Is it Time to Replace Your Aging Forklift?

replacing an old forklift
October 12, 2018
Posted by: Justin Engel

Can’t decide if you should replace an aging forklift? Don’t worry – this isn’t always an easy decision to make. Purchasing a new forklift is a substantial investment and could have a significant impact on your operation and bottom-line. With so much potentially at stake, this is a decision that shouldn’t be made lightly or prematurely.

At the same time, if your forklift is clearly past its prime, replacing it will save you money and stress in the long term. In fact, according to Inbound Logistics, the actual purchase price of a forklift represents only 20% of the total cost of ownership; the other 80% is associated with maintenance and labor costs. This imbalance is caused by the fact that forklift maintenance costs increase exponentially as a forklift ages, which is one of the primary limitations on the economic lifespan of a forklift. Between escalating repair costs, safety concerns and increased downtime, replacing an aging forklift serves as an effective way to help your bottom-line and improve productivity while promoting safety in your workplace. With that in mind, let’s look at three unmistakable signs that it’s time to replace an aging forklift.


Rising Maintenance Costs

Unsurprisingly, the costs associated with maintaining a forklift tend to increase at an accelerating rate as it reaches the end of its economic life. Regardless of the brand or type, there’s a point where every forklift becomes more of a financial liability than a valuable tool as the costs associated with running it approach – and eventually surpass – the revenue its able to generate. Once this point is reach, it obviously makes little sense to delay replacing the forklift any longer than absolutely necessary.

Perhaps the biggest factor contributing to this gradual decline is the general wear and tear associated with an aging piece of equipment. A quick glance at the recommended service intervals for any forklifts shows that, as the forklift ages, the average cost of the components that need to be replaced increases significantly as a forklift passes the halfway point of its economic lifespan (beginning at about 5,000 hours for internal combustion engine forklifts and 7,000 hours for electric forklifts). At the same time, there’s also an increase in the frequency of smaller repairs as age-related deterioration leads to more frequent oil changes, belt replacements and more. Check out our blog post on the cost of forklift downtime for more information.


Malfunctions and Safety Concerns

An aging forklift can pose a number of safety issues regardless of the application or work environment. As noted above, breakdowns and damage tend to increase in frequency and severity as a forklift ages, including the components within the hydraulic system, mast, engine, transmission and brakes. Any issue with any of these systems could have disastrous results given the weight of the equipment and the loads that are moved around. As such, it’s imperative that a forklift be replaced before it becomes a serious safety hazard and causes damage to your property, products, or, most importantly, people.


Excessive Downtime

One of the most common objection our dealers encounter when they bring up the topic of replacing a well-aged forklift is that “when it’s running, our older unit performs just as well as many of our newer forklifts. Why should we bother to replace it?” Rather than replace such a forklift, these customers tend to keep their lift trucks for years longer than they should and make repairs as issues arise instead of paying the upfront costs associated with purchasing a new unit. While it’s entirely possible for a worn out forklift to perform admirably (especially considering its age and condition), those contributions will be offset if it’s constantly suffering from downtime as a result of break downs or at the shop for frequent repairs and maintenance to keep it in operating condition.


How to Avoid Early Replacements

While we recommend taking a proactive approach when it comes to replacing your lift trucks and material handling equipment, there are steps you can take to extend the lifespan of your equipment and avoid premature replacements.

  • Adopt a long-term approach with your equipment purchases – it can be difficult to spend more on your equipment needs and requirements when cheaper alternatives exist. Then again, you tend to get what you pay for as those cheaper alternatives are cheaper for a reason. In order to reduce costs, these brands tend to cut corners in the manufacturing process while reducing costs by using low quality parts and components. These cost-cutting measures result in equipment models that are less capable of withstanding the rigors of day-to-day operations, particularly whenever challenging environments or high intensity applications are involved. So, while a higher quality model may cost more in the near-term, you’ll ultimately save money with reduced maintenance costs, higher up-time and improved efficiency.
  • Make sure your equipment is appropriately serviced – proper, timely maintenance is one of the best ways to extend the economic lifespan of your equipment. Following your manufacturer’s recommended service intervals, particularly for replacing fluids and lubricants, can help you eliminate unnecessary wear to key components such as the engine and transmission. Meanwhile, utilizing a planned maintenance agreement will help spot, diagnose and address issues before they develop into major repairs and downtime.
  • Establish a comprehensive operator training program – most of the forklift-related accidents and incidents that occur every year in North America could have been avoided with proper operator training. Well-trained operators tend to treat equipment with respect and avoid behaviors that lead to premature wear and tear such as abrupt acceleration/deceleration, spinning the tires, sharp cornering and overloading the unit. What’s more, these operators tend to be more thorough with their pre-operation inspections or circle checks, which are key to spotting issues as the develop and help to remove malfunctioning equipment from operation.


Forklifts play an essential role in your operation’s productivity. Extending the lifespan of your equipment, and, replacing them at the appropriate time, is a great way to protect your bottom-line and the safety of your employees. For help deciding if it’s time to replace your aging forklifts, contact your local Stärke dealer today! Our dealers will conduct a comprehensive site survey and assess the condition of your forklifts to provide an equipment solution perfectly suited to your needs and application.


Justin Engel

Justin Engel is the marketing specialist at Stärke Material Handling Group. In addition to content development, he also handles graphic and website design, SEO, PR and strategic planning.


  • If it costs more to keep it running than it’s worth it’s time to upgrade haha

  • Jerrell Koewler

    I really appreciate this post. I have been looking everywhere for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thx again

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