Dump Trailer Scissor Lift Vs. Cylinder

Our team independently selects, reviews, and identifies the best products. We may earn affiliate commissions on purchases made from links on this page. Read about our links here. This post was updated on July 13, 2024

While there are a couple of other lifting mechanisms to choose from when it comes to dump trailers, the final question tends to boil down to scissor lift vs cylinder.

Now, we came up with this dump trailer scissor lift vs cylinder comparison guide to help you pick the right option for your dumping needs.

These things don’t come cheap and the last thing you want is to walk away with one that is inadequate for your hauling needs.

Read to the end to get all your answers about the better lift system.

Dump Trailer Scissor Lift Vs. Cylinder

Let’s start by looking at how the construction functions in each case.

Remember that the idea for the engineers in both assemblies is first to lift maximum load and secondly achieve an optimal angle of lift.

How the single straight push cylinder works

Here a cylinder is directly mounted (without the scissor lift) to a plate and the cylinder can pushes either backward (towards the hinge) or forward (toward the truck/away from the hinge).

This is a simpler configuration.

How a scissor lift works

For many dump trailers in the market today, manufacturers add a scissor hoist.

This has folding supports that move up/down in an open-close motion (or criss-cross X pattern) similar to conventional scissors hence the name scissor lift.

But it’s the hydraulic cylinder that will initiate the raising/lowering motion and there is maximum leverage as the trailer pushes up to the dumping angle due to the additional scissor support.

Overall, scissor hoists with a bigger hydraulic cylinder tilt higher and can be a fantastic option if you usually haul materials that don’t slide out easily such as top soil.


Allow me to now walk you through the functional variations (assuming you have understood the two engineering setups).

1.     Power/dump angle

On the dump angle, scissor systems edge the cylinder lift in my opinion.

You see, these have a mechanical advantage because of the previously highlighted leverage and tend to achieve maximum dump angle more easily.

The tricky angle (in a straight cylinder lift) will cause you to struggle even to spread the dump, especially if you raise the box maximally.
weedeater racks for trailers

2.     Maximum load/capacity

A cylinder’s (direct lift) geometry is generally less than optimal and they’re hence a bit underpowered for heavier loads.

Okay, I know that larger diameter cylinders (combined with a shorter stroke) will work better but there’s still a distinct disadvantage that may hamper its ability to hoist to your satisfaction.

One way of improving capacity is by selecting one with an absolutely robust rear hinge is since the weight shifts here as the cylinder extends farther.

Another solution is adjusting the slack although this largely depends on your trailer.

This way, your direct mounted cylinder could lift more weight.

Dump Trailer Scissor Lift Vs. Cylinder: Which is more stable?

Scissor lifts are immensely stable -even for uneven loads (and I mean when loaded heavy) and I find them less tippy.

The secret is the enhanced foundational stability provided by the hydraulic/scissor design – this keeps the system well balanced even when in a precarious position.

If you must pick a cylinder (because of reasons like your budget), try to push the hinge point farther forward to elevate its hoisting balance.

But which is the best?

Well, it depends on your special needs but if you survey the biggest brands, you will discover that most use the scissor assembly and with good reason.

For instance:

  • A scissor lift will grant you more dumping capacity (recall this?).
  • The assemblies typically allow a bigger dump angle.
  • A scissor mechanism is likely to give you more peace of mind thanks to the strengthened stability.

But despite these glaring winners, the scissor lift is not blameless.

For example:

  • They’re costlier because of the added complexity of the entire system.  Be prepared to shell out more cash if you ever need to upgrade the hydraulic cylinder.
  • Scissors designs are tougher to maintain than the pure cylinder lift considering you have more moving parts (Think lubrication and the difficulties of opening up the whole unit, if something jams).

These are not issues you can ignore so the decision might boil down to your personal preferences and dumping tasks.

What about telescopic cylinders?

This is an alternative as well and like the others, they do work as long as the engineering is faultless.

They are, however, quite pricey not to mention that they have more possible failure points because of more piston seals.

In terms of stability and tipping capacity, the difference may not be radically big, at least from the models I have met.

That perhaps explains why the market is dominated by the scissors and straight type cylinders.

What is a sulky?

Here is a summary of what we have learned in this dump trailer scissor lift vs. cylinder analysis:

  • The scissor tilts highest, is more stable, and offers improved dumping capacity.
  • You will generally find the scissor-type lifts pricier than straight cylinder lifts.
  • A directly mounted cylinder lift needs less maintenance and can even accommodate as much as load as the scissor if engineered properly.
  • The cylinder lift system, however, carries more risk of tipping over when loaded with uneven materials unless you modify the positioning of the hinge. 
  • Telescopic cylinders can be an option but for their expensive pricing.

In short, there is no clear victor despite the scissor lift appearing more favored by most of the leading dealers.

Learn more about zero turn snow blower.

Leave a Comment