Man Lift - Self Driving vs Towable



Veteran Member
Feb 15, 2017
Marshall, Va
1952 Ford 8n, saving up for a new Kubota or Yanmar
I’m taking next week off to get a lot of work done around the property and my neighbors and I have decided to go in together on renting a man-lift to get some high-up work done. Tasks include mounting a cell phone booster antenna at the peak of my roof ~32ft up, trimming about eight Pin Oak trees, installing new flood lights on the house and barn, cleaning the gutters, and clearing overgrown branches down the 1/3mi lane and around the edges of the pastures.

I was set on renting a self propelled 40ft man lift but then I noticed it weighs 14K pounds. The towable version weighs 3500lbs. It seems like it’d be a pain to re-setup the towable man lift each time it’s moved to a new location. However, the weight of the self propelled man lift concerns me.

The cost for a weeks rental is not too different to be a concern.

Any advice on which one to go with?


Elite Member
Feb 1, 2009
north of upstate ny
Kubota L4240 HSTC,L3000DT
I would rather be 32'in the air in the 14K unit.It should have large tires and be more off-road capable.I have spent many hours in a similar machines for work.Be careful and "tie" in (I.E. safety belt).


Super Star Member
Apr 7, 2015
Crossville, TN
Kubota M59, Kubota L3800, Grasshopper 428D, Topkick dump truck, 3500 dump truck, 10 ton trailer, more lighter trailers.
I think it depends on the terrain you plan on working with.


Super Member
Dec 7, 2011
Virginia USA
Kubota L3200, Deere X380, Kubota RTV-X
The towable ones usually have wide outriggers, so they are quite stable even though they weigh less. Only downside is that they may be harder to maneuver into tight spots. I looked into renting one to work on my chimney and was not confident I could back it into a tight space next to my house. Was about the size of my boat trailer so if I get serious about renting one again I will practice and see if I can back my boat trailer in the same space.

I saw a demo at the rental place and thought the towable would be pretty easy to setup. The nicer ones have hydraulic outriggers, but even with manual outriggers it wouldn't take long to setup.


Gold Member
May 5, 2018
Brooksville, Florida
Massey 461 Massey 165 . KTM SDGT
You will be moving around a lot trimming those trees so definitely get the self-propelled lift. 14,000k divided by 4 wheels ain't much and they move pretty slow.


Elite Member
Dec 2, 2006
jd 1070
I have a JLG T-350 towable manlift that is more than just useful. I rented several brands from rental companies until I found mine for sale on Craigslist. Here's my experience: (I'm 1/2 blind right now from being at the eye doctor, so bear with me):

1) You will need to get used to going up more that just a few feet. Some can't do it. There can be a little shakng going on until you learn to work in the basket. Don't try to prevent the shaking, just lean on the cage and ride it out. When I am at 32' (platform base height), you can't move laterally a lot because all the arms are straight up.

2) Mine is self leveling. You move the lever, It adjustd the legs until the turret is level in all directions. I tow it with my tractor to multiple locations, even with the stabilizers just a few inches off the ground to the next location.

3) Painting a barn side, checking gutters, trimming trees, and servicing my windmills is a breeze.

4) Mine is battery powered. Some are gas engine powered. The quiet battery operation allows you to talk to ground helpers without shouting and the usual yelling.

5) my basket is removable and can then be fitted with a jib crane (Which I made myself). I hoisted a very large cupola up onto the garage roof and put it in place in a minute. Would never have made it without the lift.

6) a very heavy rig will most likely sink into the ground under it's own weight. If the ground is soft (as in moist soil, under roof eaves or sand), it may be hard to pull out or could tip). Mine, BTW, uses the auto level features to watch for any sinking or overloading or over-reaching). It will stop the movement with a flashing warning light if this happens.

7) My electric one's battery charge lasts for days, so no need to worry about getting stuck.

8) Towable also means borrowable. No need for special trailer pulling capability or other transport issues.

9) A lot of fun stringing Christmas lights, fixing weathervanes, cleaning out the martin houses, changing out the flag pole rope (the one that jumps the pulley 25' up) and examining the local deer population when the time comes.

10) There are two types: crane and boom lift. Crane type is just a swing crane with an extension. It might take you a few tries to get the ground position set before you can arrive at the work site. Mine is a scissors type, you go pretty much straight up and then extend out to the work area.

11) I'd recommend starting out with the trailer to see if you can tolerate the height issues. If you fall more that 20' you're probably toast anyways, but some people loose their shorts when fear of flying kicks in. The more you use it, though the, better the feeling gets, especially if you focus on the job and not the height. BTW: NEVER LOOK UP. If you see a cloud moving, you are toast.

12) Download the manual from the manufacturere's website to see the arcs of travel ranges for a positioning guide. I actually bought a plastic model of mine from a ebay seller to study the ground placement issue. (I hate to look stupid in front of my friends and enemies.)

This is my opinion and I'm stickin' to it. P1040498.JPG

Redlands Okie

Veteran Member
Aug 3, 2016
Oklahoma, North Central
Kubota L3560
How far from the rental place to your working area.
Do you have the equipment to haul the 14,000 lb unit or are they delivering it. If its sort of close you can drive it home.
Have you factored in delivery cost.
Self moving is really nice if you have several locations at the job needing work. It’s a hassle to move some of the towable units and some of them WILL NOT work if their left hooked up to the pickup.
If your working on uneven terrain keep in mind the larger units often times will allow the out riggers to go down further to level up the unit. Many of the smaller towable have very little adjustment in leveling and do to safety sensors will not work if not level.
Are you hauling anything up with you to install? Keep in mind the lifting capacity of each unit.
How about the reach out distance from the where the unit is parked. It’s not always just about height.
When the out riggers are down and extended will the unit fit in the space you need to operate.
Different units extend, bend and fold the arms differently. Look at what your getting and think about your work areas.
Safety belt is a good idea.
A rope handy coiled up in the platform might be useful.
Be very careful about using the lift as a crane. Their not made for it generally speaking.
Someone on the ground is a great idea. Hard hat, their CHEAP. At least make sure the ground person has theirs and its always on. Kept them out of the way so nothing falls on them. Make sure they have a basic understanding of being able to switch the controls to ground operation and how to use them. Just in case.
Hard hat is worth repeating again. Uncomfortable, looks silly, whatever, who cares. Keep em on.
Electric wires, yep seems obvious but you would be surprised......
Do you get charged if the fuel is not full when returned ? Rental yards charge a lot for fuel often times.
Get the rental company to show you how to operate the unit. Even if you have used them before. Some of them are different. As in actually have it go up and down a couple of feet and extend it a bit and that EVERY lever works, in the basket and on the base. You would be surprised how often a sensor or something is out of adjustment and they did not notice it.
Sounds silly but how easy is it to get in and out of the basket. Some units are a pain in the butt and if your moving a lot or have lots to load its worth thinking about.
Have fun, get a lot done


Gold Member
Feb 1, 2016
Ayer, MA
I recently rented a towable manlift for weekend. Did look at both at rental place. the towable is smaller I could get in to tight corner using tractor with receiver and ball on bucket. The self propelled version would have not got in to the space.

The auto leveling outriggers made it easy to setup. Left the truck in place and lifted it off ball. Raising outriggers dropped it back on ball.

Look at rated height for each. If you are close to max height will not have much side travels. Taller rated lift will give more room to reach over to stuff before having to go down and reposition the lift.

When trimming trees close the ground controls cover. Had branch hit the ground stop switch leaving me stuck in the air.


Platinum Member
Mar 27, 2014
Little River, TX
John Deere 4020 / 6403 / 317 Ford 5600
I have rented a towable for 3 different jobs. I found they are easy to use, quick to setup, and fairly maneuverable. For one job I never unhooked from the truck. For another job I rented a 50' lift to work on stucco on a chimney 3 stories up. It definitely took some getting used to it swaying around. Swaying around wasn't an issue the other two times.


Veteran Member
Sep 30, 2010
Fort McCoy, Florida
Kioti DK45se HST - Rhino 660 4X4 - Snapper Pro ZTR - Craftsmen Chipper/Vac
I used a towable to clear overhead on a 1.8 mile access road, prune trees, and paint some rooftops on small storage sheds. I think it was much quicker to tow the unit behind my tractor, set the outriggers, and do the lift than lumber down the road on a self-propelled unit. I never detached the unit from the tractor, just lowered the 3-point to put down the outriggers, then lifted it up after retracting them.