Home > How much does a forklift really cost? Breaking down the numbers

How much does a forklift really cost? Breaking down the numbers

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Lencrow Materials Handling sheds some light on things to consider before buying forklifts for any production environment.

Australian manufacturers are under increased pressure from global competition, requiring them to have greater operational and cost efficiencies in their work processes. For those in the market for new capital equipment, it is all too easy to select the cheapest model available to meet their production requirements, without thinking about the ongoing costs over the lifecycle of the unit.

Buying a forklift is not just about the initial capital investment, paying off the financing and footing the odd service bill down the road. In many cases, the capital outlay for a forklift can actually be the most inexpensive part of owning the unit.

Internal combustion (IC) forklifts are commonly used in Australia today, especially in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sectors, such as food and beverage and pharmaceuticals. IC forklifts are generally cheaper to purchase than their electric counterparts, and are therefore a preferred option over the electric model. However, when one considers the costs associated with owning and running an IC forklift over its lifecycle including the fuel required to run the unit, it may be cheaper to choose an electric model that can actually end up saving a great deal of money in the long-run.

For instance, a manufacturer running a standard, 2,500kg IC forklift for around 25 hours per week will go through five exchange bottles with the machine averaging five hours of uptime per exchange bottle. At a cost of around $38 a bottle and five bottles per week for 48 weeks in a year, the cost to the manufacturer for fuel at today’s rates alone would reach a staggering $45,600 over five years, when the forklift is due for replacement.

This expenditure doesn’t even include the service and maintenance costs, which will also need to be added to the equation. At an average cost of servicing and maintaining an IC forklift estimated around $1.67 per hour, the manufacturer will also be paying $10,020 over five years to keep the machine in good running order.

On top of an estimated $30,000 that was paid towards the cost of the forklift, the manufacturer would be spending an extra $55,620 to keep it running for five years, for a grand total of a whopping $85,620.

Many manufacturers are therefore, spending more than they bargained for when purchasing IC forklifts.

Electric forklifts offer several benefits over standard IC units beyond mere running costs. The newer electric models on the market incorporate sophisticated alternating current (AC) operating systems, allowing them to deliver excellent performance, comparable to, if not better than standard IC units.

Running time for the battery-operated forklifts is now extended to allow for full-shift operation without charging. Batteries now come in single-point watering or smart-charger options, helping to maximise battery life. Though the initial cost of an electric forklift is approximately 20% more than IC models, customers can enjoy 28-32% cheaper repairs and maintenance in return for their capital investment.

There are no ongoing costs for fuel, and electricity cost for charging the battery comes to about $6 per night.

In terms of overall cost to the manufacturer over a five-year period, the electric forklift will entail an initial investment of $38,100 in addition to $7,140 for maintenance, and $7,200 for battery charging, for a grand total of $52,440, amounting to a saving of a little over 40% when compared to an equal-class IC model.

IC forklifts may be more suitable for specific jobs and applications; however, it’s definitely worth considering these figures before choosing a forklift. An electric forklift is a smarter, long-term solution to not only help improve the business’ bottom line health but also the health of the environment and the workers.

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