The dimensions of a forklift can vary widely depending on the equipment’s make and model. Typical measurements for a standard warehouse forklift, with a weight capacity of 5,000 pounds, are about five feet wide, seven feet tall, and 10 feet long (with standard forks).
However, these aren’t the only important dimensions to know when choosing a forklift size. Here’s what you need to know to make sure you get the right equipment for the job.
3 Key Considerations When Choosing a Forklift Size
When choosing a forklift size, there are three main considerations to take into account — capacity, dimensions, and maneuverability.
A forklift’s capacity determines the maximum load weight it can carry. Depending on the make and model, forklifts can lift loads anywhere between 3,000 to 100,000 pounds, and sometimes even more. Larger forklifts typically have higher capacities. To find a forklift’s capacity, check the vehicle’s data plate.
Keep in mind that load capacity is affected by more than just weight. The load’s shape and placement on the lift will also affect the forklift’s maximum carrying capacity. Forklifts can also have different capacity ratings for different fork heights.
When choosing a forklift size, consider your heaviest loads, not just your average loads. It’s better to have more lifting power than necessary versus not enough.
Along with weight capacity, it’s important to consider a forklift’s dimensions. This helps ensure that the forklift will fit in your warehouse or project site and have the necessary reach when transporting loads.
When choosing a forklift, keep in mind the overall length, width, and height as a preliminary size test. Then, look into other forklift mast dimensions that will affect day-to-day functioning, such as:
- Overall Lowered Height: This is the height of the forklift with the forks lowered. Knowing this number is important for driving around the warehouse, stowing lifts, or driving onto trailers. Sometimes ceiling fixtures like lights or sprinklers can be lower than you think.
- Overall Raised Height: This is the measurement from the floor to the top of the mast when it’s fully extended. Again, this measurement is important to know to avoid crashing into ceiling fixtures.
- Free Fork Height: This is the distance between the floor and the forks at their top height before the mast starts to extend. This measurement is important to know when space is limited, like when transporting pallets from the ground when there is overhead storage.
- Maximum Fork Height: This is the measurement from the floor to the forks at their highest position. Knowing this distance is important to make sure the forklift has the necessary reach to lift loads stored on higher racks. Remember, this distance needs to be at least eight inches higher than your highest load to account for lifting space.
When choosing a forklift, it’s also important to consider the vehicle’s maneuverability. Some forklifts have tighter turning radiuses which can be helpful if your warehouse has narrow aisles. Other forklifts may have a wider turn radius, making day-to-day operations a headache if you don’t have the necessary space.
You can usually find a forklift’s turning radius in the manufacturer’s specifications sheet. Or, use our recommended aisle widths as a rule of thumb.
Forklift Dimensions by Type
Different kinds of forklifts will have greatly different dimensions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) classifies forklifts into seven different categories based on their functions and power source. Let’s take a look at some of the standard forklift dimensions that operators may find in each class.
Class I: Electric Motor Rider Lifts
These forklifts are typically standard warehouse models. Because Class I forklifts are electric, they make excellent options for indoor use. These forklifts can have either pneumatic or cushion tires, although cushion tires are typically better for indoor use because of their tighter turn radiuses for better maneuvering.
Here are a few dimensions you may find on a Class I standard warehouse forklift*:
- Height (Mast Lowered): 85-90 inches
- Maximum Lift Height: 125-130 inches
- Width: 40-45 inches
- Length (Standard Forks): 120-125 inches
- Weight Capacity: 3,000-6,500 lbs.
- Turning Radius: 60-80 inches
- Used For: Indoor warehouses and facilities
Class II: Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Lifts
Looking for the benefits of Class I forklifts for even narrower aisles (less than 10 feet)? Class II forklifts could be the right fit. These options feature special accommodations for narrow aisles, such as side loaders. Some Class II machines could also be low-lift pallet jacks.
Here are a few dimensions you may find on a Class II narrow aisle forklift*:
- Height (Mast Lowered): 90-95 inches
- Maximum Lift Height: 200-210 inches
- Width: 40-45 inches
- Length (Standard Forks): 95-100 inches
- Weight Capacity: 3,000-4,500 lbs.
- Turning Radius: 70-75 inches
- Used For: Indoor facilities with aisle widths less than 10 feet
Class III: Electric Motor Hand Lifts
Some lifting machines don’t require a riding operator. Instead, operators can maneuver the machine by hand. These types of lifts fall into Class III of OSHA’s classification system. Some lifts you may see in this category are low-lift walkie pallets or high-lift counterbalanced machines.
Here are a few standard dimensions you may find on a Class III walkie pallet jack*.
- Height (Extended Handle): 45-50 inches
- Width: 25-30 inches
- Length: 50-80 inches
- Weight Capacity: 4,000-5,000 lbs.
- Turning Radius: 45-55 inches
- Used For: Retail, warehouses and docks
Class IV: Internal Combustion Engine Lifts (Solid/Cushion Tires)
Class IV lifts feature cushion tires, which makes them ideal for indoor settings or relatively smooth ground like that found at loading docks or railways. These lifts can vary greatly in size, weight capacity, and features — anything from standard warehouse forklifts to heavy duty forklifts can fit into this category.
For standard warehouse forklifts, see the dimensions listed in our previous section about Class I lifts. Below are some dimensions you may see in a Class IV heavy-duty forklift*:
- Height (Mast Lowered): 110-115 inches
- Maximum Lift Height: 100-105 inches
- Width: 65-70 inches
- Length (Standard Forks): 200-215 inches
- Weight Capacity: 50,000-100,000 lbs.
- Turning Radius: 135-145 inches
- Used For: Indoor warehouses, loading docks and railways
Class V: Internal Combustion Engine Lifts (Pneumatic Tires)
Pneumatic tires differentiate Class V lifts from the cushion tires found in Class IV lifts. Pneumatic tires are less maneuverable but are better suited for outdoor applications. This means if your project requires traversing muddy terrain like that found in a lumber yard, a Class V forklift may be the way to go.
Like Class IV forklifts, Class V forklifts can vary greatly in size, features, and weight capacity. You can find standard warehouse forklifts, telehandlers or heavy-duty forklifts to name a few examples.
To see the dimensions for a standard warehouse forklift, view our previous section on Class I forklifts. To see the dimensions for a heavy-duty forklift, see the previous section on Class IV lifts. Below are some dimensions you may see in a Class V telehandler forklift*:
- Height (Mast Lowered): 80-100 inches
- Maximum Lift Height: 225-525 inches
- Width: 70-100 inches
- Length (Standard Forks): 185-285 inches
- Weight Capacity: 50,000-100,000 lbs.
- Turning Radius: 130-220 inches
- Used For: Outdoor applications like lumber yards
Class VI: Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Forklifts
Sometimes called “tuggers,” you will most often use Class VI forklifts for pushing or pulling loads than actually lifting. These machines can have electric or internal combustion engines, and they are often seen at airport tarmacs pulling luggage carts.
Below are some dimensions you may see in a Class VI towing forklift*:
- Height: 50-55 inches
- Width: 30-40 inches
- Length: 60-75 inches
- Weight Capacity: 8,800-13,200 lbs.
- Turning Radius: 45-70 inches
- Used For: Towing loads, like luggage at an airport
Class VII: Rough Terrain Lifts
Rough terrain forklifts are made to handle uneven, difficult terrain. They can feature an array of features, from a vertical mast to a telescopic boom. They typically have an internal combustion engine and are used in applications like logging yards.
While Class VII forklifts are made to handle rugged terrain, it doesn’t mean that all machines can handle all terrains. Check the manufacturer details before using these machines on difficult terrain.
Here are some dimensions you may see in a Class VII rough terrain forklift*:
- Height (Mast Lowered): 90-100 inches
- Maximum Lift Height: 170-180 inches
- Width: 85-90 inches
- Length (Standard Forks): 180-185 inches
- Weight Capacity: 6,000-8,000 lbs.
- Turning Radius: 150-180 inches
- Used For: Uneven terrains, like in logging yards
Recommended Forklift Aisle Widths
Still not sure what type of forklift your project needs? Since aisle widths at your warehouse or project site are likely fixed, it may help to start there. While the necessary aisle widths for forklifts will vary depending on the equipment you use and load sizes, the following chart can be a helpful starting point.
|Choosing a Forklift|
|Type||Recommended Aisle Size|
|Sit Down (Counterbalanced)||10-12 feet|
|Stand-Up (Single Reach)||8-9 feet|
|Stand-Up (Deep Reach)||9-10 feet|
|Turret Truck||4-6 feet|
|Narrow Aisle||4-5 feet|
If you need a more precise measurement, you can calculate the minimum aisle width requirement for a forklift using the following steps:
- Take the right angle stacking width
- Add the load length
- Add 12 inches of clearance
The right angle stacking width is the minimum space a forklift requires to make a 90-degree turn. If you aren’t sure what this number is for your forklift, check the manufacturer’s specifications sheet.
Load lengths will vary, but a standard pallet is about 48 inches long. Always be sure to check the forklift’s rated capacity at different load centers.
Adding one foot of clearance helps accommodate the turn radius differences between different forklift models. Factoring in the room for error is always a good practice for forklift safety.
FAQ About Forklift Dimensions
Have other questions about forklift dimensions? Here are answers to some commonly asked questions.
How Wide Is a Forklift?
The width of a forklift will vary depending on the make and model. A standard warehouse forklift is about 41-45 inches wide, which is just under five feet. However, some larger, more rugged forklifts can reach widths of around 100 inches, which is just under eight-and-a-half feet.
How Tall Is a Forklift?
Forklift heights can span anywhere between four feet to 40 feet or more. A standard warehouse forklift is about 85-90 inches tall with the mast lowered — about seven to seven-and-a-half feet. However, with the masts extended to the full height, the forklift can reach about 165-175 inches, which is about 13.5-14.5 feet.
Forklifts at the larger end of the spectrum can be around 100 inches (8.3 feet) tall with the mast lowered. With the mast extended to the full height, their height may reach up to around 525 inches — about 43 feet.
How Long Is a Forklift?
Forklift lengths can vary greatly. A standard warehouse forklift length is about 120-125 inches (about 10-10.5 feet). However, some forklifts can be up to about 285 inches, which is over 23 feet long.
How Heavy Are Forklifts?
The average weight of a forklift is about 9,000 pounds. This number can fluctuate widely depending on the forklift’s brand and model, from about 3,000 – 20,000 pounds.
What Is a Load Center?
The load center is the distance between the fork’s face and the load’s center of gravity. One of the most common load centers seen in forklifts is 24 inches. This is to accommodate standard 48×48-inch pallets, where the center of gravity is 24 inches in from either side of the pallet.
Understanding the load’s center of gravity can help forklift operators safely transport materials and avoid forklift accidents. Incorrectly placing the load can lead to loads falling or even the forklift tipping over.
How Much Can a Forklift Lift?
Forklift capacities vary widely, from 3,000 pounds up to 100,000+ pounds. To check a forklift’s maximum weight capacity, check its data plate or the manufacturer’s specifications sheet.
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*All dimensions listed are estimations. Actual dimensions vary depending on the equipment’s make and model.