A hoist is a machinery unit that is used for lifting and lowering a load. That is where the differences begin.

The hoisting motion can be powered several ways. A Manual Hand Chain Hoist has a loop of hand chain that extends down to the operating floor elevation. The hook is raised by pulling the chain in one direction and lowered by pulling the chain in the other direction. An Air Hoist is pneumatically powered. An Electric Hoist is electrically powered.

Hoists traditionally use either load chain or wire rope for the lifting material. Chain Hoists are typically limited to 5 ton capacity or less though there are some exceptions. Chain hoists require a chain container to contain excess unused chain, and provide true vertical lift at an economical price. For applications where higher capacities, faster hoisting speeds, or load limits are required, Wire Rope Hoists are the typical choice. Wire rope hoists are usually larger than their chain hoist counterparts, and often more sophisticated, heavier duty, and as a result often more expensive.

Hoists can be mounted in a variety of ways. Monorail Hoists are mounted via a trolley to the lower flange of a bridge or monorail beam. Trolleys can be push/pull, operated via a geared hand chain drop, or electrically powered. Double Girder Trolley Hoists ride on double girder bridge cranes and are most commonly wire rope hoists and typically trolley motion is electrically powered. Deck Mount Hoists are similar to the double girder trolley hoist in design except are fixed in a permanent position.