Written By Mike Viera
Published Nov. 29, 2020

Buck by the side of the road with a flat tire that needs to be changed, but a portable jack is an absolute necessity for lifting your vehicle. The relatively quick and straightforward process of putting on a spare becomes impossible without a safe way to raise your car. Most vehicles come with jacks from the factory, but if yours has been lost, rusted from disuse, or broken, you need to replace it before you end up stranded on a dark, lonely road. 

A portable lift that you carry in your vehicle needs to be small enough and light enough to be easily carried and securely stored, yet strong enough and stable enough to lift and hold your car safely. If you plan to work on anything under your vehicle like brakes, exhaust, or suspension components, you’ll want to think about a floor jack that will provide a proper means of lifting your vehicle quickly and easily. This type of lift is generally much heavier and bulkier than anything you’d carry for emergency tire changing use. 

We’ll take a look at the best of both types of portable car lifts so you can cover your needs on the road

The Best Portable Car Lifts

This is an ideal replacement for a lost or damaged original equipment jack in your vehicle. It features drop-forged steel construction for strength and durability. Compact dimensions make it easy to store, and it meets ANSI/ASME PASE safety standards. The lifting range is 4-1/8” to 15-1/8” and has a 3,000-pound capacity. An extra-wide base helps provide stability on a variety of surfaces. However, if it’s likely you might need to use it on very soft ground, carrying a sturdy piece of plywood to put under the jack can help prevent it from sinking, rather than lifting your vehicle as you crank it up.

As with any scissor jack, proper placement to your vehicle’s jacking points, blocking the wheels, and a reasonably level surface are essential to prevent twisting or slippage of the jack. These jacks are designed for tire changing, and under no circumstances should you work under the vehicle without sturdy jack stands supporting it.

Key Features
  • 3000-pound capacity
  • Scissor lift Jack
  • Lifting range: 4-1/8” to 15-1/8”
Specification
  • Brand Torin
  • Model AT10152B
  • Weight 7.4 pounds
PROS

Meets ANSI/ASME PASE safety standards

Extra-wide base

Compact

Light weight

CONS

Handle sometimes slips out when lifting

May not provide enough lift for high vehicles

May not be sturdy enough for the heaviest vehicles

This jack eases the effort of lifting your vehicle with hydraulic assistance. It features a steel lifting saddle, heat-treated stress areas, and a bypass system to prevent over-travel of the ram. It’s rated with an 8,000-pound capacity and meets ANSI/PALD standards, yet weighs just 9 pounds, making for easy storage and handling. The lifting range is 8 to 15 3/8 inches, allowing for easy use on higher vehicles, meaning that there will not be enough clearance under lower vehicles for the jack to fit.

Key Features
  • 8000-pound capacity
  • Steel construction
  • Hydraulic Bottle lift style 
  • Lifting range: 8” to 15-3/8”
Specification
  • Brand Pro-Lift
  • Model B-004D
  • Weight 9 pounds
PROS

Hydraulic lifting power

Suitable for high-clearance vehicles

Meets ANSI/PALD standard

CONS

Not suitable for low vehicles

Potential for leakage

Small lifting pad

If you have a large vehicle, you need a heavy-duty lift to move around easily, and this 3.5-ton portable car lift is the perfect solution. It has a large handle and two caster wheels to make maneuvering and using your jack easy. The large saddle measures four inches in diameter. The jack has an internal safety valve to prevent it from collapse should the regular valve disengage. 

One potential issue with this jack is that the hydraulics can bleed out while you’re using the jack. You can prevent this by adequately maintaining your jack and ensuring the seals are secure. The instructions included with the jack are also a bit confusing, but thankfully, the jack is intuitive to use.

Key Features
  • 3.5-ton capacity
  • Measures 28.5L x 13.75W x 6.5H inches
  • Hydraulic jack
  • Four-inch saddle diameter
Specification
  • Brand Blackhawk
  • Model B6350
  • Weight 85 pounds
PROS

Swivel saddle

Built-in internal safety valve

Rugged universal joint

CONS

Bleeds off while using it

Confusing instructions 

Can get stuck in the up position

This jack combines the relatively long lifting range of a bottle jack with the ease and convenience of electric assistance. This unit provides 6 to 17.5 inches of travel and carries a three-ton weight capacity rating. Power is provided from your 12 Volt outlet through an 11.5-foot cord. It also features an LED light to assist in positioning it in the dark.

Unfortunately, the hydraulics can leak on this jack. Because it’s electric, it’s louder than other manual jack options. Like many other electrically operated portable jacks, it can also take some time to lift to its maximum height, and you may find it to be slower than a manual jack.

Key Features
  • Three-ton capacity 
  • Hydraulic jack 
  • Electric lift
  • Lifting range of six to 17.5 inches
Specification
  • Brand ABN
  • Model 0531
  • Weight 7.9 pounds
PROS

Built-in safety device

LED light switch

Plugs into a 12V outlet with an 11.5-foot cord

CONS

Can leak

Noisy

Slow

If you have a low vehicle that requires the slim profile of a scissor jack to fit under it, yet you want the ease of electrically assisted lifting, this may be the jack for you. The jack may be smaller, but it has an all-steel construction for strength and durability. The lift’s scissor-style helps it to have a low profile and slip under your car. This kit includes a carrying case with a warning triangle, battery clips and 12 volt outlet power options, and a hand crank for use if the motor fails.

One drawback of the jack is that it has a low maximum weight capacity. However, it’s plenty for small cars and sedans. The lower weight capacity also means that it’s smaller, so it’ll take up less room in your vehicle.

Key Features
  • Two-ton weight capacity 
  • Heavy-duty steel construction
  • Connects to 12 V outlet
  • Lifting range: 5.5 to 14.6 inches
Specification
  • Brand Jinyun County TianYang Tools Co., Ltd
  • Model TYGJ003
  • Weight 13.07 pounds
PROS

Large base and saddle

Two removable raised heads

Two minutes to raise

CONS

Low weight capacity 

Backplate doesn’t stay in place

Not durable

Trolley-type floor jacks are generally too heavy and bulky to be carried in your vehicle for emergency use, but this one is compact enough and light enough at less than 30 pounds to really qualify as a portable, It even includes a plastic carrying case. This type of jack is quick to operate and its wheels make it easy to position under your vehicle’s jacking points. The jack has a 2.25-ton maximum weight capacity, and the construction is of durable steel. It has a lifting range of 5.25 to 15 inches. For its size, this jack is lightweight at 29.8 pounds. To prevent accidents, there’s a built-in bypass valve that will smoothly and slowly lower the jack.

Unfortunately, you may find that the hydraulics bleed out while using the jack. Again, be sure to never work under the vehicle without proper jackstands supporting it. This jack is also quite long, which means it’ll take up more space in your vehicle.

Key Features
  • 2.25-ton capacity
  • Steel lifting saddle
  • 360-degree swivel
  • 5-1/4 to 15-inch lift range
Specification
  • Brand Wilmar
  • Model W1611
  • Weight 29.8 pounds
PROS

Included plastic case

Bypass valve

Lightweight

CONS

Can bleed out while lifting 

Screws can loosen

Long in length

This hydraulic car lift uses electric power to easily and conveniently raise your vehicle, and comes in a kit that includes an impact wrench with two sizes of sleeves to help remove and tighten lug nuts. The jack provides a lifting range of 6.1 to 17.7 inches, so it’s not suitable for use with the lowest vehicles. Battery clips or 12 volt outlet power cord power the unit and it includes a built-in tire pressure gauge and two LED area lights. A safety warning triangle on the outside of the plastic case helps make you more visible to approaching drivers.

Unfortunately, the included impact wrench may not be strong enough to loosen very tight lug nuts, or to fully tighten them when the job is done.

Key Features
  • Five-ton capacity 
  • 12V outlet or battery clips
  • Lifting range: 6.1 to 17.7 inches
Specification
  • Brand E-HEELP
  • Model TT02
  • Weight 20.5 pounds
PROS

Electric lifting assist

Two power connector choices

Includes impact wrench

CONS

Weak performance for impact wrench

Slow to lift to maximum height

If you’re looking for a portable car lift that will get your vehicles raised quickly, then this option is perfect. It uses a dual parallel pumping system to allow fewer strokes to raise your vehicle. Instead of steel, this floor jack is constructed from aluminum, making it both lighter and more corrosion-resistant than other jacks. It has a 1.5-ton maximum weight capacity. The long handle and compact design make it easy to position and pump up. It has a lifting range of 3-3/8 – 14.75 inches.

One drawback of this hydraulic jack is that it can leak if you don’t properly maintain it or leave it lifted for too long. You may also find that the wheels struggle to roll well over uneven surfaces.

Key Features
  • 1.5-ton capacity 
  • Aluminum construction 
  • Handle length: 37-3/8 inches
  • Knurled aluminum handle
Specification
  • Brand Pittsburgh
  • Model ha68053
  • Weight 40 Pounds
PROS

Rapid pump

Compact 

Lifting range of 3-3/8 – 14.75 inches

CONS

Leaks

Doesn’t roll well on rough surfaces

Not durable

While other jacks on this list are only meant for lifting, this one can also function as a jack stand. This means you can raise your vehicle and then leave it raised with this single unit. The jack has a three-ton maximum weight capacity thanks to the hydraulic bottle design. It has a lifting range of 11 to 21 inches. This jack is incredibly durable and compact, which makes it great for taking it with you. The dual function makes it versatile for a wide range of needs. 

One potential drawback of this lift is that it lacks some of the safety features that other jacks on this list have. This can make it less friendly to those who are less experienced with portable car lifts. It can also leak from the hydraulics if you leave it supporting a vehicle for too long.

Key Features
  • Three-ton capacity 
  • Hydraulic bottle jack
  • Jack stand
  • Height range: 11-21 inch
Specification
  • Brand Powerbuilt
  • Model 620471
  • Weight 22.7 pounds
PROS

Highly durable

Compact

Versatile

CONS

Can sporadically release 

Lacks safety features 

Leaks

This portable car lift comes in a compact plastic case with a large carrying handle on the top, making it easy to move your jack. It has a maximum weight capacity of 3,000 pounds. For durability, it has a welded steel frame construction and steel casters. You’ll have a lifting range of 5.25-12 inches. This jack is strong, stable, and durable, and is resistant to corrosion. 

Unfortunately, the seals on this jack aren’t as durable as other jacks. If you find this is an issue with yours, you can replace them. This jack also has a lower weight capacity than jacks of similar size and style. While the case isn’t as durable as others on this list, it still gets the job done.

Key Features
  • 3,000-pound capacity 
  • Steel casters
  • Welded steel frame construction
  • Lifting range 5.25-12 inches
Specification
  • Brand Shinn Fu Company of America Inc.
  • Model F-2315PE
  • Weight 18 pounds
PROS

Sturdy carrying handle

Rust resistant

Included carrying case

CONS

Cheap seals 

Low weight capacity 

Flimsy case

Best Portable Car Lifts Buying Guide & FAQ

Carrying a portable car lift with you will ensure that you never get stuck on the side of the road unable to change a flat tire. In purchasing a portable car lift, you must consider the capacity you need to safely lift your vehicle, as well as the clearance under the vehicle and height it needs to be raised in order to change a wheel. Overall strength, durability, and ease of use must also be top considerations.

This guide will help you determine the best jack for your needs. It’ll cover the benefits, common types, and important features. That way, you know which one of these top portable car lifts is going to be able to come to your rescue. 

The Advantages of Owning a Portable Car Lift

There are several advantages to owning a portable car lift. The most obvious is that it’s portable, which means it’s lighter and smaller, making it easier to carry and stow in your trunk, a necessity if you need to change a tire on the road. The small size of these lifts means that they will take up a minimal amount of space. These jacks also tend to have a simple design, making them intuitive and easy to use. Just remember to use the appropriate points on your vehicle for jacking, and to put the jack on as even a surface as possible. Even if you don’t have experience with using a jack, you can figure out how to use one of these. If you carry a portable lift with you, you’ll never have to worry about being stranded by a flat tire. You can pull out your lift, raise your car, and change your flat tire. A lightweight jack is easier to use and carry than a heavier one, and it has less of a negative impact on fuel economy and performance. It’s also easier to properly position under your vehicle in order to safely lift it. 
Portable Car Lift

The Most Common Types of Portable Car Lifts

The three most common types of jacks that are available on the market today are bottle, scissor, and floor. The type you choose will depend on the size and height of your vehicle. You’ll also want to consider the amount of effort you want to exert to raise your jack. Depending on the make and model of your car, you may not have a choice.

Bottle

If you have a vehicle with a high stance or is heavyweight, then a bottle jack is an ideal choice. This is because its stance starts more elevated than a scissor jack would, and many scissor jacks are reaching their maximum height around the height of your vehicle’s frame. Bottle jacks get their name from the shape of the lift that looks like a bottle. Bottle jacks use hydraulic power to lift your car, which reduces the amount of manual labor you need to work it. They also have a release that makes lowering a vehicle quick and easy. However, these jacks lack the mobility and maneuverability that floor jacks have.

Scissor

If you have a lower profile vehicle, then a scissor jack is a better option because it can fit under your vehicle’s frame. This is the primary type of jack that comes with most vehicles these days, unlike the ratcheting bumper jacks or standing screw jacks of the past. To use your jack, there’s a large screw mechanism that you’ll crank to lift the jack upward in a “scissoring” motion. The manual effort needed to crank the jack can be a drawback, but it also means there’s no risk of failure due to hydraulic or electrical issues. They also have more joints, which can make them less durable or more prone to failure, particularly if you lift them to their highest ranges. There are electric scissor jacks available that take the work out of cranking up the vehicle by hand, but often the motors are not powerful enough to lift the vehicle quickly or reliably.

Floor

Floor jacks are mostly used as car lifts for a garage. However, there are some smaller options that you can bring with you. What’s nice about this jack style is that they are easier to use and position because they are on caster wheels, but are generally substantially heavier and larger than other types of jacks. The longer handle and hydraulic lifting power of a floor jack makes it quick and easy to lift and lower your vehicle.

What to Consider When Buying a Portable Car Lift

To test the best types of car jacks, you need to start with a few varieties to compare their size, weight, and functionality. Typically, larger jacks will have a higher maximum lifting height and a larger weight capacity. However, with these benefits come a bulkier and heavier unit.  In evaluating jacks, you want to lift a specific vehicle on a variety of surfaces to check for stability, strength, speed, and ease of effort. Maximum lifting heights and minimum clearance to get the jack under the vehicle must also be considered, as well as the suitability of the lifting pad that contacts the vehicle.
Portable Car Lift

The Most Important Features of Portable Car Lifts

When deciding which port lift is right for you, consider the size, stability, and maximum weight capacity. These will tell you if the jack is compatible with the height and weight of your vehicle. It will also tell you if the jack will work on the surfaces you’re likely to use it.

Size

The jack needs to be small enough that it can be portable. You should be able to easily move it about either on wheels or by carrying it. The weight should be manageable for one person. The jack also needs to be small enough that it will fit under your vehicle’s frame. However, it also needs to be large enough to lift your car adequately. 

Consider the lift’s dimensions, weight, and lifting range to determine what size of the portable jack is best for you. You’ll find that jacks with a lower clearance when compressed have lower lifting ranges. This is because you shouldn’t need to lift your vehicle very high to get the necessary clearance. Lifting your car too high can make it unstable on the jack. 

Weight Capacity 

The weight capacity of a jack will tell you how much weight it can safely lift. Aluminum jacks have lower weight capacities, while heavy-duty steel jacks have higher weight capacities. To determine the weight capacity you need, take a look at the driver’s side door sticker. Then look for a jack with a maximum weight capacity that’s over this weight amount. 

Be sure to have plenty of cushion between your vehicle’s weight and the maximum weight. You shouldn’t be maxing out the lift with your car. This puts extra stress on the jack and can create a potentially dangerous situation. 

Stability  

If you’re working on your car in the garage or on a paved road, then you’ll have an easier time keeping your portable lift stable. However, this may not be the only place you use your jack. There may come a time when you’re on the side of the road in grass or dirt using your jack. Look at the size of the base on the lift. The larger the base is, the more stable the jack will be when lifting. You should also consider a jack that specifically states that it can be used on unpaved surfaces. A sturdy piece of plywood under the base can help prevent your jack from sinking into soft dirt or grass.

Care and Maintenance for Portable Car Lifts

Caring for and maintaining your portable lift will ensure that it’s in good condition and ready for use whenever you need it. This starts by always keeping your jack in the protective case that it came in. Not all jacks come with a carrying case, but if yours does, you should use it. 

The next thing you should do is check your jack periodically. Look for signs of wear and corrosion. Tighten any screws or bolts that may have come loose to prevent an accident from happening while using the jack. When you’re finished, you should always clean your lift. This will prevent corrosion and damage from occurring. 

  • Clean your jack after you use it
  • Keep the jack in its case
  • Give the jack a check before you use it

Best Portable Car Lift FAQ:

There are several best portable car lifts on the market because there isn’t one jack that works for everyone. Instead of looking for the best overall jack, focus on finding the best jack for your needs and budget. Then once you buy your lift, take it out and test it out. Ensure you know how to work it so that you’re ready when the day comes that you need it. 

Q: What is the best portable car lift to buy?

>The best portable lift is one that fits in your available space, doesn’t weigh too much, and is capable of lifting the weight of your vehicle. 

Q: How much is the cheapest portable car lift?

>The most affordable jacks on the market are scissor-style jacks around $25. 

Q: How do you use the portable car lift?

>Place the lift on a flat surface and position under your vehicle’s frame’s lifting point. Then raise the jack until your car lifts off the ground to your needed height. IMPORTANT NOTES With any jack, it’s important to block the wheels of your vehicle to keep it from rolling, and to be on the most level spot available. Secure your jack tightly in the trunk or cargo area, as a heavy, hard object can cause a lot of damage to your vehicle and create a danger for you or your passengers when tossed around during hard braking and cornering. Never work under a vehicle held up only by any type of jack–always use jack stands to securely support it if you need to put any part of your body under the car.

Our Top Pick

Our top pick for the best portable car lift is the Torin AT10152B Scissor Jack. This lift is compact, easy to use and store, and has an economical price tag.  It has 11 inches of lifting travel and meets the appropriate safety standards to provide you with the help you need when you need it.

Final Thoughts

The Torin AT10152B Scissor Jack is a great replacement for that lost or broken original equipment for your vehicle.  If your vehicle has high ground clearance, the Pro-Lift B-004D Bottle Jack is the answer with its hydraulic lifting assistance and low price.

Sources:

  1. Car Lift – Wikipedia

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