When choosing a car lift either for home or commercial use, one of the most important decisions is whether you need a 2-post or 4-post lift. As their names suggest, the major difference is the number of posts used to support and stabilize the lift.
A 2-post lift has arms that sit under the frame and lift the vehicle from its center point of gravity. Some arms are directly across from one another, while other models will have each arm in a separate location to ensure better balance.
A 4-post lift has supports on both ends of the lift at the corners. Instead of lifting from the frame, the owner or technician drives the vehicle up a ramp and onto the top of the lift.
These two styles have drastically different functions, so it’s often a simple decision for most customers. Key factors to consider before making a purchase include the following:
- Your budget.
- Where you’re planning to store the lift.
- What type of work you intend to do.
- The weight and size of the vehicles you’ll be working on.
Type of Work
A 2-post lift can be used to work on brakes, tires, or a car’s suspension system, but it’s not meant to store vehicles. These lifts can support most small or medium sedans, trucks, and SUVs.
They’re best for customers who regularly work on their vehicles and want easy access to the undercarriage for service, maintenance, and inspections.
Storage Rather than Extensive Repair
A 4-post lift, on the other hand, is a great option if you have multiple vehicles to store with a limited amount of space. You can still do repair work with a 4 post lift, but you will need a sliding jack to lift the vehicle from the flat platform.
Storage and Size
Since 4-post lifts are strong and balanced enough to store a vehicle for an extended period of time, they can be used to stack one car on top of another.
This is an excellent option for people who maintain seasonal cars or need to store a classic automobile out of harm’s way in an average-sized garage.
However, the downside is that a 4-post lift takes up substantially more space in exchange for that increased stability and ease of positioning.
What About Ceiling Heights?
For customers with relatively low ceilings, a 2-post model will provide more flexibility since it can lift the car higher than its 4-post counterparts.
The car is lifted by its frame on a 2-post model, which allows the wheel assemblies to dangle below instead of resting on top like they do on a 4-post lift. This means that you can raise the car higher in the same space.
- Learn more about ceiling height for car lifts.
Bolted to the Floor?
Lastly, portability is another storage consideration that could affect whether a 2-post or 4-post lift is right for you.
Because 2-post models are inherently unstable, they must be anchored down in one place.
That isn’t the case for a 4-post design. Most 4-post lifts will have casters to relocate the lift from one place to another, which can be a huge benefit for commercial applications in multi-bay workspaces.
- Learn more about concrete requirements for car lifts.
Loading and Safety
In general, it’s easier to load a car onto a 4-post lift because of the ramp and drive-on design. The extra stability and add-ons like manual deadbolts or stop plates can create an extremely secure foundation for moving your vehicle onto the lift.
Four-post models don't require you to balance the vehicle when its being lifted. All four wheels are supported on top of the lift.
This isn’t the case with 2-post lifts, which run the risk of picking up the car unevenly and improperly distributing the weight.
A 2-post lift with almost always be cheaper than a 4-post model. They typically sell for around $2,000 for a basic design. A 4-post lift will start at approximately $3,000 but can extend up to nearly $10,000 for specialty or commercial models.
The exact cost of a 2-post or 4-post lift will depend on the features, weight capacity, and add-on options you choose. You may also be able to find a used lift for cheaper.
Recommended 2-Post Lift
The Atlas BP8000 is designed for home users and residential garages with relatively low ceilings. With a column height of 9 feet, the lift can be installed in any garage with a ceiling height at or above 9 feet, 3 inches. This is not designed for heavy or commercial use.
The BP8000 has an 8,000-pound capacity and a 220-volt single-phase motor that ideally can be hooked up to a 30-amp breaker. This lift includes several high-end features like a single-point lock release and a 12-piece truck adapter set.
Additionally, this 2-post lift comes with automatic arm restraints and a double safety lock system for piece of mind while working on your vehicle. The lift itself comes with a generous 5-year structural warranty and a 2-year hydraulic warranty.
Recommended 4-Post Lift
The Atlas Garage PRO8000 is an exceptional 4-post lift that’s designed for residential users or restorers who want to maximize their space by lifting a vehicle. It’s not intended for the wear and tear of commercial operations.
The PRO8000 comes with free extras such as a caster kit to move the lift, a steel jack tray, and drip trays. It also features an 8,000-pound capacity and 72 inches of clearance to the top of the runway. A 30-amp breaker is required to run the 110-volt system.
For safety, this model comes with a single-point lock release, a double lock safety system, and a lock ladder design. The manufacturer also offers a 2-year warranty on structural components and a 1-year hydraulic warranty.
- Read more about Car Lifts in our detailed buyer guide.