Some people have a simple driver-vehicle relationship with their cars. There’s nothing wrong with that, but for other people it goes way deeper. A car is a source of conveyance, a home away from home, even a friend. A car’s owner can be its driver, mechanic, doctor and caretaker.
Those of us who have that kind of relationship love working on our cars — whether it means popping the hood or getting under the chassis. The former is a lot easier and safer than the latter, though. When we’re lifting up our cars to take a peek at what’s underneath, we can’t afford any accidents or equipment malfunctions.
Thankfully, the right home car lift is a lot more stable and secure than old jacks. It also gives you a better vantage point when working on your car, allows you more storage room in your garage, and even takes pressure off the tires during long-term storage. But what should you look for in a home auto lift? How do you know when you’ve found the right one?
Here are some of the best car lifts available for home garages, based on expert opinions and customer satisfaction. And make sure to read on afterwards for pro tips on picking the right auto lift and proper installation.
When it comes to a residential garage car lift that’s easy to use and works well whether you’re storing your car or working on it, it’s hard to beat the Triumph NSS-8. This four-post garage lift has an 8,000-pound weight capacity, plus it has a lift height of 72 inches, meaning that you can safely and easily park a standard-sized car under your lifted vehicle.
The Triumph NSS-8 comes with accessories that make using it more convenient. For instance, it has a set of casters so it can be wheeled around a garage, as well as drip trays that prevent any fluid from running off a lifted vehicle onto whatever is stored underneath. Finally, there’s a jack tray that allows for a jack to lift one end of a vehicle.
The Triumph NSS-8 is currently one of the top 10 best-selling vehicle lifts on Amazon, with an average rating of 4.6 stars out of 5. Satisfied customers have cited the reliability of the product and the ease of installation as selling points.
Just because you like working on your car in your garage doesn’t mean that’s the only place you ever want to be able to do it. Maybe you want to get a friend’s opinion, so it would be handy to be able to lift up your car at their place.
For situations like that, the QuickJack BL-5000SLX is an elegant solution. A true portable car lift, the BL-5000SLX weighs 215 pounds, but can lift up to 5,000. The lifting height of 17.5 inches is lower than that of the other models on this list, but provides easy access from a horizontal position.
The low price of the BL-5000SLX portable lift also makes it the best value when it comes to home garage car lifts. At $1,050, it’s the least expensive model on the list, but if you don’t need a high clearance and you want to be able to more easily take your automotive lift with you, it could be the very best choice for you. And if you need a lift with a little more muscle, QuickJack also makes the BL-7000SLX, with a 7,000-pound capacity.
If you drive a regular sedan, odds are that you don’t need to worry too much about the weight capacity of your car lift. If you drive a large truck or SUV, though, you’ll have to start considering the weight of your vehicle against the capacity of the auto lift — putting a car on a lift that’s not strong enough to support it really isn’t a good idea.
APlusLift’s HW-10KOH two-post lift is a great choice if you have a heavy vehicle, since it has a maximum weight capacity of 10,000 pounds. You’ll be able to lift your typical Chevy Silverado, Ford F-series pickup trucks and large SUVs.
At an affordable price ($1,945), it’s little wonder that this model is Amazon’s best-selling car lift. Satisfied customers report consistent ease of use and the support of a dedicated customer service team.
Like the best four-post lift, the best two-post lift is also a Triumph model from National Auto Tools. In this case, it’s the Triumph NT-9FP, which has two-stage and three-stage lifting arms that work in both symmetrical lift and asymmetrical lift capacities, depending upon your car-repair needs and preferences.
The Triumph NT-9FP vehicle lift can give up to 72 inches of clearance underneath your vehicle, but if your garage won’t accommodate that height, it’s not a problem. There are different latch positions that will allow you to raise your vehicle to different levels, providing a customizable experience as you work on your car.
Just like the NSS-8, the Triumph NT-9FP is a top seller on Amazon with an average rating of 4.6 stars out of 5. The most frequently cited pluses from satisfied customers include the reliability of the product and the fairness of the price.
Like the name suggests, scissor lifts raise vehicles by opening up in a scissor configuration. This gives you some access to a vehicle’s chassis (the amount varies based on the specific lift), but also limits storage space underneath. For instance, simply due to the shape, you can never park another vehicle under a raised scissor lift.
That said, scissor lifts are still reliable and can be great choices depending on your needs. The BendPak MD-6XP is one of the best on the market, with a 6,000-pound weight capacity that can lift most cars and light trucks. Vehicles can be lifted to a height of 48 inches, so there will still be room to get underneath in a reclining position.
Technically, this Bendpak lift is portable, but since it weighs 960 pounds, don’t expect to have a couple of buddies help you throw it in the trunk. You’ll need to tow it if you want to get it from point A to point B. On the plus side, though, that means traditional installation isn’t a concern.
The BendPak XPR-10AXLS is a two-post lift with a 10,000-pound weight capacity and a higher lifting clearance than many of its competitors. Specifically, the XPR-10AXLS can hoist a car 75 inches off the ground, which means that taller mechanics (either the professional or the at-home kind) can work on their cars comfortably.
The XPR-10AXLS Bendpak lift also has a more sophisticated lifting mechanism than many other models available. It uses direct-drive cylinders rather than lifting chains and screws, which BendPak touts as providing a smoother and more reliable lift while minimizing the chances of hydraulic cylinder fluid leakage.
An important note: While this lift does have the highest clearance, it’s still a two-post lift, and for safety reasons, cars should not be parked under two-post lifts while they’re lifting other vehicles.
Comparison of the best car lifts for home garages
|Brand||Model||Lift Type||Max Capacity||Price|
|Best car lift overall/Best four-post car lift||Triumph||NSS-8||Four-post||8,000 pounds||$2,395|
|Best car lift for the money/Best portable car lift||QuickJack||BL-5000SLX||Portable||5,000 pounds||$1,150|
|Best heavy-duty car lift||APlusLift||HW-10KOH||Two-post||10,000 pounds||$1,959|
|Best two-post car lift||Triumph||NT-9FP||Two-post||9,000 pounds||$1,845|
|Best scissor car lift||BendPak||MD-6XP||Scissor||6,000 pounds||$2,445|
|Highest car lift||BendPak||XPR-10AXLS||Two-post||10,000 pounds||$4,425|
How to pick the right car lift for your home garage
While there are many different types of automotive lifts, three of the most common are four-post lifts, two-post lifts, and scissor lifts. These names refer to the shape of the lifts, with each one conferring specific characteristics that may or may not make it the right choice for you.
All three types of car lifts feature either a flat metal plane or arms onto which you drive and then park your vehicle before it’s lifted. In a four-post lift, four hydraulic posts located at the corners of the planes lift your vehicle up. In a two-post lift, the hydraulic posts are located on either side of the plane or arms. Finally, in a scissor lift, the lifting apparatus is made of crossed bars underneath the planes.
Again, each lift style has its pluses and minuses. Scissor lifts tend to take up the least amount of space, but since the lifting mechanism is directly under where the vehicle rests, you can’t park another car underneath and your access to the chassis is limited. Some two-post lifts may be able to accommodate vehicles underneath in terms of space, but they should not be used to do so. Finally, four-post lifts are sturdiest and can most easily and safely provide an additional parking space, but they are usually the most expensive.
“Scissors lifts [are] more compact when in the down position, but can sometimes be a hindrance in working under the car,” says John Velazquez, owner of Autobahn Auto Service in St. Charles, Illinois. Velazquez has more than 18 years of automotive shop, maintenance and repair experience. “Many home scissor lifts are more for folks who want to change the wheels on their car for SCCA racing, etc. They are not for major work on a car at home. That is because many of them support the car in weird spots, making the undercarriage not as accessible. A post lift is best, with two posts or four. A four-post lift is better for larger/heavier vehicles, but a two post lift is more than adequate and that’s what most commercial shops use.”
Andy King, managing director and founder of Jamjar.com, agrees. Jamjar is a UK-based web service devoted to car-buying comparisons that has been helping consumers since 1997. “If the farthest you’re going to go is just changing the wheels and brakes, a low-rise scissor lift would do just fine. These are often smaller and don’t go as high as a conventional four-post lift, but can still carry around 4.5 tons depending on the make and model. These are pretty secure and have a little less of a risk factor due to the shorter lift.
“If you expect to be working on the underneath [of] your car a lot and you need a larger amount of room [for] parts and movement, I would recommend a two- or four-post lift. This will help to keep you safe, offer a lot more floor space, and lift your car higher than a scissor lift, too. This means you can stand to work under your car rather than laying down.”
The way that specific lifts are constructed may also eliminate your ability to perform certain tasks. For example, lifts designed specifically for parking often won’t provide access to the car’s chassis, meaning that you won’t be able to use these lifts for car maintenance. Additionally, if voltage is a concern, you may want to opt for a four-post lift. According to JMC Equipment, most four-post lifts only need a 115-volt power supply for the hydraulic system, while two-post lifts typically need 220 volts of power for their hydraulic pump.
Some customers have questions about the size of the arms that lifts use — namely, are larger arms better? The truth is the size of the arms doesn’t matter — it’s the weight capacity rating that’s important. “The lifting arms must be adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of different-sized cars and trucks,” says Richard Reina, product training director for CARiD. Reina has spent more than 30 years in the automotive industry working in engineering, mechanics and sales. “The size of the arms is not the critical factor, but rather it’s the weight rating of the lift.”
“The power generated by the lift will take into account how heavy its own parts are,” adds King. “So, if you have two lifts and both can handle 4.5 tons, for example, just because one has larger lift arms doesn’t mean it can lift less — they can both lift an extra 4.5 tons.”
Obviously, a major question that many users have when it comes to auto lifts is safety — if a car falls, it’s not good for anybody. The reality is that if a lift is certified as safe and you use it properly, then risk — while never eliminated — is minimized. Any certified lift is designed to safely support a vehicle in the given weight range, though the specifics of how it does just that will vary based on design.
Simply based on the shape, four-post lifts are less likely to see a vehicle tip off than a two-post or one-post lift (as the name suggests, these use one hydraulic lift to raise up a car) are, but those accidents are almost always due to user error. “Everything else being equal, a four-post lift is safer than a two-post lift; it’s sturdier and more secure, and the better choice if the lift is being used for storage, not just lifting,” says Reina. “A vehicle stored on a four-post lift can be safer to store for long periods of time, as opposed to two-post lifts.”
No matter what kind of lift you have, it’s incumbent upon you to make sure that it’s certified and that you use it in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Installing a car lift
The safety of your lift doesn’t just depend on the lift itself and your use of it — proper installation in your home garage is also a huge factor. When it comes to a piece of machinery as large and powerful as a car lift, there are several factors that dictate safe installation.
One of the main questions that people have when it comes to installing a garage car lift is just how much clearance space they need — in other words, how high should the ceiling of the garage be? Like with anything else, the answer depends on your needs and personal situation. But that’s a good thing. As North American Auto Equipment explains, it’s very rare that we get to choose the specifications of our garages, so knowing that there’s a host of lifts that can accommodate your restrictions is comforting. Sure, you may not have the room for a four-post lift underneath which you can park another car, but you can still get a lift that offers us plenty of benefits, even if you have a small garage.
Just a note: If you have limited garage space, you may be considering installing a lift in your driveway or in another outdoor location. This is not recommended, as your lift will then be exposed to temperatures and weather elements for which it isn’t designed. Some lifts’ warranties will be voided if they’re installed outside.
Another important concern when installing a car lift is the integrity of the concrete underneath. While a 1,500-pound lift may not seem very heavy compared to the 10,000-pound truck that it’s going to be holding, the weight will be distributed differently (and won’t be balanced on soft tires). For this reason, it’s recommended to place the lift on a sturdy concrete surface — and if you don’t have one in your garage, you’ll need to pour one.
Eagle Equipment suggests only using 3,000 PSI reinforced concrete, and allowing a minimum thickness of 4 inches for lifts up to a 10,000-pound capacity, while allowing at least 6 inches for lifts up to a 15,000-pound capacity. Bendpak, meanwhile, offers a more detailed chart referring specifically to the company’s own products. Whichever product you ultimately end up buying, you should follow the manufacturer’s specific foundational advice.
The installation process itself will depend on what kind of home garage lift you get (portable lifts notwithstanding). Regardless of the type, though, you’ll want to make sure that the job is done correctly for safety reasons, which means it’s highly recommended that you have a professional install the lift. According to Bendpak, the average installation price for a two-post lift is $500, while the price for a four-post lift is $1,000. Having a lift installed in the ground — which is an option with some models — is much costlier, running up to $10,000.
Each lift will have its own installation instructions, but the job typically consists of putting the lift itself together, as well as mounting it into the cement foundation. Again, these are difficult and demanding tasks that can be better done by a professional — not only will they be able to more safely execute the installation, but their work will ensure that the device is less likely to encounter dangerous problems while being used.
Five things you need to know before you buy and use a home garage car lift
- Why are you considering buying a car lift for your garage? Factors like wanting to park cars on top of one another or wanting easier access to your car’s chassis will ultimately affect what kind of lift you need.
- What kind of car lift do you want? Again, your reasons for buying a lift will point you in a certain direction, but criteria like cost and lifting capacity will also help you decide between a four-post lift, a two-post lift, a scissor lift or a different kind altogether.
- Can your garage floor accommodate a car lift? Check (or have a professional check) to make sure that your garage floor consists of enough solid inches of PSI 3,000 concrete to support your lift of choice. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to have new concrete poured.
- Who is going to install your home garage lift? It’s highly recommended that you have an experienced professional perform the job, as it can be difficult and dangerous. Find an installation expert whom you trust — one with experience installing car lifts.
- Finally, and most importantly, what are the operating instructions associated with your car lift? Make sure to familiarize yourself with all of them in order to minimize the risk of property damage or injury.
Written by Scott Fried for Roadshow.