Suspension Lifts vs. Body Lifts: How To Choose The Right Lift Kit For Your Truck

Written By Dieselmatic on Aug 09, 2022

Trucks are the most versatile of vehicles. They’re good for towing boats and trailers. Trucks can haul tools and supplies around. Any truck-owner will tell you that when a friend needs to move, they get the first call. 

Trucks can go where cars can not. How much off-road capability do your need is a primary question when determining which truck lift is best. This page discusses the many factors buyers should weigh in the decision of which lift system is best for them. 

Body Lifts

A body lift increases the distance between the body and the chassis by adding spacers. You’ll ride higher, but your ground clearance will remain the same. The body lift will allow you to have larger tires and wheels. Larger tires and wheel allow some added ground clearance. 

Body lift systems are much less expensive when compared to suspension lifts. The kits are simple and the truck-owner can often install the kit without paying a professional mechanic. 

Body lift kits don’t affect the handling of the truck as much as a suspension lift does. That’s because they have a smaller effect on the center of gravity of the truck. A 3-inch body lift will usually only affect the center of gravity by about a half inch. Body lifts can only raise the truck by 3 to 5 inches. 

If you want to add three inches to the diameter of the tires and wheels, that’s another 1.5 inch change in the center of gravity. Body lifts allow for larger tires, up to 33 inches in diameter.

Suspension Lifts

Suspension lifts raise the frame and body of the vehicle by extending or replacing the original suspension system. The components of a suspension lift often include lift blocks, shackles, torsion bars, taller coil springs, add-on leafs, coil spring spacers, and even new shocks. 

Suspension lift kits are the more expensive choice. The cost of installation is usually much higher too. Whereas the truck-owner might install a body lift themselves, a suspension kit will often require a professional mechanic.

Suspension lifts cost more and they’re more complicated, but they also do more. They’ll add ground clearance. A body lift by itself can’t do this. The suspension lift allows more flexibility with tire sizes. A suspension lift can raise a truck much higher than a body lift. Some suspension lifts exceed 9 inches.

Suspension lifts alter the center of gravity of a truck by about an inch for each inch of lift. So, if you install a 9-inch suspension lift, you’ve changed the center of gravity by 9 inches. This will have a large affect the vehicle’s ride and handling. 

Will a Suspension Lift Work With the Truck?

Until recently, the answer would have been yes unless the truck is a Honda Ridgeline. That’s because the Honda Ridgeline was the only unibody truck on the market in America. In 2022, the Ford Maverick and the Hyundai Santa Cruz came out with unibody designs.

Unibody vehicles have the chassis and body as one piece. Most trucks use the body-on-frame, also known as ladder frame construction. A body-on-frame design has the body bolted to the chassis. Since the unibody is only one piece, the suspension lift won’t work. You’ll have to use a body lift.

Body Lift and Suspension Lift Combined

A leveling kit is basically a suspension lift only for the front of the truck. Leveling kits are just strut spacers for the front Macpherson struts. Though the appeal is mostly aesthetic, these kits can help with towing. 

There are leveling-lift kits on the market. Combining one of these kits with a body lift could achieve your goals at much less expense than a suspension lift. For example, you could combine a 2-inch level-lift kit with a 3-inch body lift for less than half the cost of a 4-inch suspension lift. 

With this combination, you would get 2 more inches of ground clearance and 5 more inches of ride height. That’s compared to 4 additional inches of ground clearance and ride height with the 4-inch suspension system. You would also maintain better drive handling with this combination than the suspension lift since the center of gravity would move less.

What’s Your Goal With the Truck Lift System?

Comparison of Suspension Lifts and Body Lifts

Body Lifts:

- Less expensive

- No added ground clearance unless larger tires and wheels added

-Better ride and handling

- Less lift range

- Allows up to 33 inches in tire diameter

- Can be installed on a unibody truck

Suspension Lifts:

- More expensive

- Adds ground clearance

- Worse ride and handling

- More lift range

- Allows larger tires than the body lift

- Can’t be installed on a unibody truck

Which lift kit is best depends on what the truck-owner will use the truck for, what kind of truck they have, and their budget.

If the owner is using the truck primarily as an off-road vehicle, they’ll probably want to go with the suspension lift since it can add more ground clearance and have larger wheels. 

If the owner uses the truck primarily on paved roads, the body lift kit is better since it allows for a better ride and better handling. If the owner has a unibody truck, the only choice is the body lift. If the owner has a unibody truck and needs more ground clearance, they can get larger tires after installing a body lift.

If the truck-owner can’t afford the suspension lift height they need, they may find a combination of a suspension lift and a body lift will fit their budget. 

There are a lot of options and many factors to consider with each type of lift kit. That’s why truck-owners need to consult with industry experts to determine the best fit for them. 

In a Nutshell: Suspension Lift vs. Body Lift

If you’re using your truck for a lot of off-road work, you’re probably going to want the suspension lift. That’s because it can add the ground clearance you need to keep rocks and other objects from damaging the underside of your truck. If you just want to ride high on the highway and don’t want to spend a lot of money, the body lift may be your best choice. 

Before deciding on a lift kit, talk to at least a couple of experts. You have a lot of options with lift kits. Making the right choice to meet your needs is much less expensive than finding out after the installation you should have chosen a different lift.

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