Scissor lift vs boom lift: which machine will take you to new heights?

If you've got a job that requires access to high places that you are unable to reach with conventional ladders, you might be thinking about hiring an elevated work platform (EWP). Scissor lifts and boom lifts are the basic types of cherry pickers and ideal options to safely elevate workers up to high and hard to reach places, but they have very different capabilities.

What is a scissor lift?

Scissor lifts are an elevated work platform that can only move in the vertical plane on which personnel, tools, and supplies may be elevated to complete work, which means they have no telescopic or rotational ability compared with boom lifts. Scissor lifts can be self-propelled, trailer or truck mounted, and have optional outriggers or stabilisers. While a small scissor lift may only have space for one or several workers, larger platforms can accommodate a whole team, with barriers keeping them safely enclosed.


What is a Boom lift?

Boom lifts are hydraulically controlled and are the highest reaching EWP. They are an aerial lift that allows operators to be raised and moved horizontally and vertically to complete works indoors and outdoors. There are two main types of boom lifts:

  1. Straight booms – telescopic boom lifts offer the highest vertical reach of any access equipment , over 40 metres (135 feet).
  2. Knuckle booms – articulating boom lifts with jointed arms lack the height of straight booms, but they make up for it in improved access when an up and over approach is required.


How to choose between a scissor lift and boom lift

To decide what type of lifts are right for your project, ask yourself the following questions:

How high do you need to reach?

Boom lifts offer more overall reach compared to scissor lifts, with straight boom lifts offering two to three times the height of scissor lifts. This could be the deciding factor if you're working on a tall structure or tall trees, but a scissor lift could also be a lifting option at heights below 20 metres.

Are there any obstacles in the way of where you need to reach?

Boom lifts are the ideal solution for areas that aren’t completely clear of obstacles. A knuckle boom lift can be guided over, under, and around obstacles for access to hard to reach areas. Many straight booms can also be set at a range of angles for upward or downward reach. Scissor lifts are limited to straight vertical movement, making them less capable of manoeuvring around obstacles on site.

How many materials or workers need to be lifted?

Every lift has a manufacturer rated safe weight limit (SWL) and number of people that can safely occupy the platform. Larger platforms make scissor lifts the best option for lifting multiple personnel at the same time, along with tools and materials, whereas boom lifts can normally only accommodate a single worker.

Is it an indoor or outside job?

Where the work needs to be completed plays a key part in which type of lift needs to be used. Boom lifts are most commonly used outdoors, while most scissor lifts are designed for indoor use in factories, warehouses, and other enclosed spaces. The exception is rough terrain scissor lifts, which can be used on construction sites and other outdoor areas.

What is your budget?

The size of your budget to spend on purchasing or renting an EWP plays a large part in which lift is most suitable for your application. Scissor lifts are cheaper to hire and easier to operate than boom lifts, which make them the best option on a limited budget. However, if you need that extra reach or manoeuvrability, there's no substitute for a boom lift.

Do I need a licence?

If you or your team will be operating an EWP at heights above 11 metres, you'll need specialised EWP training as well as a High Risk Work Licence. The high-risk licence isn't required if you're working at heights below 11 metres, but you'll still need to complete Scissor Lift Training to obtain an EWPA Yellow Card.


Talk to a professional

iseekplant has rounded up leading suppliers of EWPs across Australia, with a wide variety of models available for hire and sale, capable of handling any task indoors and outdoors. Be sure to contact us on 1300 691 912, or use the iseekplant Get a Quote Tool today!