Should you Install a Lift or Escalator?

Whether you have a retail space or an office space, if your organisation is spread over more than one floor then you need to consider accessibility. The two traditional options are a lift or an escalator. Both have their advantages – but which one is the right decision for you?



The cost and time involved in installation depends on the type of lift or escalator that you install.

In general, escalators are fairly limited in terms of where they can be placed as they need a large amount of space underneath for machinery, oil and running gear, and the time and expense involved in installing them can be pretty high. You also cannot easily move or alter an escalator. A traditional lift suffers from the same set of issues.

However, a platform lift – the more modern alternative – has the advantage of installation anywhere in the building, and the modular structure means installation within a week and the ability to move the lift when required. As many platform lifts are also self contained, the structural disruption is minimal and you won’t need building works and scaffolding.



When it comes to moving people between floors, both the lift and the escalator do the job well. However, there is an undoubted benefit to an escalator, which is running constantly and so can hold a larger number of people than a lift. If you have a high traffic area without any let up in visitors then the escalator may be the best choice.



The downside of the escalator running all the time is, of course, the cost that this incurs. An escalator is virtually useless if it is not running – people won’t even use it as a staircase. This means that, unless you pay for the escalator to be constantly powered, it’s almost a dead asset. The cost of an elevator is much lower, as it is only used when it is called.



Lifts win on the topic of accessibility every time. Escalators don’t accommodate wheelchairs, buggies or people who have difficulty walking or balancing. In fact they can be quite a traumatic experience for anyone with movement difficulties. By comparison, a lift is simple, smooth and easy to use. Lifts are also capable of reaching far more floors in one journey, whereas the escalator can only transport people between one at a time.



Escalators do, unfortunately, have a record for accidents. Whether it’s people losing balance and falling, or getting something stuck between the stairs, they tend to be viewed as less safe than a lift. Accidents rarely happen in lifts and they are often a more reassuring way for most people to travel.

A conventional lift will have a ‘dead drop’ in a failure, whilst a platform lift just stops, making it a more safe experience for the user.