Diesel Scissor Lifts vs. Electric Scissor Lifts

Diesel Scissor Lifts vs. Electric Scissor Lifts

When you need a scissor lift, you’ll be faced with the task of choosing between a wide range of models. Which scissor lift you ultimately select will depend on your budget and needs, but the main two options you have to choose from are diesel scissor lifts and electric scissor lifts. Each of these lifts is best suited for particular working conditions. In this article, we’ll run through the features of each type of machine, the pros and cons of each, and why you might choose one over the other.

What are scissor lifts best used for?

Scissor lifts are used for straightforward vertical tasks, where you need to lift materials, tools and workers up and down only. Unlike boom lifts, scissor lifts aren’t able to swing into a job area – instead, the machine is stationed below the area where work is to be completed.

Scissor lifts offer a stable working space that, unlike scaffold, doesn’t need to be erected prior to commencing work. Instead, they can just be driven in. They are often able to fit into narrow spaces, which is helpful for certain types of work, and the electric models are well-suited for indoor work, providing a tool for regularly lifting people to heights, whilst being flexible, in that you can easily move the scissor lift to different locations. You’ll find scissor lifts being used in a variety of settings, but in particular, they’re used for stocking shelves, installing fixtures, and for painting and facade work.

Which scissor lift is best? Electric or diesel?

Both electric and diesel scissor lifts have their own advantages for certain types of work, so it’s not a simple matter of which is better than the other. Additionally, there are continuing developments in technology that mean each generation of scissor lifts will be an improvement on the last. For example, you can buy new diesel scissor lifts that have been developed to emit less fumes than their predecessors. Also, not only will you find electric scissor lifts for sale these days, but also hybrid scissor lifts have come onto the market, offering both diesel and battery power.

The pros and cons of each type of scissor lift

Electric scissor lifts:

Designed primarily for indoor use, electric scissor lifts tend to be compact machines, capable of being manoeuvred into tight spaces and reaching reasonable heights (with models high enough for any indoor tasks). Let’s look at the pros and cons of electric scissor lifts.


  • Cheap to run, as no diesel fuel required
  • No emissions, so ideal for working indoors
  • Quiet
  • Non-marking tyres, meaning they work well on finished indoor surfaces, such as those in warehouses, factories, shops, galleries etc.
  • Fewer components than diesel models, which means fewer parts to maintain and repair
  • Less maintenance means more uptime and better performance.


  • Batteries have limited runtime, so ideally you need access to charging infrastructure
  • Depending on how much you’re using the machine you might need to remember to charge your machine each day, otherwise you face costly downtime (note that some models can be used whilst charging)
  • There is currently a more limited range of electric scissor lifts available than there are diesel-powered models
  • Electric models can’t lift as high or as heavy as diesel scissor lifts
  • Less useful outdoors, unless they’re specifically designed for rough terrain.

Diesel scissor lifts:

Since diesel scissor lifts are designed to be used outdoors, they tend to be larger, more robust machines, with greater load and reach capacity than electric scissor lifts. Let’s run through the pros and cons for diesel scissor lifts.


  • High height capacity, with diesel models in general exceeding the reach of electric scissor lifts
  • Higher load capacity than electric models
  • Can operate on rough, muddy, and uneven terrain, with many models being 4WD
  • Can operate on inclines, with many models include self-levelling capability via outriggers or hydraulic levelling jacks
  • Smaller diesel models are available that feature a narrow design that can fit into small spaces
  • Unlimited duty cycle than electric machines, as you can refuel at any stage
  • No need for electrical charging infrastructure
  • There are diesel machines available with very large lift platforms, meaning you can increase productivity by lifting a greater volume with each lift.


  • Louder than electric models
  • Suited to outdoor use only, due to their exhaust fumes and noise
  • More costly to maintain and service than electric, as contain more mechanical parts
  • You need to pay ongoing fuel costs

Bi-energy or hybrid scissor lifts

Bi-energy or hybrid scissor lifts include both a diesel engine and lithium-ion batteries. This means they can operate both on all-electric battery powered mode so as not to release diesel exhaust and to keep the decibels in check, as well as operate using diesel when there is less need to be concerned about noise and fumes.

An example of an outdoor application with a bi-energy scissor lift would be using diesel to drive the machine over rough terrain to the worksite, then switching to battery power to complete the height work. This way, whilst workers complete their tasks, there are no diesel emissions released, and little noise.


  • The best of both worlds – with ability to use both diesel and battery power, depending on the circumstances
  • Can be used indoors and outdoors – increasing your capacity to achieve different tasks, and making for a better overall investment
  • Ability to operate quietly, with no diesel particulates released when used on battery mode
  • Can offer a full-day’s work on battery mode.
  • No need to charge the batteries, on most models the diesel engine will keep the batteries charged


  • Can be more costly to buy than straight diesel or electric models of similar size
  • Will require more maintenance and servicing than a pure electric model.

Choosing the right scissor lift

When deciding which scissor lift is most suitable for your business, you need to take into account project requirements, the size and nature of your business and where you see it growing, and of course the cost of purchasing versus hiring a scissor lift.

Consider your projects

While each piece of work will differ, you most likely have an idea about the types of tasks you will use the scissor lift for most of the time. So consider the following when considering which scissor lift will suit your needs best:

  • The work environment: Will the scissor lift be needed indoors or outdoors? For indoor work, an electric machine won’t emit fumes and will operate quietly. Additionally, smaller electric models will easily fit into narrow spaces and corridors, and be easily stowed onsite. You’ll need a power source for an electric scissor lift, but this is usually achievable when indoors.

    If you need to use the scissor lift for outdoor work, particularly if it’s on gravel, mud and general uneven terrain, then a diesel, or hybrid model will work best.
  • Duration and Frequency of Use: If your scissor lift needs to operate outdoors for long periods of time, then a diesel machine will work best, as you can refuel as you go.
  • Lift Capacity and Height Requirements: If your task requires you to lift particularly heavy or reach high elevations, then a diesel lift or hybrid scissor lift might be the best option.

    For outdoor projects, especially those on uneven terrain or in less controlled environments, diesel scissor lifts are generally more effective due to their robust construction and ability to handle various ground conditions.

Hire or buy?

Firstly, for one-off projects, you will likely look at hiring a scissor lift, as that way you can use the lift without making a long-term investment. You can also get a feel for what the machine can do, and whether or not it performs well for the type of work you plan to do in the future.

The decision to buy or hire a scissor lift hinges on the frequency of use, financial considerations, storage capabilities, and the diversity of projects your business handles.

  • Buying: Purchasing a scissor lift is a significant investment and should be based on the most common needs of your business. If your operations are primarily indoor, purchasing an electric scissor lift makes sense due to its suitability for indoor environments and lower maintenance costs. For businesses engaged frequently in outdoor construction, landscaping, or other heavy-duty applications, a diesel scissor lift would be a more appropriate choice.

    Buying equipment requires you to take on the responsibility of long-term maintenance, storage, and operational costs, which can add up significantly over time.
  • Hiring: Renting a scissor lift provides the flexibility to match equipment precisely to the needs of each project, without committing to the full cost of ownership. This option is ideal for businesses with varied project types, or for those requiring a lift for occasional use only. Hiring allows you to choose the most suitable lift (diesel or electric) for specific tasks and durations, potentially saving costs and reducing logistical burdens associated with maintenance and storage. This flexibility can be particularly advantageous for smaller businesses or those expanding into new types of projects.

Financial and Operational Flexibility

Financially, hiring can reduce initial expenditure and spread financial risks, especially when dealing with fluctuating work volumes. However, if a scissor lift is a core component of your daily operations, purchasing may be more economical in the long run. Operational flexibility also plays a crucial role; owning a lift ensures availability without dependency on rental schedules, which can be a significant advantage during peak periods.


Ultimately, the decision between diesel and electric scissor lifts, and whether to buy or hire, depends on a careful analysis of your business’s operational requirements, financial capabilities, and the nature of your projects. For diverse or fluctuating project needs, hiring may offer the flexibility you need, without the commitment of ownership. For predictable and consistent use patterns, buying a scissor lift may prove more cost-effective, particularly when you buy a lift that can operate in environments that characterise most of your work.