How to Choose the Right Automotive Lift for Use at Home

Most commercial garages will be equipped with car lifts that pick the vehicle off the ground and make it easier for the mechanic to walk around freely under the car, and to access all its parts and systems. If you like to work on cars at home, you can have the same type of lift for your own garage. This can make it easier to work on your vehicle and also make it safer, as your car may be less likely to fall off a lift than a jack. When you're ready to choose an automotive lift for use at home, note a few simple but important tips.

1. Two-post lifts

Note that you need to figure the height of the car once it's lifted, taking into account anything you have stored on racks connected to your garage's ceiling. One popular type of lift is a two-post and plate lift. This has a plate that is connected to two posts; you drive the car over the plate and the plate is then lifted by chains in the post. This is a very convenient type of lift to use, however, these posts are often too tall for many residential garages and may get in the way of the automatic garage door opener housing, overhead racks, and the like. 

2. Scissor lifts

Scissor lifts are good for controlling the clearance height above the car; these are a plate that you drive over which is then lifted by a scissor lift mechanism underneath it. Because the lift is completely under the car, it can be good for garages without much overhead clearance. 

The plate will have wide openings for access to many of the car's systems but may still get in the way of some parts, as it does need to large enough to support the vehicle's weight. For standard maintenance like oil changes, this may not be a problem, but if you like to modify suspension systems and perform other such specialized work, the plate might not allow adequate clearance.

3. Alignment lifts

Alignment lifts are a type of scissor lift that feature alignment plates, or four rounded plates that slide under the car so it can be lifted. While these can give you more clearance under the car than a standard scissor lift, note that you would always need to ensure the plates are in proper position before lifting the car so you don't do damage to its body. They also may not be as strong as scissor lifts with a full plate, so they may not work for an SUV or other heavier type of vehicle.