If you are in the market for a car lift, there are two types to choose from: symmetrical and asymmetrical. Though they have the same purpose, which is to elevate one or more vehicles off of the ground so that mechanics can access them without having to crawl underneath, these two lifts differ in terms of design and functionality (mainly column configuration or to the arm configuration of the lift)
In general, symmetrical two-post lifts squarely position the vehicle at the center of the lift so that equal weight is distributed to the front and to the rear. On the other hand, asymmetric lifts allow you to position the vehicle slightly further back, making it easy to open the doors to access the interior.
Each of the two types of car lifts above has its advantages and disadvantages. Similarly, they both have use cases where they excel. Whether you choose, a symmetrical or asymmetrical lift is mainly dependent on how and where you intend to use the lift.
Most importantly, before settling for one type over the other, you must consider the types of vehicles you'll be working on.
This post will discuss what makes each type different, their respective benefits and features.
RELATED: Garage height for car lifts.
Symmetrical Two Post Car Lift
Symmetric car lifts are the original 2-post lift design.
They are designed with the columns set straight across from each other and use fixed arm size arms. The arms are of equal length and are primarily designed to lift the car right in the "middle." This makes symmetric lifts perfect for use in both overhead or floorplate designs.
The symmetrical car lift is the more traditional option, and it's best for shops that work on a variety of vehicles. The symmetric design ensures even weight distribution across the entire platform, making it ideal for smaller cars, sedans and SUVs. This design equalizes the amount of pressure exerted in the lift's post and carriage, allowing for a wider drive-through area.
With a two-post symmetric hoist, the user can extend or retract the lift arms so that all four arms are of equal length. This allows for tall vehicles to be raised in the middle of the hoist.
This type of lift is an ideal option for those who frequently work on multiple cars as it can accommodate a variety of vehicles without having to make multiple adjustments to the lift.
Even Weight Distribution
Symmetric lifts distribute weight evenly across both arms, which minimizes the risk of damage to the car and provides a more stable lift. This makes symmetric lifts the safer option for lifting a car.
Ease of Use
Symmetric lifts are also much easier to use than asymmetric lifts. It is simple to ensure that the car is being lifted evenly and correctly with equal arms on both sides. This reduces the chance of incorrect alignment or damage to the vehicle.
Benefits, Features & Characteristics
The most significant benefit of symmetric lifts is that they offer a much larger drive-through area. This makes it easier to move in and out from the lift and also facilitates easy access to both the front and back sides of your vehicle. They are also ideal for use with low-profile vehicles. Other's include:
- Best suited to long and heavy vehicles SUVs, trucks & vans.
- Primarily designed to lift the car in the middle.
- The columns are set up squarely facing each other (not turned on an angle).
- The vehicle is essentially loaded on a 50/50 ratio on the lift. That is 50% to the front & 50 % to the rear arms.
- The lift columns are positioned directly across each other to allow a broader space to drive through.
- Minimal adjustments are required to accommodate different cars or vehicles.
- They can be used on Overhead or Floorplate lift designs.
- All four lift arms are of the same length.
- Features non-extendable rotatable swivel arms.
- Identically same front and rear arms.
Lastly, while it's not always the case, symmetric lifts tend to be more affordable than their asymmetric counterparts.
See our guides on the best 4 post car lifts and the best 2 post car lifts.
Disadvantages of Symmetrical Lifts
The primary disadvantage of symmetric lifts is that they are not as versatile as asymmetric lifts. Because the car is positioned in the center, it can be challenging to access the doors on either side when working on a vehicle.
Balancing can also be challenging, especially when handling longer, heavier vehicles.
Asymmetric Two Post Car Lifts
Asymmetric car lifts were designed as an improvement on the symmetric lift. They are a perfect option for heavier vehicles, large trucks and SUVs as they have large wheelbases that symmetric lifts cannot accommodate.
On the other hand, the asymmetric car lift positions the vehicle slightly further back on the lift. Since most vehicles are front heavy, only about a third of the vehicle sits to the front while two-thirds hang behind on an asymmetric lift. This makes it easy to open the doors and access the interior of a vehicle.
Lift Arms Configuration
The shorter arms are to the front, where most of the weight is, while the longer rear lift arms are to the back. This allows your vehicle to sit well-balanced on the lift and usually means the front doors clear the posts for opening and closing. This is especially practical if you raise and lower a large number of vehicles every day and want to get in and out quickly.
However, while most vehicles actually balance out better on an asymmetric lift, there are times when certain vehicles won't balance out perfectly well, especially on older models of asymmetrical lifts. For instance, if the vehicle has a lot of weight to the rear, like a rear-engine car, a loaded van, an extra-long crew cab or a long bed truck, then the vehicle might even tilt backward.
More modern lifts like the Bendpak and other lift manufacturers feature a Tru-Metric feature on their lifts for easy balancing and versatility. Learn more about where Bendpak car lift are made.
Benefits, Features & Characteristics
Asymmetric lifts are defined by the angled lift column designed to face more towards the vehicle's rear. Alternatively, the lift columns are also manufactured with a built-in angle facing more towards the rear.
- Folded back arms to allow the vehicle to enter the lift.
- Features four arms that are not of equal length. Two equal lengths shorter arms on the front of the vehicle and two equal lengths longer arms towards the rear.
- The vehicle is essentially loaded on a 30/70 ratio on the lift with equal weight on each arm.
- The longer arms are towards the back and can be adjusted to a wider width.
- This design is perfect for vehicles with an ample wheelbase and those that are heavier in the rear.
- Allows easier access to the vehicle interior without bumping the door on the columns.
Disadvantages of Asymmetric Lifts
Asymmetric lifts can be problematic for short-wheelbase vehicles.
When the asymmetric lift is not centered on the vehicle, it can cause the shorter wheelbase vehicle to become unstable and even tip over.
The lift arms on the front of the vehicle are much shorter than those on the rear, which can cause stability problems when lifting or lowering a car with a short wheelbase. This makes it challenging to ensure that the car is being lifted evenly and can cause damage to the vehicle and lead to an unsafe lifting experience.
If you're installing a lift, see our guide on concrete thickness.
Super Symmetric Car Hoists
Super Symmetric hoists are a more recent lift system design that combines the functionality of asymmetrical and symmetrical car lifts to provide a versatile car lift option.
Super Symmetric car lifts have a 3 stage front arms setup and a 2 stage rear arms setup that can be configured so to be parallel to each other.
Unlike the front asymmetric arms, the front arms on super symmetric lifts CANNOT be entirely turned toward the vehicle's rear. However, because of the 3 stage setup design, the front arms can collapse to accommodate (small cars) or extend fully to complement the rear arm length when lifting longer wheelbase vehicles.
Asymmetrical And Symmetrical Lifts; FAQ's
What is the weight ratio for an asymmetrical lift?
An asymmetric lift typically has a 30/70 weight ratio, with most of the weight on the front two arms. Since most of the weight is in the front on most FWD vehicles, the 30/70 split guarantees an even weight distribution on the lift. This design is perfect for vehicles with an ample wheelbase and those that are heavier in the rear.
Is an asymmetric car lift better than a symmetrical hoist?
An asymmetric vehicle hoist is only better than a symmetrical hoist if the vehicle has a longer wheelbase and is heavier in the rear. If these conditions don't apply, then it's best to use a symmetric car lift.
Where should I place my car on an asymmetric lift?
To properly place your vehicle onto an asymmetric lift, move it forward until 30% of the car is in front of the columns. Ensure that all the lift pads are pointing towards the vehicle's rear. Once set, pull forward the arms and position the lift pads on their respective appropriate lifting points.
Can you put a car on a two-post lift backwards?
It is possible, although not recommended, to put a car on a two-post lift backwards on a symmetrical car lift since it has a 50/50 even weight distribution. An asymmetric is designed to lift 30% of a vehicle in front of the column and 70% on the rear. That means if you load the vehicle backwards, you'll easily bend or break the extended rear arms causing damage to the vehicle and lift or injury to yourself or other technicians around.
After considering all of the above, it's also important to consider the cost of each different type of car lift.