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There's a dizzying array of different car jacks out there. This guide will help you choose one that's right for you. Erago Ratchet Buckle
Craig brings 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. To date, he's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and is currently resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig is a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
A floor jack is a tool that should be part of every garage's arsenal. You can have the most well-equipped garage, chock-full of the best tools , but none of those items will be of any value if you can't access the parts on your ride that need to be serviced. Whether you need to change your oil , swap out a flat tire or perform some other repairs on your car or truck, a floor jack is worth the investment so that you always have it on hand.
Folks who pay others to do this sort of work, already have some fancy hoist or lift arm in their garage, or drive an absurdly lifted brodozer that's so tall a middle-schooler could walk underneath without ducking are about the only people who don't need one. To everyone else: better clear some space for a quality floor jack.
There are some important factors to keep in mind when deciding on which quality floor jack you're going to add to your toolkit, including load capacity, maximum height and garage footprint. You also have to think about what sort of car (or cars) you'll be lifting -- a sports car or other low-profile vehicles typically have different jack requirements than lifted trucks. Keep on reading to learn about the different types of jacks out there, and figure out what is the best floor jack for you. All product recommendations are based on real-world experience, expert opinion and user reviews.
The best overall floor jack needs to be sturdy, reliable and strong, and Arcan's 3-Ton Hybrid checks all of those boxes and more. The combination of aluminum and steel ensures that the jack is durable, but also portable, while the 3-ton weight capacity means that it can support most cars, trucks and SUVs. Dual pump pistons help lift vehicles faster (and more easily), while the large lifting range (4 to 18.5 inches) will allow plenty of space for users to work under their cars. The rubber saddle also ensures that you won't damage your car when you use it. Arcana 3-Ton Hybrid has 4.6 stars out of five on Amazon.
Not to be outdone, Torin also has a model that vies for the best overall floor jack. In this case, it's the company's AT825010B model, a low-profile jack with a single-piston quick lift pump. Made from alloy steel, the jack has a 2.5-ton lifting capacity and can be set from a minimum lifting height of 3.5 inches to a maximum height of just over 14 inches. It also has a safety bypass system incorporated that's designed to prevent overloading and subsequent failure. Four casters (two of which are designed to rotate 360 degrees) ensure that it's easy to get the jack from Point A to Point B. The Torin AT825010B floor jack has 4.2 stars out of five on Amazon.
If money's tight and you need a floor jack, grab ahold of this Pro-Lift unit. Priced at under $50, it's small, it's lightweight and, believe it or not, it's mighty, too. This car jack has a lift capacity of 1.5 tons (3,000 pounds) and is made of welded steel. Its maximum lift height is a modest 12 inches, but it only weighs 18 pounds, so don't expect it to be able to raise mountains. Keeping things neat and clean, it also comes with a nifty carrying case, making this one of the greatest portable car jacks to keep in your car or truck, so you'll be ready if you ever get a flat tire. It has a 4.4-star rating from over 7,000 customer reviews on Amazon.
So far, this list has covered hydraulic car jacks -- basically jacks with swivel-caster wheels and long handles. But now it's time to highlight a different type: The scissor jack. Mechanically operated, these are about as simple as they come, relying on a threaded screw and a crank handle instead of hydraulic fluid and a pumping mechanism. This compact Torin specimen can support 1.5 tons (3,000 pounds), the same as some of the other floor jacks highlighted here, but get this, it weighs less than a gallon of milk, just 7.7 pounds! This featherweight floor jack is also pretty compact, meaning you can keep one in your vehicle for when you get a flat. Scissor jacks certainly have their advantages, though they can be slower and more difficult to operate than other jacks.
Aside from floor and scissor jacks, there's another type you should consider: the bottle jack. As the name suggests, these jacks look like little flagons with broad bottoms and pumping mechanisms on the side. These jacks are compact, very affordable and insanely powerful. The model highlighted here has an impressive 8-ton (16,000-pound) lifting capacity and yet it's priced at just $40. The manufacturer also offers a broad range of other models, jacks that can support 4, 6, 10, 12, 20, 30 and even a whopping 50 tons, that's 100,000 pounds! This 8-tonner has a lifting range of 9.5 to 18 inches, features drop-forged steel construction for enhanced durability and comes with a one-year warranty.
This is one of the best electric jacks you can buy. Yep, you read that right, it's electric, running off the 12-volt power outlet in your vehicle. Basically an amped-up scissor jack, it features a small motor that spins the jack's threaded section, conveniently raising the vehicle at the push of a button. It takes about 2 minutes for this jack to rise to its maximum position, which is 17 inches of lifting range. It also has a lift capacity of 3 tons (6,000 pounds), but that's not all. Sold as a kit, it also comes with an electric impact-wrench, a small air compressor and other odds and ends, making it super versatile and something you're going to want to keep in your ride for emergencies. This setup is also a strong value at just $121.
OK, now we're talking! This right here, folks, is a serious floor jack, a top-quality, professional-grade jack. At $1,109 it is far, far from cheap, but for dealerships and repair shops, it's tough to top. Built by OTC, a world-renowned company, this air-assisted hydraulic jack is a real honey and loaded with plenty of premium features. The spring-loaded handle, for instance, locks in three positions, the front wheels are fitted with roller bearings and the aft-mounted casters with ball bearings so it rolls and turns effortlessly, the hydraulic ram is chrome plated for enhanced durability and it has a bypass feature that prevents you from lifting more than its 5-ton (10,000-pound) weight-capacity rating. This is the Cadillac of Jacks. Actually, it's better than that; it's the Rolls-Royce of car jacks. And at a husky 196 pounds, it should be nigh on indestructible.
Aluminum car jacks are lighter than their steel counterparts, and while they're also less durable, using them in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions should keep them in good condition, essentially giving users the best of both worlds. Like our top overall pick, Arcan's Aluminum Floor Jack has a 3-ton lifting capacity -- meaning that it can handle most vehicles -- and dual-pump piston action that makes lifting easier. It can hoist vehicles from 3.75 to 18 inches off the ground, and the reinforced lifting arm aides in both strength and torsion control. Arcan's Aluminum Floor Jack has a rating of 4.6 stars out of five on Amazon.
If you're looking for a compact, lightweight jack, check out this little number. Clocking in at around 27 pounds, this aluminum floor jack features a low-profile design, so it fits under even vehicles slammed to the pavement, raises in just 3.5 pumps and tops out at 14.75 inches of lift range. But how much can this jack handle? How about a cool 1.5 tons (3,000 pounds)? Aside from all that, it also features a knurled aluminum handle, so you don't slip when you go to lower a vehicle, plus this hydraulic floor jack has a cool blue paint job.
Here's something a little different. This Hi-Lift mechanical jack (also referred to as a bumper jack) can be used for many things beyond just raising a vehicle, though it's pretty good at that, too. It can help winch loads, clamp things down or spread them apart, and it's even suitable for use off-road to help get you out of difficult situations. This jack has a rated weight capacity of 4,660 pounds, though it maxes out at a whopping 7,000 pounds, meaning it has a safety factor of 150%. Ensuring you don't inadvertently exceed that big number, however, it is fitted with a shear bolt that's designed to prevent it from lifting beyond its absolute limit. With simple construction, there's minimal to go wrong or fail over time. Despite its sturdy design, this jack weighs only around 28 pounds. Still on the fence? Well, people seem to love this tool. It also has a 4.7-star rating after nearly 3,300 reviews.
Low-profile car jacks are designed to fit under vehicles that sit closer to the ground, thereby lifting them and allowing access underneath. There are many great low-profile jacks on this list, but for this category, we wanted to spotlight the Pro-Lift F-767, a model that delivers a low price without sacrificing capability. The Pro-Lift F-767 can hoist up to 2 tons, meaning that it covers a wide array of vehicles and it has a lifting range of 3.8 to 15 inches. The steel construction means that it's a durable model and it's got built-in safety features, such as a bypass device to prevent overpumping. It currently has a rating of 4.4 stars out of five on Amazon.
Significantly more affordable than the previous steel floor jack highlighted here is this Pittsburgh unit. Treated to a fetching red paint job and made of sturdy welded steel, it has a 3-ton (6,000-pound) lifting capacity. Weighing in at around 75 pounds, it's a solid piece of work, though its wide casters should help improve both maneuverability and, more importantly, stability. A rapid-pump mechanism gets this jack up in no time flat, while its low-profile design means it should fit under a wide range of vehicles. Overall, this is a nice car jack for a reasonable price of $160. User reviews are excellent, too. To date, it's earned a 4.8-star rating.
If you want a high-quality, long-lasting, super-versatile floor jack, consider this premium, heavy-duty Torin unit. It can support up to 3 tons (6,000 pounds), features a 20-inch lifting height and comes with a two-year manufacturer warranty. A quick-lift pump design gets the business end up to the vehicle you're lifting much faster so you're not sitting there pumping the handle going seemingly nowhere. This low profile floor jack should easily slide under even aggressively dropped vehicles, plus its near 67-pound weight and heavy-duty steel construction (emphasis on heavy) means it's built to last. This is certainly a premium hydraulic floor jack.
Jacks are great, but there are alternatives if you're not comfortable using one. Ramps, for instance, are a great solution. Not only are they super affordable, they're very easy to use. Just position them in front of a vehicle's tires and drive (carefully!) on up until the tires bump the stops. And that's pretty much it; you just elevated your car or truck enough to do some serious work and you did it without a floor jack. Made of rugged plastic, this set of RhinoGear ramps can support up to 16,000 pounds. Their 17-degree inclines mean they can fit under low vehicles and the nonskid surface reduces the chances of wheelspin while driving up them. Priced at just $75, these ramps weigh less than 21 pounds and have a 4.6-star rating from buyers.
Well, you made it this far, did you learn anything?
Floor jacks are tools designed to lift vehicles off the ground so that the area underneath can be accessed. If you ever need to work on your car beyond tinkering with what's under the hood, you'll need access to the bottom of your vehicle. That's where a jack comes into play -- it lifts a car, truck, SUV or van high enough off the ground that you can fit underneath it. Then you're able to do work on the underside of the vehicle.
Home-use floor jacks come in a few different styles. A standard floor jack grips your vehicle from beneath -- then, when you pull an attached lever, it uses hydraulic pressure to raise your vehicle up. A bottle jack also draws hydraulic power from a lever, but it's shaped more like a bottle than a regular car jack. A scissor jack operates similarly, but its scissor shape extends and lifts a vehicle when you turn a crank. Farm jacks (or hi-lift jacks) are designed for off-roading or driving on unstable surfaces. Finally, an electric jack uses electricity to raise a vehicle, so rather than turning a crank or pulling a lever, it can be operated by flipping a switch.
The different kinds of jacks have their benefits and drawbacks. Bottle jacks are popular because they tend to be both cheaper and stronger than other types of jacks, but they also require higher floor clearances than standard jacks. If your car is low to the ground, you might need a standard jack. Scissor jacks are sturdy and safe, but their maximum weight capacities are lower than those of other jacks. Electric jacks require less effort on the user's part, but they also need a power source, whether it's grounded or in the form of a battery.
Floor jacks are typically made of either steel or aluminum (or sometimes mixtures of both). Aluminum jacks are much lighter than steel jacks, so they're easier to transport and maneuver. Steel jacks are heavier, but also more durable -- you can't really damage a steel jack the way you can damage an aluminum jack. In terms of cost, the two are usually fairly comparable. It's also important to note that steel jacks aren't stronger than aluminum jacks -- each jack has its own weight rating that determines its strength.
Jacks are rated based on how much weight they can support. There are many jacks that support 1.5, 2, 3 and even 4 tons. That said, your jack won't need to hold up your vehicle's full weight, since one side of it will still be on the ground.
"For vehicles in the compact, subcompact and midsize categories, you'd be using the typical 2-ton weight jack," says Edward Cole of VehicleUnleashed, a website dedicated to car customization and repairs. "Anything larger -- SUVs, full-size cars, vans and trucks -- you want to go anywhere from 3 to 4 tons, at least. Of course, the stronger the better, if budget permits."
Now that you know how floor jacks differ, you can pick the one that makes the most sense for you and your vehicle. The most important factor will be lifting weight -- you need a jack that can support your vehicle. If it doesn't, you'll be at risk for serious injury or death.
Your weight capacity may help determine what kinds of jacks you can or can't get -- if you need a jack with a higher weight capacity, for instance, odds are you won't be able to get a scissor jack. Based on the models that are available to you, it makes sense to pick one that you'll feel the most comfortable using. Maybe that means pumping the lever on a standard or bottle jack, or perhaps turning a crank on a scissor jack. You could even decide to save yourself some work and go with an electric jack.
You'll also need to know what your vehicle's clearance height is -- the height from the ground to the underside of your vehicle. A jack will be useless if it's too large to fit under your car or too short to actually lift it. Once you know your car's clearance, you can pick a jack that's compatible -- whether it's a low-profile jack or one designed to lift vehicles that stand a greater distance off the ground.
The size and weight of the jack will also be of paramount importance. You want a jack that you can keep handy, whether that means in your garage for work on in your car in case of a flat. If it takes up too much space, you'll have a tough time storing it. Likewise, a jack that's too heavy might be hard to bring out when you need to use it -- for that reason, you may opt for an aluminum jack over a steel one.
Finally, your budget will also dictate the kind of jack that you end up buying. Bottle jacks tend to be on the less expensive side and so that, combined with their reliability, makes them a great option for all customers. That said, certain premium jacks may have features that make spending a little extra worth it -- for instance some premium high-capacity jacks have double-pump piston systems that allow users to lift up vehicles on both upstrokes and downstrokes until the jacks are under load. Handy features like these make premium jacks easier to use, so you may want to consider one if you have the budget for it.
Before getting into some general rules for how to use a floor jack, it's important to mention that each jack should come with a set of manufacturer's instructions that should be followed to the letter. Using a floor jack incorrectly can result in severe injury or death and so the specific rules that come with a jack should supersede anything you read anywhere else.
That said, there are some steps of the process that are just about universal. If you're driving, you'll want to come to a complete stop in a safe location. You'll need to make sure that your vehicle is in park and that the emergency brake is engaged -- you may even want to place an object under the tire opposite to the corner you'll be jacking up.
Next, get your jack and locate your vehicle's jacking points -- metal ribs designed to support a jack. These are behind your car's front wheels and in front of the back wheels. You'll then want to position your jack, making sure that the slot on top of it slips onto the jack point. You must place a jack stand on the jacking point near the jack to help support the car's weight if the jack gives out -- this is mandatory and can literally make the difference between life and death. Jack stands, like jacks, have weight capacities that must be followed. You can then jack your car up.
"Jack stands are the pillars to a successful job -- pun intended," says Cole. "If you plan to have the whole car jacked up, have the car parked on level solid ground. First, you'd start off in the front by jacking up the front and placing the stands under the frame, then slowly lowering the vehicle. Make sure to lock in the stand before lowering it with the pin that goes in place. Once it's lowered, you'd then go to the rear and repeat the same process. Test the jack stands by pushing on the vehicle to make sure it's not going anywhere."
Finally, when your job is done, you can lower your car. First, you'll remove the jack stand, then you'll follow up by lowering and removing the jack. Before you use your car, make sure you've removed the objects that you've placed by the tires to stabilize them.
To get the most out of your jack, you'll also want to maintain it properly -- that means keeping it clean and also checking it frequently for any signs of damage. If your jack is hydraulic, you'll also want to check the oil levels, change the oil periodically and bleed the air that makes its way into the jack system.
Whether you opt for a burly bottle jack, a simple scissor jack or even a set of ramps, these tools make repairing and servicing vehicles far easier. The products highlighted here have their own advantages and disadvantages, but any one of them should serve the backyard mechanic well.
Aside from their varied shapes and sizes, floor jacks are offered at a huge range of prices, from top-quality, professional-grade units costing hundreds of dollars, to simple models you can pick up for $20 or less, there's a jack to fit nearly everyone's needs and budget. So, what are you waiting for? Get jacking!
Scott Fried contributed to this story for CNET Cars.
Choosing a floor jack means finding what you need across a number of categories. The most important is weight capacity, as if your jack isn't powerful enough to support the weight of your vehicle, then it's not safe to use. You'll also want to check height clearance to make sure that you get the right size jack.
After that, you'll pick the kind of jack that you want -- standard, bottle, farm, scissor or electric. Different models have different benefits and drawbacks. You may want a lighter jack or a more durable one -- that will determine whether you get an aluminum or steel jack. Finally, you'll have a budget that will point you toward the jack that's right for you.
10ton Bottle Jack Aluminum floor jacks are worth it if you want a floor jack that's easy to carry and transport. Aluminum weighs much less than steel, so an aluminum jack is much more movable than a steel one. This comes into play if you're bringing your jack somewhere to do work or even if you're just taking it out of the trunk. Steel jacks, on the other hand, are more resistant to damage. If durability is more important to you than portability, you may want to opt for a steel jack instead.