If you find yourself tired of lugging heavy, traditional ladders around, you may want to look into the best telescoping ladders. Made from aluminum, they extend up to 10 feet or more and then retract to a size small enough to carry under one arm. Telescoping ladders are popping up everywhere but are they really sturdy enough to use safely? We wanted to know how durable these ladders are, so we decided to test the most popular ones on the market today.
We didn’t pull any punches with our tests; we put the ladders through their paces with our main focus being on safety and stability. We checked to see if the ladder shoes would slip on various surfaces, and we checked each ladder’s overall strength and balance. Some of the ladders extend and contract in increments, so we tested to see how likely a user would be to get a finger pinched.
Ahead, learn what features to look for when shopping for a telescoping ladder and find out how each of the best telescoping ladders in this list fared in our tests.
Spoiler: Not all the ladders we tested earned a spot on this list, and we share that below as well.
- BEST OVERALL: Xtend & Climb 770P telescoping-ladders, 12.5 ft
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Gorilla Ladders 18 ft. MPXA Multi-Position Ladder
- BEST LIGHT-DUTY: TOOLITIN Telescoping Ladder, 8.5FT
- BEST MULTIPOSITION: WERNER 18 ft. Reach 5-in-1 Multi-Position Pro Ladder
- BEST SHORT REACH: ARCHOM Folding Aluminum Telescopic Extension Ladders
- BEST FOR HIGH USE: Gorilla Ladders 26 ft. MPXW Multi-Position Ladder
- BEST FOR STEPS: Little Giant Ladders, Velocity with Wheels, 17 Ft
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Telescoping Ladder
The best telescoping ladders make for a compact and sturdy means of reaching new heights on your to-do list and DIY projects. Depending on your plans for the ladder, you may want to consider other factors, too. Size, weight, and safety features vary from ladder to ladder. Some telescoping ladders serve better for specific tasks than others.
Standard vs. Multiposition
Telescoping ladders come in either standard or multiposition. Here’s what you need to know about each:
- Standard telescoping ladders typically extend manually by pushing each rung upward until it snaps into place. These ladders usually range from 8 to 18 feet high when fully extended. When retracted, the small footprint and lightweight design add up to a portable ladder that fits in the trunk of a vehicle or a small closet.
- Multiposition telescopic ladders (or multiuse ladders) include hinges that lock the ladder in multiple configurations. These versatile ladders transform into self-supporting and wall-supported structures, including A-frames, extension ladders, scaffolds, and more. Multiposition telescoping ladders can reach heights of up to 26 feet. These ladders help tackle various jobs that may require various ladder types or a single job that would benefit from more than one.
If users must strain their arms, stand on tiptoes, or exceed the tallest climbable step to reach the desired height, then the ladder is too short, which could cause minor discomfort or dangerous slips and falls. As such, consider reach height, or the highest point a person can safely access while standing on the ladder, in the selection of a telescoping ladder.
Reach height may amount to more or less than the height of the ladder. It varies by ladder type. Standard telescoping ladders offer a reach 1 foot less than ladder height. Multiposition telescopic ladders offer a reach equal to 1 foot over ladder height.
As an example, to access first-floor gutters (usually 11 feet high), a ladder between 7 and 12 feet provides plenty of reach.
Telescoping ladders come in fiberglass or airplane-grade aluminum, each a strong but lightweight material. While aluminum ranks as the most common material, fiberglass has its share of fans.
- Aluminum: A telescoping ladder made from aluminum can weigh as little as 15 pounds or as much as 35 pounds, depending on length. The most common length (12.5 feet) weighs an average of 24 pounds. An aluminum telescoping ladder costs from $100 to $250.
- Fiberglass: Stronger than aluminum, fiberglass weighs a little more, too. Expect a fiberglass telescoping ladder to weigh 3 to 5 pounds more than an aluminum ladder of the same size and to cost a little more as well. They start at around $250 and go as high as $600. Because fiberglass does not conduct electricity, this ladder makes a great choice for electricians and others who work around electricity.
Load capacity means the maximum weight a ladder will hold. Ladders fall into five categories based on how much weight they support:
- Type IAA: up to 375 pounds
- Type IA: up to 300 pounds
- Type I: up to 250 pounds
- Type II: up to 225 pounds
- Type III: up to 200 pounds
Type I ladders, including Type IA and IAA, are most widely used in professional services, like construction and other trades.
Type II ladders serve well for medium-duty tasks and also in a professional capacity for painters, maintenance workers, and other hands-on professions.
Type III ladders work well for light use in homes for changing light bulbs, repairing a ceiling fan, and similar tasks.
When determining the load capacity needed for a project, factor in the user’s weight, plus the weight of the tools and supplies the user will carry up or store on the ladder (if it has a built-in tray or shelf). Be aware that we found a few lightweight telescoping-only ladders seemingly unsuited to their manufacturer’s suggested weight limits. While these are still good for light-duty use, use your judgment and read consumer reviews before buying.
A telescoping ladder that locks at 1-foot increments won’t pinch fingers when it retracts. This safety mechanism requires depressing thumb levers on both sides of the ladder for each foot of retraction. It may take a bit longer, but it’s worth the extra effort to keep hands safe.
Large rubber feet, another essential safety feature, keep the ladder from slipping out from under the user. Some come with fold-out foot anchors that further secure the legs from slipping.
Portability ranks among the most significant advantages of a telescopic ladder. Users can transport or stow these ladders away quite easily because they shrink down so small. When folded, a compact ladder may measure as little as 24 inches.
Telescoping ladders usually weigh less than their full-size counterparts—typically under 30 pounds. Retracted, they stand an average of 2- to 5-feet tall, which makes them easy to stow. When deciding which telescoping ladder suits you best, choose a weight that you can manage without struggle.
A lighter compact ladder still offers plenty of support. Telescoping ladders come certified to support the weight limit outlined by the manufacturer. Look for ladders that are ANSI (American National Standards Institute) certified, as these ladders can hold weights ranging from 250 to 350 pounds. If the ladder doesn’t bear the ANSI rating, its weight rating could be questionable.
When not in use, telescoping ladders should stay in a clean, dry area where they won’t incur damage. Ladder safety and care dictate that they should stay off the floor if possible with their straps tightened and locks engaged.
Our Top Picks
To qualify for a spot on this lineup, each ladder had to be stable when extended and remain anchored in place when climbed. We tested every function on each ladder to ensure it was straightforward and safe. The following ladders fall into a wide range of climbing needs; some are better suited to one use than another. Still, they all passed our stringent ladder tests, and one is likely to be an asset in your home or garage.
The Xtend & Climb telescoping ladder is no slacker. Of all the telescoping-only ladders we tested, this one is the most substantial in terms of weight and material quality. At 27 pounds, it’s heavier than most, but it retracts to a handy 32 inches, and it comes with a padded foam grip located just under the second-to-bottom rung that kept the metal from pressing into our palms as we carried it.
We were able to easily extend the ladder to its full 12.5-foot height by pushing the top rung up, then the next, and the next—until all the rungs were fully telescoped and locked in place. We then positioned the ladder against various objects—house walls and trees—to see how stable it was. The ladder didn’t bow or sway when we climbed, and we felt it was every bit as sturdy as an older-type extension ladder.
Then we tested how the ladder retracted, and we were pleasantly surprised. While some telescoping and extension ladders come hurtling down, posing a danger to fingers, the Xtend ladder retracts rung by rung when the two side buttons are depressed—softly.
The Xtend & Climb legs feature molded nonslip pads that hold the ladder in place. The manufacturer claims the ladder supports up to 225 pounds. While we didn’t have 225 pounds to test that claim, it certainly seemed solid enough for that. We don’t doubt that this ladder could bear that much weight.
- Weight: 27 pounds
- Ladder height: 12.5 feet
- Ladder rating: Type II
- ANSI rated, OSHA certified
- Slow-close feature keeps fingers safe
- Nonslip end caps provide traction
- Foam grip allows for comfortable portability
- With improper care, sections can “lock” together
- Dismantling takes a little longer
Get the Xtend & Climb Ladder on Amazon, at Lowe’s, and at The Home Depot.
Gorilla’s versatile telescoping ladder offers tremendous value when it comes to multiposition ladders. Users get 20 adjustable positions in one 18-foot ladder. We used it on stairs and uneven ground slopes, and we extended it to its full 18-foot height to climb to the roof. The Gorilla also adjusts to form a double-sided step ladder, and we found it to be stable in all positions. It offers many of the features found on more expensive multiposition ladders.
This is an ANSI-rated telescoping ladder; it has many added safety features and meets OSHA-certification standards. It has a 300-pound load capacity, and we came close to being able to meet that by two of us climbing up both sides at the same time when it was in step-ladder configuration. It didn’t sway or rock. The outward flared legs at the bottom add stability in all positions.
The hinge locks were slightly stiff—but this is a necessary evil for securing the ladder in different positions. After adjusting the Gorilla ladder into the various positions, we discovered a firm bump with the palm of the hand was the best way to disengage the hinges. The telescoping function of the rails is similar to that of a traditional extension ladder, so it’s imperative to watch where your hands are before extending or contracting the rails to keep from pinching fingers.
This ladder is well suited for around-the-home DIY projects or for light-duty projects on a construction site.
- Weight: 30.5 pounds
- Ladder height: 18 feet
- Ladder rating: Type IA
- ANSI rated and OSHA certified
- Oversize MPXA hinges reduce flex and sway during use
- Heavy-duty feet mean the ladder will stay put
- Ladder adjusts in 20 different positions
- May be too heavy for some homeowners to carry
- Hinges slightly stiff
Get the 18-foot Gorilla Ladder at The Home Depot.
When we first took this ladder out of the shipping box, we were amazed at how light it was—less than 16 pounds. It retracts to just 31 inches tall and comes with a strap to secure the rungs when it’s not in use. When retracted, the ladder slid easily into the gap next to the refrigerator, so this little ladder is highly suitable for using and storing in the house.
The Toolitin ladder comes with a Type IAA rating, meaning it should support up to 375 pounds, but we question that. It’s a nice little ladder, and it supported about 155 pounds and still felt secure, but it did flex some when fully extended—it bowed inward just slightly. We feel safe recommending it for those who weigh less than 200 pounds, but not more.
The extension and retraction motion is smooth and soft, and it doesn’t take long to retract this ladder. We only had to depress both buttons on the bottom rung to lower the ladder. This is much quicker than lowering one rung at a time as some other ladders require. The nonslip feet stayed firmly planted when we used the ladder on a ceramic tile floor—no slipping.
The Toolitin ladder is a basic telescoping ladder for all those out-of-reach chores, but it’s a light-duty ladder. It’s less than 20 inches wide, so don’t use it to clean gutters or other tasks requiring reaching out to the side. It’s best suited for quick retrieval of overhead items. It’s good at what it does, but it’s not a DIY-project ladder.
- Weight: 15.4 pounds
- Ladder height: 8.5 feet
- Ladder rating: Type IAA (We disagree.)
- One-button retraction makes it easy to close
- Handle for easy portability
- Soft retraction for safety
- Closure button may get stuck over time
- Only suitable for light-duty use
Get the Toolitin Telescoping Ladder on Amazon.
We were impressed by the quality and versatility of this Werner ladder. It comes with five different locking positions and legs that adjust to multiple lengths, so it is excellent for use on sloping ground where traditional step ladders can present a tipping hazard. We used it as an extension ladder, a double-sided twin step ladder, a stairway ladder, and a 90-degree wall ladder.
We also paired it with another multiposition ladder for use as a scaffold. It was sturdy in all positions.
This telescoping ladder comes with all the safety bells and whistles, complete with an ANSI rating and OSHA certification, and that’s evident in how stable the ladder feels underfoot—no slipping. It comes with an extra-wide flared bottom, non-marring slip-resistant sturdy feet, well-made locks, plus push knobs that make the ladder feel safe and secure in any position. Werner is a highly reputable name in the world of ladders, and we found this multiposition ladder to be right up there with Werner’s other ladders.
The ladder comes with a type IAA rating, which means it should safely hold up to 375 pounds, and we saw no reason to doubt that claim. It features high-quality materials that look to stand the test of time. Most workers can trust it to carry them and their supplies up the ladder safely. This ladder is well suited for larger DIY projects, and it would even be helpful on a job site because it’s built so well. And it only weighs 31.5 pounds, so it’s easy to lift to the back of a pickup.
- Weight: 31.5 pounds
- Ladder height: 18 feet
- Ladder rating: Type IAA
- ANSI rated and OSHA certified
- Five secure positions for different projects
- Wide-flared bottom and slip-resistant feet
- Parts cannot be replaced if the ladder breaks
- May be too heavy for some homes
Get the Werner 18-foot Telescoping Ladder at The Home Depot and at Lowe’s
At just 30 inches tall when retracted and weighing 13.9 pounds, we found it easy to carry the Archom Telescoping Ladder and stow it in the trunk of the car. The extension and retraction movement is smooth—and safe for fingers as it retracts only one rung at a time. We had no problem opening or closing the ladder.
We extended the Archom to its full height and leaned it against a kitchen wall. We checked to see if the feet would slip with someone on the ladder. They held firm. The rungs felt solid underfoot, but we doubt whether this ladder would hold up to 330 pounds as advertised. The ladder flexed slightly under 155 pounds of weight, so we figure anything over 200 pounds might be pushing it. We like the ladder a lot, but we think it’s incorrectly rated.
This is another light-duty telescoping ladder. It’s beneficial for use when you need a ladder to reach items on a high shelf, but it’s not stable enough for DIY projects or extended use. Its main value lies in being able to store it in a small place, such as beside the fridge or in a hall closet, making it quickly retrievable when you need to reach something overhead. It would make a very nice RV ladder as well.
- Weight: 13.9 pounds
- Ladder height: 8.5 feet
- Ladder rating: Type IA (We disagree.)
- Smooth extension and retraction
- Soft closure for finger safety
- Suitable for light-duty use
- Questionable that it would support 330 pounds
- Velcro strap didn’t hold tightly
Get the Archom Telescoping Ladder on Amazon.
At 54 pounds, this Gorilla ladder is the heftiest of all the ladders we tested—but it’s also a fantastic ladder. To start, we extended it to its maximum height, 26 feet, and then climbed it to determine how stable it was. Because it’s a hinged ladder, it had a little flex, but very little, and it felt sturdy and safe. The ladder feet are oversized and nonslip and the rungs are ribbed to reduce slipping. We appreciated the flared legs, which added to the ladder’s stability.
After testing it in the extended position, we adjusted it into the other available positions: a double-sided step ladder, a stairway ladder, a 90-degree ladder, and scaffold. We found the 90-degree position to be a good option when we wanted to work close to a wall, and it also adds a measure of safety when working on sloped ground. This formidable Gorilla ladder is rated to hold up to 375 pounds, and we don’t doubt that at all. The hinges, the rails, the rungs—everything about the ladder is well made and feels safe.
The downside is that this is not an around-the-house ladder. It’s more of a dedicated DIYer or contractor ladder. It takes some muscle to lift it to the back of a pickup bed, but a traditional extension ladder that reaches 26 feet could easily weigh twice as much. The manufacturer put wheels on the bottom legs that make it easy to roll, and we liked that feature.
- Weight: 54 pounds
- Ladder height: 26 feet
- Ladder rating: Type IAA
- Sturdy and stable
- High-quality construction
Get the 26-foot Gorilla Telescoping Ladder at The Home Depot.
Ladders and unlevel surfaces don’t mix. That is, until multipurpose ladders, such as the Little Giant 17-foot Ladder, came along. In the past, we’ve had to balance extension ladders on single steps or stairs because there was no way to use a step ladder in those situations. The Little Giant solves that problem. Our favorite feature of this ladder is the ability to adjust it to fit virtually any step configuration and still have a sturdy step-type ladder.
We also tested its other configurations, including a double-sided step ladder and an extension ladder that reaches up to 17 feet high. In all positions, the Little Giant felt sturdy and stable. It comes with nonslip feet and is rated to hold up to 300 pounds. We feel as though it would easily live up to that weight limit. When we shifted our weight from side to side, the Little Giant held firm. There is a bit of flex at its full extension, but that’s to be expected from a hinged ladder at that height. It’s still stable.
The hinges are all made from quality material, and for as tall as the Little Giant is, it’s amazingly lightweight at just 32 pounds. However, when retracted, it’s still 56 inches long, so it’s more suitable for storing in a shed or a garage than in the house. This ladder will withstand heavy DIY use and is also suitable on the job site.
- Weight: 32 pounds
- Ladder height: 17 feet
- Ladder rating: Type IA
- Very little flex when extended
- Nonslip feet
- Stable and sturdy
- Slightly pricey
- Too large to store in most homes
Get the Little Giant Velocity Ladder on Amazon, at Lowe’s, and at Sam’s Club.
In addition to the ladders above, we tested the Ohuhu 8.5 FT Aluminum Telescoping Ladder. We really wanted to like this ladder, but it failed on the first use. We extended the ladder, braced it against a storage shed, and climbed up—so far, everything was fine. However, the second rung from the bottom broke away from the rail while climbing back down. That resulted in a hard landing.
We inspected the ladder and found the breaking point was located where the aluminum rung attaches to the sliding side support. The support might have been previously damaged—we don’t know. However, the manufacturer claims the ladder can hold up to 300 pounds. At the time it broke, it was carrying less than 130 pounds. None of the other rung supports were cracked, and they seemed sound, but at that point, our testing for this ladder was over, and we had to call it a “fail.”
All the ladders in this lineup are beneficial for different climbing needs, but when it comes to an actual telescoping-only ladder, the Xtend & Climb takes the top spot. It was the best-constructed telescoping ladder we tested. For a multipurpose telescoping ladder, it’s hard to beat Gorilla’s 18-foot Telescoping Ladder, which can be used in multiple configurations—and the price point for this type of ladder is spot-on.
We discovered, in general, that multipurpose telescoping ladders are safer and better built. We also acknowledge that the portability factor of the telescoping-only models will appeal more to some readers.
How We Tested the Best Telescoping Ladders
We tested every available function and feature on each of the ladders, and we used a point system to keep track of each ladder’s pros and cons. We started by extending the ladders to their maximum height and then climbed them to see whether they wobbled, flexed, bowed, or felt unstable in any way. We inspected their hinges, locks, and adjustment mechanisms for quality and safety.
We awarded each ladder points on a scale from 0 to 4, with 4 being the best. For example, if the ladder didn’t feel safe at all, we gave it a 0. If it felt very safe and stable, it got a 4. When we completed testing all the functions, we added the scores to determine the best ladders in each category. For our testing purposes, we separated the ladders into “telescoping-only” and “telescoping multipurpose.” The latter class had many additional features to test.
We noted how safe the ladders were for various uses. For example, a lightweight telescoping-only ladder might only be suited for in-house use. In contrast, a telescoping, multipurpose ladder might be too heavy to be very portable, but it might still be an excellent ladder.
Ladder Safety Tips
You must recognize that ladders cause injury when not used properly or when they are not well suited to the task at hand. Even a reliable, well-built ladder poses risks when not positioned correctly, climbed responsibly, or chosen carefully. Keep the following ladder safety tips in mind to avoid injury.
- Select a ladder with sufficient height and load capacity, making sure to factor in your weight and that of your tools and supplies.
- Use the 1-to-4 rule when positioning the ladder against a wall: For every 4 feet of height, the ladder’s base should be 1 foot away from the wall. For example, if you extend the ladder to 12 feet, its base should be 3 feet away from the wall.
- Position the ladder against a structure at the recommended angle (if it’s not self-supporting) and make sure all legs are set firmly on stable ground.
- Maintain three points of contact: two feet and one hand on the rungs at all times.
- Fold telescoping ladders carefully to avoid crushing hands or fingers.
- Wear footwear with good traction, preferably work boots or work shoes.
- Climb with your back to the ladder.
- Walk underneath a ladder.
- Use the side rails to pull yourself up.
- Step on the top cap or highest rail.
- Leave tools on any of the steps.
- Forget to lock it in place.
Compared to their heavier-duty cousins—cumbersome extension ladders—telescoping ladders are the new kids on the block. If this is the first time you’ve shopped for one, you likely have some questions.
Q. What is the best ladder brand?
Gorilla Ladders, Werner, and Little Giant are among the most trustworthy brands and produce some of the safest telescoping ladder options.
Q. How do you know what size telescoping ladder you will need?
A 12-foot telescoping ladder is the best size for around-the-house DIY repairs and projects. Taller ladders are designed with pros in mind.
Q. Which is better, a fiberglass or an aluminum telescoping ladder?
Aluminum is the lightest option and least likely to corrode. But this metal is among the most effective conductors of electricity. That means you shouldn’t use metal ladders for electrical work or near electrical lines. Fiberglass ladders, while heavier than aluminum, are stronger and more versatile. The material is nonconductive, so you can use a fiberglass ladder for both electrical and nonelectrical applications.
Q. What is the tallest telescoping ladder available?
The tallest telescoping ladder is about 26 feet high, but that height is typically only necessary for construction professionals and is limited to multiposition options.