Telehandler Brand Comparison: Evaluating the Top Brands
Designed for rough terrain operations with their four-wheel drive capabilities, telehandlers are very popular machines for many contractors, landscapers, and farmers.
Built for material handling, residential house building, and more, telehandlers are like traditional forklifts but with more power, reach, and versatility. They can also commonly be called reach forklifts, high-reach forklifts, telescopic handlers, telelifts, Lulls, and construction forklifts. However, for the sake of simplicity, we will refer to them as telehandlers throughout this guide.
Because they are such popular machines, many construction OEMs want a piece of the market. According to a report from EquipmentWatch, JLG is the most popular telehandler brand with 20% of the industry resales and Skytrak, also a product of JLG, is second. Caterpillar, Genie, and JCB account for 15% each, making these 5 brands the most popular. Rounding out the top brands are Gehl, Manitou, Skyjack, Bobcat, and Sany.
Previous brands that really only exist in the used markets now include Lull and Terex. Lull was discontinued by JLG in 2014 while Terex telehandlers are now known just as the Genie brand.
In this guide, we're going to cover each of the top telehandler brands, their features, and the models of each OEM, as well as some general reviews. This will help you make an informed decision about which telehandler brand might be the best for you and your projects.
Top Telehandler Brands and Their Notable Features
Before we dive into the brands there are a few quick things to note. Telehandlers are classified into three different sizes: light-medium duty, heavy-duty, and high capacity.
Light-medium duty telehandlers have a lift capacity of 5,000 to 9,000 lbs, no outriggers, and a reach of 19' to 42'. Heavy-duty telehandlers can lift 10,000 to 14,000 lbs, have outriggers, and typically have a reach of 54'. High-capacity telehandlers have a 14,000 to 24,000 lbs lift capacity, outriggers are optional, and a reach of 33' to 56', which decreases as weight increases.
One of the most popular brands for lifting equipment in general, Genie telehandlers are a top-performing brand. Well-liked by contractors, their blue-colored telehandlers can be seen on almost every major construction project.
Offering a rear proximity alarm, this great feature helps equipment operators know whether there are any surrounding obstacles, especially when the visibility from the cab is low. Their machines can be used for a wide range of industries including construction, landscaping, and agriculture, and they also make a lot of their own attachments, ensuring ease of use with their Quick-Attach systems.
If purchasing, the machines can be built with standard features or built to order, providing great customization for the owner. With a closed cab, they also have heating for the colder environments and AC for those difficult summer months.
Contractors have said good things about Genie, especially when it comes to visibility from the cab and how great they are for subzero temperatures.
Genie Telehandler Models
With 5 models in their current lineup, they don't offer the same number of options as other brands on this list. However, these models do cover the desired range of specs, capable of lifting 5,500 lbs to 12,000 lbs, lift heights ranging from 18' to 56', and forward reach of 11' to 42'.
Both the Genie GTH-1056 and GTH-1256 come equipped with outriggers as they are capable of lifting over 10,000 lbs. Their GTH-1056 model was redesigned to keep the total cost of ownership down 10% while also increasing the lift capacity.
Pros and Cons of Genie Telehandlers
- They are easily maneuverable on many types of terrain and capable of adjusting to tight spaces. This makes them ideal for small construction sites where space is limited.
- While their models cover the basic telehandler range, they have lower capacity than some other brands that will be listed throughout this guide. This can limit their usefulness and ability to work in certain applications.
Probably the most recognizable brand in the industry, Caterpillar has a wide variety of construction equipment including telehandlers. The quality of their machines is very high and they are one of the most valuable resold telehandler brands because of their performance.
With all-around visibility, they provide equipment operators with the comfort of using their machines safely. They, like most brands on this list, have three different steering modes: front-wheel, crab steering, and four-wheel steering which helps them have a small turning radius.
They also have several attachment options for telehandlers that will increase the versatility of their machines, helping them get more jobs done. Many reviews of Cat telehandlers have to do with having high upfront costs but the quality to handle a lot of jobs without breaking down.
Caterpillar Telehandler Models
With 7 Caterpillar telehandler models currently available, their products can lift 5,500 lbs to 12,00 lbs, lift 18' to 54', and reach 11' to 42', putting them in the same range as Genie's telehandlers. However, their smaller models like the TL642 can be customized with outriggers to give a lower-capacity machine better reach capabilities.
Also, their TH255C model is specifically designed for smaller projects. Due to its compact structure, it can navigate tight job sites and work on indoor projects.
Pros and Cons of Cat Telehandlers
- They are versatile machines capable of working on projects for several different industries
- They are known among contractors as being very high-quality
- Cat telehandlers are designed for easy maintenance and have a large serviceability system do to their dealer networks across North America
- Cat telehandlers typically have a higher upfront cost than many other telehandler brands
- Caterpillar telehandlers generally are heavier than other brands, making them not as applicable on certain terrains or less maneuverable
Manitou specializes in material handlers like telehandlers, forklifts, skid steers, and compact track loaders. Available in 140 countries, their machines are some of the most trusted in the industry.
Their telehandlers, especially the MT and MHT models, are great for contractors who perform lots of heavy lifting. Industries include masonry, cladding, roofing, renovation, and more.
What makes Manitou products so great is their interchangeable attachments, steering modes, and dashboards that show the operator all the important information. They're extremely maneuverable, much like other brands, and provide great comfort and visibility. Manitou's telescopic forklifts are also great at loading and unloading on multiple projects and terrains.
Range of Manitou Telehandler Models
For their telehandlers, they have three main product ranges: MT-X, MHT-X, and MXT. The MT and MHT models are designed specifically to handle heavy, bulky loads.
Within these specific classes they have an astounding 40 models, the most out of any telehandler manufacturer. The lift capacity of these machines ranges from 2,756 lbs to 44,000 lbs. While this is less than other brands, they have many electric models, unlike their competitors. Also, all of their models that lift 8,000 lbs and more are equipped with outriggers.
Their telehandlers also have max forward reach between 8' and 42', on par with others in the industry while actually providing a little lower of a threshold than others, showing that their smaller, compact models might be better options in tight spaces.
Pros and Cons of Manitou Telehandlers
- Manitou telehandlers are very durable and versatile, especially with the number of attachment capabilities
- They have lots of safety features including load sensors, ROPS, and stability controls
- Manitou telehandlers are very maneuverable with their 3 modes of steering and can operate well in tight spaces
- Their 40 models might be almost too much and cause a state of analysis paralysis for contractors looking to buy
Bobcat is notorious for their compact equipment like skid steers and compact track loaders but they also produce a small range of telehandlers that are quite popular.
With LCD screens in the spacious and comfortable cab, operators have access to everything they need while not ruining their bodies. Also, they are one of the few telehandlers that have four modes of steering: all-wheel, front-wheel, crab, and semi-crab.
Bobcat telehandlers have Tier 4 engines that are optimized for traction and impressive pushing power. Two models, the TL723 and TL923 also have automatic ride control to reduce the number of materials that spill. With their attachment versatility, they can perform several jobs and can be quickly fitted with new attachments seamlessly.
Lastly, because the operator sits above the boom on the telehandler, the operator has better visibility than some other manufacturers. Also, with multiple mirrors and work lights, operators can see around the whole cab and perform well early in the morning or late at night.
Range of Bobcat Telehandler Models
The one downside to Bobcat's telehandlers is that they only have three models in their product portfolio. Also, these models are more compact and smaller scale, comparable mostly to Manitou's small telehandlers.
Bobcat telehandlers have a max lift capacity of 5,512 lbs on the TL619 and 9,041 lbs on the TL923. Also, the max lift height ranges from 19' to 23' while the max reach is 10' and 13', respectively. This is quite a limited range in comparison to other telehandler brands.
Pros and Cons of Bobcat Telehandlers
- The four modes of steering are a point of difference for contractors looking for more mobility
- Bobcat telehandlers have some of the best visibility in the industry
- The limited reach and specs make them less enticing for certain jobs than other OEMs
Popular in the lifting industry for aerial work platforms, Skyjack is also renowned for its telehandlers, quickly becoming one of the top-performing brands for this type of equipment. With some of the best lifecycle value, they are incredibly popular amongst equipment rental companies, their primary customer.
Designed with an innovative cab that allows them to convert easily between open and closed cabs with just a couple of hand tools, the operator can be comfortable in any weather. It also allows equipment rental companies to adjust quickly to consumer demands. Skyjack telehandlers can be customized for specific jobs.
The new Skyjack TH products are engineered to require no DPF and no DEF, especially with the Tier IV Final engines. These models also have rear axle stabilization, outriggers, and different package options. This also means lower maintenance costs and additional engine sensors.
Range of Skyjack Telehandler Models
Skyjack has seven telehandler models that cover a wide range of lift capacities. Ranging from 5,500 lbs to 20,000 lbs, these machines also have max lift heights between 19' to 56'. Forward reach ranges from 11' to 42'.
Most models fall under the TH designation, including the Skyjack SJ519, SJ643, SJ843, SJ1044, SJ1056, and SJ1256. They also have the Skyjack ZB2044 which is a high-capacity telehandler. This model has a limited reach of 27' but can lift more at max reach with a capacity of 7,000 lbs.
Pros and Cons of Skyjack Telehandlers
- One of the biggest pros is that their control systems are color-coded to make troubleshooting and repairs easier
- Some models don't require any DEF or DPF, reducing maintenance and repair costs, as well as TCO
- Skyjack telehandlers are made specifically for the rental industry and are not available for purchase directly
Also popular for their boom lifts and aerial platform, JLG is the most popular telehandler brand in North America, as mentioned earlier. Their Skytrak models alone make up another significant part of the telehandler industry. There are many reasons for this including their features and product range.
For example, Skytrak models are simpler, cheaper, and provide more visibility. JLG telehandlers also have machine hoods that have a heat-resistant polymer that is more durable.
Additional features include stabilization of the machine that instills more operator confidence. They also have multifunctional displays that operators have access to at any point. This includes information about load charts, to ensure you're not lifting outside of the desired range of motion. They also have reversing cameras to give you good visibility, diagnostics, and analyzers.
Other features include alarms that alert operators of rear obstructions when in reverse. Also, visibility from the cab is better because of the lessons that JLG learned in the past by moving the engine position.
Range of JLG Telehandler Models
JLG has 19 telehandler models on its current product list. These machines range from lift capacities of 2,700 lbs to 26,600 lbs, making them more diverse than many other products on this list, and can reach up to 97' on the JLG R11100.
They have seven Skytrak models including the JLG 3013, JLG 6036, JLG 6042, JLG 8042, JLG 10054, and JLG 12054.
Pros and Cons of JLG Telehandlers
- JLG provides some great training to operators on how to get the most out of their equipment
- You can get parts for JLG and Skytrak from JLG
- JLG telehandlers have fewer components decrease the amount of maintenance
- JLG machines can be pretty big and larger making them harder to use
Now a brand under Manitou, Gehl is a popular compact earthmoving and material handler manufacturer in North America. With a portfolio that also includes skid loaders, track loaders, articulated loaders, and, of course, telehandlers, Gehl is known for its reliable construction equipment.
Gehl telehandlers have rear axle stabilization features that lock the axles in place and keep them stable on safe on job sites. They also feature quick attach systems to ensure attachments can be swapped out easily and efficiently. They have some tool carrier machines with extended reach capacity to perform many different jobs.
Range of Gehl Telehandler Models
Gehl has 19 telehandlers in their product portfolio ranging in size from 2,756 lb lift capacity to 12,000 lbs, very much in line with their Manitou parent. Lift height ranges from 14' to 15' 5" and reach ranges from 8' to just over 41'.
Pros and Cons of Gehl Telehandlers
- They're housed under the Manitou brand which is a very trusted brand of telehandlers
- Great visibility and joystick controls for easy operation
- Not much technical data is listed on their sites in comparison to other brands so information may be limited
More notable for their large equipment like wheel loaders, excavators, and forklift trucks, SANY also has a small range of telehandlers.
Like all the other brands, they have three modes of steering: 2W, 4W, and crab, making them just as maneuverable. They are designed to have spacious cabs, great visibility, and great operator comfort.
With both ROPS and FOPS on closed cab telehandlers, they have great protection for their operators. Also, with backup cameras, reverse sensors, and LED work lights on the cab and boom, they can operate at all hours of the day with great performance.
Range of SANY Telehandler Models
SANY only has four telehandler models: the STH634A, STH844A, STH1056A, and ST1256A with lift capacities ranging from 6,000 lbs to 12,000 lbs. As for maximum height, they can reach from 34' to 56'.
Pros and Cons of SANY Telehandlers
- Incredibly safe machines that are trusted by many contractors
- They are not as popular as other equipment so might not have the same name recognition in the telehandler market
- With only four models, they have limited offerings for unique use cases that may require contractors to go with other brands
With products that expand across many different scopes of construction, JCB is a popular brand of telehandlers. They have small, compact models like the JCB 504-I3 that has a max lift capacity of 4,000 lbs, as well as some of the highest impact models on the market like the JCB 514-56.
JCB's telehandlers have optional Smoothride Sytems (SRS) that decrease the amount of material that may spill from the handler and that increase the operator's comfort. This is especially important since efficiency and productivity are so important on construction sites.
Like other brands, they have three steer modes available. Two-wheel steering is best when you're traveling at high speeds or on roads, four-wheel drive is best for being in tight spaces where you need to maneuver, and crab steering will help when you're close to obstacles.
Their telehandlers are also assorted into two main categories: tool carriers and lift and place, each having its specific benefits and features. These machines come with 4WD and have great traction in soft, muddy terrains and the 74 hp telehandlers do not require Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) or Diesel Engine Fluid (DEF).
Range of JCB Telehandler Models
JCB has 16 telehandler models currently, 7 of which are denoted as tool carriers with the "TC" in the name.
On the TC models specifically, like the 506-23TC and 509-23TC, they have high back-off brakes that reduce any drag by 20%, improving fuel economy on the machine. The 508-66TC model also has regenerative hydraulics that help reduce cycle times by up to 20% because of the way it efficiently uses oil. These machines are specifically designed to be better at carrying and reaching further with heavier lift capacities.
Their lift and place models, which include all other models, are extremely versatile and comfortable for operators. The sway frame allows operators to make the machine as level as possible, no matter the terrain. They also have lights that can be added and folded if you need more visibility during dark hours.
All JCB telehandlers also come with reverse alarms and air conditioning that are great for hot climates. They also have quick attach systems to make changing attachments really easy. With these attachments, they have side tilt and side shift hydraulics so that you can position your forks and materials more easily.
Pros and Cons of JCB Telehandlers
- Incredibly comfortable machines with lots of customization and product range, especially for heavy lifts that need to access far-reach
- Many construction forums note that JCB telehandlers seem to break down and require more maintenance than others
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Telehandler Brand for Your Needs
When it comes to choosing which one, it will be up to personal preference. Lots of forums and contractors have their own opinions about which brands and machines are best, but sometimes personal experience trumps word of mouth and vice versa.
However, there are a few standard things that factor into choosing the right brand including project requirements, lifting capacity and reach, reliability, operator comfort, and after-sales support.
Project Requirements and Application
One of the first factors is the project requirements and applications. Are you moving materials that require a lot of height and forward reach? Telehandlers can be better options than forklifts and other material handlers. Factors like maneuverability and space will also factor into the size of the telehandler that you're looking to rent or buy.
As mentioned, telehandlers are versatile machines and can be used for residential projects, commercial projects, landscaping, snow removal, and more.
Lifting Capacity and Reach
Many manufacturers know that between 5,000 lbs and 12,000 lbs is the common weight that telehandlers will lift since many make models in that range. However, lift height and reach can be just as important as lift weight.
Whatever equipment you rent, you should check out the telehandler load charts of each machine to get an understanding of their range of motion and how much they can lift. Fortunately, our telehandler spec guide highlights a lot of this information and gives a clear view of just how far every telehandler can reach and lift at specific heights.
Equipment Reliability and Durability
Different brands have different levels of durability and reliability which will factor into any contractor's decision. However, some of these are unique cases and are not the standard. Checking construction forums and speaking with other contractors can give you a good understanding of reliability. JLG is constantly mentioned as being one of the most reliable, as are Skyjacks and Caterpillars.
We recommend if you're looking to buy a telehandler, to try many brands by renting and getting a feel for the different options.
Operator Comfort and Safety Features
Many of the brands listed above talk about operator and cab comfort as a positive feature that they provide. Getting into as many cabs as possible and testing visibility and features like alarms, mirrors, and displays is a great way to determine what machine might be your favorite.
Other standard safety features for telehandlers include roll-over protection (ROPS) and falling-object protection (FOPS). However, some additional safety features may be customizable depending on your needs and are worth asking about with any dealership, previous owner, or rental company.
After-sales Support and Service
Anyone who has ever bought or rented a piece of construction equipment knows that the after-support can be more important than the actual lead-up and research. The care you get after a purchase can strongly determine what brand you go with.
There are very few companies that have poor customer support but some don't have as much of a global or dealership presence which can impact a contractor's decision. For example, if you want to go with a specific brand but the closest service area to you is 200 or more miles away, that might restrict your chance of going with that OEM and you'd prefer to purchase from one that's more accessible.
From the equipment rental company side, you want to ensure that they're managing your rental and are accessible in case something goes wrong. This is less on the manufacturer and more on the equipment rental company, but this may impact what brand of telehandler is available due to inventory.
We've covered all the top telehandler brands in construction and landscaping, as well as what factors to consider, and it's time to make your decision. Each brand from JCB to JLG to Manitou to the rest has its pros and cons as well as custom features. While most features are similar, some brands just utilize them differently.
If looking to buy, we recommend talking with other contractors, looking at forums, and speaking with sales reps from each company. Another great option is exploring brands through renting. You can use DOZR's Marketplace and the search feature to find telehandler rental companies near you to try different brands.