Comparing Manual and Electric Pallet Trucks

May 16, 2019
Posted by: Justin Engel

If you compared manual and electric pallet trucks solely on their basic function, that is, what they were designed to do, there is very little different between the two types of equipment. In each instance, they allow an employee to lift and transport a heavy palletized load from Point A to Point B. However, a closer assessment quickly reveals some significant differences. If you’re currently trying to decide between a manual or electric pallet truck options, you’ll need a firm understanding of where these differences lie – and what the implications of these differences are – before making your choice.

The source of these differences is relatively simple in that the electric model features AC powered lift and drive functions while the manual model does not. The key here is in how this difference manifests in a variety of applications. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how these two compare:


As we take a look at the pros and cons behind each power source, there are a number of considerations that you should keep in mind. The relative importance of each factor will play a deciding role in your choice as comparing one option to the next isn’t as easy as it might initially seem. Some of the key factors to consider during your consideration process include:


Distance and Volume

One of the determining factors when choosing between a manual pallet jack and an electric pallet truck is the distance travelled between loads and the load frequency or volume. If you need to move a large volume of loads across a large distribution or warehousing facility, for instance, you’d be better off going with an electric model as this will save your employees from exhausting work as well as increase your load efficiency (this is particularly true with ride-on models like our LiftMaxx PTR50). On the other hand, the maneuverability of a manual pump truck lets it excel in more confined applications while shorter distances and lower volumes don’t have the same physical impact.

Unit Costs

The other factor to take into consideration when looking at the differences between the two is the differences in cost, both in terms of purchase price and upkeep. Generally speaking, electric pallet trucks cost around 8-10 times more than a manual model. There are also maintenance and upkeep costs that must be taken account of, as, unlike manual models, electrics require periodic service and repairs. Finally, electric pallet trucks will require training for employees to safely and effectively operate. These additional upfront and on-going costs create a substantial gulf between the costs of each type.

However, all of this isn’t to say that the additional costs are without benefit. In fact, an electric model will offset these costs through increased volume/efficiency and lowered labour costs. In a world where it’s becoming increasing difficult to save money solely by reducing costs, improving your efficiency and volume represent a means of improving your ROI and flexibility that’s unavailable through manual equipment options. Now that we’ve covered what factors you should consider while comparing the two, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each type.


Manual Pallet Trucks – Pros

Rugged and durable construction: manual pallet jacks are built for years of hard use. This creates a highly reliable piece of equipment capable of withstanding most industrial applications without breaking down or requiring repairs. At Stärke, we’re confident that our PalletBoss manual pallet jacks will hold up to years of rugged use and stand by this claim with a 7 year warranty on the pump assembly.

Simple design: with few moving parts and no electrical components, manual pallet trucks rarely require any maintenance or upkeep. Beyond greasing the unit – made easier with the 12 easy-to-access grease points on our PalletBoss pallet jacks – very little maintenance is required for manual pallet jacks. Design simplicity also makes it easy for a new employee to quickly learn how to operate these units. To lift and transport a load, simply slide the forks underneath the pallet, squeeze the handle and pump up the jack until the pallet is far enough above the ground to safety move.

Manual Pallet Trucks – Cons

Employee strain: as a manual piece of lift equipment, these units provide no assistance when lifting or moving heavy loads. As such, your employees must exert more energy and effort to lift and move a load in comparison.

Limited volume: as these units are 100% manually powered, there is a hard limit on the distance and volume moved and the weight of your loads. In fact, it should be noted that the close you get to the maximum capacity of a manual pallet truck, the slower your load times will be as the amount of effort needed to move a load increases.


Electric Pallet Trucks – Pros

Fully electric operation: with both a lift and drive motor, electric pallet trucks are able to efficiently transport loads over greater distances. This is particularly important in higher volume operations, where ride-on options make the most sense. And, with the Curtis AC controllers on our units, you can customize operation to better suit your employees and application.

Reduced employee strain: in comparison to the more physically demanding options where your employees have to manually power the lift, push or pull functions, utilizing an electric model ensures that your employees are far less likely to experience physical strain or injury.

Electric Pallet Trucks – Cons

Cost: as mentioned above, the purchase price of an electric pallet trucks generally cost 8-10 times as much as a manual, as well as incur maintenance and upkeep costs. While this should be seen as an investment that will be recuperated over time, the additional costs still serve as a disadvantage. Fortunately, we also offer a more economical entry-level pallet truck in our LiftMaxx PT30-MINI.

Reliability: with a greater number of complex moving parts, a variety of components and an electrical system, electric pallet trucks are more susceptible to breakdowns and repairs than manual options.


Final Considerations

Ultimately, the choice between a hand powered or AC electric pallet truck depends on the distance to be travelled, the number and weight of the loads, and the layout of your facility. Using those factors, while keeping the information detailed above in mind, allows you to calculate which type of pallet truck is the most cost-effective for your needs and application. Obviously, the lower total cost of ownership for a manual pallet jack will be tempting if you’re operating with a tight budget. At the same time, your total cost per pallet moved will likely be lower with an electric model once you factor in the reduced labor costs and improved productivity in a higher volume operations.


To determine your total cost per pallet moved for each type of equipment, use the following formula:

Step 1: Calculate the cost of the equipment per pallet:

Annual equipment cost / the number of pallets moved on an annual basis = equipment cost per pallet

**be sure that you include maintenance and upkeep costs in addition to the purchase price or lease payments**

Step 2: Calculate your labour costs per pallet moved:

Annual labour cost / the number of pallets moved on an annual basis = labour cost per pallet

Step 3: Calculate the total cost per pallet moved

Equipment cost per pallet + labour cost per pallet = total cost per pallet moved


Calculating your cost per pallet moved will help you to determine which piece(s) of equipment will provide the most value to your current operations based on the volume of pallets moved per year. Now, if you plan on expanding or changing your facility set up sometime within the next year, it is a good idea to plan your equipment purchases using conservative projections to allow for a greater margin of error and flexibility. For assistance evaluating your needs and application or to get a quote on a manual or electric new pallet truck, contact us today and we’ll put you in touch with an authorized Stärke dealer in your area. 


Justin Engel

Justin Engel is the marketing specialist at Stärke Material Handling Group. In addition to content development, he also handles graphic and website design, SEO, PR and strategic planning.


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