Forklift truck hire – what are the benefits of hiring vs buying?


Forklift trucks are an essential part of any logistic operation. From simple hand pallet trucks in stock rooms to complex order pickers in vast warehouses, getting the right vehicle fleet is crucial to successful business operations. While these vehicles can significantly reduce your handling costs and improve productivity, they can also be a big expense. Fortunately, the option to rent or lease warehouse vehicles can mitigate some of these costs and bring great benefits. So, is hiring or buying a forklift truck (used or new) the best decision? We look at the pros and cons of each option.

The benefits of forklift truck hire

Have an agile warehouse fleet to meet demand
For any warehouse that sees seasonal peaks in demand, the size of the required vehicle fleet can fluctuate hugely from one month to the next. Hiring a forklift truck gives you the ability to choose what vehicle you need, when you need it and how long for. Short or long-term forklift truck hire is also a low-risk way of trying out new equipment or acquiring additional vehicles only when you need them. This means you don’t have to pay for vehicles that will be sitting idle or find yourself somewhat stuck with a vehicle you no longer want or need.

Low upfront costs for a forklift truck
One of the most appealing benefits of hiring a forklift truck – rather than buying it outright – is the absence of a large, upfront payment. Rental agreements operate on a cost per month or fixed term basis, so payments are spread over a period of time. Hiring a forklift will ensure that you don’t have to fork out (excuse the pun!) for a machine worth thousands of pounds in one go. For many businesses, it simply isn’t feasible to spend that much money on one machine, and some prefer smaller and more frequent payments to hire them. Depending on the length of time the forklift is hired for, hiring can work out cheaper for some businesses than buying outright.

Try before you buy to get the right forklift truck
There are lots of different types of forklift trucks on the market, all with different specs tailored to perform in certain environments and situations. Renting a forklift truck gives businesses the opportunity to try different machines and new technology without having to pay out for a vehicle or fleet of vehicles. If your forklift rental is a success, produces a more efficient operation and easier handling for your employees, then a decision can be made as to whether an outright purchase is the best option when your rental term is up. For fast-moving operations and ever-changing industries, there is no guarantee that the forklift you buy today is going to be geared for the job you do on one, two, three years’ time. Forklift rental enables you to adjust your vehicle fleet more dynamically.

You get reliability through warranty
Hiring a forklift means that you can also save money on maintenance and servicing costs, which can add up to a substantial amount of money over time, especially if unexpected repairs need to be carried out. Hiring a forklift often comes with warranty and support technicians that will be on hand to fix any problems that may occur, saving you and your workforce precious time.

Downsides of forklift truck hire

You’ll likely have limits on truck usage
Forklift rental agreements often come with limitations on usage such as operating hours. The company leasing the truck needs to have a reusable asset handed back to them, not a truck that’s been run into the ground, so this approach makes sense. However, it does mean that you may be forced to take the vehicle out of operation or pay penalties for exceeding your usage agreement.

You’ll be liable for any damages
Accidents do unfortunately happen in warehouses, and these can prove costly, not just in terms of operation time and lost hours, but you’ll find yourself with a bill for repairs if your rented forklift sustains damage. While a scratch or dent to an owned model may not be something you’re concerned with ordinarily, damage to bodywork that might otherwise go unchecked will need to be fixed at your expense before the truck is returned to the rental company.

There’s no company-owned asset
The biggest downside of leasing over purchasing – in any industry – is the lack of a tangible asset for all your outward payments. When you add up all your rental payments over the life of the lease, you may find that it’s more cost-effective to buy a used or new forklift outright rather than continue to lease it, particularly if you’re able to demonstrate an increase in saved costs due to increased productivity.


The benefits of buying a forklift truck

You own the asset
Although purchasing a forklift is a big decision and investment, it can work out better financially in the long term. Owning the forklift outright adds its value as a company-owned asset and gives you complete control over its operations. Older vehicles can be sold to finance new purchases or updates to equipment. Costs can also be saved by purchasing a used forklift, which is often much cheaper than buying a brand-new model but gives similar benefits.

There are no external limits on truck usage
While rented forklifts often come with restrictions on their use, owning the truck means you are completely responsible for its operating hours, usage and terms. If you run into a particularly busy period, you don’t have to worry about usage time when managing your fleet or planning your operations.

Greater workforce productivity
Buying a forklift that is tailored to your working environment and operations makes it easy for employees to get to grips with the hardware and use it to its maximum potential. Forklift trucks require training for operation and worker productivity is often not at peak when new trucks are brought in, as employees naturally take time to familiarise themselves with the vehicle. Having a static fleet of forklifts means your operators are all familiar with their vehicles and operations can flow smoothly without needing to ensure specifically trained employees are on shift.

Downsides of buying a forklift truck

Large upfront cost
Of course, the main barrier to purchasing a forklift truck – or any piece of costly business equipment – is the upfront cost that’s required. Sometimes the capital required simply isn’t available or companies may be reluctant to commit to such a cost if they’re unsure of their future operating plans.

Equipment may become obsolete
In a fast-paced industry like logistics, it can be difficult to predict business trends and future needs. While the Covid-19 pandemic is a rather extreme example, it demonstrates how dramatically operations can change in the blink of an eye. The risk with buying costly equipment like forklift trucks rather than leasing them is that you could find yourself with equipment ill-suited to your business needs if anything changes within your warehouse.

Second hand trucks can be a risk
Much like buying a new car, buying brand new comes with guarantees and warranty. A second-hand model often comes with fewer guarantees – and sometimes none at all. STILL’s used forklifts come with quality assurance and are professionally refurbished but it’s always worth checking how well serviced a used truck is before you buy so you don’t find yourself with equipment that’s going to need frequent and costly repairs.

There are a lot of factors to consider when you’re deciding whether to hire or buy a forklift truck and there is no universal answer to the question “is it better to hire or buy?” The right decision depends very much on your business needs (both current and future) and operations. Whatever you decide, we have a range of purchase and hire options available on many different types of forklift trucks. If you’re interested in purchasing a used or new forklift truck, you can purchase through our online store or contact our team to discuss the best option for you.

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