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Types of Car Lifts Explained

Whether you’re a car enthusiast or a master mechanic, you know the importance of having a reliable lift. Car lifts allow you to safely and effectively raise a vehicle to an ideal working height. This provides easy access to the undercarriage for maintenance, repairs, and custom modifications. 

With various lift styles available on the market, it can take time to determine which one best suits your needs. The more you understand the different types of car lifts and their unique features, the easier it is to make an informed decision.

Different Types of Car Lifts

When you look at the overwhelming amount of lift models, it can take time to decide. The more you understand about each one, the easier that choice becomes.

2-Post Car Lifts


If service is the primary goal, a 2-post car lift is the clear choice. These lifts have a smaller footprint and feature two posts, one on each side of the vehicle.  A 2-Post will provide more access to the undercarriage than a 4-Post. The 2-post style is popular in many auto shops and garages when space is a premium. They have many advantages, such as:

  • Less floor space required

  • Ideal access to the undercarriage

  • Wheels free service

  • Symmetrical and asymmetrical styles

  • More affordable than 4-post models

Keep in mind, 2-post lifts are designed to lift a certain range of vehicles and it is important to make sure it will fit all of your needs.

4-Post Car Lifts


The 4-post car lift is one of the most versatile and popular options. These lift models have four posts at each corner of the lift. The posts provide stability and ensure even weight distribution. If you’re looking for something for long-term storage, for example, this style works well. Some of the advantages of 4-post lifts include:

  • Storing vehicles

  • Stable lifting platform

  • Accommodates a wide variety of vehicles

  • Faster procedure to get a vehicle in the air and service started

Because of the structure, they do require more floor space than some types of auto lifts, and they may not provide as much undercarriage access as other models.  This can be overcome by equipping your 4-Post with bridge jacks to provide wheels-free service.

Low/Mid-Rise Car Lifts

When you don’t need to raise a vehicle more than 2 ft. - 4 ft. low or mid-rise car lifts are an ideal solution. They provide easy access to brakes, tire services, and undercarriage inspections. Some of the advantages of a low/mid-rise car lift include:

  • Compact design for minimal floor space

  • Portable and easy to move around

  • Wheels free service

  • Cost-effective

Since the low/mid-rise lifts have limited lifting height, they may not work well when you need to do extensive undercarriage work or work with larger vehicles.

In-Ground Car Lifts

An in-ground car lift sits below the floor level so that only the lifting platform is visible when the lift isn’t in use. These are ideal when you want an unobstructed, clean workspace appearance. They have several advantages, such as:

  • Saves floor space

  • Wheels free service

  • High weight capacity

  • Customizable for unique needs

You’ll want to consider the extensive installation requirements before choosing an in-ground lift, though. You’ll need an experienced installer for these types of car lifts. If you are in an area with a high water table or poor soil conditions, it can jeopardize the structural integrity of the lift, making it a poor choice for those areas.

Mobile Column Car Lifts

A mobile column car lift has individual columns to lift by the wheels of the vehicle. Each column is calibrated to lift in unison with one another. When you’re looking for a versatile lift solution that you can customize to work with many different types of vehicles, this is an ideal choice. Some of the other benefits of these lifts are:

  • Easy to move and store when you aren’t using it

  • Ideal for larger vehicles

  • Battery operated models for cordless operation

  • Works well outdoors and in areas with space constraints

Just remember that you’ll have a few extra steps when you’re using this type of lift since you have to synchronize the columns for each use. The mobile column lifts are much more expensive than 2-Post and 4-Posts.

Scissor Car Lifts

A scissor car lift uses a scissor mechanism to raise and lower vehicles. The compact design and stability of these types of car lifts are some of the key selling points. That makes them ideal in areas with limited space, including small workshops and home garages. They have many benefits, including:

  • Highly stable scissor mechanism

  • Versatile mounting solutions, including surface and recessed options

  • Available with a range of lifting capacities

You might not get the same level of undercarriage access with a scissor lift as some of the other lift models, so consider the type of work you do before you make your choice.

Portable Car Lifts

If you’re looking for a temporary solution or working with limited space, you might want to consider a portable car lift. These lifts are lightweight and easy to move from one location to another as needed. In addition to portability, the portable models are more affordable than permanent lift installations and work well both indoors and out.

You might find that portable lifts have limited weight capacities, so keep that in mind when you make your selection. Not only that, but you also sacrifice some stability for the benefit of portability. Due to stability concerns, some portable lifts have limited lifting heights. Consider these factors as you compare portable models to other types of car lifts.

Benefits of Investing in New Car Lifts

Investing in a new lift provides many benefits for your workspace. For example, a new lift can improve the efficiency of your work. Reliable, modern lifts allow you to quickly and easily adjust the working height of a vehicle, reducing the time and effort required for maintenance and repairs.

New car lifts also enhance safety in the workplace. Older or poorly maintained lifts pose safety risks for both the operator and the vehicle. Many of the newer lift models include advanced safety features, such as automatic locks, redundant safety systems, and sturdy construction. This reduces the risk of accidents or injury.

New lifts also frequently come with warranties and support. This gives you peace of mind and protects your investment. If you experience any issues, you can reach out to the manufacturer to resolve the problem and minimize your downtime.

Certified Lifts

It is important to understand that the lift industry in the USA is a self-regulated industry. One can purchase a lift that is certified as well as non-certified. Non-certified lifts must be scrutinized very closely to determine their quality and overall value. Derek Weaver Company sells both lift types and is only engaged with quality manufacturers.

ALI Gold Label

In basic terms, a certified lift is one whose design has been tested and continuously inspected by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory, or NRTL, as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The gold label certification mark on your lift, whether it is a heavy duty in-ground model used to service a fleet of buses or a modest four-post product built for the “weekend wrencher,” means the lift meets a consensus standard for safety.  A certified lift may be an insurance requirement or building code requirement, it is worth investigating.

Things to Consider When Buying a Car Lift

When choosing a car lift, there are several factors to consider. One of the most important things to research is the manufacturer, their reputation, and the availability of parts in the future.  When you are working under a vehicle, you need the piece of mind that you purchased from a quality manufacturer that stands behind their product.

Another important consideration is the space you have to work with. Some lifts, such as two-post and four-post lifts, require more floor space than others. Measure your space so that you can narrow down the types of car lifts to models that fit well in your shop.

Think about the weight capacity and lift height that you need as well. You’ll find different capacities with different models, so consider the vehicles you’ll work on carefully as you narrow down the weight capacity that fits your needs. The lift height is a key factor as well, especially if you frequently do undercarriage work.

The types of vehicles you’ll lift also factor into the decision. Some of the lower or mid-rise lift models work best for vehicles with low ground clearance, such as sports cars. Mobile column lifts are a better choice for larger vehicles, such as trucks and buses.

Finally, you should consider the site preparation and installation process. In-ground lifts require excavation and site preparation, which can add to the costs and the installation time. Think about what your schedule allows as you choose the new lift for your workspace.

Features to Look for in Car Lifts

When you shop for a new car lift, consider the safety features incorporated in the newer models. Automatic locks and redundant safety systems help to keep everyone safer on the job. 

You should also look for intuitive and easily accessible controls so that your lifts are easy to use. Consider the environment where the lift will go as you assess the accessibility of the controls since a control panel in the back corner of the garage is harder to access than something on the side or near the front.

Choose a model from a trusted manufacturer to ensure a durable, reliable lift. Remember that your car lifts are an investment in your shop. Choose models that will fit the space you work in and last for many years. 

The Variety in Types of Car Lifts

Understanding the different car lift styles, including the difference between a 2-post and 4-post lift, is the first step toward getting the lift that works best for your situation. Consider not only your specific needs but also the space you’re working with as you select the model that’s right for your situation.

Investing in the right car lift will not only help you work more efficiently, but it can also ensure the safety of your shop, reducing the risk of accidents, injuries, or property damage. At Derek Weaver, we understand the trust you place in your equipment and offer many types of car lifts to meet your needs.


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