Whether you are saving money or just like working on your vehicles, having a car lift for your garage greatly expands your capabilities. However, knowing the type of lift you need can be challenging, so it helps to familiarize yourself with the best car lifts for home garages that are out there.
The 7 best car lifts for home garages are:
- Triumph NSS-8SQ
- QuickJack BL-5000SLX Portable Car Lift
- APlus HW-10KOH Two Post Overhead Auto Hoist
- Triumph NT9FP Two Post Auto Lift
- BendPak MD-6XP Mid-Rise Scissor Lift
- Stark Auto Ramp Low Rise Car Lift
- BendPak XPR-10AXLS Extra Tall Two Post Car Lift
There is no doubt about it: If you can do your own auto-work, even just a little bit of it, you can save a lot of money. Even an oil change will run you $30 to $100 a pop, depending on where you live. The following are the best garage auto lifts, whether you dabble or are a serious home mechanic.
Different Types Of Car Lifts
A car lift can help you work underneath your vehicle much easier than crawling around on your garage floor and absorbing all the cold and damp that goes with that in the winter months. A lift can also help you avoid the dirt and grime that gets ground into your clothes because you were laying in it.
What you might not be willing to shell out is the price of a garage auto lift, which can run you in the thousand of dollars. Even the less expensive lifts cost over $1,000. If you are insisting on the best of whatever lift you need, expect to pay a few thousand at least.
That makes understanding the different types of car lifts and what type you need critical so that you do not spend for a lift that can do stuff you will never ask it to do. The following are the several types of car lift and what their primary function is beyond lifting cars and trucks.
Four Post Lift
A four post lift is the most versatile garage lift and is used by amateur and professional mechanics alike. It can handle both light and heavier vehicles. Most lifts come with weight limits that serve to protect you and the vehicle from damage if you were to exceed the limit.
The four post lift makes a rectangle using each post. It allows you to stand underneath it and work and is the most stable of all the different lifts on the market. The pillars support a platform that elevates and lifts the vehicle to various heights. Four post lifts have very wide bases, which provide stability when the vehicle is off the ground.
Most four post lifts have several safety features. At a minimum, the lift will have a locking system to prevent moving the vehicle before it is ready. On many, you can set the height you want the lift to take the vehicle. That feature helps avoid unwanted falls that can cause you, the vehicle, and your garage serious harm.
Four post lifts are great for working underneath the vehicle on projects that pertain to the exhaust, transmission, axle, etc. It is not a financially sensible investment for someone that is only going to change their oil filter or rotate their tires occasionally.
Two Post Lift
Like the four post lift, the two post lift’s name is an accurate descriptor. Two post lifts are most often used in auto sports, where space is at a premium. It is optimal for use with minivans, minitrucks and smaller cars.
This lift is composed of two lifts and two arms. The arms extend underneath the vehicle and lift it. It can lift high enough to work under the vehicle. There are two types of two post lifts:
Asymmetrical lifts bring the vehicle to the center of the column, which allows for work on the interior underbelly. The arms on an asymmetrical lift are varying lengths and the columns align to the center of gravity of the vehicle. This equalizes the load and ensures that the vehicle does not become imbalanced.
With a symmetrical lift, the arms are similar length, and the columns face each other. The vehicle’s weight and balance are equalized on the columns, which helps maintain the vehicle’s center of gravity.
Two post lifts are ideal if you have a larger garage, but not one large enough to accommodate a four post lift. You cannot do all the things you can do with a four post lift with a two post lift. You are not, however, as restricted in your access if you are working on the chassis.
These are ideal for small workspaces. A scissor lift has two platforms that are superimposed on each other and have retractable levers between the platforms that extend in a zigzag manner. The name is derived from the zigzag of the lift mechanisms. There are two types of scissor lifts: Portable and fixed.
Portable scissors lifts are mobile and have wheels for positioning. A hydraulic mechanism at the base of the platforms lifts the vehicle. Portable scissor lifts are recommended to only be used with smaller vehicles.
With fixed scissors lifts, the entire mechanism is attached to the base of the building it is in. A hydraulic mechanism is controlled under the garage base and is electronically managed. This type of lift is sturdier than a portable scissor lift and can accommodate larger, heavier vehicles.
The platform the vehicle rests on also varies. Some only interact with the center part of the vehicle between the wheels. Others handle the entire vehicle including the wheels. The key difference between the two is relative stability.
A portable car lift is the optimal design for remote work. If you have several vehicles you work on at once, it can be very useful. Its practicality in most home garages, however, is limited.
The lifting mechanism is hydraulic and can be hand operated or activated electronically. Each manufacturer may have a different type of platform. The three most common are:
- Long wheelbase lifts for vehicles with large or long chassis
- Short wheelbase lifts for vehicles with normal and shorter chassis
- Adjustable wheelbase lifts for vehicles of different sizes
The platforms range from single, which is wide and can support the base of the vehicle entirely, to double-sided, which have platform slabs on each side of the vehicle. A pneumatic pump equalizes pressure on both sides of the vehicle to lift it, thus maintaining balance.
These are fairly rare for home garages but are still an option. In-ground lifts are exactly like they sound. They are great for utilizing as little space as possible while gaining access to the entire undercarriage of the vehicle. They also tend to be the most expensive vehicular lifts.
With an in-ground lift, the entire lift mechanism is underground. A vehicle drives up on the lifting arms above the lifting elevator and the elevator is activated by hand. The vehicle is lifted evenly as the lifting mechanism extends from the floor. When not in use, the entire lift is flush with the floor and so the space can be used for other things.
The lifting mechanism can be single or double pillars. Often, with double pillars, a horizontal rail connects the two platforms. Other in-ground lifts have an X-configuration connecting the pillars, which provides more working space. This type of lift is ideal for tuning a vehicle and making simple repairs or equipment replacement.
Mobile Column Lifts
Mobile column lifts comprise four or six columns that are individually adjustable. The columns are connected to points of attachment that fit into the wheels. Each column is lifted to the proper height, depending on what work is being done on the vehicle.
This type of lift is ideal for working on larger vehicles, such as a truck or bus. It can also be used to work on odd length chassis, such as used on tractors or forklifts, because the columns are movable. The mobile column lift is good if you have limited space because you can store the columns in a separate location and only take them out when you need to use them.
Parking lifts are another very mobile form of lift. They can be used in any space that your vehicle can fit. An attribute of parking lifts is that they have a vertical parking pattern, which means you can use them for storage of more than one vehicle.
The vertical parking pattern also allows for both the creation of an additional parking bay and for repair work to be done on a vehicle’s undercarriage. It is also ideal for conducting inspections as a person can move freely under the lift.
Home Garage Lift Type Summary
You need to pay attention to the following when trying to figure out what type of lift works for you:
- Available height
- Vehicle weight
- Storage space
- Working space
If you have the right space for the lift, any of these lifts can allow you to work freely on your vehicle without worrying about reaching certain areas or the safety of the lift.
How To Choose The Right Car Lift For A Home Garage
Most Common Lifts
The most common lifts purchased by home mechanics are the four-post lift, two-post lift, scissors lift, and mobile columns lift. These are the most common because of:
- The space that home mechanics need to work
- The space needed to store the lifts
- Price points
Do You Need One?
Everyone that works on their own or others’ vehicles wants a lift. It is a cool piece of equipment that lets a person complete work that is not possible or very difficult without the lift. The key in that sentence is “very difficult.” Is the reason you are getting a lift because you need it or because you want to get one?
If you can afford it, then it does not matter, but if you are budget conscious, making sure you need the lift is a wise idea. If, for example, you only would use the lift to change your fluids a few times a year, you may want to rethink getting a lift. If you do a lot of exhaust and chassis work, you probably could use a lift.
The need versus want debate is important because you do not want to get a lift and then decide you do not want it. Like most things, used auto equipment depreciates in value over time. You may be able to sell a lift at close to what you paid for it, but chances are you will be taking significantly less money than you put out to get it new.
New Or Used?
A new lift will hopefully come without any issues (or at least no wear and tear issues). It will also cost significantly more than if you buy a used lift. Before you buy it though, keep in mind that it will instantly depreciate, and the depreciation will be significant as soon as you use it. This is for the same reason a vehicle depreciates once you leave the dealership.
The next buyer or the dealer you purchased it from has no idea how you used the lift. You may have exceeded its manufacturer’s recommended weight. Maybe you had an unbalanced load and it tipped over with the vehicle. Perhaps you did not set it up properly. The dealer does not know and because of that, the price drops.
A used lift turns the table on that argument. You are now the person that does not know how the owner of the lift used or misused it. For all you know, they routinely exceeded weight recommendations. Perhaps they never maintained it. Maybe they often had an unbalance load and having it collapse or tip over was a routine occurrence.
If you decide to buy used, realize you might be paying for a unit with a bunch of issues. Get any records for maintenance or repair that you can. Compare the asking price for the used unit to a new one. If the price is similar, be prepared to negotiate with the current owner.
Another aspect of buying a lift you must consider is whether you can safely operate it. The space you have versus the space you need factors into this consideration. So does whether you can operate the lift without risking you, your vehicle, anyone around the lift or any equipment that will be near it, should it experience a catastrophic failure.
Additionally, you need to consider whether you can safely work under the lift in an environment that will prevent those types of failures from happening.
If your garage or workspace, for example, is not even or on solid ground, you may want to reconsider what type of lift you will buy. If you do not have the roof space, you may want to look at another model of lift. If your vehicle exceeds the recommended weight threshold, you may want to look at a larger or more robust garage lift.
What To Think About Safety-Wise
There are many distinct aspects of safety both for you and those around you and for your vehicle. You are purchasing the lift to help you store or work on your vehicle. You do not want to buy a lift and have that be the reason you damage your vehicle.
If you have any safety concerns, look at a different lift or at least ask questions of the dealer or person selling it until you are satisfied you have the answers you need. If necessary, contact the manufacturer and tell them about your concerns.
Facility Capacity And Thresholds
Some home garage lifts are compact and can work in just about any size of space. Others are bulky, unwieldy, and need a lot of space to operate properly and safely. A lift that is in a cramped space or that limits your ability to work is not only unsafe, but it will also make working on your vehicle more difficult.
Map out how much space you need for the lift you want. Tape off a section of your garage or shop where the lift will go to get a sense of how big its footprint is. Try working around that space for a while to make sure you can work in the space you have left.
If you find that your space is too small for what you want, look at a smaller model or go with another type of lift. Most lifts have an equivalent product that does the same thing but on a smaller scale. Make sure that the lift you buy matches the space you have available and leaves you with the space you need to work comfortably and safely.
Local Rules And Laws
This only applies for lifts that are major pieces of equipment. Make sure that the lift you choose adheres to any rules or laws that apply to your workspace. Some Homeowner Associations, for example, have limits on what can be installed in a garage. Other municipalities have zoning and permit processes you may need to satisfy.
The 7 Best Car Lifts For Home Garages
1. Triumph NSS-8SQ
Type: 4-post | Max Weight: 8,000 lbs / 3,600 kg | Lift Height: 72 inches / 1.8 meters
The Triumph NSS-8SQ is ideal for the home garage mechanic. It is easy to use, is very secure and can be used to either store a vehicle or work on one. It is a four post garage lift with an 8,000 pound/3,600 kg weight capacity, so it can handle just about any residential vehicle out there.
Its lift height is 72 inches (1.8 meters), which means it does not take up much room and you can safely park most vehicles under it if you are using it for vehicle storage. It’s 141 inches in length (or 3.6 meters), and the overall width is 106 inches/2.7 meters.
In addition, the NSS-8 has casters to make the lift easily mobile, ideal for those that want to be able to move it around their workspace. It comes with drip trays to catch anything that drips off a hoisted vehicle and there is a jack tray to allow you to lift just one end of a vehicle if you need to.
- A mobile option
- Can hold a stored vehicle and have one park beneath it
- Lacks some of the features of more expensive lifts
2. QuickJack BL-500SLX Portable Car Lift
Type: Portable | Max Weight: 5,000 lbs / 2,250 kg | Lift Height: 17.5 inches / 0.45 meters
The BL-500SLX is a highly mobile, highly reliable portable lift. Take the lift with you or keep it in your garage, it will provide dependable service whenever you are working on your vehicle. The unit only weighs 215 pounds but has a lift capacity of 5,000 pounds (2,250 kg). Its lifting height is 17.5 inches (0.45 m), but it provides ample room underneath for working on your vehicle.
In addition, the BL-500SLX has a 3-inch collapsed height for storage in a closet or the trunk of your vehicle. It elevates via a portable power unit that runs a hydraulic pump. That means no air is required and all you need to elevate is a working outlet. For lowering, there is an “air spring” that governs speed. The unit also has remote control via a 13 foot cable.
For safety, the unit has 8 adjustable and stackable rubber lift blocks. These can be placed strategically to ensure vehicle stability and safety.
- Very affordable
- Very small – will even work under racecars
- Easy to use
- Fittings may be under-threaded leading to leakage
3. APlus HW-10KOH Two Post Overhead Auto Hoist
Type: 2-post | Max Weight: 10,000 lbs / 4,500 kg | Lift Height: 81 inches / 2 meters
This car lift is made for heavier vehicles. The APlus HW-10KOH Two Post Overhead Auto Hoist can handle your SUV or large truck as it has a 10,000 pound/4,500 kg lift capacity. It also has both a symmetrical and asymmetrical arm assembly, which lets you work on an array of vehicles. The lift height is 6’9”/2 meters at the maximum when using truck adapters.
The structure on this hoist is robot welded Q355 steel, known for its strength. It has a CE certified lift structure and hydraulic system. Additionally, the drive-through width clearance is 100 inches while the overall height and width are 144 and 135 inches respectively. The lift is powered by a 220V 3 HP motor, and the lift must be set on concrete rated for 3,500 PSI and anchored.
There are a few restrictions on the unit, with the main one being that a forklift is required to lift it. Delivery is on paved road only and it will not be dropped off inside a building or backyard.
- This will lift any non-commercial vehicle
- It is easy to use
- Heavy duty construction
- Assembly instructions are complex
4. Triumph NT9FP Two Post Auto Lift
Type: 2-post | Max Weight: 9,000 lbs / 4,000 kg | Lift Height: 72 inches / 1.8 meters
The NT9FP is the two post version of the four post NSS-8SQ. With two and three stage lifting arms and both symmetrical and asymmetrical lifts, this lift can do just about anything you ask it to do. The 72 inches/1.8 meters of clearance space underneath means you can work in comfort. The lift also has different latch positions that let you raise or lower your vehicle as you need to do so.
The overall height is 72 inches, but it lowers to 4.5 inches (11 cm). The drive-through width is 106 inches/2.69 meters, and the lift comes with truck adapters and floor anchors. Its advertised lifting capacity is 9,000 pounds, or 4,000 kg.
- Rated to 9,000 pounds
- Easy to set up and use
- High clearance
5. BendPak MD-6XP Mid-Rise Scissor Lift
Type: Scissor | Max Weight: 6,000 lbs / 2,700 kg | Lift Height: 48 inches / 1.2 meters
For a portable scissor lift, the BendPak MD-6XP is hard to beat. It has a 6,000 pound/2,700 kg lift capacity, which means it can handle most trucks and just about every car. Vehicles can be lifted to 48 inches, or 1.2 meters, and while storage space is limited, you can still get access to the chassis. It weighs 960 pounds (435 kg), so “portable” requires a full scale tow.
The unit has a multiple-position safety lock bar, and the arm assemblies are adjustable. It is an excellent lift for a garage or shop with limited work area. Structurally, the lift has four support bars and works on a hydraulic pump with flow divider to ensure an even rise and positioning. This lift is ideal for working on tires, wheels and brakes.
- Highly versatile
- Takes up very little space
- Limited access underneath the vehicle
6. Stark Auto Ramp Low Rise Car Lift
Type: Portable | Max Weight: 4,400 lbs / 1,995 kg | Lift Height: 15 inches / 0.38 meters
This portable lift is ideal for those that prioritize storage and portability. While it offers a relatively lower max weight capacity of 4,400 lbs/1,995 kg, this lift can still raise your vehicle by up to 15 inches, or just under 40 cm. It’s made of durable materials, and is therefore a good balance between cost, portability and functionality.
It’s 44.9 inches/1.14 meters long, which makes it ideal for low sports cars that may bottom out on other portable lifts. While it can’t handle the weight of the two and four post options, it’s a handy lift for those that just need some versatility in their home garage.
- Highly portable
- Long so ideal for low cars
- Limited access underneath your vehicle
- Lower max weight capacity than other options
7. BendPak XPR-10AXLS Extra Tall Two Post Car Lift
Type: 2-post | Max Weight: 10,000 lbs / 4,500 kg | Lift Height: 75 inches / 1.9 meters
The XPR-10AXLS has a 10,000 pound weight lift capacity, meaning it’s able to lift just about every noncommercial truck and many commercial vehicles. It has a higher lifting clearance at 75 inches than most other lifts in its class. The lifting mechanism is run by direct drive cylinders rather than chains.
This lift is ideal if you have a larger truck or SUV you need to work on. It is also ideal if you are tall and need extra headroom for working underneath. You cannot park a vehicle underneath another vehicle that is on this lift as it is a two-post lift.
- Very tall
- Durable lifting mechanism
- Large weight capacity
- Two posted so its applications are somewhat limited
- Quite expensive
How High Does A Garage Need To Be For A Car Lift?
How high your garage needs to be for a car lift depends largely on the type of car lift you buy and the type of vehicle you’re storing or working on. If you have very tall vehicles, your garage will need to be tall as well, and the same applies if you buy a 4-post lift versus an in-ground lift.
A rule of thumb is that your ceiling immediately above the lift needs to be about 12 feet high. This gives you enough space to work on most vehicles and accommodate your height.
Doing your own auto work saves money. Having the best home garage lift available also saves time, frustration, and backaches. The key is finding the garage lift that will do what you want it to do. Whether you are an accomplished mechanic or dabble to save money, any lifts on this list are a superb choice.