Why does it matter? Both are aerial work platforms, and serve the function of raising a worker to high or not easily accessed areas. The “bucket” or aerial work platform, is secured to an electric or hydraulic electric lift system designed to lift personnel into the air to perform work safely. They are used for temporary access and are mobile, distinguishing them from more permanent lifts life an elevator. Differing from a crane, they also typically have a weight limit of less than 1 ton and are designed to hold 1-2 people only.
The boom may be telescopic thus allowing the operator to adjust the overall length, may be articulating thus having more than one jointed section, or may be both articulating and telescopic. So what is the difference?

The Bucket Truck

A bucket truck, or boom truck, as the name suggests is mounted on a vehicle. Sometimes it may also be installed on a van, in which case it is called a bucket van. Some bucket trucks come equipped to lift materials and supplies to the worker. They are a staple to a multitude of industries including telecommunications, electric utility, vegetation management, and lights & signs. Sadly, because there are few manufacturers of bucket trucks, they can be very expensive to purchase. Luckily, they are much more affordable to rent.

Bucket trucks provide many of the same basic functions as the bucket lift. They provide access through the extension and rotation of the boom. Since the lift is mounted to a full sized truck, they tend to handle a heavier weight load with an average of 400 to 2,000 lbs capacity. However, a boom truck typically cannot reach as high.  Also, the controls for the bucket are usually operated from the cab of the truck requiring at least two workers present (a good idea for safety anyway).

  • Capable of lifting heavy loads
  • No trailer required

The Bucket Lift

Bucket lifts (sometimes called a boom lift or cherry picker)  are a smaller boom which makes them more versatile. Many can also maneuver the bucket 360-degrees without moving the body. On the downside, they are not usually capable of lifting heavy loads and are truly only designed for one person. The major drawback to the bucket lift is that it is not a licenseable vehicle and must be transported to the job site by a trailer. They typically come in two varieties.

Non-Propelled bucket lifts are usually lighter. Depending on the size, some must be towed. Others can be carried on a flatbed truck. Although they often do not have motorized lifts and must be cranked or maneuvered by hand, they fit through a standard door frame.


  • Easy to transport
  • Fits through a door-frame
  • Lightweight

Vehicle mounted bucket lifts have heavy-duty tires that provide access to a wider range of locations. With compact bodies, they are capable of fitting into small openings between buildings or through foot-gates. The controls of this vehicle are mounted in the aerial work platform, so the worker can “drive” the lift as he or she works without having to get down.

  • Smaller body is more flexible for different spaces
  • Can be controlled from the bucket
  • Can reach taller workspaces

How do you know which one is right for the job?


When determining which boom lift is right for your job, think about the amount of space you have, how high you need to work, the weight you need to lift, how you plan to transport it, and how accessible you want the controls. For some jobs, any of these might work. However, you may struggle to park the truck inside a building.

Whichever you decide, Tobly is here to make your equipment rental process easy. We provide complete out-the-door prices, so you know what you are paying for without hidden fees.  You can also keep track of your rental at any stage of the process: payments, drop off, end dates, extensions, inspections, exchanges, and much more. To browse our aerial work platform rentals click here.

Or, if you still need help deciding the best equipment for the job, our 24/7 customer service team is here to help.

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