiscally important to diagnose. Improper maintenance will shorten the life of your entire fleet over time.

How “old” is the forklift? When a car’s odometer nears 100,000 miles, some owners consider replacing the vehicle. For forklifts - age is measured in hours, not miles. A typical forklift lasts about 10,000 hours, or six to seven years (assuming a single-shift, 40 hour work week). Though we’ve often seen Toyota forklifts go for 20,000 hours. That said, how long a forklift will last depends on operating conditions, how often the truck was pushed to its load limits, and the forklift’s engine type (electric versus gas-powered).

Should You Retire or Trade-In Your Old Forklift?

The best time to sell or trade-in your used forklift is before the 10,000 hour or seven year mark. Keep in mind that electric forklifts typically last longer than ICE lift trucks.

If you manage a multi-shift operation, consider trading in your equipment even sooner. With advancements in efficiency, durability, and ergonomics, a new forklift can quickly pay for itself.

A quick search on the internet, or call to TMHNC, will give you an idea what your equipment is worth. Even if you’re not ready to sell, you’ll know what the resale value is and can weigh that against your cost of ownership. Some fleet managers use this resale number as a benchmark: when the annual maintenance cost approaches or exceeds the resale value, it’s time for the truck to go.

When to Completely Retire a Forklift

Here are some key reasons to take a forklift out of commission or sell it for parts:

Safety features are out of date - Older forklifts pose a safety risk to drivers and those around them.

Downtime - A repair bill isn’t the only cost of a old forklift. Every hour that piece of equipment is down = lost productivity for your business. If a forklift has more downtime than uptime, it’s definitely time for retirement.

Dangerous equipment failures - If your forklift exhibits any of the following issues, take steps immediately to repair or replace it.
  • Dropped loads
  • Jerking motions
  • Fluid leaks
  • Equipment freezing up / loss of power

Conclusion When deciding whether to repair or retire your forklift, consider the conditions leading up to the repair and the total repair bills over the past year. If you’d like to sell or trade in your lift truck, maintain it well and prepare to let it go before it reaches the 10,000-hour mark. Lastly, retire a forklift when there are safety issues or when downtime exceeds uptime.

At Toyota Material Handling of Northern California, we would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you regarding a new or used forklift purchase. You can also contact us to calculate the trade-in or resale value of your used equipment

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Topics: Forklift Safety, Forklift FAQs

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