Different Types of Elevators

Different Types of Elevators

April 1, 2023

Elevators aren’t a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. You may not realize it, but there are different types of elevators designed with specific purposes. True, all elevators broadly have the same goal of transporting people and/or items up or down between a building’s floors, but it’s important to know what your building has. After all, you don’t want to make the mistake of thinking that a passenger elevator is designed to carry a forklift.

Here’s a general rundown of the four main types of elevators and what they’re meant for so you will know what kind of elevator your building should install.

Passenger Elevator

A passenger elevator is, as the name implies, an elevator intended for transporting people through a building. Naturally, this is the type of elevator that most people think of, as it’s the kind they’re most familiar riding in. These elevators can vary drastically in terms of size, speed, and interior options depending on the use of the elevator, but generally tend to be slightly wider than they are deep to accommodate passengers better. They also can accommodate anywhere between 2,000-4,000 lbs, depending on whether they’re made for low-rise, mid-rise, or high-rise buildings.

Unlike the other types of elevators, passenger elevators also often put as much stock into aesthetics as they do practicality. They might feature such design choices as mirrored walls and doors, they might be entirely made of glass, or they could feature wood paneling to match the interiors of the rest of the building. What matters is that passengers feel just as comfortable in the elevator as they do anywhere else in the building.

Service Elevator

Found in many commercial buildings and hotels, a service elevator is intended for the transport of goods through the buildings by employees. A good example of this is a housekeeping staff moving cleaning carts from floor to floor through a hotel, or hospital staff transporting patients on gurneys. To accommodate the equipment, these elevators can often carry up to 5,000 lbs between floors.

Service elevators are typically larger and deeper than standard passenger elevators to fit bulky equipment while still giving the staff enough room to maneuver. Most often, service elevators are found in employee-only sections of a building and are not available for public use. This is so that staff can move around without disturbing hotel guests and so they can move equipment around unimpeded.

Freight Elevator

Freight elevators are designed to move exceptionally heavy loads, such as cars or cargo in industrial buildings. These elevators are not intended for passenger transport and are designed to withstand tougher working conditions.

Typically, freight elevators are designed with the intention of carrying up to 100,000 lbs. To accommodate this, they are made with heavy steel walls and floors to withstand the massive weight of their cargo. However, they also generally move slower than passenger or service elevators. They also often have doors that open vertically, as opposed to the traditional horizontal doors that passenger and service elevators use.


The smallest type of elevator, a dumbwaiter is essentially a small freight elevator. It is often used for the transport of food in restaurants, however, they can be found in commercial, public and private buildings alike. These elevators are too small to carry human passengers, ranging between 75 lbs and 500 lbs maximum. However, they are perfect for sending meals between floors without fear of spillage or broken glasses and plates.

So there you have it. Now that you know the difference between passenger, service, and freight elevators as well as dumbwaiters, you’ll know what kind of elevator is right for your building.