What’s The Difference Between a Hoist and Crane?

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

So, what exactly is the difference between a hoist and crane? This is a common inquiry in our industry and the answer will allow you to communicate better with your crane builder about your specific needs. The main differences between the two are their components, applications and how they operate, and a  more detailed look will ensure you receive the right system for your needs.

Overhead Cranes

Overhead cranes are heavy machines that lift, lower, and transport large loads. The different components of this type of crane allow it to operate in multiple directions, which increases mobility and efficiency. This multi-axis movement of cranes is the feature that most distinguishes them from hoists, which only function across one axis. 

hoist and crane, What’s The Difference Between a Hoist and Crane?, SISSCO Hoist

There are also different types of overhead cranes, depending on your specific application, but ‘Top Running’ and ‘Underhung’ cranes are the most common. Top Running cranes consist of a ‘bridge girder’, with ‘end trucks’ attached at each end that run on top of ASCE crane rails mounted to a structural steel runway system. Top Running cranes can either be single girder, or double girder (for increased capacities) and are often used for handling heavier loads – 5 Ton or greater capacities. Underhung cranes have a similar ‘bridge girder’ attached to end trucks, but instead of running on top of rails, Underhung cranes hang from, and run along, the bottom flange of your steel runway beams. Buildings with a lot of overhead obstructions, or space constraints, often require this type of crane. There are benefits and drawbacks to both of these types of cranes, and your crane builder can help direct you to the most efficient crane for your needs.   

Other types of overhead cranes include Gantry cranes, jib cranes, and even monorails. Each type of crane is used for safer and more efficient material handling, and depending on your specific needs and constraints, SISSCO Material Handling Equipment will help you design the crane that best fits your application.  


As stated above, hoists only operate within a single axis – up and down.  As an example, an elevator is a type of hoist. Hoists are generally categorized by their lifting medium, power type, and suspension, whereas the lifting medium refers to the material that connects the frame, or body, of a hoist to the load block and hook; the most common types being a wire rope, or welded link chain.  Typically, chain hoists are used up to 5 Ton capacities, while wire ropes are typically used on hoists with over 5 Ton capacities. With regard to the power type, hoists can be controlled manually, electrically or even pneumatically. Manual hoists use a hand chain and pulley mechanism to lift and lower each load, while electric and pneumatic hoists use electricity and air, respectively, to raise and lower loads. Suspension types refer to how the hoist is mounted for your application. Stationary, hook-mounted hoists, are a strong option when you only need to move a load up and down within a specific location. Stationary hoists can also be bolted down to the supporting structure, and typically can handle larger, bulkier loads than the hook-mounted, stationary hoists. In order for a hoist to service more than just the vertical axis, it would need to be mounted to a trolley, which would then operate along a beam, or structure, to allow the hoist to lift and move loads along two axes.  Similar to overhead cranes, you can have a ‘Top Running’ trolley, or an ‘Underhung’ trolley, depending on your clearances and specific needs. 

hoist and crane, What’s The Difference Between a Hoist and Crane?, SISSCO Hoist

Hoist and Crane Experts

Looking for more information on these topics? Go to the experts at SISSCO Material Handling Equipment. Our technicians and field operations provide one of the industry’s most experienced overhead crane and hoist service teams around, and our skilled parts team is here to make sure we can help our customers maintain a safe and efficient working environment for their overhead lifting equipment. Our inspection and maintenance services strictly follow OSHA, ANSI and CMAA standards as they pertain to overhead cranes and hoists. 

We proudly offer Safety Inspection & Preventative Maintenance, Factory-Authorized Hoist & Crane Repair, parts replacement, and 24/7 emergency service. For over 45 years we’ve made manufacturing and maintenance processes more efficient, cost-effective and safe. Our manufacturing, installation and safety solutions keep businesses moving forward. Your business depends on your equipment and we are here to keep everything operating when you need it most.  Give us a call today to schedule the very best in crane maintenance services.