How Much Does A Forklift Weigh? #Answered

Forklifts are designed to handle cargo across different locations. Some venues might have certain constraints like weak floors or other risk factors that could jeopardize your efforts. Knowing how heavy your forklift weighs can make the difference between smooth sailing or a unit delaying your entire operation.

Forklifts usually fall around the 9,000-pound range. For reference, that’s almost triple the weight of an average car. They need to be heavy to haul heavy cargo without tipping over. If your forklift’s weight isn’t screened properly for working conditions, consequences range from equipment tipping over, hauled cargo breaking, and even the floor giving way.

Forklifts are heavy machinery units that need to be treated with respect and caution. The cargo balancing process is a numbers game so it’s essential to choose a forklift that’s suitable for your needs.

Average Forklift Weight

forklift weight demonstration

The average forklift weight sits around 9,000 pounds – the equivalent of three normal cars or about 11 golf carts. For reference, the average skid steer weighs around 8,000 pounds. That’s not the weight you need to consider for construction projects. Following this metric could lead to misinformation, which can cause serious damages.

The actual number you need to vet your forklift and site for is the service weight – a combination of your forklift’s base weight plus relevant attachments and max cargo capacity. It’s also referred to as gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) in some circles. This is what you need to prepare for.

Lift weight measures how much weight your machine can haul, and shares a direct relationship with service weight. The reasoning behind this is that forklifts need to counterbalance the cargo they lug around. Not all packages will have their load distributed evenly, so the extra weight is added for security’s sake.

This usually depends on the size, make, and model of your forklift. For the most part, the lift capacity to service weight ratio usually falls around 2:3. This is usually the case for larger machines. Smaller forklifts can occasionally dwell around the 1:2 ratio range.

Here’s a brand-blind example to elaborate on that rule of thumb.

Lift Capacity Service Weight
3,300lbs 7000lbs+
6,500lbs 9,000lbs+
13,500lbs 20,000lbs+
35,200lbs 44,000lbs+

In general, smaller forklifts have higher ratios. Larger ones demand more performance from their hydraulic systems to balance both the unit, the counterweight, and their cargo. Forklifts are very easy to tip over regardless of weight, so be cautious no matter how heavy your machine is.

Why Are Forklifts So Heavy?

parked forklifts

Forklifts are pieces of heavy machinery and need good rooting to the ground. They’re meant to transport unwieldy pieces of equipment or goods, and can’t afford to tip over. Doing so not only ruins their cargo but injures drivers and damages expensive hydraulic components.

The bulk of the forklift’s load resides in the counterweight at the rear. These are used to maintain the equipment’s stability during transit, especially in cases of oddly-shaped cargo. Most of these are made of cast iron, owing to their greater density compared to concrete. Some companies use lead to make up the difference.

Why Is Forklift Weight So Important?


Unlike other heavy machinery, forklifts see common use in environments that may not be proofed to handle their weight. Forklifts are deceptively compact, and often find involvement in warehouses or multi-story construction efforts. Cranes and excavators don’t have to take these limitations into account on the job.

cracked cement

If your floor isn’t built to take a forklift’s full-service weight into account, it could develop cracks and other types of stress damage. Improper materials make for some of the usual culprits of this – wood and tiled floors will end up ruined after a few days.

This necessitates constant repairs or total replacements. The former is very costly, while the latter will extend your construction time, ruining carefully scheduled timetables in the process.

The same goes for ramps, but now with a more extensive possibility to get injured. Ramps will absolutely flip a forklift regardless of their weight. It could tip the thing over and harm people and cargo. It could also break entirely and trap a tire of your vehicle, stalling the entire process.

All of the above apply when operating in multi-story buildings. If floors can’t handle your vehicle’s service weight, it’s not unheard of for forklifts to go crashing through levels. This presents a needless safety risk that should be addressed promptly, Knowing the effective weight range you can play around with is the first step to ensure everything stays in your control.


If a forklift’s service weight is too light to handle their cargo or improperly imbalanced, it’ll lead to overloaded capacity. This often leads to your lift tipping on its side.

It’s not that forklifts are hard to tip over – rather, all these efforts and counterweights are included because of how easy it is to do so, even accidentally.

Forklift turnovers are one of the most common risks associated with the job and have sadly led to thousands of casualties over the years. Balancing heavy machinery takes time and training, hence why forklift operators are paid handsomely for their efforts.


forklift sunlight

Sometimes the forklifts themselves are the cargo, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous. These are usually transported on trucks and need to be securely lashed to prevent them from shaking or rattling during the ride.

This is a danger when transporting them in vehicles without cargo boxes, as a falling forklift can easily crumple nearby automobiles – most of which barely reach a third of their weight. When shipping them in containers, make sure to add the unit’s service weight to the container’s total.

Knowing the proper weight of your transported forklift allows handlers to strap in the unit properly. This way minimizes danger, work, and potential redundancy in those efforts. Be mindful of what you’re dealing with, and everything should turn out well.

Final Thoughts

Forklift operation hinges around the concept of weight. The difference between efficient usage and things going badly lies in your awareness of your forklift’s service weight, your venue’s limitations, and any risks that could develop from their interaction. Once that roadblock is cleared, everything should continue towards a smooth, safe operation.