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3 Wheel Electric Forklifts vs 4 Wheel Electric Forklifts

Filed under: Forklift Basics

3 wheel electric vs 4 wheel electric forklift

The decision to buy or rent a 3 or 4 wheel electric counter-balance (CB) 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 however with the JXN Series 4 Wheel Electrics has one of the smallest turning circles for a 4 wheel electric in the industry, with comparable turning radius to a 3 wheel electric.

For example JXNT 3 Wheel electric Turning circle with medium wheelbase is 1575mm compared to the JXN 4 Wheel electric with a medium wheelbase is only 79mm difference at 1654mm. Hyster has achieve this with an advance inside pivot point drive axle.

Another misconception is that electric forklifts are not suited to external applications. Both the Hyster JXN & JXNT series both 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 Hyster 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 (Note the J2.2-3.5XN has comparable turning circle). 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 range up to 8000kg


  • Larger turning circle (Note the J2.2-3.5XN has almost comparable turning circle to a 3 wheel electric).
  • Normally more expensive compared to 3 Wheel electric equivalents.

Hyster 3 /4 Wheel Electrics Range

hyster electric forklift range

Why Choose Hyster Electric forklifts? We’re really excited about the Hyster XN & XNT series electric counter-balance forklifts.  The new Hyster electrics are leading the industry ergonomics, fuel efficiency and weather proofing. They also come in one of the largest capacity ranges in the industry up to 5000kg.

JXNT - 3 Wheel Electric

Capacity: 1500kg -2200kg, Turning Radius: 1476-1575mm


  • Eco Low – Energy saving modes
  • High capacity AC drive motors
  • Fully weather proof electrical components
  • Wet disk brakes
  • Regenerative braking to deliver efficient load handling in the toughest of applications
  • 1000 hours servicing intervals
  • Full Adjustable suspension seat
  • Auto Park Brake

JXN – 4 Wheel Electric

Capacity Range:  1600kg -5000kg

1600- 2000 kg: Turning Radius: 1654 – 1762mm

2200- 2500kg: Turning Radius: 1931 - 2073 mm


  • Has one of the smallest turning radius for a 4 Wheel electric
  • Eco Low – Energy saving modes
  • High capacity AC drive motors
  • Fully weather proof electrical components
  • Wet disk brakes
  • Regenerative braking to deliver efficient load handling in the toughest of applications
  • 1000 hours servicing intervals
  • Full Adjustable suspension seat
  • Auto Park Brake

The 4 Wheel Electric JXN series and the 3 Wheel Electric JXNT series really sell themselves; book a demo today to see why we are so excite about these counter-balance electrics. Here’s a list of some of their key features, capacity & Turing Radius.

Article Contributors: Nathan Mckenzie, Engineering Manager & Paul Bennett General Manager Business Development

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From your input it seems simply that the four wheel Forklifts is much better than the three wheel but my personal view is as most of the customers demand handier and manageable stuff so the three wheel Forklifts will be also good enough. Thanks for the details of two. 

Shelly Saxton
July 18, 2012 - 9:47 pm

You have posted an interesting article about 3 Wheel and 4 Wheel Electric Forklifts. After read your page it seems to 4 Wheel Electric Forklifts is best.  I am glad to read both of it. Thanks a lot for your post.   

David Kaka
July 21, 2012 - 8:50 pm

Proper driving techniques are also a must for a forklift driver. The driver must remain seated under the protective shield of the cab. He or she must never allow anyone to ride on the forks or pass under them. The driver must always be aware of other people in the work area as well as any obstacles that may endanger himself or others.

Plumbers London
July 27, 2012 - 1:51 am

Simple and well explained thanks

does 3 wheel help in container application greatly or not a great deal.


August 21, 2016 - 8:06 pm

          Thank you so much, defiantly 4 wheel, thanks again smile

Mahmoud Hermes
May 24, 2017 - 11:30 pm

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