Looking Into Lifts: What Is the Difference Between Articulating Boom Lifts and Telescopic Boom Lifts?

17 Mar.,2023


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Aerial work platforms have the potential to enhance both business and the bottom line.

Telescopic and articulating boom lifts are within the family of aerial work platforms, and either type is often casually called a cherry picker, man lift or AWP. Lots of people have questions about what kind of boom lift will best fit and enhance their business. Access Lift Equipment is glad to help with information and answers to determine the right machine for you.

Whether you rent or own a boom lift, they are designed to safely and efficiently lift materials and personnel up to working heights that may be several stories tall. For example, stonemasons might want to discontinue ladders and scaffolding and work on tall structures more safely. Contractors of all sorts may look to add a telescopic or an articulating boom lift for the first time or upgrade and maintain a fleet of them.

There are many professionals and companies reaching high into the air for business reasons:

  • Bricklayers
  • Building maintenance
  • Construction
  • Electricians
  • Heating and cooling technicians
  • Landscapers
  • Manufacturing plants
  • Painters
  • Plumbers
  • Roofers
  • Utility companies
  • Warehouses
  • Window washers


Of the different types of boom lifts, it is often an articulating or telescopic boom that provides the safest option and at the same time adds capacity and expedites production. Most owners, managers and workers want the thing that keeps everyone safest and works efficiently. Boom lifts give an advantage over ladders and scaffolding mainly because they’re vastly safer when used correctly, plus more efficient and usually faster.

An Overview of Articulating Boom Lifts

An articulating boom is named after one of the definitions of “articulate” — a series of segments united by joints. You will also hear this kind of boom called an up-and-over or knuckle boom. The nicknames result from the motion these booms make as they work.

Companies with busy, crowded work sites often choose an articulating boom because it not only reaches high and far but also masters angles and reaches to get around people and equipment. That makes it the better choice for tight and confined spaces such as an apartment building project in a dense, urban area.

There are also models of articulating booms designed to have zero tail swing. In other words, as you rotate the chassis, nothing sticks out behind you any farther than the chassis does. Articulating booms reach out, over and up. They can also gain an additional knuckle through a jib attachment, which adds a section to the end for another articulation point.

An articulating boom lift can reach between areas such as the floors of a building under construction or warehouse shelves. Some models can also reach down to a certain degree, such as to a lower level or into a gravel quarry, utility hole or another kind of excavated area.

The models include ones that run on DC electric power or clean-burning fuel and have non-marking tires ideal for indoor use such as warehouses, manufacturing and retail. Other types of articulating booms are built with the outdoor contractor in mind — there are rough-terrain models with four-wheel drive, diesel engines, lug-tread tires and oscillating axles.

The articulating boom lift offers several benefits:

  • Maneuvers up, out and side-to-side
  • Accommodates tight work areas
  • Achieves difficult positioning
  • Masters indoor or outdoor terrain, depending on the model
  • Adds length and reach through extended joints


An Overview of Telescopic Boom Lifts

A telescopic boom operates similarly to a telescope, since it can become longer or shorter by having sections that slide inside one another. They fold and unfold like the cylindrical sections of a telescope or retractable antenna. However, the retractable sections are not always round. They can be square-shaped, too.

A telescopic boom is often also called a straight-mast boom lift or a stick boom, since it resembles a long, straight stick when extended. The telescopic boom is sometimes described as a cross between a crane and a forklift because the base resembles a forklift but the extension part looks a little like a crane mast. Some models can accommodate other attachments besides the boom lift.

Hydraulics power the sections of a telescopic boom lift as they extend and retract, so this type of lift provides great stability and strength. As the lift extends, its adds height. Some have cabs that are fixed, while others rotate.

The horizontal reach of a telescopic boom makes it the best choice when there is a distance to be crossed safely to access the work. There might be a small water body, big foundation hole or other objects between you and the project area. Telescoping booms master the outdoor and unimproved worksite since they are typically equipped with all-terrain tires, a four-wheel-drive transmission and an oscillating axle.

Along with the might and height of the telescopic boom comes the need for plenty of room for it to operate. It requires overhead clearance to at least its full, extended height and ample space to make turns and other movements.

The telescopic boom provides some advantages:

  • Works ideally across a distance
  • Handles rough terrain well
  • Performs multiple tasks
  • Increases rate of production
  • Makes high reaches easy for some industries


Make a Boom-Usage Comparison

It can help keep the differences straight just to associate the name of each boom with what they do. An articulating boom moves like a joint, has some capability for movement at the joints and can extend and bend at the joints.

A telescoping boom extends in sections like a telescope, appears straight when extended and has some capability from the base to move up and down and sometimes laterally, too.

Many models of both machines offer a range of capabilities. Most people want the information boiled down to which is better in their key areas of usage and interest:

  1. Dexterity-versatility: A telescopic boom lift provides greater reach and stability. It would probably be the best choice for roofers or landscapers who must reach high and often stack heavy things. An articulating boom would be the preferred choice for those who anticipate reaching over or around objects, such as utility companies and linemen.
  2. Working in tight quarters: The articulating boom lift usually proves to be most compact in its presence on the site and its operation, such as the zero-tail-swing models. Given a roomy site with space to turn, the telescopic boom works just as well.
  3. Vertical reach: A telescoping boom lift reaches higher heights than an articulating boom lift, as always, depending on models and differences.
  4. Inside and outside work: Depending on the model and its power source, either type of boom lift can replace and therefore eliminate risky ladders and scaffolding indoors and outdoors. Many times, the plan to use a machine strictly indoors or out may decide which type gets selected. There are varieties of articulating and telescopic boom lifts that run on electric power or a clean-burning fuel such as propane. There are also hybrid boom-lift models that can switch back and forth among sources for dual indoor-outdoor use.
  5. Safety: Both types of lift eliminate the need to have dangerous ladders or scaffolding around the work site. Those implements generate accident reports each year. In that respect, an articulating or a telescopic boom can make a place safer and better protected against liability. By the same principle, safe operating procedures and policy are needed with lifts because they work at heights, have limitation and require best practices for use.


Telescopic Versus Articulating Boom Lift

Generally speaking, a telescopic boom provides superior strength, height and reach over the articulating boom, but the articulating boom is more compact, agile and nimble than the telescopic boom.

Telescopic lifts are best known for their ability to get people and materials in place and hold them there. Articulating booms are best known for their ability to move personnel around obstacles and into different positions.

While there are hybrids and clean-burning models of both kinds of lift, it is more common to see an electric-powered, articulating boom lift used inside and a gas-powered telescopic boom used outside.

Match Your Pick to Your Need

The choice between an articulating and a telescopic boom involves many variables, including personal preference and budget. There are many models available for sale and rent — both new and used — that will fulfill one need or many within your production processes. For some examples:

  • Access Lift has a 2016 Genie S85 GEN 13251 telescopic boom lift that reaches 85 feet, features 4-wheel-drive, has foam-filled tires and an 8-foot tri-entry platform.
  • Our inventory includes a 2007 JLG 450A articulating boom lift that rises to a height of 45 feet, has a horizontal reach of about 25 feet, features 4-wheel-drive and provides a work platform about 72 inches long by 30 inches wide.
  • Among our offerings is a 2005 Genie S125 telescoping boom that reaches 125 feet and has an 8-foot platform, 4-wheel-drive and a diesel engine. Its platform measures about 96 inches long by 36 inches wide.
  • Another articulating boom lift we offer is a 2007 Genie Z80/60 that reaches 80 feet and features 4-wheel-drive, foam-filled tires and a diesel engine. Its platform measures about 96 inches long by 36 inches wide.

Industry professionals recommend that anyone considering the purchase or rental of a boom lift first think about and examine their work site or sites. It’s also beneficial to consult with professionals about what machine may best fit your needs, and some people like to consult the owner’s manual to look at detailed specifications.

Essential Questions to Ask Before You Buy or Rent

There are several important questions to ask before you buy or rent an articulating or telescopic boom:

  1. In what kinds of environments will the boom usually operate?
  2. What job or jobs will the boom need to do?
  3. How much room does the typical job site have?
  4. Are there power lines or other overhead obstacles present during jobs?
  5. What is the maximum-capacity lift and reach needed for your work?
  6. Will the boom be used indoors, outdoors or both?
  7. Are you looking to create new business capabilities with the machine?
  8. Will it stay in one place or be moved around according to project needs?
  9. How high and far does your boom lift need to reach?
  10. How many people will the lift need to raise at a time for efficient work?
  11. On what kind of surface will the boom operate? Smooth or rough?
  12. What kind of and how much equipment will it need to raise?


The Scaffolding and Access Industry Association gives a simple guideline on how to choose. It’s worth mentioning that those guidelines include a whole lot of information on how to be compliant with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

It’s crucial to implement best practices for safety, including training and operations procedures. Real dangers exist in using the machines in an unsafe way, including electrocution, falls, tip-overs and other incidents.

SAIA says if you can come within three horizontal feet of the work area, a scissor lift is best. If not, it points to either an articulating or a telescopic boom. Must the AWP reach up and over objects? If so, SAIA points to an articulating boom as the best choice. If not, the flow chart goes to a telescopic boom.

It isn’t that simple for everyone to absolutely answer the question about an articulating versus telescopic boom lift. The research and decision both take time, but it will mean you end up with the machine best suited to your business needs.

Seek an Excellent Partner

Access Lift knows you have a lot riding on your lift equipment. We offer AWP experience across many industries and we listen carefully. Once we learn more about your needs and goals, we’re able to match them with solutions.

Access Lift serves a big swath of the country from locations in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, San Diego, California, and Statesville, North Carolina. The focus of our business is to recondition and then sell or rent used aerial work platforms, telescopic material handlers and forklifts.

Our specialization translates to value for you, since you and your business benefit from that detailed knowledge. We conduct a multi-point inspection on each machine and then we analyze and condition each piece of equipment before it is presented for sale or rental. Access Lift observes this process so we can be sure each machine has integrity before it goes to its new owner or work destination.

If you’re a professional who uses or might use boom lifts, you could benefit from a check-in with Access Lift. The basic information on this page might help you zero in on a choice, but before you buy or rent, you’ll want even more details.

The more you can tell us about how you’ll use an articulating or telescopic boom lift, the more confident we’ll be in pinpointing the model that fulfills your business needs and fits your budget. Your success is one of our objectives, so please feel free to call or email anytime!

For more information Electric Articulating Boom Lift, please get in touch with us!