Your home is your paradise. You can sit on your deck and enjoy the grandeur of nature. Elevated high above your lake, you can see for miles.  However, this exceptional view comes with a long flight of stairs to the dock. A hillside lift, also known as a hillside tram, residential funicular or inclined elevator, is the perfect solution to your stairway hikes. Maybe you have been looking into a hillside lift, but haven’t received a price estimate.  Here are ten factors that will affect the project cost.

1. System Application

There are two main types of hillside lifts: commercial and residential. Commercial applications are primarily for business: marinas, restaurants, hotels, condo associations, golf courses, etc. Residential applications are for single-family homes.  Generally, commercial applications have higher costs due to specific requirements on controls, design and capacity. Residential systems generally are more economical than commercial systems.

2. Hill Length

The longer your incline, the more track and structural materials are needed. Additional installation labor is required for each additional track section installed. Also, the total length of the system can determine the type and size of the power unit (we’ll discuss that below).

3. Hill Angle

A steeper hill angle can increase your system cost due to the power system requirements. Dramatically steep inclines can require additional bracing. Steeper hills can increase the installation labor and cost because of the challenges of climbing and material handling.

4. Size and Capacity

The size of the system will affect the power unit type and size. Also, the system size will affect the materials cost for a potentially larger carriage, heavier cable and track. A wide variety of components are sized to make sure each system is designed and built to perform efficiently and safely.

5. Power Unit Type

Marine Innovations builds both winding drum and traction drive systems.  A winding drum system is more economical but has limitations due to its design.  Traction drive systems have fewer limitations, but more parts, thus are usually higher cost. System length, angle and capacity all contribute to determine the correct power unit type.

6. Terrain

A simple, straight hill usually leads to a straight-forward installation. A hillside with multiple incline angles adds to the complexity of the installation.  Sometimes a system will require additional structure for the best installation.  Sometimes a self-leveling system is added to allow the frame rails to run close to the ground and keep the carriage level. Both of these alternatives will add to the system cost.  During a site visit, your Marine Innovations representative will review your site and will discuss the best alternatives to make your system meet all of your needs.

7. Options

Our hillside lifts have a variety of options to allow you to customize your system: carriage designs, canopies, lights, windscreens, landing gates, communications, controls and security to name a few. Also, although most systems have two stops, some can have six or more.  Each stop will increase the system cost, the same as adding options. Check out this video to learn more about or options.

8. Soil Conditions

Different soils require different installation methods.  While most installations use our strong and efficient engineered pin pile system, some areas require rock anchors or cement footings.  Each different installation method can alter the final system cost.

9. Finishes

Although our standard system has a powder-coated carriage and trolley with galvanized rails, there are custom colors, powder-coated rails and materials like stainless steel that will affect the final system cost.

10. Location

The system location will affect cost due to the slope and angle, but also due to local codes and regulations.  You will generally need a building permit for an installation, but some areas require additional testing, engineering and permitting.  A few areas require specific equipment or even specific footings.  All of these items will affect the final system costs. 

We have been installing hillside lifts across North America since 1991 and have the background to forecast an accurate cost for your system.


Although we haven’t listed every single item that affects the cost of a hillside lift, this gives you an idea of most items that impact the system cost.

Cost is a driving factor in your decision, but don’t just look at a price when you compare manufacturers, look at the product.  When you look at a Marine Innovations hillside lift, compare the quality. Our systems are durable investments that will give you a lifelong return through use, enjoyment and resale if you choose to sell your home. Watch this video to see how we make the world’s best hillside lifts. Also, look at safety. Our systems are built with your safety in mind and they meet or exceed ASME elevator code. The cheapest option will not give you a sturdy, long-lasting elevator transporting you, friends and family for decades.  Don’t compromise on safety to save a few bucks.

Although we have given you some of the things that impact price, your best move is to contact us to get an accurate cost for your hillside lift today.  You might be pleasantly surprised how economical they can be.