Best Forklifts for Narrow Aisles in 2024

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Narrow aisle electric forklifts parked in a row

This is our review of the best forklifts for narrow aisles in 2024. 

Warehouse aisles are becoming narrower. This is driven by businesses wanting to maximize their storage space.

But it’s essential to choose the right forklift for narrow aisles. After all, the wrong one can become an expensive, useless machine.

So, we researched the best forklifts for narrow aisles to help you find a perfect fit.

The Yale ERP025 sit-down 3-wheel electric forklift is the best overall for narrow aisles. 

But every operation is different. So, we also reviewed the best narrow aisle forklifts in various categories.

Let’s jump in!

Best Forklift for Very Narrow Aisles

Raymond 9600 Swing Reach Forklift

Works in aisles as narrow as 5 ft. 6 in.

3,000 lb. lifting capacity

Up to 516 in. lift height

Best Overall Forklift for Narrow Aisles

Yale ERP025 3-Wheeler Forklift

Works in aisles as narrow as 10 ft.

3,000 lb. lifting capacity

Up to 192 in. lift height

Best Budget Forklift for Narrow Aisles

Toyota 8BWS13 Walkie Stacker

Works in aisles as narrow as 7.25 ft.

2,500 lb. lifting capacity

Up to 143 in. lift height

Our Best Forklifts for Narrow Aisles

  1. Yale ERP025 Sit-Down 3-Wheel Electric Forklift (Best 3-Wheel Sit-Down Forklift for Narrow Aisles)
  2. Toyota 8BWS13 Walkie Stacker (Best Walkie Stacker Forklift for Narrow Aisle)
  3. Crown SP 3500-30 Order Picker (Best Order Picker Forklift for Narrow Aisles)
  4. Cat ECS14N Electric Stand-Up Counterbalanced Forklift (Best Stand-Up Counterbalanced Forklift for Narrow Aisles)
  5. Hyster N35ZR3 Narrow Aisle Reach Truck (Best Reach Truck for Narrow Aisles)
  6. Raymond 9600 Swing-Mast Reach Truck (Best Swing Reach Forklift for Narrow Aisles)
  7. Aisle Master 33E Electric Articulated Forklift (Best Articulated Forklift for Narrow Aisles)
  8. Combilift Combi-STE C6000 Electric Multi Directional Forklift (Best Sideloader Forklift for Narrow Aisles)

8 Best Forklifts for Narrow Aisles

Yale ERP025 Sit-Down 3-Wheel Electric Forklift

The Yale ERP025 is our overall top pick for narrow aisle forklifts. Its compact three-wheel design enables it to right-angle stack within 119.1 inches of space with a 48-inch load.

The forklift has a lifting capacity of up to 3,000 pounds. This capacity is suitable for everyday tasks in warehouses and distribution centers. 

The standard configuration of the ERP025 includes a 112-inch two-stage mast. This mast works for basic stacking. However, it is not ideal for reaching higher levels of warehouse racking. 

A vital feature of this narrow aisle 3-wheeler is its AC motors. Unlike older-style DC motors, these motors don’t have wearable brushes. Ditching them results in more uptime and less maintenance. 

The forklift has an adjustable steering column and a low step height. It also has contoured handholds for easier mounting and dismounting. These options enhance operator comfort and safety.

However, the small operator compartment may feel cramped for some larger drivers compared to standard three-wheel designs.

The Yale ERP025 comes with a standard 12-month, 2,000-hour full truck warranty. Additionally, there’s a 36-month, 6,000-hour powertrain warranty for better peace of mind.

Toyota 8BWS13 Walkie Stacker

The Toyota 8BWS13 is our top choice for narrow aisle walkie stacker forklifts. These machines are used in a variety of settings. For example, they are common in beverage handling, cold storage, and distribution.

Its compact size and pinwheel steering allow it to turn and stack in aisles less than 87 inches wide. Moreover, it has adjustable base legs. At their closest setting, they measure 33 inches wide.

The 8BWS13 is a walk-behind type. Operators control it manually using a tilting handle. The handle contains all functions, such as raising, lowering, and moving forward and backward. This enables ergonomic control of the machine.

A significant safety feature of this model is the belly bump switch. This switch activates when the forklift moves backward and touches the operator’s body. In such cases, it automatically reverses direction. This helps prevent crushing accidents.

This model has a lift height capability of up to 143 inches. This height makes it suitable for pallet floor stacking. It’s also practical for reaching the first and second levels of standard racking. But it isn’t ideal for taller racking in narrow aisles.

Also, the 8BWS13 is considered a light-duty forklift. With its 2,500-pound lifting capacity, you won’t be able to lift very heavy loads.

Crown SP 3500-30 3-Wheel Order Picker

The Crown SP Series Order Picker is an excellent order picker forklift for narrow aisles.

This order picker has a minimum width of 40 inches. It also boasts a tight 69-inch turning radius. This design ensures the truck can easily fit into many narrow aisle applications.

Additionally, the truck has an impressive maximum lift height. It can reach up to 366 inches. This height can reach some of the tallest racking configurations found in warehouses.

The truck’s design focuses on the operator’s safety. It uses a significant amount of steel in its construction to minimize sway. This helps increase operator confidence when working high up.

The SP 3500 also has what Crown claims to be the industry’s largest operator window in this model. It’s 50% larger compared to others. This improves visibility, helping reduce the risk of collisions.

Crown’s Access 1-2-3 system continuously monitors the truck’s stability. It works together with other components to make real-time performance adjustments. These adjustments enhance both safety and the machine’s overall performance.

One potential disadvantage is the SP 3500’s 24-volt battery system. This set up offers less power compared to 36-volt systems.

Cat ECS14N Electric Stand-Up Counterbalanced Forklift

The Cat ECS14N is our top pick for the best stand-up counterbalance forklift for narrow aisles.

The forklift has a right-angle stack of 111 inches with 48-inch forks. It also has a 50.8-inch turning radius. This makes it highly maneuverable in narrow aisles.

Moreover, the forklift can lift up to 3,000 lbs. and reach heights up to 276 inches. These make the ECS14N suitable for accessing high-level racking in narrow aisle warehouses. 

This forklift lift truck uses alternating current (AC) electric motors. These offer more responsiveness, less wear, and lower maintenance costs. In fact, the forklift can go 1,000 hours between services.

Another vital feature is the long battery life. Cat claims it can provide up to two shifts of runtime on a single charge. This can significantly improve productivity and efficiency.

Safety is a crucial aspect of the Cat ECS14N. It includes an overhead guard optimized for visibility during stacking. The guard is also compatible with drive-in racking applications for added versatility.

Operator comfort is a priority in this model. It offers cushioning pads for the operator’s knee, back, and waist. These features reduce discomfort during long shifts.

Hyster N35ZR3 Narrow Aisle Reach Truck

The Hyster N35ZR3 is our pick for the best reach truck for narrow aisles.

It has a 96-inch right-angle stack and a minimum turn radius of 65.6 inches. This small footprint allows it to navigate easily narrow aisles.

The truck is powered by a 36-volt AC battery system. Such a setup enables greater power for lifting and traveling while cutting maintenance costs.

The truck has a 203-inch three-stage mast with a full free lift. This upright is suitable for traditional warehouse racking heights. Hyster also offers lift height options up to 301 inches for higher reach.

Standard safety features include an overhead guard with a rear post protector. This protector safeguards the operator from being crushed against objects when backing up. 

The N35ZR3 also has a cushioned floor to absorb shocks and vibrations to the feet and upper extremities. This helps reduce operator fatigue, strain, and pain.

Moreover, Hyster offers optional packages for cold environments down to -40°F. For example, one design includes a heated floor and control handle to keep operators warm.

Hyster provides a 12-month unlimited full warranty and a 36-month 6,000-hour standard warranty. Additionally, there is a lifetime frame warranty. These add peace of mind for buyers of the N35ZR3.

Raymond 9600 Swing-Mast Reach Truck

The Raymond 9600 is a specialized forklift designed to enhance the efficiency and safety of stacking and retrieving pallets in narrow aisles. It works in aisles as small as 66 inches wide.

Swing mast reach trucks differ from conventional forklifts because they have a sideways mast. This allows the forks to move perpendicular to the truck. 

Such functionality reduces the need for operators to turn the truck itself. Instead, the truck can move straight back and forth in the aisle. Meanwhile, the driver can maneuver the forks to the desired position.

Moreover, this swing mast turret truck is compatible with wire guidance systems. These systems eliminate the need for manual steering adjustments within the aisles. So, operators can focus more on meanuvering the mast to handle pallets.

The Raymond 9600 model has a lifting capacity of 3,000 pounds. Additionally, it can elevate up to 516 inches. These aspects make it versatile for warehouses with heavy loads and tall racking.

On the downside, swing mast trucks require more training to operate safely and effectively. This can limit how widely they’re adopted based on the workforce’s capabilities.

Aisle Master 33E Electric Articulated Forklift

Aisle Master is a product of Combilift, a specialty multi-directional forklift maker. Their Aisle Master 33E Electric Articulated Forklift is a unique solution for narrow aisles. 

Unlike traditional forklifts, this model features a pivot point in its chassis. This flexible joint allows the front axle and forks to turn at a 90° angle relative to the back axle. 

This design is highly effective in narrow aisles because it reduces the need to turn the entire truck. As a result, the 33E can operate in aisles as narrow as 5 feet 6 inches. 

The 33E has a 3,000-pound capacity. This makes it suitable for various general-duty tasks in warehousing and narrow aisles. Other models can reach up to 6,600 pounds. 

Additionally, it can reach heights up to 591 inches. This is enough reach to access almost any warehouse racking design. 

The forklift is powered by a 48-volt battery electric system. This setup provides ample power without emissions, enabling a top speed of ten miles per hour.

Aisle Master also offers an internal combustion liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) model. This offers continuous 24-hour service, limited only by the speed of tank swaps.

Combilift Combi-STE C6000 Electric Multi Directional Forklift

The Combilift Combi STE C6000 is our top choice for forklifts that can handle long materials like timbers or steel beams in narrow aisles both indoors and outdoors.

This forklift can handle light to medium-duty loads with a 72-volt electric system and a 6,000-pound lifting capacity. It also offers a maximum lift height of 159 inches.

Unlike traditional forklifts, this truck has its forks integrated into the side. Instead of turning, this “side loader” design allows the forklift mast to move inward and retrieve items from racking. Then, it can retract and pull the materials back over the platform and continue down the aisle.

The C6000’s multi-directional steering is another notable feature. The truck moves its wheels in any direction with a simple button press. It also has a tight turning radius of 73 ½ inches. Both these features dramatically enhance maneuverability in narrow aisles.

However, side loaders like the Combilift can have higher maintenance costs. This is due to increased tire wear from the multi-directional functionality. This is especially true when turning in place frequently. 

Buying Guide for Narrow Aisle Forklifts

There’s much to consider when selecting a forklift for narrow aisles. Here are some key factors:

Aisle Width

The width of your aisles will dictate the type of forklift you should choose.

Standard sit-down counterbalance lift trucks typically work best in aisles 10.5 feet and wider. Narrow aisle forklifts are suitable for aisles from 8 to 10 feet wide. Very narrow aisle (VNA) forklift trucks are ideal for aisles 6 to 8 feet wide.

In very narrow aisles, consider options to eliminate the need for turning. Order pickers and swing mast forklifts can be good choices in such situations. 

Focusing on the right angle stack measurement is crucial for other narrow aisle scenarios. This is the least space the forklift needs to turn and access pallets within the racking.

This measurement must match your aisle requirements. If it doesn’t, the forklift may be unable to turn and access stock. 

To find the right angle stack, check the forklift’s technical specifications. Additionally, be sure to factor in the length of your loads. Adding 6 inches to a foot for extra clearance is also a good idea. 

Load Capacity

Small electric stackers have lower capacities, typically maxing out at about 2,500 pounds. The highest capacity narrow aisle trucks max out at around 6,000 pounds.

A lot goes into determining the suitable lifting capacity for your forklift needs. We recommend checking out our guide on the topic to discover more.

But here’s the gist: Start by determining the heaviest loads you will handle. Think about both the weight and the dimensions of these loads. 

Also, consider the load’s center of gravity. This point indicates where most of the load’s weight is concentrated. 

If the load center is far from the front axle, it increases the overturning force on the forklift. This can lead to tipping. Thus, you’ll need a more robust and heavier forklift to handle such loads safely.

Lift Height

In narrow aisle settings, it’s common to have taller racking to maximize storage space. By reducing the width of aisles and increasing storage height, you can use the available space more effectively.

This strategy often results in the need for high lift heights and narrow aisles. Reach and turret trucks are examples of forklifts that can achieve these heights.

Many narrow aisle forklifts come with a 15-foot mast as standard equipment. This is suitable for average warehouses with regular racking.

The maximum lifting height in many sit-down and stand-up narrow aisle fork trucks is 240 inches. But some models can lift over 500 inches.

It’s important to remember that higher lift heights mean taller mast collapse heights. This can cause problems when trying to pass under short doorways.

In these cases, the forklift might need to be disassembled and reassembled to move it in and out of buildings. This can lead to downtime, higher costs, and an increased risk of damaging the machine.

Fuel Type

Narrow aisles are commonly found inside indoor warehouses. That being the case, battery-powered electric forklifts are used in narrow aisle applications. 

These forklifts do not produce harmful emissions. This makes them suitable for use around people and sensitive items like food and medicine.

Despite this advantage, electric forklifts have a critical downside: they require regular charging. This keeps the truck out of use for as much as 16 hours.

On the other hand, internal combustion forklift engines offer more power and uptime. How continuously they can operate is limited only by the speed of propane tank swaps.

But, internal combustion engines also emit harmful emissions. These are not only concerns for global climate change. They can also be dangerous to human health.

The right choice of fuel type depends on which advantages are more important for your specific application and preferences.

Tire Type

Most narrow aisles are inside warehouses with smooth surfaces, such as polished concrete. Typically, these terrains have two tire options: solid rubber cushion or polyurethane. 

One significant advantage of these tires is their lower rolling resistance. This reduces friction on the floor. As a result, the forklift can maintain higher productivity and fuel/power efficiency.

But rubber and poly tires have limited traction. This can be a concern, especially if operators drive at high speeds on wet or cold floors. With less traction, it’s harder to stop the truck when needed. 

For enhanced traction, treaded tires are an option. These provide better grip for superior stopping power on slippery surfaces.

Siped tires are another option. These tires have notches or grooves cut into them. They’re often found on polyurethane tires, like those used on reach trucks.

A third option is solid or air-filled pneumatic tires. These are more common for sit-down three-wheel electric forklifts. 

Air-filled tires offer more cushioning and bounce. But, they can be prone to punctures. This is a concern in environments like recycling plants.

Safety Features

Forklifts have been in use for about 100 years. Over this time, manufacturers have continually introduced new safety innovations. Many of these have become standard on modern forklifts.

Consider overhead guards, for example. These cages are designed to protect operators from falling objects. They’ve been standard on most forklifts since the 1960s.

Another standard safety feature on many forklifts is seatbelts. Seatbelts are crucial for preventing crushing injuries or fatalities during overturns. They’ve been standard on many models since 1992.

But it’s a best practice to review your company’s safety policies and guidelines. Because your specific needs or safety requirements might exceed these standard features. 

Many forklift manufacturers provide proprietary systems to enhance safety. In such cases, explore what they offer. 

For example, Toyota offers its System of Active Stability (SAS). This technology scans for instability and stabilizes the rear axle when detected. This helps prevent the forklift from turning over.

Be aware, however, that some safety features are considered optional equipment. Each can raise the price by hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Ergonomics

Ergonomics become increasingly important the longer an operator spends on a forklift. 

An uncomfortable operating experience can lead to fatigue. Fatigue, in turn, can result in a loss of attention. And it only takes a brief lapse in attention when operating a forklift to cause accidents.

There are many ergonomic features to consider. 

For instance, seats with suspension and cushioning. These seats absorb shocks and vibrations from forklift operation. This prevents the transmission of these shocks and vibrations to the operator’s body, reducing strain.

In cold environments, such as cold storage warehouses, having a heated cab is beneficial. These can mitigate cold-related fatigue and related health issues. This promotes operator health, longevity, and productivity.

Consider how the hand controls are designed as well. Manufacturers put much effort into designing controls that match the average person’s hand movements. 

For example, fingertip controls on sit-down forklifts can offer extra ergonomic support. Walkie stackers with hand control paddles angled for optimal hand orientation can also help avoid strain.

In stand-up forklifts for narrow aisles, foot cushioning and padding for the lower extremities is essential. Long hours standing while operating can cause pain in the feet, legs, hips, and back. Adequate cushioning can offset some of this discomfort.

Budget

Narrow aisle trucks are often seen as specialty lift trucks. Like anything, the more specialized, the higher its cost.

Smaller electric walkie pallet stackers designed for narrow aisles are the most affordable. These entry-level models typically cost between $5,000 and $15,000.

The prices are higher if you consider three-wheel electric forklifts for narrow aisles. Expect to pay between $25,000 and $35,000. This price range includes the chassis and the battery.

Narrow aisle reach trucks, including the battery, usually cost between $30,000 and $40,000. 

More specialized trucks, like swing reach mast forklifts and side loaders, cost between $60,000 and $80,000.

Forklift buyers have many different purchasing choices. These include buying outright and numerous leasing options, plus renting

It’s a good idea to explore each. Certain ones may let you enjoy benefits like saving capital, preserving cash flow, and enabling tax advantages. Consult with a financial advisor for the best advice.

Our Verdict

Choosing a forklift that can handle narrow aisles effectively can be challenging. 

Make the wrong decision, and you’ll end up with useless equipment. Even worse, it could cause catastrophic damage to people, infrastructure, or products.

Each operation is unique. So, it’s critical to consider your specific aisle dimensions and environment.

But the Yale ERP025 sit-down three-wheel electric forklift is an excellent choice for narrow aisles. This forklift combines adequate load capacity and lift height with a compact footprint for efficiently navigating these tight spaces.

FAQs About Narrow Aisle Forklifts

What is a narrow aisle forklift truck?

A narrow aisle forklift is a specialized lift truck used in aisles less than 10 feet wide. They’re known for their slim designs and high maneuverability. Narrow aisle forklifts help companies maximize their available storage capacity by trading aisle space for pallet racking space.

What class is a narrow aisle forklift?

Narrow aisle forklifts typically fall into Class II: Electric motor narrow aisle trucks. This class includes both sit-down and stand-up types of forklifts. All are intended for indoor use on smooth floors, such as in warehouses and distribution centers.

What is the OSHA requirement for aisle width?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) doesn’t specify an aisle width for forklifts. OSHA’s regulations focus more on floor markings and safe walkway widths for pedestrians. In practice, the narrowest aisles get in industrial settings is about 6 feet.

What is the minimum aisle width for a forklift?

One of the narrowest trucks is the Aisle Master 33E articulated forklift. It can work in aisles as narrow as 5 feet 6 inches. In contrast, standard warehouse forklifts typically need about 13 feet of aisle width.

What forklift is best for narrow aisles?

The Yale ERP025 3-wheel electric forklift is an excellent choice for narrow aisle applications. This forklift’s compact design is smaller than many of its competitors. This size allows it to operate effectively in small aisles.

What is the best forklift for tall shelves and narrow aisles?

The Raymond 9600 swing-reach forklift is excellent for tall shelves and narrow aisles. Its unique perpendicular-mounted mast allows the truck to navigate aisles as narrow as 66 inches. Moreover, it can reach up to 516 inches into the air. This combination of features makes it suitable for some of the tallest warehouses with the narrowest aisles.

Who can operate a narrow aisle truck?

According to OSHA’s standards, narrow aisle forklift operators must be certified. They also need training specific to the type of narrow aisle truck they’ll operate. Training includes classroom instruction, hands-on training, and evaluation under workplace conditions.

How much is a narrow aisle forklift?

Electric walkie stackers usually cost between $5,000 and $15,000. Three-wheel sit-down and stand-up forklifts typically range from $25,000 to $35,000. Specialized narrow trucks, like multi directional side loaders, cost $60,000 to $80,000 or more. Forklift prices vary by the model, brand, and extra features.

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