When to trade in your old forklift

When is the right time to retire your forklift? The question is an important one because waiting too long to replace an old forklift rather than timing it just right will definitely cost you money.

While there is no magic formula for calculating the exact moment you should remove an old machine from active duty and consider trading it in for a new forklift, taking a moment to review some key considerations will help you make the most informed and sensible decision.

Functional Life vs. Economic Life of a Forklift

First, it helps to distinguish between the functional life and the economic life of a forklift. We’re talking about rugged and durable pieces of machinery. But just because an aging forklift is still chugging along doesn’t mean you’re getting cost-effective performance on the job.

For every forklift, there comes a time when the need for repairs becomes more frequent and the overall cost of operation begins to outweigh the value that the forklift provides. Of course, repair bills are just part of this equation. As you are certainly aware, every hour that a forklift is side-lined for repairs also represents a loss in productivity.

As maintenance costs climb, the trade-in value of your forklift drops. So, if you’re planning to trade in your machine for a new forklift, it’s obviously best to do so before it is fully depreciated — before its trade-in value has shrunk to a fraction of its book value.

How Old is Old for a Forklift?

Much like cars, the actual age of your vehicle is important, but even more crucial is the mileage — or, in the case of forklifts, hours of operation.

The economic life of a forklift varies according to a multitude of factors, including how heavily it’s used, under what conditions, how well it’s maintained and more. But generally speaking, you’ll want to keep a closer eye on your forklift(s) — and begin to anticipate the need for eventual replacement — when the hour meter approaches 10,000.

Of course, forecasting the economic life of your forklift is not an exact science. With proper care and maintenance, many forklifts can offer cost-effective performance well beyond this milestone.

Additional Factors in Forklift Life Expectancy

We depend on our materials handling equipment to do a lot of heavy lifting. But how hard you work a forklift has a direct impact on how long you can count on it to do the job in a cost-effective manner. Here are some other key factors that affect the life expectancy of your forklift.

Intensity of usage

Obviously, a forklift that is in operation 2,000 or more hours annually will wear out a lot quicker than one that you’re running for 800-1,000 hours each year. All forklifts are counted on do plenty of heavy lifting, but constantly lifting heavier loads to higher heights can cause more wear and tear than lighter-duty applications.


Is your forklift working indoors or outdoors? Is it exposed to extreme cold or heat? Forklifts that are operated in a harsh environment — for example, one in which they’re exposed to excess dust, water, corrosive chemicals, etc. — will generally have a shorter life span than those that perform their work in clean, climate-controlled warehouses.


Though firmly rooted in common sense, it is also worth emphasizing that forklifts require conscientious basic upkeep (paying attention to fluid levels, tires, belts and other wearable components) as well as more comprehensive periodic maintenance checks to function at maximum efficiency over the long haul.

Benefits of Planned Maintenance for Forklifts

Though some forklift owners opt to handle regular maintenance themselves and deal with repairs as the need arises, you can avoid unexpected headaches and extend the life of your equipment by contracting with your dealer or service provider for a planned maintenance program.

Not only will planned forklift maintenance keep your machine(s) in optimal running condition, establishing a solid partnership with a top-notch service provider will help give you a clearer picture of the condition and cost-effectiveness of each individual forklift or an entire fleet.

An experienced service provider should be able to do everything from handling any warranty claims that might arise to providing regular reports with detailed information about the cost of operation per hour, all while helping you anticipate what’s on the horizon.

Setting up a planned maintenance program with a top provider also means fast access to any needed repairs, which is vitally important for minimising costly down time.

At JAF Fork Trucks, we’ve been working with customers throughout North East to provide world-class forklifts and innovative materials handling solutions for over 40 years. Please don’t hesitate to contact us to talk about trading in an ageing piece of equipment, acquiring a new or used forklift, or to learn more about how our skilled technicians and fleet services department can help keep you operating at maximum cost-effectiveness and efficiency.

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