Reader Question: Home Lifts?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Sam asks: I’ve been thinking about buying a lift to install in my garage because I’m tired of working on my back. Do you have any experience with home lifts? Pros and cons?

My reply: I have wanted a home lift myself, for many years! Last time I checked, a light duty/portable unit (one that can handle about two tons and doesn’t require permanent installation) cost about $2k, less installation.

I also have a mechanic friend who would sell me a heavier duty shop-type variant, but it’s pretty bulky, which is an issue for my garage and may be for yours as well (in terms of the physical space it takes up).

There are several type/designs available such as four post and scissor – you’ll want the type/design that best suits your intent – focusing on storage of cars or working on cars.

The obvious pro to owning a home lift is not having to crawl around underneath a car; this gets old as you get older. It may even be unfeasible, if you have bad knees or other such issues. With the car raised up, it is much easier to do even basic service such as oil and filter changes, greasing suspension points, etc. – and much less hassle to do a clutch job or pull a tranny (not Bruce) out of the thing.

There is the pro – for some of these units – of being able to stack cars. One on the lift, above – another parked, underneath. This can double your garage’s capacity to house vehicles, important for collectors especially as it means not having to park one outside. It also frees up space that would otherwise be taken up by two cars parked side-by-side in a two-car garage. This can become work space or space to store other things indoors.

The cons include – obviously – the cost and (depending on the model) the possibility of having to commit to a permanent installation. This could be a problem when the time comes to sell your house as it will be a liability for most potential buyers – although some potential buyers (car people) would be ecstatic about it.

I intend to do it – in part because I would get a lot of use out of it and also because I intend to stay where I am for decades to come. If the next occupant doesn’t like it, it won’t be my problem – as I probably won’t be around to worry about it!

. . .

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  1. My aunts former home has a garage pit for doing repairs. Little steps down into it, and a wooden cover for putting over it when not in use. The house (mansion actually) was built in 1870 and it has a two story carriage house. The garage was added about 1915, and must have cost a pretty penny. All brick, tile roof, two stalls for cars (one with the pit) and an workshop (which could probably park two more cars). Built better than 90% of what is built today. Don’t know what keeps water from backing up into it, must have a sump pump.

  2. What ever you do, don’t get one of those cheap Chinese Ebay lifts! Scissor lifts aren’t very versatile, because they severely limit access. A good used commercial unit is the best bet. Installation for commercial ones really isn’t that bad- especially if it’s a four-poster. Just make sure you have a high enough ceiling. Most garages can accommodate the posts…but you’ll need some height to raise the car and allow enough room under it to make having the lift worthwhile….vs. just lifting the car a few feet.

    A friend of mine is in the process of getting one..but he’s putting his outside (FL).

    Hey, this is too high-brow for me though….I’m still piddling around on a dirt floor!

    • another thing to consider is with 4-post lifts that you drive on, you won’t be able to work on the tires, brakes, unless you jack those up while on the lift. and you have to consider how high they go to see if you can stand under the car or not.
      The scissor lifts don’t go very high, so you’re still bending over, etc…
      Obviously, a two post with arms is probably the best, but has many downsides as all have said, like installation cost, they need high ceilings, etc….
      When I was pouring the concrete floor in my barn years ago I pre-planned a two-post location and made the concrete a lot thicker in that location in case I ever did a lift. I haven’t though.


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