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towable boom lift comparison to scissor lift
towable boom lift comparison to scissor lift
Towable Boom Lift vs Scissor Lift: Flexibility, Reach, Application, and More
7 minute read
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Tim Forestell
May 9, 2023

Towable Boom Lift vs Scissor Lift: Comparing the Two Popular Aerial Work Platforms

Whether it's painting murals, electrical work, or routine maintenance, construction lifts like scissor lifts and towable boom lifts have multiple purposes. However, while having similar reach and lift capabilities in terms of height, these two lifts function completely differently.

In this blog, we'll cover the features and benefits of both man lifts, the differences, and how to pick between them.

Towable Boom Lifts: Features and Benefits

Towable boom lifts, also sometimes called spider lifts or trailer-mounted boom lifts, are niche machines that are commonly used for day jobs or DIY projects like roof repairs or holiday decorations. Because of this, there aren't many manufacturers other than JLG, Genie, and Snorkel.

Flexibility and Reach

One of the benefits of towable boom lifts is that they act more like miniature, easily transportable articulating boom lifts. With articulating joints, they can extend both horizontally and vertically, and up-and-over obstacles.

Find Your Next Equipment Rental on DOZR
Articulating Boom Lift image
30 ft - 150 ft
Electric, Dual Fuel
Straight Boom Lift image
40 ft - 180 ft
Electric, Dual Fuel

This gives them a great advantage in reaching difficult areas and being more maneuverable which scissor lifts are unable to do; both because they can't move horizontally and because they don't have the knuckle joints.

Towability and Transportability

Towable boom lifts are also, well, towable. This makes them easy for small contractors and DIYers to move and transport this equipment from job site to job site.

Only requiring a vehicle with a switch system, these lifts can be transported by pickup trucks, SUVs, and small trailers. This helps with affordability because hauling and delivery can be a big expense for many contractors.

If you're someone that's moving from project to project, these towable boom lifts may be better options.

Outdoor Applications

Towable boom lifts are also suited for outdoor projects because of their flexibility and reach. They can also work on electric power making them suitable for indoor projects too, if there is enough space to move.

The legs of a boom lift create great support for the machine on many different surfaces and terrains. And, because of their design, they're less likely to cause environmental damage like track marks and grass damage.

JLG towable boom lift working on windows
JLG towable boom lift working on exterior maintenance. Picture from JLG

Common applications for towable boom lifts include signage installation, exterior building maintenance, tree trimming, and roofing.

Scissor Lifts: Features and Benefits

Popular machines for construction workers, electricians, event planners, and more, scissor lifts are commonly seen across several different types of projects. There are also way more scissor lift brands and options available, ranging from rough terrain to electric to indoor across several sizes including 26', 32', 43', and more.

Vertical Reach

Unlike towable boom lifts, scissor lifts can only move vertically. They have no horizontal reach. However, while the towed boom lifts have a max vertical reach of 50', scissor lifts can go up to 64'.

Variety of scissor lift sizes
The variety of scissor lift sizes

Despite not being able to extend horizontally, scissor lifts are more stable. Their four wheels and solid structure give them a good base and secure platform. Also, because they don't reach horizontally, the stability of the machine gives them more platform capacity.

Larger Work Platform

Scissor lifts also have a wider variety of platform sizes. With platform capacities of up to 2,250 lbs, scissor lifts have enough space for up to four laborers while still having tons of space and lifting capacity for materials. The platform size of a towable boom lift is typically 4' by 2.5' while scissor lifts can be as big as 12' by 6'.

The advantages of having multiple workers and tools on the platform can increase productivity and efficiency. Scissor lifts can also come with attachments like pipe racks, deck extensions, and panel carriers that can free up more space on the platform. Due to the platform limitations of towable boom lifts, they're much less efficient at lifting multiple people and tools.

Indoor and Outdoor Applications

Another benefit and feature of scissor lifts is that they can be used both indoors and outdoors. Towable boom lifts technically can be as well, due to their electric engines, but are not as desireable because of how much space they can take up. Also, horizontal reach is not typically as necessary for indoor projects.

When working on vertical reach jobs like warehouse maintenance or shelving, interior construction, facility management, and event planning, scissor lifts are great options. Their electric engines and wheels allow them to have no emissions while also moving efficiently, especially when on smooth surfaces like asphalt.

Skyjack SJIII 3219 scissor lift on a project

When working outdoors, there are rough terrain models that have four-wheel drive and can handle all types of terrains. The scissor lifts designed for outdoor purposes typically have larger platforms and lifting capacity.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between a Towable Boom Lift and a Scissor Lift

As mentioned above, there are some clear differentiators between these two types of aerial work platforms. Here are some quick notes to help you pick between the two for your next project.

Job Site Requirements

At the end of the day, the factor that matters the most is the requirements of the job. For example, if you're going to be working outdoors on a project with vertical reach but some obstacles, a towable boom lift will be your best bet. Because of the articulating joints, it's easy for these machines to move around trees or buildings with their up-and-over reach.

On the other hand, if you're going to be working on a project where you need vertical reach and need to move horizontally, scissor lifts may be the better option. Despite not being able to reach horizontally, they can still move horizontally, especially on flat surfaces. It may be best to rent or operate a scissor lift in a situation where they're easy to move around.

Lastly, it will also depend on whether the project is indoors or outdoors. Electric scissor lifts are designed for indoor work and can fit easily through doorways, depending on the model. They also take up much less space and are quieter to operate.

Platform Size and Capacity

One downside to these construction lifts is that their platform capacity is less than scissor lifts. Their maximum platform capacity is between 425 to 500 lbs, depending on the size and model. Scissor lifts can lift between 500 lbs to 2,250 lbs while also having a much larger platform size.

This will affect not only how many laborers you can have on the lift but how many materials you can transport as well. Scissor lift attachments can also increase the efficiency and space of the platform while towable boom lifts don't have the same versatility.

Maneuverability and Transportation

For maneuverability and transportation, if you're moving from project to project often, towable boom lifts will be the better option. They're easy for anyone with an SUV or truck to transport and don't require a hauling trailer.

Scissor lifts, depending on the size, can also be hauled by pickup trucks but will require a trailer that can support their size and weight. This can add up in time if moving from project to project and is not as efficient as towable lifts.

Which One To Rent

The main differences between the lift types are the vertical and horizontal capabilities, platform size, transportation, and outdoor and indoor capabilities. Each of these factors will affect which machine you rent.

Whether you decide on a towable boom lift or a scissor lift, you can rent both on DOZR's marketplace. Search today to see prices and availability near you.

Find Your Next Equipment Rental on DOZR
Articulating Boom Lift image
30 ft - 150 ft
Electric, Dual Fuel
Straight Boom Lift image
40 ft - 180 ft
Electric, Dual Fuel
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Tim Forestell
Tim Forestell is one of DOZR’s co-founders and CCO. Tim got started in the industry as VP Operations for Forestell Landscaping before founding DOZR with Kevin and Erin. Aside from the amazing team at DOZR, his favourite thing about DOZR are the customers. Working with DOZR renters every day gives him a peek at the evolution of different projects and hearing stories about projects being developed from start to finish.
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