Home/DIY Lift Guide

Home / DIY Lift Guide

So, you’ve decided to get a car lift for your home garage - welcome to the club! You may need it for storage for your toys or to do some DIY work. Now, the decision! What home garage car lift to buy? The discussion below focuses on 4-post lifts as they are by far the most common for Home/DIY. If you have not settled on a lift style yet, please refer to Home/DIY- What Style of Lift is Best for Me?

Now, admittedly these things are not high tech rocket ships. There's not really that much to them. Bunch of steel, some hydraulics, add a power unit, and off to the races. Might as well get the cheapest one you can. Not so fast... let’s spend some time on this.

How about we narrow our search to a brand, then we can choose the model after that? Quick Google search for hobby/DIY lifts, and we find brands such as BendPak, Direct Lift, Rotary Revolution, Challenger, Atlas, Quality, Titan, Rhino, Torin, Gemini, Tuxedo, Auto Lift (Tuxedo), United Products (Tuxedo), Dannmar, Worth, and on and on.

We need an approach to cut through all this. Let’s start with Safety, an important consideration for a car lift for your garage.

Car Lift Safety

The Gold ALI / ETL certification label is the only North American recognized standard for automotive lifts. Known as ANSI/ALI ALCTV (Current Edition) and ANSI/UL 201, it governs the design and construction of automotive lifts. The Automotive Lift Institute (ALI) offers a rigorous testing and certification program for lifts. The program uses an independent third-party testing laboratory called Intertek (ETL).

Their main purpose is to ensure that the highest industry safety and performance standards are built into each lift carrying the Gold label. All components and the tensile strength of the steel used are tested. Lifts are subjected to thorough safety tests such as a 1.5 rated load test and deformation tests.

An important test is the cable cut test. All ALI/ETL certified lifts must have a ‘Backup slack cable’ safety system. Refer to the image below.

This redundant secondary lock system instantly kicks in if a cable failure occurs. This will prevent serious injury. If the lift passes the tests and the factory (which is subject to periodic inspections) meets the standards, then the lift may carry the gold ALI Certified/ETL label. Each lift model must receive its own ALI/ETL certification.

Uncertified lifts are not subject to any outside testing or standards. Buyer Beware.

So, if you buy a lift with the Gold label, you’ll know it’s safe and built to last a long time. It’s that simple. An ALI / ETL Certified lift will cost you a few dollars more to buy because it costs more to build...but in the long run, your cost of ownership will be less and please remember that you, your family and your car are all going to be underneath it. The lift you are purchasing is a significant investment. Research accordingly. We encourage you to spend some time on the Automotive Lift Institute website - autolift.org. It shows all the ALI/ETL certified lifts by manufacturer and the FAQ section is informative. We strongly encourage you to purchase a lift with the Gold label.

OK, you’ve done your research and are convinced. You will only consider an ALI/ETL Certified lift. That puts a bunch of the above brands/rebrands out of consideration. So, now just choose the Gold ALI/ETL certified lift with the lowest price? Again...let’s explore this. Even among the top lifts, there are some important quality and design differences.

Hydraulic Cylinder Connection To Cables

On a 4-post lift the hydraulic cylinder is attached somehow to the four cables that move the two runways. These methods are not equal. For instance, BendPak’s HD-9 series uses a direct-pull design (shown below) that allows the four cables to be attached directly to the cylinder pull-block. This results in 1 to 1 lifting.BendPak's cable-block features anti-rotation outriggers that minimize rotation caused by cylinder movement and helps maintain perfect alignment of the lifting cables.

Compare this to the Direct Lift ProPark-8 lift. It utilizes a “pulley” system – 2 to 1 lifting. As shown below, the cylinder is tethered to a single cable, which is in turn attached to the four lifting cables. The single cable carries the entire load during raising and lowering operations. The ProPark-8 Plus pulley system requires a larger diameter cylinder and higher working pressure because it takes twice as much hydraulic force as a direct pull setup (BendPak).

Pulley System
Cable Sheaves

Cable Sheaves

Cable Sheaves guide the cables. This is a case where size matters. Once again, we will compare the BendPak HD-9 to the Direct Lift ProPark 8. Referring to the images below, you can see that BendPak cable sheaves have a much larger diameter, meaning your lifting cables will have a much longer life expectancy and have less chance for fatigue or failure. Replacing cables is expensive and time consuming. BendPak cable sheaves are wider and have over 300% the bearing (bronze bushing) surface for prolonged service life.

Cable sheaves are also mounted in the columns of a lift, and they guide the cables through the cross tubes. On a BendPak lift, the cable sheaves are precisely centered within the cross tube to ensure that the cross tube stays level, thereby eliminating side loads of any kind. Please refer to the image to the right. Lesser lift brands employ cross tube sheaves and axles that are located outside the cross tube body, forcing the cross tubes to twist or rotate away from the sheave as the lift raises. This twisting occurrence tends to develop side‐loading on their cross tube components and plastic sliders.

The picture below further illustrates this. Compare the BendPak HD9 on the left with the Direct Lift ProPark-8 on the right. As you can see, The Direct Lift ProPark-8 has external mounted cross tube sheaves that are side loaded relative to the centerline of the cross tube. External mounted cross tube sheaves tend to put more strain and bending moment on the sheave axles. The sheaves are held in place by a single external shaft collar. The Direct Lift ProPark-8 cables are not neatly routed within the structure of the lift.

Safety Locks and Release

All ALI/ETL certified lifts are required to have four independent locks – one in each column. As the lift rises, these locks click into place. But again, even on these “safe” lifts, there are better ways of doing things. BendPak uses a Commercial‐Grade Pneumatic Safety Lock System. This is the same system used on larger capacity commercial lifts. An air source- e.g. small compressor - is required. The four locks – one in each column- are released by a single push-button. The pneumatic safety lock system ensures that your locks release simultaneously every time. The image below shows a BendPak column...notice the air cylinder. It is these cylinders that are engaged and release the locks simultaneously when the push-button is pushed.

Other lifts use linkage rods to release the four spring loaded locks. That’s a lot of resistance to overcome. That, combined with the accumulation of slop from all of the linkage points, means the safety lock furthest from the operator has a good chance of not being “pulled back” far enough. Think about what would happen if three corners descended and one stuck. The worst cause of lift failures or vehicle “drops” is the runways suddenly becoming unlevel due to a seized column or a stuck lock. Mechanical linkage systems are more prone to failure and repair.

Direct Lifts have clumsy, multi-rod, multi-adjustment, manually operated locks featuring a handle you need to hold down during the full decent. Remember – the lift is moving as you are holding the handle down to the floor. The picture of the Direct Lift ProPark-8 below clearly shows the rods along the carriage and on the right the lever that needs to be pulled and held while lowering the lift. Not only is BendPak’s pneumatic system better, it makes the lift much more pleasing to the eye. The lifting cables are routed internally through the cross tubes and columns and the clumsy linkage rods are avoided. (I have an HD9 in my garage, I can honestly say I appreciate how it looks.)

Adjustable Safety Locks

BendPak also has Adjustable Safety Locks. The adjustable ladder provides adaptability for unlevel floors, enabling your vehicle to sit safely in a level position even if your floor is unlevel - an important feature that many other lift brands lacks. BendPak features 13 adjustable lock positions (varies by model) to provide greater versatility and storage height coverage.

We have kind of picked on Direct Lift in the discussion above. This is primarily because BendPak performed a detailed comparison - click here for full report. The differences in the design of BendPak versus other top brands however still exist. A large part of the reason as to why BendPak’s design is so superior is its heritage. The HD9 series is the ONLY so called “hobby” lift that was designed as a commercial lift. BendPak took its HD12 -12,000 lb capacity – commercial lift and just made it smaller. The HD9 series can be used in a busy shop or dealership but it is marketed and sold as a hobby lift.

All other hobby lifts are considered “offshore design”. They range from junk to good. Some of these lifts have ALI/ETL stickers, but we would never recommend using them in a commercial shop. They are made for limited use or cycles. So, as a hobbyist, the question is “Do you really need a commercial lift?” Maybe not... but you know it will last, looks great, and for a few bucks more it’s worth the peace of mind. If you need further guidance, consider this. BendPak’s HD9 series is the #1 selling ALI/ETL approved lift in America.

Before moving on, this is a good time to mention that not all BendPak hobby lifts are ALI/ETL certified. This is not because they are built to different standards. The design of all these lifts is the same. Just a matter of economics, as it is very expensive to have a lift go through the testing process. The sales volume of some models is just not enough to justify the expense. We clearly indicate on our website models that are and are not certified.

So now you are aware of some of the design and quality differences to look for in choosing your lift. As a final consideration, let’s look at the warranty coverage.

Warranties On Car Lifts

The chart below looks at the warranty for some common lifts. Please refer to the actual supplier for full details as warranty can vary by model and change. The chart more or less speaks for itself. Structure tends to include the carriage, columns, yokes, arms, runways, plungers, etc. Generally, operating parts will include hoses, cables, sheaves, controls, etc.

Clearly, most brands do not provide labor warranty. They justify this by saying most of their customers are handy or mechanical... reality of course is the cost can be high. Not offering this keeps their cost down. We sell roughly two hobby lifts each day, so we have a lot of experience with this. Without a doubt, customers will often do a simple fix themselves and are happy to do so. In many other cases though, the fix is not so simple and often they don’t have the mechanical ability and/or the time to do it. Many customers do not install these themselves, but use professional installers. If there is a problem with the lift in these cases, it will cost you.





Direct Lift


Atlas (Greg Smith)

Structure60 Month60 Month36 Month60 Month60 Month60 Month
Hydraulics24 Month12 Month**12 Month12 Month30 days (then seals only)24 Month
Power Unit24 Month12 Month**12 Month12 Month12 Month12 Month
Wear & Tear Parts12 Month12 Month**12 Month12 Month12 Month90 Days
Shipping12 Month12 MonthNone12 MonthNoneNone
Labor12 Month12 MonthNoneNoneNoneNone

* - Tuxedo Distributors LLC dba Ideal Automotive Equipment has two 2-post models that are ALI approved.

** - Increases to 24 months if installed by Rotary Authorized Installer (RAI)


Hopefully the information above will help you with your research and purchasing decision. We naturally think BendPak (and us of course) is the way to go. To support this just a little bit more, you may want to consider the selection of models offered by each brand. If we consider only the 4-post models, which account for the vast majority of hobby/DIY lifts, we have:


# of Models:


Rotary Revolution1RFP9
Dannmar2Commander 7000 & Commander 7000X
Direct Lift3Pro Park 8S, Pro Park 8 Plus Long, Pro Park 9 Plus
BendPak13Parking & Storage Lifts

* - Tuxedo Distributors LLC dba Ideal Automotive Equipment has two 2-post models that are ALI approved.

** - Increases to 24 months if installed by Rotary Authorized Installer (RAI)

It seems clear that BendPak is going to have a lift that best suits your needs.

Of course, many DIY customers decide that a 2-post lift or a mid-rise lift like our MD-6XP are better suited for their application. To better assist our customers in making an informed decision, we have put together the resources below - take some time to explore further and as always, our knowledgeable staff are available to help you to choose the right product for your needs - click on the "Live Help / Leave Message" button to the right or Contact Us by phone or email and we will be happy to help.

Also, please be aware that all comparisons to other brands, and other representations such as warranties, etc. are accurate to the best of our ability but are subject to change. They are intended as a guide and please consult directly with manufacturers' websites for the most current information.