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Everything You Need to Know Before Buying A Pallet Jack

With the rise of the internet, online markets have completely oversaturated shoppers with the number of options available–and pallet jacks are certainly no exception to that. But how do you even begin to go about choosing the right one for your business?

This is where Freight Buddy comes in. With decades of experience in the shipping industry and warehouses in general, we know a thing or two about what to look for when it comes to buying a quality pallet jack. Before we get into exactly what to look for though, let’s first go through some facts and figures about these life-changing tools so that we’re all on the same page.

Pallet Jack FAQs

What is a pallet jack?

Simply put, a pallet jack is a large tool used to lift and move heavy pallets. Most commonly seen in warehouses, pallet jacks are the most basic form of a forklift. They are also sometimes referred to as pallet trucks, pallet pumps, and pump trucks.

How do you raise and lower a pallet jack?

In order to raise the forks, you need to push the actuating lever down and then pump the handle up and down until the forks have reached your desired height. For most purposes, a clearance of one inch off the floor is enough to safely move a load around. To lower the jack, simply release the actuating lever and the forks will slowly drop back down. This is the most common method used today, but some newer models differ slightly (i.e. release buttons), so in those cases refer to the owner’s manual.

What are the different types of pallet jacks?

There are two main varieties of pallet jacks:

  1. Manual pallet jacks: As the name suggests, these jacks are hand-powered and designed to lift light to medium size loads over short distances. They are by far the most common type of pallet jack in use today.
  2. Powered pallet jacks: These jacks contain an electric motor which assists the user in lifting and moving heavier and even stacked pallets. Some of them also contain a platform on the back for the user to ride on. They are occasionally referred to as electric pallet jacks, electric pallet trucks, power jacks, and electric walkies.

Beyond that, there are several different subcategories for each type. There are standard models (light duty), industrial models (heavy duty), and deluxe models, with specialty features such as adjustable fork widths, freight scales, and multi-directional and all-terrain wheels.

How wide is a standard pallet jack?

Like the pallets themselves, pallet jacks have become a lot more standardized in North America as of late. The average width of an individual fork is about 7 inches, with the two most common dimensions between the outer edges of the forks measuring either 20.25 inches or 27 inches.

Important Features to Consider Before Buying Your Pallet Jack

When shopping around for a new pallet jack, there is a lot more to consider than simply price or color. Of course, the price can be a good determiner of quality, but not always. As for color, despite what your John Deere-loving uncle may insist, not all green implements are inherently better. That being said, here are five real factors to take into account when making your purchase.

1 . Load Capacity

The load capacity of a pallet jack is arguably the most important factor to consider before buying. Capacities can range from anywhere between 4,500 lbs. and 5,500 lbs., with some industrial models designed to exceed even that. A good idea is to calculate the maximum weight of the goods you wish to haul, and then rule out any jacks that fall at or below that number. An overloaded pallet jack is likely to break down and can pose a serious safety hazard for its operators.

2 . Fork Length

Another important thing to consider is the length of the pallet jack’s forks. You may think they’re designed to be one-size-fits-all, but that just isn’t the case. The most common size of pallet in North America is 40” x 48” and thus the average pallet jack has forks that are 48” long. However, if you plan to move smaller or larger pallets, you should purchase your pallet jack accordingly. A pallet jack that is too long will make it difficult to maneuver around your warehouse, and one that is too short may not fully support the load and become an unstable safety risk.

3 . Lift Height

Some pallet jacks are designed to not only move pallets around the warehouse, but also raise them up for easy stacking and storage. The lift height is the maximum distance a pallet can be raised up. These heights can range anywhere from a minimum of 3 inches up to almost 8 feet at the maximum. When doing your research, it’s good to look at the rated capacity of the jack at the different heights to see if it’s a good fit for your needs. An overloaded jack that is raised up poses a greater risk of tipping over, causing potential damage to your goods and/or injury to the operator.

4 . Wheel Selection

Just like any other vehicle, a good set of wheels can make all the difference. It’s important to choose a pallet jack with high quality wheels that are rated for the load capacity you desire. The other factor to consider is the impact the wheels will have on your warehouse floors. Cheap wheels made with the wrong materials may stain or damage the floors during normal use. We recommend choosing a jack equipped with non-staining, durable polyurethane wheels for lasting results.

5 . Unit Weight

One final thing to consider is the overall weight of the unit. Before you even pick up a pallet, the jack has a base weight that should be factored into any maximum weight restrictions for certain surfaces, such as lift gates or container floors. Industrial and powered pallet jacks in general weigh more than standard light-duty models. The unit’s weight can also be an indicator of quality, as it often reflects the strength and durability of the model’s components.

Final Thoughts

There is no such thing as a “perfect pallet jack.” However, using what you’ve learned here today, hopefully you are now able to pick out the best pallet jack for your business. And when you’re ready to get shipping, head over to for a free quote on your next LTL shipment. Or, give us a call at 800.578.6009 for a friendly chat about our favorite models of pallet jacks that we use every day in the Freight Buddy warehouse.