CNC Verticals vs. Horizontals – What’s the Difference?

Computer numerical control (CNC) machines are used to manufacture parts across a wide range of industries. While there are several different kinds of CNC machines, one common one is a milling machine, which uses rotary cutters to shape materials on two, three, or four axes. CNC milling machines may be oriented horizontally or vertically.

What’s the difference between CNC verticals vs. horizontals? Learn more about CNC verticals vs. horizontals and how these two types of machining centers are different and where they are used.

What Is a CNC Vertical?

A vertical CNC machine is one of the most common types of milling machines. It uses a vertically oriented spindle to rotate a cutting tool against a stationary workpiece. There are two types of vertical milling machines:

  • Turret milling machines: This CNC machine has a stationary spindle and a table that can move either parallel or perpendicular to the spindle to cut a workpiece. 
  • Bed milling machines: Unlike a turret milling machine, this type of vertical mill only moves the table perpendicular to the spindle’s axis. 

Vertical milling machines can cut workpieces made from metal, wood, or plastic. 


There are several advantages to using a vertical CNC machine, such as:

  • Ease of use: Vertical mills offer fairly strong visibility, so machinists are more likely to catch and correct potential errors when operating the machine. And because they are easier to operate than other types of CNC machines, it may be easier to find qualified machinists. 
  • Cost: The upfront cost of a vertical mill is lower than a horizontal mill. For machine shops with limited resources, adding a vertical mill may be a more budget-friendly option.
  • Size: Vertical milling machines take up less floor space than horizontal mills. If you have a small shop or need room for a variety of different CNC machines, a vertical mill may be a good choice. 

What Is a CNC Horizontal?

A horizontal CNC milling machine performs similar functions. The spindle, however, is parallel to the worktable, instead of perpendicular. Cutting tools are mounted horizontally and may include:

  • Milling cutters
  • Disc cutters
  • Angle cutters

These tools are mounted on an arm above the worktable, called an arbor.


Depending on your needs, a horizontal mill may be the best option. Benefits of this type of CNC machine include:

  • Speed: Horizontal milling machines can quickly cut workpieces without sacrificing precision. Plus, they can make multiple cuts simultaneously.
  • Versatility: Horizontal mills can handle more complex projects and bulky materials. They can also make deeper cuts than vertical mills.
  • Durability: Chip removal is generally easier on horizontal machines, and the tools tend to stand up better to sizeable materials. 

While horizontal CNC machines are typically more expensive than vertical mills, they have a higher production output. If you have the demand for it, a CNC horizontal may be worth the investment. However, purchasing a used CNC machine can offer significant cost savings, whether you need a horizontal or vertical mill.

CNC Verticals vs. Horizontals: Industry Applications

CNC machinists work in many different industries. Both vertical and horizontal mills are used in manufacturing for the:

  • Automotive: CNC milling machines are used to make custom vehicle parts. 
  • Medical: Machinists use horizontal and vertical mills to make medical equipment, including surgical instruments and prosthetics. 
  • Defense: The defense industry uses CNC mills to make aircraft parts and military vehicle parts. 
  • Electronics: Electronics manufacturers rely on milling machines to prepare a variety of small-scale parts for consumer products, like casings and heat sinks for computers and smartphones.

Find High-Quality Used CNC Machines at Premier Equipment

Understanding the difference between CNC verticals vs. horizontals will help you determine what type of machine you need. If you need a reliable horizontal or vertical machining center, you don’t need to budget for a brand-new mill.

At Premier Equipment, we offer a wide variety of used CNC machines from leading manufacturers like Daewoo, Haas, and Mazak. We have more than three decades of experience in the industry and are the world’s largest seller of used CNC equipment. Whether you’re looking for a CNC horizontal or vertical mill, our team can give you straightforward advice on the pros and cons of different models.

For businesses looking to downsize or upgrade their existing equipment, we also purchase CNC machines. If your company is interested in selling a CNC machine, Premier Equipment offers expert appraisals, as well as auction services. Located in Altamonte Springs, Florida, Premier Equipment serves clients throughout the United States and beyond. For more information, visit our used CNC inventory or contact us today.

Largest Used CNC Inventory

Want to view all our used CNC machines? Browse our full inventory of machines—it's updated daily!

Other Related Blogs


Haas vs. Mazak CNC Machines

Interested in purchasing a used CNC machine, but cannot decide between Haas and Mazak? These two CNC machine juggernauts have ruled the industry for some

Read More