Cost is an important driving factor when purchasing new material handling equipment. In fact, in a survey from the Propane Education & Research Council, fleet managers rated initial capital cost as one of the top five most important factors when purchasing a forklift.

By exploring all of the costs associated with forklifts — including the fuel they use — facility managers can prevent buyer’s remorse and even provide a substantial ROI for their business.

Here are three cost considerations facility managers should take into account before choosing a new forklift for their operation:

1. Total cost of ownership

Not only is the purchase price of an electric forklift 30 percent higher than that of a propane-powered forklift, but electric equipment is even more costly when you consider the utility costs to charge them. Battery life and power output for electric forklifts also diminish over time and lead to future costs that can go overlooked, including purchasing additional expensive batteries. Plus, charging electric forklift batteries when the remaining charge is too high or too low can reduce the lifespan of the battery by half.

Propane-powered forklifts, on the other hand, have a longer lifespan. The life expectancy of a propane cylinder is actually three times longer than the lifespan of an electric forklift battery, and even extends beyond the typical lifespan of a forklift. Propane forklifts can also be refilled at any time without affecting the cylinder’s lifespan.

With propane forklifts, beyond the initial equipment purchase and the cost of fuel, businesses are only responsible for maintenance and storing the cylinders — which they lease from their propane supplier. For even more peace of mind, businesses may be able to lock in a fuel price with their local propane supplier. 

2. Productivity costs

Propane beats out electric in terms of productivity costs, too. Electric forklifts can require hours of recharging. If an employee forgets to plug the equipment in overnight, it can lead to accelerated loss of power throughout the workday, halting productivity. Heavy loads drain the battery more quickly resulting in the need for frequent recharging and adherence to strict battery management.

Propane forklifts, however, maintain 100 percent power throughout operation, pushing heavy loads at full capacity more consistently than electric. In addition, one propane cylinder typically lasts an entire eight-hour shift, giving facilities uninterrupted operational capability. This is largely beneficial for businesses that operate 24/7, allowing them to work around the clock.

3. Initial installation costs

Material handling professionals who make the move to electric forklifts oftentimes forget about the installation requirements that come with electric equipment. Those requirements can have a significant impact both financially and structurally.

Electric forklifts often require the costly installation of battery charging stations, which must be located in a designated area of the facility. It’s important to note that charging stations may cause issues in some facilities and require costly service upgrades to accommodate the new power requirements. With propane forklifts, however, infrastructure requirements are minimal and facility managers can easily work with their propane supplier on the best location for their cylinder cage.

Facility managers who are well-versed in how choosing the right forklift can impact their overall operations will set their business up for success and maximize their investment. Whether looking for lower cost of ownership, decreased downtime, or even reduced emissions, Propane Can Do ThatR.

Visit to learn more about how propane-powered forklifts stack up to their competition.