The Battle of the 2-Post Lifts: Baseplate vs. Overhead


At North American Auto Equipment, we think choice is good. That’s why, for over 30 years, we have been offering a broad range of auto lifts for professional and individual garages. We’re proud of the performance, quality, and reliability of our lifts and are confident we have a lift that suits your needs.

One question many of our customers have is which type of two-post lift is better — the baseplate type or the overhead type? The answer is: It depends!

Both types offer their own advantages as well as their own constraints. It’s also important to know how they work and in what way’s they’re similar. We’ve put together this guide to help you understand why both types of auto lifts are available on the market and how to choose the best model for your garage.

How 2-Post Lifts Work

Two-post lifts feature single parallel posts that are spaced a certain distance apart. This distance dictates the width of vehicle you can lift. If you only ever work with small compact cars, you might select a narrow two-post lift that doesn’t take up much floor space.

If, on the other hand, you lift large pickups and vans, you’ll need to choose a two-post lift with additional space between the posts.

The posts work in conjunction to lift both sides of the vehicle at the same time and at the same speed. This is critical, as a difference in speed would lift the vehicle at an angle, which could cause the vehicle to fall off the lift.

Our lifts feature powerful hydraulics to provide lift and high-strength cables to equalize the lifting and raise and lower your vehicle at a steady speed. The electric drive motor and hydraulic pump is located in one of the columns (the powered column) and delivers power to the other column (the slave column).

In both baseplate and overhead two-post lifts, the lift arms are fixed to moving supports that travel up and down the posts. These arms can pivot and extend to allow for proper positioning at the front and rear of your vehicle for safe lifting. As you can see, so far, there is no difference in how baseplate and overhead lifts are designed or function.

The Difference Between Baseplate and Overhead Models

Where the two types of lifts differ is how they are connected. The names themselves are quite descriptive: The baseplate two-post lifts feature a large plate connecting the two columns at the base. Picture the lift as a letter “u,” with the baseplate running along the floor between the posts. Now contrast that with an overhead model, where the connection between the posts occurs at the top, creating a form like the letter “n.”

Since a two-post lift features one powered column and one slave column, the hydraulic power has to be transferred to the slave column so both can operate at the same time. For both models, the connection (either at the base or overhead) is where these hydraulic lines pass between the two columns, as well as any electrical and control wiring.

This keeps these important lift components safe and secure from damage. It also means they aren’t running across the ground or in the air, where they can get caught or snagged.

The Benefits of 2-Post Baseplate Liftstruck baseplate 2 post lift

Two-post baseplate lifts are relatively easy to install. They require a flat floor and solid concrete base for bolting. A thick steel plate sits approximately one inch off the ground to cover the hydraulic lines and electrical cables. While this low ramp is easy to drive over, it can make it difficult to move a dolly, jack or transmission hoist between the columns.

While it might appear that the baseplate provides support for the columns when the lift is loaded with a vehicle, the floor bolts holding the columns in place are extremely important. That’s because as you lift a vehicle, the two columns want to bend in towards each other, putting high amounts of stress on the outer anchor bolts.

One advantage of a baseplate lift is that the height isn’t limited by an overhead cross member. The maximum height of your lift will be dictated by the capacity and design of the lift, height of the columns and space under your ceiling, although a baseplate-type two-post lift can accommodate tall vehicles with bed caps, light bars, roof racks and other roof-mounted features.

One disadvantage for baseplate lifts is that transmission work is made more difficult. When doing work on a car’s transmission it can be difficult to roll the transmission jack over the baseplate itself. In this case, if you are a business that often does transmission work, we recommend a two-post overhead lift.

The Benefits of a Two-Post Overhead Lift

An overhead lift with the same lift capacity of a comparable baseplate lift will

truck overhead 2 post lift

offer greater stability, thanks to the added strength and support of the overhead cross member. As you load the lift, the columns want to lean in towards each other. The overhead support resists this bending, putting less stress on the column anchor bolts.

An additional advantage of the overhead style of two-post auto lifts is that there is no obstruction on the ground. If you spend a lot of time under a vehicle on the lift — either on a rolling dolly or with a jack — you'll appreciate the clear, open floor space. When there's no vehicle on the lift, it's also easier to use the space between your lift as opposed to the baseplate model, with its low but sometimes intrusive steel plate.

If you plan to lift tall vehicles (like trucks and vans), you need to choose an overhead lift with enough height. Because the overhead cross member is fixed, you will always be limited to that maximum height. Any hydraulic hose service and maintenance will mean climbing up a ladder to access through the overhead portion, which can be less convenient than with baseplate models and their hydraulic hoses running along the ground under the plate.

Making Your Choice

Now that you about the ways two-post baseplate and overhead auto lifts are different, you can choose the model that best suits your garage space and how you use your floor space. If you need help deciding, contact our friendly and knowledgeable team here at North American Auto Equipment.

We’re a family-run business with the experience and expertise to help you find the perfect auto lift. Give us a call today or fill in our handy contact form. We’re proud of the quality, value and service we provide our customers, so come and find out how we can help you today!