Even if you’re qualified to perform vehicle maintenance in your home garage, it’s not always a good time. Lying on the ground to work on your car isn’t exactly enjoyable, and there are some tasks you can’t complete while your truck has four tires on the ground. It’s possible to find a car lift for your home garage with the same features as your local mechanic shop does, and we’re here to find them for you.
From the different types of lifts to how to find the best one for your needs, here’s everything you need to know about buying a vehicle lift for your home shop.
Bottom Line Up Front
Every at-home mechanic likely has set criteria for what qualifies as an adequate vehicle lift. By our measure, the Triumph NSS-8 4 Post Storage Lift is the best option for a range of applications. A maximum capacity of 8000 pounds means you can lift nearly every vehicle in your garage, but given the four-post construction, you can also stow vehicles one on top of another.
Between storage and wrenching capabilities, we can’t think of a reason not to go with the Triumph NSS-8. If it’s not the lift for you, however, keep reading for details on how to select the best lift for you, plus other options we recommend.
Different Types of Car Lifts for Home Garages
You may not realize how many options are available when it comes to installing a car lift in your home garage. Professional shops may stick with a particular type of lift depending on what they specialize in, and the same applies to DIYers who have unique needs in their home garages. Here’s more on the lift types and options.
Primary Lift Types
Two primary types of lifts exist in garages all over the planet: frame-engaging and wheel-engaging lifts.
Frame-engaging lifts use arms which support the vehicle’s frame while lifting it. Some arms remain fixed while others adjust to each vehicle’s frame. With a frame-engaging lift, you can work on the vehicle’s wheels, tires, suspension, and a whole host of other areas.
Wheel-engaging lifts are the drive-on type you often see in professional shops. The vehicle rests on its wheels over two decks, leaving an open space underneath so you can wrench on the engine and elsewhere underneath the car.
If you need to work on the wheels while your vehicle is on the lift, you’ll need to purchase attachments to convert a wheel-engaging lift, including crossbeams and hydraulic jacks.
Apart from the frame- versus wheel-engaging, four other types of lifts provide consumers with options for home automotive work.
Scissor- or hinge-type frames lie flat on the floor, allowing you to drive on top of them and position the vehicle for lifting. Either scissor joints or beams lift the vehicle to a relatively low height; between three and four feet high.
You won’t need to bolt down a scissor lift, and it’s helpful for wheel work since the suspension and wheels are accessible. Hinged lifts are still heavy, though, meaning they may be “portable” but require a ton of power to move.
Two-Post Surface Lifts
Two-post surface lifts take up more space than alternatives, but if you’re looking for a shop-at-home option, a frame-engaging lift of this type might fit the bill. Two posts have metal arms to support the vehicle’s frame, but you’ll need overhead clearance and a permanent spot to place the lift.
Four-post lifts are drive-on options (wheel-engaging) which are easy to operate. You drive the vehicle onto the ramps, engage the hydraulics, then walk under to work on the car. Only underbody access is available, not wheels and suspension, which can affect how useful the unit is for some garages.
In-Ground Car Lifts
If you are a serious hobbyist or DIYer, you may opt for the highest level of car lift available: an in-ground option. In-ground lifts raise vehicles by their frames straight off the floor. You will need significant prep work before bringing one of these home, however: in-ground lifts require about nine feet of underground access for installation.
In-ground lifts are pricey to install and can be challenging to maintain because the hydraulics are all under the floor. Environmental friendliness is also a concern given the potential for underground leaks. We won’t list in-ground lifts on our best-of list since they’re tougher to find and don’t typically show up in home garages.
Other Car Lift Options
If you’re looking to install a car lift in your home garage, you probably know it’s a big project to undertake. An alternative is to visit a self-serve auto shop, a relatively new phenomenon in the DIY world. Self-serve auto shops typically charge a per-hour rate for the use of lifts and garage equipment.
For those who don’t live near a self-serve shop, though, or who prefer to buy their own at-home lift anyway, read on for how to find the best option for wrenching at home.
How to Find the Best Car Lift for a Home Garage
You might have your eye on the same vehicle lift your go-to mechanic has in their shop. Performance and durability are key, but not every pro lift will fit in your garage, so there’s a lot to consider before you start shopping. Here’s how to find the best car lift for a home garage, regardless of your needs or specifications.
Consider Available Space
Most single-car garages measure around 12 feet by 24 feet. Depending on the type of car lift you choose, you may need more interior space for moving vehicles around and storing them safely. You’ll also need ample ceiling height—11 to 12 feet is optimal for avoiding accidents and ensuring you can work comfortably.
Mobil Oil recommends opting out of purchasing a lift for a garage less than 22 feet deep, but it ultimately comes down to how well the space is laid out and what type of lift you choose.
Know Your Garage
Size is a critical measurement when it comes to determining what type of lift will fit in your garage. You also need to know how deep your concrete slab is to ensure the lift can install properly. Between four and five inches is standard, so you might want to check before purchasing a lift.
To install a lift, you will need to drill into the concrete pad, so checking to make sure it’s in good repair is ideal. Check for cracks, pits, or any other obstacles which could affect the installation and overall operation of your lift.
Seek Out Safety Features
Using a car lift (or even a tire jack) is inherently dangerous, which is why professional shops must have high insurance coverage just in case. At home, you’re on your own, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have safety in mind.
Look for safety features like adjustable safety locks to keep your lift from operating by accident. Consider whether power lifts have a manual backup in case something goes wrong with your hydraulics while a car is in the air.
Some lifts may come with accessories, but if you choose a drive-on lift, consider adding your own kit to the purchase. Investing in rubber chocks (metal ones can slide) and lightweight ramps for a drive-on lift offer added safety and reduce strain on your body, too.
Know What You Need
Some vehicle lifts aim to make working on cars easier, while others are helpful for vertical storage in tight quarters. Know what your plans are before you start shopping for a lift so you can choose one which best suits your needs.
Look at Maintenance Specs
Hydraulic lifts require lubrication, which adds an element of maintenance to car lift ownership. Consider maintenance specs when shopping for a car lift, focusing on self-lubricating parts and ones which use bushings or bearings to facilitate smoother (and longer lasting) operation.
Finding replacement parts may also be a challenge depending on the brand you go with and how widely available it is. If it’s tough to find parts locally, you might reconsider a car lift which is otherwise perfect on paper.
Check Voltage Specs
Motorized car lifts typically come in either 110- or 120-volt options. Make sure your garage has the appropriate service to handle whatever lift you choose, or you’ll wind up needing an electrician’s help to get the thing installed.
In most residential garages, 110-volt power is standard, and you can also rely on a generator to operate your lift if necessary. Take note of the voltage of each lift and whether it will work with your existing wiring.
Investigate Installation Requirements
Installing an automotive lift can be a challenging task, but given the affordability of a home lift, it’s a project many of us are willing to tackle. If you receive your lift via freight shipping, you will likely need a forklift or other equipment to get it off the truck and into the garage.
Installation requirements will vary based on the size and features of your lift, but in general, you will want some help with installing whatever model you choose. Assembling the frame is the first step, then you’ll sort and insert hardware, raise the lift (with help), and finally fill the hydraulics and cycle the machine through to ensure everything works.
Note Weight Capacity
What you plan to lift is just as important as how you plan to lift it. If you’re working on small sedans or SUVs, a lower-capacity model might work fine. For passenger vans and diesel pickups, a higher weight limit is a necessity.
Both storage and wrenching are possible with Triumph’s NSS-8 lift, which is portable and high-capacity.
- Four-post style
- 8000 lb. capacity
- Includes jack tray, caster kit, and three drip trays
- Ten automatic locking positions
- Two vehicle stop plates
- Two vehicle loading ramps
It might not come with instructions (request them from the manufacturer or download them online), but after you get the information, assembling the Triumph NSS-8 is a manageable job for a small team. Once you have it put together, use the caster kit to move it around anywhere in your shop—no bolting required.
An accessory kit comes with the unit, which is a nice feature so you don’t have to scrounge around for drip trays or a jack tray, and the NSS-8 is ideal for tight spaces where a full-sized, bolted lift wouldn’t work. Whether you’re wrenching or storing, you’ll get plenty of height and performance out of this four-post model.
- Portable with casters
- Comes with accessory kit
- Must download instructions/email manufacturer
For small-scale wrenching applications, the QuickJack lift is a handy tool—and it can go almost anywhere.
- Scissor/jack style
- Remote handheld pendant control
- Automatic safety locks
- Maximum height 22 inches
- 5000 lb. capacity
If tires, brakes, and wheels are your go-to home garage projects, QuickJack’s portable lift might be the perfect fit. It can handle up to 5000 pounds and lifts vehicles about 22 inches off the ground—an ideal seated height for handling minor maintenance and other tasks.
The most attractive thing about the QuickJack is probably its portability; casters on the end of either stand allow you to slide the whole thing around, but it will also fit in your trunk for on-the-go projects. Attachments are also available for more wide-ranging compatibility across vehicle types (SUVs and motorcycles).
- Infinitely portable; fits in your trunk
- Ideal for tire/wheel/brake work
- Low max lift height
Triumph’s two-post NTO-9AE gives at-home mechanics exceptional lifting power in a pro-level package.
- Two-post style
- Dual point safety releases
- Truck adapters
- Anchor bolts for floor mounting
- 72” lifting height
- 9000 lb. capacity
For a full-sized garage, Triumph’s NTO-9AE will make you feel like a professional mechanic. The two-post lift runs on a 220V motor to lift vehicles up to 9000 pounds six feet in the air with ease. Safety releases are simple but effective and necessary.
In garages with plenty of floor space for bolting the unit down—along with a twelve-foot high or higher ceiling to accommodate—you can handle nearly any rig that rolls through the doors. Truck adapters come with the unit as well, allowing you to manage multiple types of vehicles on the lift.
- High weight capacity
- Ample lifting height
- Difficult to understand assembly instructions
In heavy-duty home garage environments, APlusLift’s HW-10KBP is an ideal fit for lifting heavy and high.
- Two post with floor plate
- 10000 lb. capacity
- Beveled diamond steel floor plate
- Truck adapters included
- Power pump relief valve
- 81” lift height
For heavy duty lifting applications, APlusLift’s HW-10KBP provides the stability and ruggedness you need. It can accommodate trucks (adapters included) up to 10000 pounds and features heavy-duty cable and a thick steel design. Double point safety lock release ensures your safety while working under and around vehicles, and door guards offer protection against vehicle damage.
With the heavy-duty construction, however, also comes the need for a solid base. You’ll need six-inch thick or deeper concrete, and paired with the lift’s 220V power requirement, that might mean you need to make some updates to your shop.
- High weight capacity/versatility
- High lift height
- Bulky for smaller garages
- Slow down speed
Storage and heavy-duty lifting are two perks with the Auto Lift Car-Park-8.
- Four-post style
- 8000 lb. capacity
- Ten lock positions
- Cable failure lock
- Aircraft-quality cables
- 18” runways
- Kit; drip trays, poly caster kit, jack tray, steel approach ramps
Auto Lift’s Car-Park-8 can handle up to 8000 pounds either lifting or storing to save you space and headaches in your home garage. Reinforced materials and backup safety mechanisms ensure long-lasting performance and ruggedness.
Casters make the unit mobile, though we recommend upgrading from the included option to something a bit more rugged to match the unit’s durability. A kit comes with the lift and includes drip trays and a jack tray, plus steel approach ramps with caution strips and non-skid diamond plating.
- Reinforced, heavy-duty materials
- Mobile with casters
- Casters are not ideal quality
- Difficult to understand directions
Comparing the Options
|Triumph NSS-8||Four-post||8000 lbs.||110V|
|QuickJack 5175376 BL-5000SLX||Scissor||5000 lbs.||110V|
|Triumph NTO-9AE||Two-post||9000 lbs.||220V|
|APlusLift HW-10KBP||Two-post floor plate||10000 lbs.||220V|
|Auto Lift Car-Park-8||Four-post||8000 lbs.||110V|
Working on your own vehicles at home can either be frustrating and time-consuming or relaxing and rewarding. Getting the job done often requires more equipment than the standard home garage has, though. Finding the right vehicle lift can help eliminate stressors when working on your fleet of personal vehicles, and with a car lift, you can take care of maintenance tasks you’ve never been able to DIY before. With our guide to finding the best car lift for your home garage, it’s easier than ever to narrow down the options and select the best lift for you and your cars.