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The Lowdown on Garage Lifts: Part 2

The Lowdown on Garage Lifts: Part 2

There are plenty of great reasons to invest in a home garage lift, with storage, convenience and value at the top of the list. From a storage standpoint, a four-post lift allows you to store one car over another, while the convenience comes from having your classics in the garage rather than stored offsite – as well as the convenience of access. It’s a lot easier to chase an oil leak or bolt-on a cat-back exhaust system when you can raise your car.

The value factor is more subjective, but most hobbyist-style lifts that support up to 8,000 or 9,000 pounds can be had in the $2,000-$2,500 range – and often less. Considering the cost of offsite storage, the lift pays for itself in as little as a year or two. And while undeniably heavy, lifts are surprisingly uncomplicated. They can be dismantled with relative ease and moved. In fact most don’t need to be permanently anchored to the floor.

With the advantages of a lift hard to argue, you may have decided to make room for one in your life – but is there room for one in your garage? We’ve outlined the basics below of what it typically takes to fit a lift in a conventional garage, assuming it will be used as a stacker to store one car above another. Check them out and take some measurements in your garage before picking up the phone or buying a lift online.

Ceiling Height – If you’re going to stack your cars, inadequate floor-to-ceiling clearance could be the deal breaker. Generally speaking, a 10-foot ceiling is probably the minimum height you need to stack a couple of typical American cars. Let’s take a pair of 1969 Chevelles, for example. On stock suspensions, they each come in around 54 inches tall. That’s 108 inches – 9 feet – of stacked muscle cars right there, without the lift factored in. The top car will rest on ramps that are perhaps 6 inches tall. That leaves only a 6-inch cushion of space to split between the cars and the ceiling.

Corvettes, Porsche Speedsters and other lower-profile cars will obviously open up the window of space to work with, but clearly the height of your garage is the overriding factor to consider. Some enthusiasts have modified the ceiling of their garage to accommodate a lift, but that requires some serious structural surgery.

Floor Width – In most suburban two-car garages, you should have enough space to install a lift and still park another car next to it. Generally, the width of a typical four-post lift is about 9.5 feet, while the typical width of a two-car garage door is 16 feet. That means you’ll have to offset the lift’s installation to “hide” one side of its posts inside the door’s opening to enable a vehicle to easily pull in beside it, but if you have the height to accommodate a lift, the floor space shouldn’t be a problem.

Floor Length – An important factor many enthusiasts neglect is the length of the lift. It is necessarily longer than most vehicles, typically stretching anywhere from 220 to 235 inches, or nearly 20 feet. That’s longer than land yachts like the 1959 Pontiac Bonneville, so it’s important to take your tape measure and ensure you’ve got the depth in your garage to accommodate it. Work benches and other equipment chew up a lot of space that could make a difference on whether the lift fits.

Garage door – The final consideration is the garage door and, more specifically, the tracks and even the motor for the opener. Even if you have the height to accommodate stacking your cars, the lift posts may interfere with a conventional roll-up garage door and its tracks, or there may not be sufficient clearance between the top vehicle and the door when it’s opening or closing. The same goes for the opening motor, which may hang down to interfere with the maximum height you can raise a car.

Because of the variety of garage doors and the varying dimensions of lifts on the market, it’s best to speak with a lift manufacturer and describe the dimensions of your garage and type of garage door you have. Don’t make assumptions simply because you have adequate ceiling height.

With luck, all the dimensions in your garage will accommodate a lift and soon you’ll be enjoying the storage, vehicle maintenance and other benefits it offers.

The first thing to do before ordering or installing a garage lift is checking the floor-to-ceiling height. Ten feet is basically the minimum required to stack one average car above another. Also note the garage door opener – even with a tall enough ceiling, the opener may impede the
maximum height a vehicle can be raised.

This garage has several cars packed into it because after taking the proper measurements, the owner determined the there wasn’t enough ceiling clearance for stacking cars. It would have been adequate if he simply wanted the lift for maintenance and repairs.

Here’s a great example of cars stored one above another. There’s plenty of clearance between the vehicles and while the top car is close to the ceiling, there’s obviously room to lower it even closer to the bottom car – although a low-slung Acura NSX doesn’t have nearly the height of a
pair of typical American muscle cars.

If you simply have to have a lift to accommodate your collection, the extreme option is altering the ceiling to make room for the top vehicle – but even then, you must ensure the garage door rolls up without interference.

Another consideration is the length of the garage space. Check the lift’s specs to make sure it will fit in the garage and still enable access to a work bench, storage shelves, etc.  

Return To Our Garage Lift Buyer's Guide

Published Dec 7th, 2015

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