5/27/2021  George R. Lee

Let's Talk Bucket Trucks And Mobile Aerial lifts

When looking to purchase your next aerial lift it will serve you well to ponder your needs in this matter a little longer these days then perhaps in the past. With so many options available (which some of these options were not available in years past), I suggest you do some extensive investigating before signing on the dotted line or making out the check to close your purchase deal.

Let's look at a few questions I feel you should be asking yourself (if you are the decision maker in this purchase) prior to finalizing your deal. Here are some of the many questions you might want to get answers for:


  • Does the brand matter (whether it be the truck make and model, the aerial device, or the mobile track/tire model manufacturer)?
  • Do I have a desired working height established for my aerial lift? If so, what is it and why?
  • Is it smart for me to buy new or should I consider used also?
  • What is my budget for this purchase?
  • Do I want a truck mounted unit? Do I want a rear mounted aerial unit with 360 rotation and non -over center, or am I looking for a behind the cab or rear mounted over-center unit?
  • Do I want my aerial unit equipped with a material handler system or not?
  • Am I looking for a 2 man or single man bucket, rotating bucket, hydraulic tool connectors or am I open to options?
  • If looking for a truck mounted device, does the GVWR matter?
  • If considering a track/wheel mounted self-driven aerial lift, how will / what will I need to transport it from job to job?


The list of questions you should be asking yourself before purchasing may go from taking a few minutes to a few hours or as long as a few weeks (if not more). Buying a bucket truck or aerial device of any shape, size and model should be taken very seriously. Don't let fancy paint jobs or lowball prices take you down a bad journey.

For over 40 years now I've operated, worked on, bought and sold my share of bucket trucks and aerial lifts. I'd like to share my experience which includes a few "NOT TO DO's” when making your next bucket truck purchase. They are as follows:


  • Do your homework (this does not mean google it or rely on your shop person alone).
  • Do not let false information sway you.
  • Do not let employees dictate what you buy (their goals and your mission may not be the same).
  • Do not buy something that may put your livelihood and the safety of the people operating these lifts at risk.
  • If new to the industry and money is still a little tight then DO NOT BUY something cheap and yet obviously dangerous, keep climbing until your financial feet are on solid ground.


The topic regarding bucket trucks/aerial lifts is a subject we must and should all take very seriously. I would argue that there is no one perfect bucket truck. I see great benefits for a non-over-center unit.

I see benefits for over-center units as well. I like having the forestry package which includes a chip box and storage compartments but, on the other hand, an open flatbed provides an outstanding set up for many types of projects.
I'm thrilled about having a 75ft reaching unit but not so thrilled if it hampers me from getting in tight spots or because of its extra weight and I end up fixing customers drive and walks or more time planking (time is money, remember).

Mobile Aerial units are great too.

You may have to buy a trailer to haul them which now means an extra piece of equipment to service, plate, and pay taxes on. Aerial units allow you to get into locations easier than many truck mounted lifts. They also give you the tools to trim or remove trees which would otherwise require a highly skilled climbing arborist. The one caution I would offer to anyone looking at the prospect of purchasing any make or model of a mobile aerial lift is this, several (NOT ALL) units contain parts which move a lot, meet minimal safety standards (not maximum) and wear out often. Although I believe a mobile lift is a great piece of equipment to own for any tree service company, one should recognize these units are not built for heavy duty abuse and wear and tear as most truck mounted units are.

These final thoughts:






Author: Article and opinion presented by George R. Lee, Owner and President of BTS Equipment in Romeo , MI.