What’s the best portable car lift for my garage?
There are several portable car lift options on the market that might appeal to both home buyers and professional body shops. The decision to purchase a new lift can be a major investment, and there are a few things to consider:
- Desired weight capacity
- Type of work being done
- Available workspace
- Permanent or temporary setup
Generally, the goal of a portable car lift is to provide a temporary workspace that can be set up and dismantled in relatively little time. If you have the budget and would like to establish a more permanent workspace, there are other options available.
To help you understand the market and decide which portable car lift is best for you, let’s look at a few of the car lift options that are out there.
Low-rise car lift
Low-rise car lifts are a unique option for both home and professional auto shops, all thanks to recent mechanical and technological advances. QuickJack is a portable car lift that collapses to a vertical height of 3”, yet it still has the lifting capacity of 3,500-7,000 lbs. while improving your overall safety and user experience. This is the perfect option for someone looking for a temporary workspace that can be set up and taken down in virtually no time at all.
The downside for some might be cost, as models range from about $900-$1,500. Still, this is less expensive than any two-post or four-post car lift (including portable two-post lifts), and QuickJack offers remote push-button technology that allows you to raise and lower your vehicle with the touch of a button. Other comparable yet more expensive models, like EZcarlift™, require use of a hand drill or other forms of manual labor to raise and lower your car.
Portable car lifts engage the frame of your vehicle at specified lifting points, so it’s important to know where these points are located on your car; furthermore, you should never exceed the weight limit of your portable lift. For most light-duty vehicle work, low-rise car lifts, which generally reach max extensions of 20-26”, can be ideal for home maintenance.
Given their portability, these lifts are increasingly used for auto detailing. Professional shops are catching on, as well. The image below was sent to us by Phil Yiu, the proud owner of Detailer’s Domain, an auto detailing shop based out of New Jersey.
This option is increasingly popular among home auto enthusiasts and DIY’ers, as the added safety benefits of a well-constructed portable car lift like QuickJack is worth a little extra upfront cost (when compared to traditional jacks and stands, which will be discussed later in this article). We try to go out of our way to settle all questions regarding safety. Check out the high-stakes fail test below and see for yourself!
Portable two-post lift
A light-duty two-post car lift like MaxJax™ is different than QuickJack in its design, and therefore serves a slightly different purpose. This portable car lift type is a little more expensive: MaxJax™ packages range from $2,000-$2,240 and come with a max lifting capacity of 6,000 lbs. Like other two-post lifts, this portable car lift will engage the frame of your vehicle, so it’s essential to know the proper lifting points when raising and lowering your car.
The main benefit of something like this over a collapsible car lift is the higher max extension. The QuickJack offers approximately 20” of working room, whereas two-post lifts can rise much higher. A portable two-post lift like MaxJax™ can clear 52” off the ground at max extension.
The downside is that a two-post lift is heavier, bulkier, and takes longer to set up and dismantle. While a smaller portable car lift like the QuickJack can be set up in 60 seconds, MaxJax™ takes about 15 minutes. However, if your needs demand a little extra headroom, this type of portable car lift might work for you. You can fold this portable car lift up and stow it away rather neatly, which makes it ideal for a temporary workspace.
Traditional car jack/jack stand
Many car owners recognize that a small, lightweight car jack can be an essential roadside tool. Any poor soul with a busted tire, flagging people down off the side of the road, is likely repeating one question, “Do you have a jack?”
The basic design concept hasn’t changed much over time, but new jack models from companies like Craftsman™ are introduced regularly to the market. Additionally, car jacks and jack stands can be purchased at any number of large convenience stores (like Sears™) or commercial auto shops. They aren’t fancy, but when used properly, they can get the job done. One major downside is that this “old school” car lift method will take you longer to set up and take down, whereas a portable car lift like QuickJack can be set up in about a minute.
Still, jacks and stands have long been a staple for DIY’ers doing simple repairs and maintenance, such as oil changes or brake pads. Jacks usually cost under $100, and jack stands are highly recommended as an added measure of safety. Never, ever skimp on safety. Obviously, while portable car lifts like the QuickJack can fit easily into the truck of most cars and truck beds, car jacks and stands take up the least amount of space. While this option fits most any budget, if you rely on car jacks and jack stands for your auto repair, make sure you take every available measure to ensure your jack and stand can handle your car weight. They’re all rated differently. It might be a good idea to invest in multiple jacks and stands when operating underneath a motor vehicle, as you can never be too safe.
While not functionally the same as the other portable car lift options on this list, it’s important to know what parking lifts are and what they are not. Parking lifts are not the same as four-post lifts, although both lift types engage the wheels when raising your vehicle (as opposed to the frame on collapsible and two-post lifts). Also unlike all aforementioned lift types, parking lifts do not offer undercarriage access, as they are built to be raised parking platforms, not maintenance tools. Think of it as an extra parking space in your garage.
The benefit of such a device, however, is that they are more compact and less expensive than four-post lifts. If you simply need more vertical parking space in your garage, and you know your available headspace, there is probably a parking lift available to suit your needs.
Editor’s note: This post was updated on 4/13/2017. The latest fail test video was added, as well as information about QuickJack for auto detailing.