Stair Climbers – which are best – electric or manual?

One of the questions people ask themselves when deciding whether to buy a stair climber or stair climbing dolly is:  “Which is best? A manually operated stair climber or an electric stair climber?”

For the sake of clarity we should specify that stair climbers for loads and goods – often called stair climbing dollies, or stair climbing hand trucks – are not the same thing as stair climbers for wheelchairs, which are used to carry disabled people with reduced motor capacity.

This article compares manual and electric stair climbers for the transport of goods on staircases.

Manually operated three-wheeled stair climbing dollies

Manually operated stair climbing dollies use a three-wheeled rotating mechanism to move loads on stairs.  The three-wheeled mechanism is located both on the left-hand and on the right-hand side of the hand truck.

Three or five wheels on each side of the stair climbing dolly – a total of six wheels – greatly facilitate movement up and down stairs compared with a normal manually operated two-wheeled hand truck.

The rotating mechanism means there is always one wheel on the stairs. This reduces the physical effort required on the part of the operator compared with traditional hand trucks, which are not in fact suitable for moving goods on stairs.

What is the capacity of manually operated three-wheeled stair climbing dollies?

Manually operated stair climbing dollies with a capacity of up to 300 Kg are available on the market. The use of this type of stair climber is not recommended as they are risky for the operator, who has to keep the load balanced while pushing the weight up the stairs. As well as being a health risk, the load is also at risk if the truck were to tip over on the stairs.

Manually operated three-wheeled stair climbing dollies – moving goods weighing up to 25 Kg

Wheeled stair climbers are only suitable for occasional, private use rather than for professional use, due to their instability when moving loads on stairs. They are only recommended for light goods weighing no more than 25 Kg. This is the maximum limit recommended by the ISO standard 11228-1 governing the manual handling, ergonomics, lifting and transport of manual loads. 

Find out more about the difference between stair climbers with tracks and wheels

Recommended use of manually operated wheeled stair climbing dollies:

  • For occasional use
  • For loads weighing up to 25 Kg

Wheeled electric stair climbers

Electric stair climbing dollies with wheels are fitted with a motor, which enables goods to be carried on stairs with some[SG2]  effort. Powered stair climbers have between two and six wheels, with the same rotating mechanism as manually operated stair climbers.

Capacity of wheeled electric stair climbers

Heavy duty stair climbers may carry loads weighing up to 400 Kg, and many believe that these motorized stair climbers are suitable for moving heavy loads.

However, this is not the case. Load capacity is not the only factor to consider. The mechanics and technology of the stair climber also need to be taken into account, as they determine how the load remains balanced.

Unlike a 3-wheeled manually operated stair climber, an electric stair climber with wheels does not require the operator to push the load up the stairs, as the motor takes care of that. However, the operator still has to keep the load balanced while moving it.

Suitable for carrying light and medium-weight goods, weighing up to 100 Kg

A wheeled electric stair climber is suitable for carrying light and medium loads weighing up to 100 Kg, regardless of the effective capacity of the stair climber, which may be much higher. This is because this type of stair climbing dolly always needs the operator to keep the load balanced, which can be very dangerous and lead to serious accidents. If the loads tips over it can simply roll down the stairs. It does not require much imagination to understand the danger of a 200 Kg load falling from a staircase on the top floor.

Recommended use of electric wheeled stair climbing dollies:

  • For professional use
  • For moving light goods, such as washing machines or refrigerators
  • In many cases suitable for use also on spiral staircases
  • For loads weighing up to 100 Kg


This is why Zonzini wheeled stair climbers with electric motors have a maximum capacity of 160 Kg. These stair climbing dollies are ideal for moving domestic appliances, cardboard boxes and small items of furniture.

This video shows a washing machine being moved on stairs using the Buddy Lift  stair climbing hand truck

Tracked electric stair climbers – moving heavy goods weighing up to 400 Kg

The ideal heavy duty stair climbing dolly for moving heavy goods is an electric stair climber with tracks. A tracked stair climber with a capacity of 400 Kg can safely move goods of up to this weight.

Capacity of powered stair climbers

Tracked stair climbing robots normally have a capacity of more than 250 Kg, and can carry goods weighing up to 350 Kg – for example our Skipper stair climber – and even 400 Kg, like our tracked motorized stair climber Domino Automatic.

Ideal for moving heavy goods weighing up to 400 Kg on stairs

The fact that the operator does not have to keep the weight of the load balanced means heavy goods weighing up to 400 Kg can be moved up and down stairs.

Some of the latest models, like the Domino Automatic stair climbing robot, feature advanced electronic automatic tilting technology, which tilts the load while it is being carried up and down stairs.

This specific tracked stair climbing robot is controlled by a simple joystick. Moving the goods and keeping the load balanced as it moves up and down the steps requires no physical effort on the part of the operator.

The generally recognized limitations of tracked stair climbers are their lack of manoeuvrability, weight and bulk, which makes them unsuitable for use on spiral staircases.

This is only true for spiral staircases, which are too narrow to be able to transport goods using a tracked stair climber and require a wheeled stair climber.  As far as manoeuvrability is concerned, it is important to consider the specific characteristics of the stair climber. 

The most recent stair climbers have two motors, one for each track. This allows full 360º rotation (extremely useful on stair landings). Maximum safety combined with simple operation and extreme manoeuvrability.

Recommended use of tracked electric stair climbers:

  • For professional haulage or logistics companies and machinery manufacturers
  • For moving heavy and bulky goods such as statues, photocopiers, boilers and heavy-duty machinery
  • For loads weighing up to 400 Kg

The transport of a heavy and modern photocopier on a spiral staircase is performed by only one person with the stair climbing robot Domino Automatic.


These videos and pics show some examples of moving heavy goods on stairs

Gym machinery

Doors and windows

Here are other examples of transporting heavy goods on the staircases with Zonzini Stair climber Robot Domino and stair crawler Skipper

👉 To find out more, please visit our portfolio section on this site

Transport of a vending machine on an external staircase


Transportation of an ATM on a subway stairs

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Transport of a 400 kg billiard table


Transport of furniture up the stairs

Read more

Do you have questions about choosing the right Stair Climbers?

Send us a request and we will be happy to help you.

Stair Climbers – which are best – electric or manual? ultima modifica: 2020-09-10T12:41:44+02:00 da Zonzini