The easiest way to choose the best small forklift is to first determine how and where you will use it. Indoor forklifts will be designed differently than forklifts intended for outdoor use, and the height of shelves or platforms that the forklift will need to access will dictate the overall size of the lift. Consider your budget for purchasing or renting a small forklift as well, as the cost can vary significantly depending on the size and design of the lift; lifts with electric motors, for example, may be less expensive to buy or rent than a diesel-operated motor.
Perhaps the most important consideration when choosing a small forklift is the weight rating. This rating will tell you how much of a load the lift can safely carry and raise without risking instability or damage to the lift itself. Manufacturers will list this information on web pages or in-store point of purchase materials, and you will need to pay close attention to this number. Determine beforehand how much weight you are likely to lift or move on a regular basis so you can decide how large of a lift you need. In some cases, a hand lift will be sufficient, while in other cases, a larger, gasoline powered lift may be in order.
The location in which the small forklift will operate will have a significant effect on which lift is best for you. Lifts that operate indoors will usually feature solid rubber tires, but such tires are not ideal for outdoor use or use on uneven surfaces. Instead, outdoor lifts will usually feature pneumatic tires for more stability and maneuverability. The small forklift intended for indoor use may also need to be exceptionally narrow, especially if you intend to use it in a retail establishment or warehouse with narrow aisles. Some small forklift models are specifically designed for such purposes. You will need to decide if you want a small forklift operated by a yoke or handle that requires you to walk behind the lift, or if you want a larger one in which you will sit and operate the controls from within.
Think about how the lift is powered as well. Indoor lifts are usually electric for several reasons: first, such lifts tend to be quieter than gasoline or diesel powered lifts; second, they do not produce exhaust that can otherwise build up in the building and lead to respiratory issues. Electric lifts may not be powerful enough for some applications, however, so if the lift will be operated outdoors or will be used for heavier loads, consider a gasoline-powered lift or a diesel-powered lift.