The decision to buy or rent a 3 or 4-wheel electric forklift can sometimes be confusing.

Often general assumptions about the differences between the two types of forklifts are made, without any real understanding.

What’s most important is ensuring that you get the right electric forklift for the right application. This blog will help clarify some key differences between the two types of electric forklifts to help you with the buying process.

Overall 3- and 4-Wheel electric counter-balance forklifts have very similar features; most commonly manufacturers utilise the same types of mast, motors and drive train for both types of forklift.

Industry Perceptions:

3 Wheel electric forklifts are known to have a smaller turning circle compared to 4-wheel electric forklifts.

Another misconception is that electric forklifts are not suited to external applications however many modern machines feature fully weather proof electrical components, ensuring fully functional operation indoors and out.

And finally, 4-wheel electrics are known to have better gradeability than 3-wheel electrics. For some manufacturers this might be true, but the HELI electric range offers the same power and drive systems meaning equal gradeability across the range.

3 Wheel Electric Forklifts

3 Wheel electric drive configuration consists of a dual steer wheel(s) mounted centrally beneath the counterweight. One of the key advantages of a 3 Wheel Electric is that they generally offer a smaller turning circle than the traditional 4 Wheel electric forklifts. 3 Wheel Electric forklifts are normally used for lighter load applications, as they normally only have a load capacity range from 1000- 2500kg.


3 Wheel Electrics are best suited to indoor warehousing with flat smooth surfaces. They excel in high racking applications where smaller aisles are required. If you’re utilizing selective racking and have smooth floors the 3-wheel electrics might be the solution for you.

The 3 wheel is most popular in trade & retail for example: Building Supplies, Plumbing, Home Improvement and Garden Centres. 3 Wheel Electrics are also suitable for manufacturing, distribution and in such industry as food & beverage.


  • Small Turning circle
  • Lower cost in comparison to 4 Wheel electrics


  • Capacity range is limited.
  • Not suitable for rough terrain or gravel.
  • Less stable when turning with loads.

4 Wheel Electric Forklifts

4 Wheel configurations consisting of a single steer wheel on each rear corner controlled by a dual acting hydraulic ram. They offer better stability when turning and are better suited for rougher yard and warehousing floor applications due to the articulated rear steer axle.

With capacities ranging from 1600kg-8000kg the 4 Wheel electric CB can be used for specialist heavy lifting applications such as machinery and tool installation including such as presses, dies & jigs. They can also be used for applications such as retail outlets, hardware stores and other light duty cycle work.


Ideally suited to loading and unloading of trucks, floor stacking & medium high racking. They are able to handle rougher surfaces making them better suited to yard work.

Applications where high intensity duty cycles are common, with uneven surfaces, ramps and longer wide loads, such as Transport & Distribution, General manufacturing, Chemicals, Food & beverage manufacturing, steel and aluminium, fruit & vegetables wholesale.


  • Better for rougher surfaces
  • Large capacity ranges up to 8000kg


  • Larger turning circle
  • Normally more expensive compared to 3 Wheel electric equivalents.