Telehandlers Vs Forklifts- What lifting equipment to use?

If lifting something is on your agenda, then you will have run into either a telehandler or a forklift before. Both types of machinery have the same function, but couldn’t be further apart in terms of functionality and capabilities. To ensure that you get the correct lifting equipment for the job, we have put together this blog to compare and contrast the differences between the two. “Telehandlers Vs Forklifts”

What is a telehandler? 

A telehandler is a highly versatile piece of equipment. It gets its abbreviated name from the word ‘telescopic handler’, as it is designed to extend and retract its arms to adjust maximum reach or height. Telehandlers are extremely popular for moving building or agricultural materials around a site or yard. They operate on four all-terrain tyres so that they can pass over rough ground whilst carrying their loads.

Telehandlers are a multi-purpose piece of equipment, as they can interchange their attachments at any point. Some models of telehandlers are equipped with a quick hitch to reduce the overall manual labour an operator has to do. But most of all, they are known for their adjustable telescopic arm that gives operators control of the distance of the load they wish to move.

What is a forklift?

Forklifts are industrial vehicles that operate a forked platform attached to the front of the machine. Some forklift machine designs allow the operator to be seated, while others do not. They are well known for moving large packed crates within a warehouse. Operated on either combustible fuels or electricity, their design, along with hydraulics, raise and lower their platform during use.

Forklifts offer a very beneficial lifting system to load and unload lorries, place large loads into stackable storage and transport materials. Some forklifts are fitted with all-terrain tyres so they can be used on building sites. However, the vast majority are fitted with solid pneumatic tyres because of their long extreme durability.

Benefits of a telehandler?

Telehandlers are one of today’s construction sites essentials. They combine a forklift truck and a crane into an all-in-one all-terrain vehicle, capable of taking on some of the toughest jobs. The machine itself consists of a telescopic boom, interchangeable attachments and all-wheel drive. A telehandler offers more reach and power compared to a forklift, but enjoys similar manoeuvrability, giving it a fantastic balance between power, reach, and usability. But what are its benefits?

Can be used on or off-road

Unlike a standard forklift, telehandlers are equipped with all-terrain tyres that allow the machine to navigate its way through the toughest of terrain. Ideal for some of the hardest conditions.

Road plated

Telehandlers can be road plated which means they can be driven on public highways. This gives operators the added benefit of relocating materials across or between large construction sites.


Telehandlers can interchange their attachments, making them very versatile. With several attachments available for a telehandler, this machine can operate a lifting hook, bucket, bucket and claw, forks, mini skip… the list goes on and on. Given this, it makes a telehandler one of the most essential pieces of equipment for construction to date. Its telescopic boom allows operators to drop or carry loads closer to their required destination.  


One of the largest benefits of a telehandler is the ability to lift loads to heights and places that no other machine can. This can increase productivity and save time and money on your project. Some machines can lift loads to 14m + in height. 


Even though telehandlers are quite large machines, some designs come with all-wheel steering to increase their manoeuvrability in the tightest of positions. This allows operators to get as close to their destination as they physically can before extending out their boom. All-wheel drive is also beneficial in off-road performance.

Load Capacities 

A telehandler can lift several tons worth of materials, making them stronger than similar-sized crane machinery. The strength and flexibility of the machine’s boom can deliver large load capacities to unreachable destinations. 

Benefits of a forklift? 

Forklifts are commonly found in the manufacturing and storage sector. If there is lifting involved, you will find a forklift of some type. These machines function around a lifting fork platform and a counterweight that helps balance loads while in operation. Forklifts are designed for both indoor and outdoor use, however, predominantly on flatter services. To combat difficult surfaces, all-terrain forklifts are available to bridge the gap between a telehandler and forklift truck. But what are their benefits?


Forklifts are often compact machines that are small enough to attach to the rear of a lorry. This makes them easy to transport from place to place or to navigate through small spaces. Not all forklifts are of this size. However, most are small enough to operate indoors safely. 


Forklifts use combustibles, LPG or electricity to run. This means that there is a far more diverse market available for people to choose from when it comes to hiring or purchasing a machine. Electrical and LPG-powered forklifts can be used inside safely, whereas fuel-powered machines are best used outdoors.

Differences between telehandlers vs forklifts? 

Telehandlers have more to offer. 

While a forklift is an extremely useful piece of machinery, a telehandler is far more versatile. Forklifts can lift loads up or down, whereas telehandlers can move them forward and backwards as well. This allows an operator to navigate or remove loads from the most difficult of places. In turn, this can save several labour hours during construction.

Forklifts are smaller

Where telehandlers are generally operated outdoors, either in the construction or agricultural industry, the size of a forklift makes it ideal for indoor work. Forklifts are perfect tools for loading or unloading lorries in a cargo or loading bay. 

Telehandlers for off-road

Because of their indoor nature, not all forklifts have the torque which is required to operate on rough sites. Telehandlers are designed specifically with all-terrain tyres that are the perfect match for the outdoors, no matter the weather. 

Telehandlers and forklifts can be fitted with attachments

No matter if you choose to use a telehandler or a forklift, both machines have interchangeable attachments that can assist with your project. Some examples are: 

  • Snow plough 
  • Plough 
  • Crane Arm 
  • Block Grab 
  • Skips
  • Access Cages 
  • Drum Grabs
  • Sweepers

Conclusion of telehandlers vs forklifts?

Both telehandlers and forklifts have been revolutionary in the construction and agricultural sector. By using these types of plant equipment, companies all around the world have been able to maximise their productivity and reduce the overall labour hours on a specific task. Even though forklifts have been designed to be used outside, they will never be as versatile as a telehandler. However, if space does not permit the use of a telehandler, then a forklift will make the whole task easier in the long run. 

Since 1997, WHC Hire have offered a vast range of telehandlers and forklifts for all different types and sizes of projects. With depots in Tewkesbury, Worcester and the Cotswolds, we are available and on hand when you need us. With consistent investment into the quality of our equipment, we can assure that customers, contractors and businesses (no matter their size) receive their required tools on time and in perfect working condition.

Click here to see our full range of lifting equipment, or call 01684377977 to discuss your project with one of our friendly and knowledgeable team. Together, we can help you get the job done right.

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