Elevating Personal


The 30,000 lb Heavy Duty Lift is one of the parking solutions offered by American Custom Lifts.

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Ever wish you had extra room in your garage? What if you had an extra room below the ground which was your garage? If you’ve got the money, you can get a car elevator. Brad Davies, president of American Custom Lifts, Excondido, CA, explains.

“We often work with an architect initially and also have 12 engineers on staff,” he says. “The customer might use our standard 9' x 18' platform unless they need something bigger. A lot of the time we use a four-post design: four cylinders in each column, a two-deck system, and when you drive you’re on a platform, you’re lowered down to the basement and can drive off at the lower level.”

The lifting points stay in the same place while in use, approximately two feet from the elevator. Synchronization chains are also utilized to create deflection when a car is loaded without the best weight distribution.

Scissor design lifts are popular in showrooms and other commercial applications. Image: ACLifts.com

As an alternative to four-post, there’s a vault application where a vehicle can just drop down into a vault and then drive on the upper level. “You can open the garage and not even know a car is below grade,” he says. “They will camouflage the canopy like the garage floor sometimes. A Mercedes dealership is using a platform on a grade level and then transporting the car to a second level. They drive off and then, when they put the lift back down, it serves as flooring to display the car on it. You can even keep it on the top platform—raise it up to where the car is in a display window that you can see from the freeway.”

A less common elevator offering, he says, is the scissor design. “It’s similar to dual scissors and then a platform is on top of the tip of the scissors,” he says. “They open and the platform comes down and the scissors close, pushing it back up.”

The power unit is in the lower basement level, usually 20 feet from the elevator and oil pushes into the cylinders which causes it to rise. In addition, there are several layers of protection. For example, there’s a motion detector at the lower level, along with a camera monitor focusing on what’s going on below. If the machine detects motion then the elevator shuts down and you can’t operate it.

But even though the units are built most often for cars, don’t think they're limited to land. “In San Diego, we had a customer living right by the bay who put two of these in his backyard,” he says. “There was grass on top. Below on one lift there was a boat and, on another, jet skis. We designed rectangle tracks that hook to the bottom platform so, when he eases the boat up, the track extends into the bay and puts his boat right on it. No loading onto a trailer.”

Davies says the 9' x 18' platform standard usually costs around $45,000 but, by the time shipping and installation are factored in, the overall cost is often between $60,000-$70,000.

Eric Butterman is an independent writer.

You can open the garage and not even know a car is below grade.

Brad Davies, president, American Custom Lifts


July 2013

by Eric Butterman, ASME.org