man pushing button in private elevator

Elevators are an increasingly popular solution for many commercial and residential properties with multiple stories and no other way to lift people and packages. Elevators cover a wide range of sizes and specifications, so picking the right one for your home or business is worth the research it takes to find it. While a lot of variables go into picking an elevator for your building, there are seven basic factors that go into the selection you need to consider.

1. Selection Range

The choice of which elevator to install starts from the selection that is available to you. In general, elevators are grouped into people lifters and cargo platforms. Many types of elevators can be used for both, of course, but cargo elevators tend to be more heavy duty and prioritize power over the smoothness of the ride. Passenger elevators tend to be more comfortable, and elevators designed for people with disabilities can have various safety features, such as seat belts and handrails.

2. Installation Costs

Once you have narrowed the range of elevators you’re looking at, you have to consider the cost of installation. This is less of a concern for elevators than it can be for many other building upgrade installations. Responsible companies offer free installation of most or all of the models they sell, both for commercial and residential properties.

The actual cost of installation is often related more to the property where the installation is being performed rather than to the elevator unit itself. For example, sometimes it’s necessary to make minor modifications to an installation site before a particular unit can be properly installed. Modifications of this kind can get expensive, and it helps to think about it before you settle on any particular elevator.

Thinking about structural modifications before choosing your elevator can save significant expense when it’s time to install the unit. Elevators come in different sizes and configurations, and they have a wide variety of different footprints and installation requirements.

While your first choice of an elevator might require the adjustment of a staircase rail and shoring up of a few structural supports — all of which must be paid for and done before the elevator gets delivered — simply choosing a smaller or lighter model could save you the trouble of modifications altogether.

3. Maintenance Requirements

elevator technician performing routine maintenance

Maintenance is one of the biggest continuing costs of owning an elevator. No machine works perfectly forever, and sooner or later you have to perform basic maintenance to keep your elevator up and running well. Most elevators can operate for several years with no maintenance more complicated than an annual inspection and lubrication. Other units have a fairly strict schedule of upkeep that has to be adhered to. This requirement can sometimes be skirted on a private residential property, but almost all local governments insist on an up-to-date maintenance routine for commercial elevators and cargo units in public places. Even at a discount, maintenance costs can add up, and they have to be considered before you make a final choice between high-performance units and elevators that can last for a while with minimal maintenance.

Regardless of the details of your elevator’s maintenance schedule, it helps to have service visits planned as far in advance as possible. Many elevator dealers offer maintenance contracts at the time of purchase. These are often provided at steep discounts that help to motivate sales, and so buyers can potentially save significant maintenance costs by signing up early.

4. Performance Matters

Performance means something different for each elevator you could install. For passenger lifts, performance usually means a smooth, safe ride with simple control inputs and enough room on the platform for riders to feel comfortable. Commercial cargo lift elevators measure performance by lifting power and reliability over extended periods of use. Whichever metric is important to you, try to evaluate the performance of the elevator models you’re considering.

If the dealer you’re buying from has a showroom with working models of catalog items, take the time to try each one that you’re interested in. Because of the diversity of drive systems, hydraulic trains, and power feed issues for each elevator, the experience of the ride can be different even between units that are superficially very similar. If at all possible, try to ride the passenger units at the dealer showroom or put a load on the cargo lifts to see how they operate under stress. Try to get the load as close as possible to the expected payload the unit is expected to operate under.

5. Safety Matters

elevator technician measuring elevator shaft

Safety is the first consideration with an elevator designed to carry people. Aside from the obvious value that safe operation has in a residential elevator installed in the home, your commercial elevator’s safe performance helps your company avoid injuries and expensive workers’ compensation issues. Even cargo elevators must be regularly inspected and serviced to keep them safe. A tipped load of cargo can be expensive, even if nobody has been hurt.

To be sure that the elevator you’re thinking of buying is safe, do some research about that specific model online before you buy. Check into online forums to find out what others are saying about their experiences with the lift, and whether there are any known issues with the way it operates. If there are consistent concerns raised or if you find out about multiple recalls on a particular line that you’re looking into, it may be best to try out a different model. Ask your dealer about recalls and known safety issues before buying.

6. Warranty Coverage

While any decent elevator should last through many years of regular use, it never hurts to have a warranty for big-ticket items such as these. It’s common for elevator manufacturers to offer a relatively short-term warranty on the products they sell, especially for the makers of home elevators. On top of the factory warranty, many dealers offer extra coverage for elevators you buy through them. Often, the warranty is only valid if you have the installation work done through the same dealer who sold it, but the details can be arranged at the time of sale and could wind up saving you a lot of trouble down the road.

7. Choose the right Dealer

Shopping for a new elevator is a major commitment. The unit you choose to install could be in service for years or even decades. It’s important to shop around the various models available until you find a good one that’s right for you. That being said, where you buy your elevator is almost as important as which model you choose. With the right dealer, issues like installation, maintenance, extended warranties are one less thing for you to worry about.

Since 1992, Day Elevator and Lift has offered high-quality mobility products that include stairlifts, wheelchair lifts, and both commercial and residential elevators. If you or your business are located anywhere in the greater New York City area, including Upstate or across the river in New Jersey, call our shop at (800) 758-5438 for a free consultation about the options we can offer when you’re thinking about buying a new elevator.