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Manual Pallet Jacks VS. Electric Pallet Trucks: Which Is Better?


Pallet trucks are a staple in warehouses and distribution units, helping to lift and move pallets loaded with goods across the facility. Consisting of a pair of forks that slide beneath the pallets, these devices aid in various material handling needs — storage of cargo, distribution, loading and unloading, and so on.

There are two types of pallet trucks on the market today: electric pallet trucks and manual pallet jacks. While both of these perform the same basic task (transportation of pallets), they feature a considerable difference in terms of efficiency, lifting capacity, and safety profile. So, which one should you choose for your material handling unit? Let’s look at a detailed guide on electric pallet trucks vs. manual pallet jacks, including their benefits, features, and more.


Manual Pallet Jacks: Structure & Operating Mechanism

Manual pallet jacks, also termed hand pallet trucks, feature a steel frame with a pair of forks that slide underneath the pallets. The handle on the device performs a dual function as the pump lever, which is used for raising the forks. Plus, there’s a trigger on the handle’s body that releases the hydraulic fluid, helping to lower the forks.

As the name says, manual pallet trucks employ a manual operation, requiring more human labor from the operator’s end. As the operator, you’ll lead the truck’s forks into an open area of the pallet, after which you can start pumping the handle to lift the pallet off the ground. Once raised, you can push or pull the handle to move the pallets to the desired spot.

Manual Pallet Jacks VS. Electric Pallet Trucks: Which Is Better? 1

Electric Pallet Trucks: How Do They Work

Known as the future of warehousing, electric pallet trucks consist of a flat surface mounted on wheels with a set of forks that slide underneath pallets to lift and transport them. However, unlike the hydraulic operation in their manual counterparts, electric pallet trucks are powered by an electric motor.

Using a battery to source energy for its operations, these devices feature a far higher efficiency ratio than manual electric pallet trucks. To operate these devices, all you need to do is place the forks under the pallet and tap on the “up” button to raise it off the ground. No manually pumping the handles until the pallets are lifted (like in manual pallet trucks).


Manual Pallet Jacks vs. Electric Pallet Trucks: A Detailed Comparison

1. Initial Investment

In terms of initial investment, manual pallet jacks are the cost-effective option, ranging between $200 to $600 for most standard models. These devices have basic design and functionality features, which are reflected in their low costs. Plus, manual pallet trucks have fewer moving components, meaning less can go wrong, which leads to low maintenance costs.

Electric pallet trucks, on the other hand, weigh more on your pockets due to their built-in electric motors. The initial investment required for these devices is between $600 to $10,000, depending on the brand and features. Usually, you can expect to pay more for models with high load capacities (more than 5000 pounds) or wireless controls. Apart from the capital requirement, electric pallet trucks cost more in maintenance due to their motorized parts and battery systems.

2. Productivity & Long-term Savings

Although manual jacks cost less, they are far less productive when it comes to high-load and volume operations. The maximum load capacity of manual models is 700 kg to 2500 kg, which means that they’re mostly ineffective beyond this range. Plus, since you need to apply physical effort to lift pallets, these devices increase worker fatigue.

As a result, your facility faces slow-down operations and high turnover rates, all of which increase your labor costs. This way, manual pallet trucks cost more in the long run despite their lower initial cost.

On the contrary, electric pallet trucks are highly effective in large distribution centers and warehouses. They are great at moving heavier loads and operating faster, all while requiring less manual effort than manual jacks. This increases the productivity of your unit, helping you handle more goods in less time (with fewer workers).

3. Safety Features

Safety is paramount, especially in facilities containing heavy-lifting machinery like warehouses and distribution centers. However, manual pallet jacks don’t offer much in terms of safety features and are prone to musculoskeletal injuries in workers. As shocking as it is, manual devices don’t come with a movement or breaking assist, so you need to use your energy to stop and move the unit. This may lead to strains, sprains, and even broken bones.

Electric pallet trucks, on the other hand, come with the following safety features:

● Automated braking systems that activate when the throttle is released


● Emergency stop buttons that immediately halt operations


● Stability controls to maintain balance and prevent tipping


● Lower risk of accidents related to load handling and vehicle motion


In addition to this, electric pallet trucks are regulated by high safety standards, including those set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

4. Ease of Use

Electric pallet trucks come with different controls and functions that may seem complicated on the first go. However, these features are all about user-friendliness. Once you learn how to use the throttle for moving forward or backward, you’re good to go.

On the contrary, while manual devices may look fairly straightforward, they require you to have good physical conditioning to avoid injuries. Since you need to manually pump the handle and use force to move the jacks, manual pallet trucks take longer to master.



When it comes to the two types of pallet jacks, electric options outshine their manual counterparts, featuring increased efficiency and safety features. While electric pallet trucks may feature a high initial cost, the productivity benefits justify it all. Plus, with a battery-powered device, you have a lower risk of injuries, translating into fewer worker’s compensation claims. Sounds like a steal, doesn’t it?

If you want to invest in an electric pallet jack for its enhanced safety and premium quality features, check out Meenyon. Taking care of all your material handling needs, we offer the best OEM and ODM services for a range of superior electric forklifts, pallet trucks, and electric stackers. So, don’t let inefficient and outdated equipment hold your business back. Upgrade to one of our electric pallets today and see the difference in safety, speed, and reliability!

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