Platform Lift Versus Passenger Lift

Sean O’Sullivan, Managing Director of the Platform Lift Company gives us the lowdown on why platform lifts are more cost-effective and easier to install than a passenger lift within a commercial environment.

Long gone are the days of platform lifts being clunky, utilitarian in their design and hidden away from the public eye. Today’s commercial platform lifts are stylish, engineered for quiet, smooth operation and designed with incredibly small footprints.

Vertical platform lifts are enclosed and should not be confused with open platform lifts which are designed to reach heights of up to three metres. They come with their own self-supporting shaft and can serve up to six levels. See our Commercial Platform Lift.

You can also get cabin style vertical platform lifts; this type of lift offers a very similar user experience to a passenger lift but without the cost and building work. It differs from a standard vertical lift because it has a cabin (walls and a ceiling). See our Deluxe Cabin Style Platform Lift.

Disability lifts provide ease of installation

Vertical platform lifts are low pit lifts which means they can be installed by creating a pit as little as 50mm in the floor. Our Commercial Platform Lift requires a 60mm pit. A slightly deeper pit of 150mm is needed for cabin style platform lifts. If a pit cannot be created, it is possible to fit a ramp to the front of the shaft on the ground floor level.

Another benefit of these types of lifts is that they come with a self-supporting shaft which can be customised in any RAL colour, stainless steel or can be partially or fully glazed. The shaft is freestanding and does not require any fixing to the wall which makes it ideal for heritage or listed buildings.

Building work is minimal compared to a passenger lift and platform lifts can be installed within a three to four day period.

What about head space?

A vertical platform lift requires much less head space than a passenger lift. Typically, a standard platform lift requires 2.2 metres from the finished floor level – the distance from the floor up to the top of the shaft when the lift is at its highest point. A cabin style platform lift will need a little more head space of 2.5 metres. Both these low head room lifts are ideal for buildings that don’t have high ceilings.

Wheelchair lifts can have a very small footprint

Vertical platform lifts are designed to be compact but can comfortably carry a wheelchair user and a carer or an assistance dog. Our Commercial Platform Lift has one of the smallest footprints (1560mm deep x 1250mm wide) and is compliant with Part M of the Building Regulations which require that a platform lift or cabin should be at least 1100mm x 1400mm. Therefore, a vertical platform lift provides a much better space-saving solution than a passenger lift. 

Are platform lifts energy efficient? 

Vertical platform lifts are incredibly energy efficient compared to passenger lifts and can help with BREEAM score. They are either hydraulic, chain driven or screw and nut. All types of platform lifts travel at 0.15 m/s. Hydraulic platform lifts are quieter and occupy less space within a property for the lift shaft; this is because the pump box or machine room is housed separately outside. A screw and nut platform lift is motor driven with the shaft requiring slightly more space because the lifting mechanism sits adjacent to the first level door but there is no need for an additional machine room.

Our Commercial Platform Lift (Motala 2000) has a unique patented drive system with controlled chain. This makes it sustainable, energy efficient (75% lower energy consumption than other lifts) and requiring minimal maintenance: there is no need to lubricate the chain during its lifetime. Its controlled chains make a softer start and stop torque. This lift has a motor size of 0.55kW against a typical 2.2KW platform lift and uses a 10A fuse which results in significantly lower operating costs.

How much is a platform lift?

The cost of a vertical enclosed platform lift is much cheaper than a passenger lift. For example, a standard vertical platform lift can cost as little as £14k whereas the price of a passenger lift starts around £20k and can cost anything up to £100k plus. The starting price for a cabin style platform lift is c.£15k:if you are looking for luxury then you could be spending £50k but could be paying double that for a passenger lift with similar high-class finishes.


When it comes to higher footfalls and tall buildings, passenger lifts still have their place but if you need to create step free access for small numbers of people travelling shorter distances then consider a vertical platform lift. They are of course slower than a passenger lift, but the benefits are huge.