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Floor Jack vs Scissor Jack: Which Should You Choose?

floor jack vs scissor jack which is right for you
Image credit: Colin, Flickr

Anyone who owns a vehicle will need a jack of some sort to lift it. Most new cars come with a scissor jack in the trunk to use to change tires. If the car companies trust them, shouldn’t they be good enough for your garage? Or will you need a different one?

We are going to discuss floor jacks and scissor jacks, and what the difference is between the two. Hopefully, you will get enough information to know which one will suit your needs the best.

Scissor Jacks

Scissor jacks are the compact jacks that come standard with most new cars to use when you need to change a tire. They are easy to use and can lift as much as two tons. The problem with scissor jacks, though, is that they were designed to perform one specific task: changing the tires of the vehicle that they came with.

Scissor jacks are not meant to handle heavier vehicles. Most of them are made of stamped metal and are susceptible to collapse if they are under too heavy a load. They also typically only lift 15 to 30 inches, so the ground clearance is too low to fit many jack stands under. They will hold your vehicle up, but only for short periods of time.

scissor jack
Image credit: Liftarn, Wikimedia

Scissor jacks are easy for almost anyone to use, even though they require manual labor. You place the jack under the reinforced part of the car’s frame near where you want to lift it. You then use your tire iron as a handle to screw the diamond-shaped legs up to raise, or down, to lower the vehicle.

Pros
  • Comes standard with most new cars
  • Simple, compact construction
  • Can lift one to two tons
Cons
  • Made for one specific job
  • Limited lift height
  • Susceptible to collapse under heavy loads
  • Requires manual labor

Floor Jacks

Floor jacks are much more cumbersome and meant to be able to manage any size job. They use hydraulics to lift vehicles that weigh ten tons or more. They also have a low profile to allow them to fit under most cars, and can be raised much higher than scissor jacks can.

Since floor jacks are so heavy, they have wheels to make moving them around and getting them placed where you want them effortless. You roll them under the part of the car that you want to lift and pump the handle to raise it. That’s all there is to it. When you wish to let the car down, you twist the handle to release the built-up pressure.

floor jack
Image credit: Qusain Chippa, Wikimedia

Due to their weight, these jacks are not easily transported from place to place. The average person can’t lift one on their own. On the plus side, these jacks are made well and will last your lifetime if they are well maintained.

Pros
  • Hydraulic
  • Can lift 10+ tons
  • Suitable floor clearance for most vehicles
  • Higher max height
  • Wheels for moving
  • Last a lifetime
Cons
  • Cumbersome
  • Not easily transported

Conclusion

No matter what kind of jack you have, never crawl underneath a car without additional support, just in case the jack you’re using fails. You shouldn’t have a problem, though, if you only use the jack for the intended amount of weight.

Scissor jacks are made to change tires, and that’s about it. They usually only lift the vehicle enough to get it off the ground, and are often made specifically for the car with which they came. If changing tires is all you want to do, scissor jacks will work fine for you.

Floor jacks, on the other hand, are much more heavy-duty and can handle almost anything you throw at them. They have a low ground clearance and can lift vehicles much higher than scissor jacks can. If you need to raise more cumbersome vehicles, more frequently, go with a floor jack.

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