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Finding the Right Auto Lift for a Shop with Low Ceilings

Many vehicle enthusiasts dream of owning an automotive lift, sitting in their garage, waiting to be utilized. Perhaps a young entrepreneur with a wealth of vehicle knowledge decides to invest in property and open an auto repair shop or body shop. The first step is finding the best auto lift.

Of course, in the hunt for the right auto lift for your space, complexities arise. In either scenario, the garage or shop may have a low ceiling, limiting the number of high-quality, safe lifts available. However, if you own a shop with low ceilings, a number of excellent auto lifts are available to you. In the following content, we seek to guide those in the market toward the right auto lift for their shop with low ceilings.

What is the Minimum Ceiling Height for an Auto Lift?

Before exploring auto lifts for low ceilings, you need to measure your space. Exactly how low is your shop ceiling? Keep overhead hazards, such as lights, in mind when measuring. To safely install a lift in your shop, the ceiling should be at least 11 to 12 feet. While measuring the height from floor to ceiling, quickly examine your floor. Vehicles are heavy – and lifts are heavy. However, many will work adequality on typical concrete slab one might find in a garage – between 4 to 5 inches thick. Once you have measured the ceiling to ensure an auto lift is safely possible, explore the two options listed below.

1. Low Rise, Two-Post Auto Lifts

Two-post auto lifts are extremely common for their versatility and ease-of-use. Selecting a low-rise, two-post lift is often an ideal, cost-effective option for auto shops with low ceilings. How do two-post auto lifts function?

Frame-Engaging Structure

Two-post lifts lift vehicles with four arms, designed to hoist the vehicle on specifically intended lifting points. Two-post lifts are adaptable. A small, low shop, perhaps with enough room for a single lift, will benefit from a two-post lift with the ability to lift a wide range of lift points and vehicles. Due to their easy-to-use functionality, two-post lifts are commonly found in “drive-through” shops, where getting in and out quickly is prioritized. Because two-post lifts hoist vehicles via designated lift points, technicians working in low ceiling shops have greater access to the undercarriage of the vehicle – for engine or transmission work – than when using wheel-engaging lifts.

Furthermore, two-post lifts are excellent for small, light vehicles, such as light trucks, vans, and cars – the kinds of vehicles usually repaired in low-ceiling shops. Keep in mind, most two-post lifts have a maximum lifting capacity of about 20,000 pounds.

Symmetrical vs. Asymmetrical Two-Post Lifts

Regardless of ceiling height, symmetrical or asymmetrical two-post lifts can be utilized. The vehicle’s position in relation to the lift columns is the primary difference between the two varieties. Simply put, symmetrical lift columns are symmetrically positioned in relation to the vehicle, while asymmetrical lift columns are positioned at an angle.


Most two-post lifts must be anchored to the ground. While this limits mobility, it adds durability, important for a low rise, two-post lift positioned in a low ceiling shop.

2. In-Ground Lifts

In-ground lifts are an additional auto lift option perfect for low ceiling shops. Why? Simply put, in-ground lifts are installed into the concrete floor, allowing for complete retraction into the floor when in disuse. For years, these lifts have been a component of automotive shops, known for their resilience. In-ground lifts can be frame or wheel engaging, allowing for the benefits of frame-engaging lifts.

In-Ground Single Post Lifts

In-ground single post lifts are the safest piece of equipment available for any shop. Especially in small or tight work environments, safety is an absolute priority. Along with safety, flexibility is a crucial component of the right auto lifts for a shop with low ceilings. In-ground single post lifts afford this as well, providing a range of functionality greater than most other lifts. Finally, single post in-ground lifts are small, invisible when retracted into the floor.

The FS-10 is an excellent example of a small single post lift perfect for a shop with low ceilings. The FS-10 is reliable, functioning how you intend, every time. The lift is safe to operate and environmentally friendly. Furthermore, the lift is frame-engaging, allowing for full access to the vehicle’s undercarriage in a low ceiling environment.

In-Ground Side-by-Side Lifts

In-ground side-by-side lifts resemble two-post lifts in look and feel. However, in-ground side-by-side lifts are permanently installed into the floor and, of course, retract. Like single post lifts, side-by-side are extremely safe. With SVI’s exclusive automatic locking system, these lifts easily conform to OSHA inspector scrutiny and exceed industry standards.

The FSDT-28 is an example of a frame-engaging, side-by-side lift with a lifting capacity of 12,000 pounds. At SVI, we label the lift “BBLM” technology. This means the FSDT-28 has brute strength, is built simple, creates little problem, and is made to last! Again, the lift is simple to operate and is environmentally friendly.

In-Ground Heavy Duty Fore-and-Aft Lifts

Finally, in-ground fore-and-aft lifts are commonly utilized to lift heavy duty vehicles. Health and safety officials suggest the use of SVI’s MPTP safety legs, bringing the lift into complete compliance with current OSHA standards. Even a small auto shop with low ceilings should be confident when the safety inspector arrives. Most importantly, using the right auto lift keeps your technicians, customers, and yourself safe while working and walking throughout in the shop.

The 2P-102 is an example of a small fore-and-aft lift, utilized for passenger cars or light trucks. Unlike the previous examples, the 2P-102 is axle engaging. This lift offers a unique feature – an adjustable front cylinder for various wheelbase lengths. For certain low ceiling shop applications, the 2P-102 may be the best option.

SVI International

At SVI International, we are dedicated to quality. As industry leaders in repair parts for automotive and industrial equipment, we offer 40,000 repair parts from 50 product lines. Our products are distributed between 3 warehouses, scattered across the country, allowing for fast, reliable shipping.

Beside repair parts, we are known as the problem solver in the industry. We understand custom. Whether you’re looking for specialty lifts, repair parts, or innovative products, we welcome you to reach out today. Get in touch at (800) 321-8173 or via our online contact form.

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