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Deciding between auto lifts is no small task. As the shop owner, you have to determine which manufacturer and model is right for your needs, and that decision can have a big impact on employees, your shop and your business’s well-being.

Of course, the first thing you need to do is zero in on the best type of auto lift for your particular bay. Look at the kinds of vehicles you plan to work on and the services you’ll perform. Once you’ve narrowed down your options in this way, it comes down to deciding between manufacturers and their specific models.

To help you whittle your options further, think about these five important factors.    

1. Consider the Lift Manufacturer’s Reputation

You might not think about the manufacturer when you’re making decisions like which coffee maker to buy, but with a big purchase like this, the company backing the equipment really matters. Take into account how long the company has been in business and its warranty policies. Is it a company you feel confident will support you and your lift well into the future?

And don’t forget the lift source and service provider. A factory-authorized service center can help you choose the best lift for your facility and will be there to provide local, factory-trained support, maintenance and replacement parts when you need them.

2. Look into Local Sales and Service Offerings

When you buy an auto lift, that’s not the end of the story. You’ll also need installation and ongoing support. Factor that support into your initial purchase decision and you’ll thank yourself later. Consider whether the manufacturer maintains a network of factory-trained and certified service providers who are fully equipped and skilled to provide installation, maintenance and repair. Is there a qualified support team that’s located nearby and can respond within 24 hours? Downtime is bad for business, so quick service is vital.

The best manufacturers attract the best distributors and installers. What are the capabilities of the professionals who will support your lift purchase at the local level?

3. Factory Support Team

As with any large purchase, you’ll want to evaluate the manufacturer’s commitment to standing behind its product. Is there a factory behind the lift? Have they made an investment in building a large team of engineers and trained specialists? The best manufacturers will make this team easily and promptly accessible when answers are needed for specific questions or problems.

On top of that, top-tier manufacturers will offer free facility planning services to help you build or renovate for optimum productivity. In other words, you need a manufacturer that isn’t simply looking to sell an auto lift. You need someone committed to helping you improve your productivity, even years after you buy the lift.

4. What About Certification?

Many of the lifts sold in the U.S. and Canada are certified by the Automotive Lift Institute (ALI) and are tested by an independent third-party laboratory called ETL. Certification also requires a periodic inspection of the manufacturing plants. If the lift and the factory meet the ANSI/ALI ALCTV-2011 safety standards, then the lift may carry the gold ALI Certified/ETL Listed mark.

An ALI certification also requires that complete instructions, manuals and safety documents be included with the lift. Building codes in all 50 U.S. states require that shops install only lifts that have been certified to meet this standard.

Just because a lift manufacturer states that one of their lifts is ALI certified, doesn’t mean all of their lifts are certified. Each individual lift model must earn its own ALI certification, so be sure to ask about this as you narrow down your list.

5. Genuine Parts Availability

The time will come when even the best lift needs parts. When it does, you’ll want to work with a manufacturer that’s well-equipped to service the auto lift. Does the manufacturer have a computerized parts system to constantly maintain an appropriate inventory of parts? Choose one that does to reduce downtime.

The most dedicated manufacturers put as much thought into their parts as they do the initial product. For example, Rotary has an engineering staff dedicated to improving the quality and durability of their parts . Counterfeit parts can alter your lift’s productivity and safety, as well as risking its ALI certification, so having ready access to genuine parts is a must and definitely worth adding to your list of purchase considerations.

If you’re in the market for one or more auto lifts, you have a lot to think about. Taking the time to carefully consider the aspect outlined here will make the task more manageable. And when you make the right decision, your business, and technicians, will thank you.