Deciding Whether To Rent, Buy or Lease Forklifts for Your Warehouse Operation

Deciding Whether To Rent, Buy or Lease Forklifts for Your Warehouse Operation

Sep 01, 2024
rent buy or lease forklifts

When acquiring a forklift, should you rent, buy or lease it? Here are some things to consider when making your decision.

Forklifts are the backbone of most warehouse operations, and their acquisition and maintenance are significant line items on capital and operational budgets. One key decision facing warehouse managers is whether to rent, buy, or lease their lift trucks. Each approach offers unique benefits and considerations, making this decision about much more than just cost.

Renting Forklifts: Flexibility and Short-Term Solutions

Renting is ideal for warehouses with fluctuating demands or those needing operational flexibility. Consider renting for:

  1. Meeting short-term needs: if you need additional lifting capacity during peak seasons or for a specific project, renting forklifts can be a cost-effective solution. It avoids the long-term financial commitment that comes with buying or leasing.
  2. Testing equipment: for warehouses experimenting with different types of forklifts to find the model that best fits their needs, renting offers a risk-free way to test various models without the commitment of a purchase.
  3. Avoiding maintenance hassles: rental agreements typically include maintenance services, sparing companies the need to invest in specialized maintenance staff or equipment. This can be particularly beneficial for smaller operations where resources are limited.
  4. Preserving capital: renting requires a fraction of the upfront necessary for buying, freeing up resources for other critical investments within the business. This can be crucial for startups and small to medium-sized enterprises.

Buying Forklifts: Long-Term Investment and Customization

In many situations, buying forklifts can be the right decision. Here are some scenarios where it might make more sense to buy:

  1. Consistent, long-term usage: if you plan to use a specific forklift regularly for long periods of time, it often makes much more sense to buy it outright. Rental fees are typically higher than payments, so it’s important to determine where the break-even point is.
  2. Need for customization: some operations require specialized forklifts tailored to specific tasks or environments. In such cases, purchasing the equipment allows for customization that might not be possible with rented or leased units.
  3. Tax advantages: owning forklifts can offer tax benefits such as depreciation deductions, which can improve a company’s financial metrics.
  4. Maintenance control: buying equipment gives companies full control over maintenance schedules and procedures, potentially extending the lifespan of the forklifts beyond what might be achievable under a lease or rental agreement.

Leasing Forklifts: The Middle Ground

Leasing combines elements of both renting and buying, offering a balanced approach:

  1. Medium to long-term needs with flexibility: leasing allows companies to use the forklifts for a longer period than typical rentals but without the permanent commitment of a purchase. This is ideal for companies whose demand is stable yet may shift significantly in the long term.
  2. Predictable expenses: leasing enables better cash flow management with predictable monthly expenses, which includes the lease payments and often maintenance. This can simplify budgeting and financial planning.
  3. Access to latest technology: lease agreements can include provisions to upgrade to newer models at the end of a lease term, ensuring that a warehouse always has the latest technology without the full cost of purchasing new models.
  4. Financial statement benefits: Leasing can keep debt from accumulating on the company’s balance sheet, potentially improving financial ratios and making the company more attractive to investors and lenders.

Making the Right Choice for Your Warehouse

When deciding between renting, buying, or leasing forklifts, consider these things:

  • Your operational needs: How often and for how long will you use the equipment?
  • Financial situation: What's your budget and preferred cash flow structure?
  • Long-term strategy: How might your warehouse needs evolve over time?

Renting offers flexibility and lower initial costs, buying is good for long-term, high-usage scenarios, and leasing gives you a balance of use and financial predictability. By carefully weighing these variables against your own warehouse's situation, you can make an informed decision that aligns with both your operational goals and financial constraints.



Founded in 1960, Associated provides a single-source solution covering the manufacture, design, integration, and service of your equipment—everything from forklifts and conveyors to automation and pallet handling systems. Associated has the ability to enhance the efficiency, reliability, and productivity of their customer’s operations with the most complete intralogistics capabilities in the industry. Associated is an Authorized Raymond Solutions and Support Center. For more information or to discuss your Material Handling project needs, please visit or contact us at [email protected] (800) 755-7201