Understanding the Difference Between a Cherry Picker and a Boom Lift

knuckle boom on construction site

In the world of construction, maintenance, logistics and event management, heavy-duty equipment like boom lifts and cherry pickers are indispensable tools. They are commonly used to elevate workers and materials to high places, making building maintenance, tree trimming, and construction work much safer and more efficient. Although they serve similar purposes, it’s vital to note that boom lifts and cherry pickers are not interchangeable; each comes with unique features and capabilities.

We will delve into the specifics of what makes a boom lift and a cherry picker distinct from each other, compare their advantages and disadvantages, and provide some guidance on how to choose the right one for your particular situation. Whether you’re a seasoned professional in the field or just starting, this comparison will equip you with the necessary insights to make informed decisions when it comes to selecting the right lifting equipment.

What is a Cherry Picker?

A cherry picker, also known as a man lift or basket crane, is a type of aerial work platform that consists of a platform or bucket at the end of a hydraulic lifting system. The name “cherry picker” comes from its original use in orchards (particularly cherry orchards), which were used to reach high branches for fruit picking.

Cherry pickers are designed to safely lift workers and their tools to high or hard-to-reach places. They are equipped with a long, extendable arm to maneuver around obstacles, making them ideal for tasks requiring flexibility and precision.

Common Uses and Applications of Cherry Pickers

Cherry pickers are incredibly versatile, finding applications across various industries. In addition to fruit picking, they are commonly used in construction, facility maintenance, electrical and cable repair, window cleaning, tree surgery, and even in film and television production for high-angle shots.

In the construction industry, they’re used to access high levels of a building or structure for tasks like painting, installation, and repairs. Utility companies often use them to maintain and repair street lights, telephone lines, and power cables.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Cherry Picker

One of the primary advantages of a cherry picker is its versatility. The extendable arm can be adjusted to accommodate a variety of heights and can navigate around obstacles that would be challenging for other types of lifts. This flexibility makes them an excellent choice for tasks that require navigating around barriers or reaching awkward places.

Another advantage is the safety it provides. The bucket provides a secure platform for workers, reducing the risk of falls. Most cherry pickers also come with safety features like guard rails and harness points for additional security.

However, cherry pickers also have some disadvantages. Their size and weight can make them difficult to transport and maneuver in tight spaces. They also require a level surface for operation, limiting their use on uneven terrain. Furthermore, operating a cherry picker requires specialised training to ensure safety, which can add to a project’s overall cost and time.

What is a Boom Lift?

A boom lift, often referred to as a telescopic boom, or aerial lift, is a type of aerial work platform that provides temporary access to inaccessible areas, usually at height. It consists of a platform or bucket attached to an extendable arm, the ‘boom’, mounted on a mobile chassis.

There are two primary types of boom lifts – telescopic and articulating. Telescopic boom lifts, also known as stick booms, have a straight, extendable arm that can reach heights up to 120 feet. On the other hand, articulating boom lifts, also known as knuckle booms, have bendable segments in the boom, allowing it to navigate around obstacles.

Common Uses and Applications of Boom Lifts

Boom lifts are used across various sectors for tasks that require workers to reach high or inaccessible areas. In construction, they’re used for installation, maintenance, and repair work at height. For instance, they facilitate window installation, painting, and roofing tasks.

In the utility sector, boom lifts are used to maintain and repair power lines, while in the film industry, they’re used to achieve high-angle shots. They are also commonly used in warehouses, dockyards, and in the forestry sector for tree trimming.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Boom Lift

One of the key advantages of a boom lift is its reach. Telescopic booms can extend to great heights, making them ideal for tasks that require significant vertical reach. With their ability to bend and extend, articulating booms offer excellent maneuverability around obstacles.

Boom lifts provide workers a stable, secure platform, enhancing safety when working at height. They also offer better horizontal reach than other aerial work platforms, like scissor lifts.

However, just like cherry pickers, boom lifts have their drawbacks. They require a flat, stable surface for safe operation, limiting their use on uneven terrain. Their size can make them difficult to transport and maneuver in tight spaces. Additionally, operating a boom lift requires specific training and certification, adding to a project’s overall cost and time. Finally, boom lifts can be more expensive to rent or purchase compared to other types of lifts due to their advanced features and capabilities.

Comparing Cherry Pickers and Boom Lifts

While cherry pickers and boom lifts serve similar purposes, key differences can influence which one is more suitable for a specific task or project.

Size and Height Reach

Both cherry pickers and boom lifts are designed to reach high places, but the height each can achieve varies. Generally, boom lifts, particularly telescopic ones, can reach greater heights compared to cherry pickers. Telescopic booms can extend up to 120 feet, making them ideal for tasks that require significant vertical reach. Cherry pickers, while unable to reach these heights, still offer substantial reach sufficient for many tasks.

Maneuverability and Flexibility

Articulating boom lifts and cherry pickers, both offer excellent maneuverability and flexibility. They have arms that can bend and extend around obstacles, allowing workers to reach difficult areas. However, the level of flexibility might differ depending on the model and type of lift. Some cherry pickers have more advanced maneuverability features, while some articulating boom lifts can navigate around more complex obstacles.

Safety Features

Safety is a crucial factor when working at height. Both cherry pickers and boom lifts provide secure platforms for workers, reducing the risk of falls. They come equipped with safety features like guard rails and harness points. The choice between the two will depend more on the specific safety requirements of the task rather than the equipment itself.

Situations Where One Might Be Preferable Over the Other

Choosing between a cherry picker and a boom lift often comes down to the project’s specific needs. For tasks that require reaching great heights, such as high-rise construction or maintenance work, a boom lift might be the more suitable choice due to its greater reach.

On the other hand, a cherry picker with advanced maneuverability features might be more beneficial for tasks that require navigating around multiple obstacles, like tree trimming or certain types of repair work.

In conclusion, cherry pickers and boom lifts have unique advantages and potential drawbacks. Understanding these can help you make an informed decision when choosing the right equipment for your specific needs.

Choosing the Right Equipment for Your Needs

When choosing between a cherry picker and a boom lift, there are several factors to consider. It’s not just about the height or reach of the equipment, but also about the specific task, the environment, and your budget. Here are some key considerations and tips to guide your choice:

1. The Nature of the Task

The type of work you’re undertaking is crucial in deciding between a cherry picker and a boom lift. For tasks that require a lot of vertical reach, such as working on tall buildings or structures, a boom lift, particularly a telescopic one, may be more suitable due to its greater height capability.

If the task involves navigating around obstacles or working at different angles, an articulating boom lift or a cherry picker with advanced maneuverability features might be a better choice.

2. The Location and Environment

The location and the environment where the task will be carried out should also influence your decision. If you’re working in a tight space or an area with many obstacles, a cherry picker or an articulating boom lift with good maneuverability will be beneficial.

You might need a lift with robust stabilisers and four-wheel drive for outdoor tasks on uneven terrain. However, if you’re working indoors, you’ll need to consider factors like the size of the doorways and the load capacity of the floors.

3. The Budget

Cost is a significant factor in any project. Renting or purchasing a boom lift can be more expensive due to its advanced capabilities and greater reach. However, the overall cost will depend on the rental duration, the lift model, and any additional features you require.

Remember that while a cheaper option might seem appealing, ensuring the equipment you choose can safely and effectively perform the tasks you need is essential.

Tips on How to Make the Right Choice

  • Research: Start by researching the different types of lifts available and their capabilities. Understand the advantages and disadvantages of each.
  • Assess Your Needs: Clearly define what you need the equipment for. List all the tasks you’ll be performing, the reach you’ll need, and any obstacles you might encounter.
  • Consult with Experts: If unsure, consult with an expert or a rental company. They can provide valuable advice based on their experience with similar projects.
  • Safety First: Safety should always be your priority regardless of the task or the cost. Ensure the equipment you choose has the necessary safety features and that you and your team are properly trained.

Choosing the right equipment requires careful consideration of several factors. By understanding your needs and conducting thorough research, you can make an informed decision, ensuring your project’s safety and efficiency.


Choosing between a cherry picker and a boom lift for your project involves considering various factors, including the nature of the task, the location and environment, and your budget. Both these types of equipment serve similar purposes – providing access to high or hard-to-reach areas – but they each have unique features that make them suitable for different tasks and situations.

Cherry pickers and articulating boom lifts are excellent for tasks requiring maneuverability around obstacles, while telescopic boom lifts are ideal for jobs demanding significant vertical reach. The location of your work also plays a crucial role in your decision. For instance, outdoor tasks on uneven terrain may require robust stabilisers and four-wheel drive, while indoor tasks need careful consideration of factors like doorway size and floor load capacity.

Cost-effectiveness is another key factor, with boom lifts generally being more expensive due to their advanced capabilities. However, the ultimate cost will depend on your specific project requirements and the duration of the rental.

Remember, no matter which type of lift you choose, safety should always come first. Ensure the equipment has the necessary safety features, and that you and your team are properly trained to use it.

The best way to decide between a cherry picker and a boom lift is to thoroughly understand your project needs, conduct detailed research, and consult with experts if needed. By taking these steps, you can ensure you choose the most suitable equipment for your project, ensuring both safety and efficiency.

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