Those who own car dealerships, run bus companies, or manage auto repair businesses or other establishments that deal with fleets of vehicles understand the importance of choosing suitable vehicle hoists for maintenance purposes.

A vehicle hoist – also known as an automotive lift – is, of course, essential for much of the maintenance that needs to be performed on your vehicles, and having a safe and reliable hoist means less man hours and quicker turnaround when there’s a mechanical issue with one of your cars, trucks, or buses.

So, how do you choose which vehicle hoists will be most suited to your business? And what’s available for your type of operation?

Until about 40 years ago, just about all vehicle hoists were installed in-ground, which involved more expensive and different specifications for installation. These last few decades, however, we’ve seen a change in preference and now vehicle hoists are largely of the surface mounted variety, which tends to be less costly. However, in-ground hoists are still available for those who truly need or prefer them.

Here are a few examples of the types of vehicle hoists you might consider.

2-post surface mounted

These are the most popular type available and include exactly what the name indicates. Two synchronized post lifts work together electronically, hydraulically, or mechanically to lift the vehicle. They are frame-engaging and include two swing-arms that travel up the two columns. An overhead shut-off bar is usually included.

Multi-post runway

Generally using four posts, these kinds of vehicle hoists allow the vehicle to be driven onto two “runways” and then it’s lifted by it’s tires. This gives the mechanic full and clear access to the underside of the vehicle being serviced. It’s an excellent choice for many businesses. 

Scissors lifts

As the name suggests, this automotive lift expands like scissors to lift the vehicle off the ground. Scissors lifts can be surface mounted but also can be installed in-ground. Businesses can purchase the drive-on style with runways or choose one that is frame-engaging or body-engaging. It lifts in a straight vertical path and is easy to operate. Some can also be configured for wheels-free services.

Drive-on parallelogram

You might have to brush up on your geometry to remind yourself of the term “parallelogram” but, simply, this lift is similar to a scissors hoist but moves the vehicle a small distance forwards or backwards while it’s going up or coming down. These are usually of the drive-on type with two runways and are generally powered by an electro-hydraulic power unit.

Low- and mid-rise frame engaging

Used mostly for tire, brake, or wheel service, as you’ve probably surmised, this hoist doesn’t raise the vehicle as high off the ground as the other types. It engages the vehicle’s frame or perimeter and can go straight up and down or is offered in a parallelogram option as well. Some low-rise hoists are lifted with compressed air while others have electro-hydraulic controls.

In-ground vehicle hoists

With this type of hoist, the lifting assemblies are installed below the garage floor and all hydraulic components are kept within an enclosure. Most of these hoists use one (or more) hydraulic pistons or scissors mechanisms depending on the type of vehicle to be serviced and the weight of those vehicles. This kind of automotive lift, of course, is more expensive to purchase and requires installation time.

Mobile hoists

Most mobile hoists – lifts you can move around from place to place – are of the wheel engaging type and include individual lifting columns. In most cases, the columns can communicate with each other wirelessly or via cables so that they work together in tandem. These are often a wise choice for businesses that don’t have large garages or other permanent places to service vehicles.


Some businesses purchase a combination of various types of hoists while others stick to one variety. At Western Oil Services, we’re experts in vehicle hoists and our professionals can help you assess your needs and recommend which of these automotive lifts will work best for your company. Call us for a free consultation.