One of the most important factors you need to consider when you are thinking about buying a car lift is the recommended garage height for a car lift. If you are not sure if your garage is high enough, or if you do not have a garage and want to build one specifically for storing and servicing your car, it is always good to err on the side of caution. Garage height requirements may vary depending on the make and model of lift you choose, so it’s best to consult with the manufacturer or supplier before you buy. Beyond that, I’ll cover a quick way to help you find the right lift for your space in this post.
How tall should my garage be to accommodate a car lift?
There are two main factors that come into play when trying to decide if your garage is tall enough to accommodate an elevator. First, there is clearance underneath the vehicle, which depends on the desired working position. If you spend a lot of time working underneath your car, then being able to stand up straight is always a better option. A person of average height needs six to seven feet to ensure a comfortable working position and enough room to maneuver. Keep in mind, however, that this is the distance between the garage floor and the bottom of the vehicle. Some lifts use the lift point of the car (2-post lift), while on other lifts, the car sits on its wheels (4-post lift).
Next, you need to know how high the vehicle you are going to use is. But remember, if you are planning to buy a 2-post lift, we are talking about the distance between the floor and the roof of the vehicle, while if you choose a 4-post model, you will need to measure the overall height from the top. Also, be sure to include any antennas or roof beams here.
After adding these two numbers together, you will now know how high the ceiling of your garage should be so you can comfortably stand and work. Generally speaking, any height between 10 and 12 feet will be sufficient for most cars and small SUVs, but keep this in mind if you plan to work on lifted trucks and larger vehicles.
What if my garage isn't high enough?
Many owners have garage ceilings well below 11 feet in height, which means working upright may not be an option. Fortunately, there are some alternatives.
One solution is to use a crawl seat, which is a popular option among professional mechanics, but is more popular with bodyworkers. As the name implies, a crawl seat is an adjustable stool that allows you to sit and work under the car. The combination is suitable for medium-sized garages with ceilings about nine feet high. With it, you still have nearly five feet of clearance under your car.
If your garage is lower than that (or you may have some kind of overhead storage rack system), the classic mechanic’s crawler will be the only solution. With such a low ceiling, you can only lift the car a few feet and slide it underneath in a laying position. Since this isn’t very high, some might argue that a jack would be sufficient here (and much cheaper). Nonetheless, car lifts are much easier, faster to install, and safer.
What are the common types of car lifts?
Most of the equipment on the market today can be divided into three main categories, each with identifiable features and, of course, their own advantages and disadvantages.
A 4-post lift is one of the most straightforward ways to lift a vehicle higher. It is a steel platform with a large gap in the middle and posts at each corner. Inside each of these steel posts, a screw-type mechanism or a hydraulic cylinder raises the platform to the desired height.
With this table-like configuration, 4-post lifts are very stable under load and do not require large bolts to hold them firmly to the ground. Some special four-post lifts don’t even need to be bolted down, and they are equipped with casters so you can move the lift when it’s not in use. In addition, it is no more difficult to drive a car onto the platform than it is to drive into a parking space.
On the downside, these lifts are large and quite wide, taking up more space than the cars they carry. In addition, these lifts are not suitable for any repairs that require the wheels to be removed, as the car remains parked on the lift while on the platform. In order to be able to lift the vehicle from the platform and remove the wheels, you will need to install additional bridge jacks, which can significantly increase the total cost of your setup.
Today, 2-post lifts are the most widely used type in professional repair stores. Unlike their four-legged counterparts, they have a tower on each side of the vehicle, both equipped with a pair of adjustable arms that can be positioned below the lifting point of the vehicle.
2-post lifts use a single electric motor and hydraulic system to lift the vehicle. Working under or on suspension components is easy when the vehicle is lifted and the wheels are suspended in the air, which is a benefit. In addition, these lifts are more compact than 4-post lifts, especially when not in use, taking up less space.
However, due to their geometry, 2-post lifts require a stronger foundation and definitely need to be bolted to the ground. Nevertheless, the 2-post configuration is more versatile, can accommodate a wider range of vehicles, and is better suited for most applications.
Scissor lifts are the latest trend in automotive lifting solutions, many of which are aimed primarily at weekend DIY enthusiasts and hobbyists. This type comes with a platform, similar to a 4-post lift, but is much shorter in length. Underneath, there is a pair of scissor mechanisms, each operated by a hydraulic cylinder.
However, since the platform covers only the middle of the car, once the lift is raised, the wheels are suspended, allowing unobstructed access to the axles and drivetrain components. The side rocker is the only component that remains covered, as this is the position the car is in while on the platform.
One of the biggest advantages of scissor lifts is that they are mobile and somewhat portable, which means they can be pushed aside when not in use, which can change the life of a single-car garage.
The only real downside is the total lift height, which is usually limited to less than 5 feet for most models, and the somewhat obstructed bottom of the car. Because of the hydraulic cylinder and platform, it is definitely not designed to replace things like exhaust or drive shaft universal joints.
What type of car lift is best for me?
Aside from a few unique and specialized applications, four-post car lifts are not the most practical solution for workshops and garages. Nevertheless, if you need an extra parking space, then this is your best option. The lift will lift the vehicle into the air and leave a matching free footprint underneath it.
Currently, 2-post car lifts are the standard in the auto repair industry and offer the most comprehensive range of features. They are more versatile, operate faster, and provide unobstructed access to the underside of vehicles. So if you work on many cars, do a variety of jobs, and want to get it all done quickly, then a 2-post car lift is the way to go.
Finally, if you only occasionally need to work underneath a car, a scissor lift is the way to go. For example, if you do mostly body work and a lot of sanding, or brake work and suspension replacements, a scissor lift is sufficient to bring the car to the right height to work in the crawl seat. Plus, they’re much cheaper (by a mile), more compact and easy to move – so why not go for it?