How to Choose Between a Boom Lift and a Scissor Lift


Choosing height-access equipment can be tricky. Many different machines can be used for construction and maintenance projects. But which one is right for you? Once you realize that ladders and ropes aren’t the answer to your complex and perhaps somewhat dangerous task, you face a choice between a boom lift and a scissor lift. Let’s find out which lift is the best for your needs.

What is a Boom Lift?

A boom lift is the same as a man lift of a cherry picker. It has a hydraulic-operated element that lifts the basket with a worker to a certain height. The element is similar to an extending arm. It’s operated from the base part of the machine on the ground. Two types of boom lifts exist:

  • Articulating boom lift – a jointed arm bends at one or more places and offers excellent reach and flexibility.
  • Telescopic boom lift – a long and straight arm doesn’t bend and has limited flexibility but a higher reach than articulating boom lift.

Boom lifts can reach heights up to 180 feet and often beyond.

What is a Scissor Lift?

This lift pushes the basket with workers using crisscrossed braces. They squeeze like a spring and push the platform to the necessary height. These lifts can only move in one direction – up. The lift is operated from the base, which needs a stable ground to provide proper functionality. Scissor lifts usually don’t reach higher than 40 feet.

Which One is Right for You?

To figure out which lift is the best choice for your project, you need to consider the following factors:

  1. Direction

If you need to move the worker not just vertically but laterally, you need a boom lift. They are an excellent choice for tough-to-reach areas that require certain maneuvering to access. But if you simply need to move straight up, for example, for window washing or façade repair, scissor lifts are sufficient.

  1. Height

How high is the object you need to reach? Since scissor lifts rarely go higher than 40 feet, they are mostly suitable for residential projects. Commercial cleaning, repairing, and construction is often done with the assistance of boom lifts.

  1. Number of Workers

How many people are doing the job? Boom lifts are often created to lift one person. If you need more than one worker, you would have to settle for a scissor lift.

  1. Budget

Since boom lifts are more versatile and functional, they are usually more expensive to rent. With all other requirements being equal, it’s better to choose a scissor lift over a boom lift to save money. In some cases, you may need both machines to complete the project.



The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) promotes the safe and effective use of powered access equipment worldwide in the widest sense – through providing technical advice and information; through influencing and interpreting legislation and standards; and through safety initiatives and training programmes. IPAF is a not-for-profit organisation owned by its members, which include manufacturers, rental companies, distributors, contractors and users. IPAF members operate a majority of the MEWP rental fleet worldwide and manufacture about 85% of platforms on the market.
- Read more