Best Telescoping Ladders

Updated April 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

19 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
174 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best telescoping ladders

Last Updated April 2019

There are lots of times when you need a tall ladder, but one can be awkward to handle and difficult to transport. The solution is a good telescoping ladder. It offers all the height of a standard extension ladder but is just a couple feet long when closed, making it a breeze to carry and store.

Telescoping ladders may be fairly new on the market, but their obvious benefits have made these tools very popular. However, there has also been some criticism of the ladders’ safety aspects

We at BestReviews have been looking into that, as well as checking the quality of what's available. We've made some recommendations that answer a wide variety of needs and provide suitable solutions for different budgets. For those who would like more detailed information, we've put together the following buyer's guide.

Ladders can leave marks on walls, which can be very frustrating, particularly if it's a light-colored surface. Top-rung covers are available for some brands to help prevent this.

Key considerations


Telescoping ladder types

All telescoping ladders are made of extruded aluminum. It offers good structural strength, is highly resistant to corrosion, and is also relatively light.

You'll find two different types of ladders that use the word “telescoping,” though only one is truly “telescopic,” where each rung/tread slides down on top the other into a compact and easy-to-carry unit.

The other would better be described as a sliding or extending A-frame. This ladder is like a step ladder that has adjustable height, but it can also be opened out and used flat. We've included one in our recommendations as an example of its functionality.

There are further variations on this: double-sided (also called equilateral), which is like a telescoping A-frame, and multi-purpose, which can be used as both an A-frame or a straight ladder. This gives tremendous versatility.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

Check the ladder's feet. Some manufacturers pay particular attention to the grip they provide – an important safety aspect.

Telescoping ladder features


Variable height

One of the major advantages of a telescoping ladder is that each rung extends individually, so you can open it one rung at a time. usually in around 12-inch steps (the standard gap for most types of ladder). Although you might have a ladder with a maximum height of 12 feet, you can open it to 5 feet, 6 feet, 7 feet, and so on.

Locking mechanism

The rungs are held in place by spring clips or pins. The lever mechanisms to operate these are either mounted underneath the rungs or at the side (frequently called “no-pinch”). With the latter, there's much less chance of catching your fingers. Some telescopic ladders also have plastic or rubber stops between each rung to prevent this. It makes the ladder a little taller when fully closed but is safer.

Duty rating

All telescoping ladders should have a duty rating, which is the maximum safe load a ladder can carry.

  • Type 2: maximum 225 pounds
  • Type 1: maximum 250 pounds
  • Type 1A: maximum 300 pounds
  • Type 1AA: maximum 375 pounds


These are widely recognized, but not every manufacturer uses them. It's not uncommon to see ratings in between these standards, too. It's vital to choose the correct rating because exceeding the load could cause the ladder to collapse – with dangerous consequences.

Feet

You want good stability from the ladder's feet. Low-cost telescoping ladders often have simple plastic covers on the feet. Others have textured surfaces for better grip.

Closed dimensions

Although all telescoping ladders are compact when closed, dimensions do vary. You might want to check, particularly if you have a small vehicle or particular storage location in mind.

Strap and case

A strap holds the ladder closed and acts as a handle for transportation. Some ladders come with a carrying case, which also helps keep your ladder clean.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some telescoping ladders include a carry/storage bag, making the ladder even easier to transport while keeping it free of dust and dirt when not in use.

Telescoping ladder prices

We usually caution against buying the lowest-priced products because they lack quality or durability. Here, the reason is a little different. We simply wouldn't trust our safety to the cheapest telescoping ladders. But that doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune.

Inexpensive: Although the mechanisms make them more expensive than standard two-part extension ladders, you can get reasonable telescoping ladder with a reach of 10 feet or more for around $80. Another $10 or so will get you a 12.5-foot model.

Mid-range: For a telescoping ladder of 15 feet or more, expect to pay around $130. A-frame versions cost an extra $20 to $40, depending on size. You'll find telescoping ladders at the upper end of this price bracket that are certified to European standards.

Expensive: Telescoping ladders that are American National Standards Institute (ANSI) certified cost considerably more, anywhere from $180 to $450, depending on size and duty rating. Many people consider the ANSI rating a significantly higher standard, which should provide greater durability for that additional investment.

We couldn't find a double-sided (equilateral) telescoping ladder for less than $600. There might be a specific task that justifies that kind of expense, but after considerable searching, we still can't imagine what that might be!

Telescoping multi-ladders can be used in A-frame, stair, or scaffold formats, though most aren’t as compact when closed.

Tips

  • Wear sensible, well-fitting footwear with good soles. Never wear anything that could fall off your feet or slide off the rungs.
  • Hold the rungs, not the sides, when climbing. There's less chance you'll slip. It's a good idea to wear gloves when practical to do so. Always use at least one hand to climb. If you need to carry more than one tool, use a lanyard, belt hook, or other appropriate device.
  • Double-check the ladder is secure before climbing. Check the locking mechanisms in particular.
  • Don't overreach. Move the ladder instead.
  • Never overload the ladder. This is particularly important with telescoping models.
  • Close your telescoping ladder from the top down, one rung at a time. Do this unless unless your telescopic ladder has a specific closure mechanism. Be very careful not to trap your fingers. Injuries of this type are extremely painful.
  • Make sure everyone knows how to use the ladder. If you have employees who will be using your ladder, it's a good idea to send them on a ladder safety course, not just so they know what they're doing but also to protect yourself if there's an injury claim.

Other products we considered

The WolfWise EN131 Telescoping Ladder is ideal for those who don't need a lot of reach (10.5 feet) and are looking for high quality (EN131 is the European standard) at a reasonable price. Another built to the same European standard is the OxGord Telescopic Extension Ladder. This 12.5-foot ladder has a maximum load rating of 330 pounds, and anyone who's worried about trapping their fingers will be delighted to see the rubber spacers that keep that from happening. Some might argue that the Werner MT-22 Telescoping Ladder would be better described as “extending,” but it offers great reach (22 feet), terrific versatility, and a 300-pound duty rating. The ladder folds down to about the size of an ordinary step ladder, so it’s still comparatively compact, and it’s constructed to a very high standard.

Always choose a duty rating that comfortably exceeds the total weight of the user and anything they’re likely to carry up or down. If a telescoping ladder collapses, it could cause serious injury.

FAQ

Q. What is reach height?
A.
Ladder manufacturers often quote this as the average maximum height that can be reached when you’re standing on the highest safe rung. Sound confusing? It is confusing because the reach height depends on how tall you are! If you're taller or shorter than “average,” the reach height will be different. So, ignore it. If you need a maximum for some purpose, check the height of the ladder itself when extended. You probably shouldn't be standing on the top rung anyway!


Q. Is there a safety standard for telescoping ladders?
A.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set out safety standards for all ladders, and there are particular rules for portable models, including telescoping ladders. These are quite extensive and available online.

OSHA is an advisory body. It doesn't actually test or approve products. ANSI does offer accreditation, but manufacturer descriptions can be misleading. One might claim that its telescopic ladder is “made to ANSI standards,” but that doesn't mean it's actually been tested by ANSI, so check carefully.

Testing is not a legal requirement, and because there are costs involved, some manufacturers choose not to do any testing. It doesn't mean a ladder is necessarily an inferior product. The flip side of this is that some companies are confident enough in their ladders to ensure they meet European requirements in addition to US standards.


Q. Do telescoping ladders need regular maintenance?
A.
Like all working equipment, your ladder will last longer if it’s looked after, but there's not a lot to it. Wiping away dust and dirt – particularly around the all-important locking mechanisms for the rungs – is good practice. Check the manufacturer's instructions for what cleaning products to use. Oil- or mineral-based cleaners, for example, are usually not recommended. Try to keep your telescoping ladder dry. If it does get wet, let it dry naturally in the fully open position so moisture isn't trapped inside.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bob
    Bob
    Writer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Linsay
    Linsay
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer

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