Body Lift vs Suspension Lift

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suspension lift vs body lift

Which Lift Is Right For Your Vehicle?

Body lifts and suspension lifts both offer a taller ride and room for larger wheels and tires, but they do have differences like cost, center of gravity and handling changes, and ground clearance. We’re going to take a look at some of these characteristics in-depth and hopefully give you a better idea of which lifting method you need.

Here is the “at a glance” version of the similarities and differences between body lifts and suspension lifts:

Comparison of Body Lifts and Suspension Lifts

Lift Cost Larger Tires Ride Height Ground Clearance Handling Lift Size DIY
Body Lift Cheap Possible Increase None Factory Ride 2 to 5 Inches Easy-Moderate
Suspension Lift Expensive Possible Increase Increase Body Roll Increase 2 to 9 Inches Difficult-Very Difficult*

* Strut spacers are fairly easy to install and usually lift between 2-3 inches.

Lift Kits Defined

First it’s important to know what a body lift and a suspension lift actually do, and looking at the names it’s pretty simple: a body lift raises the body away from the frame and a suspension lift extends the suspension and raises every part of the vehicle. A leveling kit is basically a front suspension lift that raises the front suspension level with the rear in a vehicle with a raked stance, equalizing the height of the front and rear suspension.

truck body lift
truck suspension lift


Body Lift VS Suspension Lift

Goals for Lifting your Vehicle

Before we dive deeper into the differences it’s important to decide what your goals are for lifting your truck or SUV. Do you want to install bigger tires? Do you want taller ride height? Do you want maximum ground clearance to push the limits of your vehicle’s offroad capabilities? There are lift kit options that will accomplish one or all of these goals, but they all have their trade-offs. Even with an unlimited budget just buying the biggest, most expensive lift kit is not always going to be the best option if you care about how your vehicle handles. So, if you have a good idea of what your goals are all that’s left is to consider the different options.

Cost:

If you’re asking “How much does it cost to lift my truck?” the answer is that it depends whether you’re talking about ride height or ground clearance. A body lift is the most inexpensive way to get ride height, but a suspension lift or bigger tires are your only options for more ground clearance.

If you’re modding on a budget then the total cost of accomplishing your lift is going to be a factor. In this area, body lifts are the best hands down. They are often simple kits of body blocks and usually do not require suspension or steering adjustment.

Leveling kits can be cheaper since they are often made up of just 2 strut spacers for the front Macpherson struts, but a full suspension lift is a complicated project that can include modifications to the steering, suspension, spindle and can easily double the price of a body lift of the same size. If larger wheels and tires are your ultimate goal then a body lift is going to be the cheapest option.

Install Cost:

As a side note body lift kits can usually be installed in a home garage making their total cost even lower. A full suspension lift kit can be a challenging install and require a shop and an experienced auto tech meaning you’ll have shop fees to add to your project’s cost.

body lift kit vs suspension lift kit cost diagram

Ground Clearance:

No contest here – Suspension lift wins. Body lifts only raise the body so there is no change in the distance between the bottom of your vehicle and the ground. A suspension lift raises every part of the vehicle so a 3 inch suspension lift nets you 3 inches of ground clearance. Leveling kits only raise the front suspension but since the front is the lowest point of the frame in a truck or SUV with a raked stance you will gain total ground clearance in the amount of the height of your leveling kit.

Lift Size:

If you want the tallest conceivable ride height then a suspension lift is going to be your go to. Theoretically, a body lift could be made that will give you a ridiculous amount of ride height but it would look, well, ridiculous. For most vehicles, 3 to 5 inches is the max for body lifts. Suspension lifts can soar up to 9 inches and beyond but these will be very expensive with broad changes to steering and suspension and are really all about serious rock crawling or the aesthetic of a sky-high truck or SUV. At extreme heights, even the most well-designed kits can not completely overcome the stability issues that a dramatically raised center of gravity imposes.

lift kit lift size

Handling:

There is a philosophy that is often quoted when it comes to lifting a vehicle – Lift as much as necessary, but as little as possible. This might seem like someone throwing a wet blanket over your dreams of installing a rope ladder to your cab but it’s really sound advice.

It has to do with your vehicle’s center of gravity. Every vehicle is engineered to handle at its best according to where the center of gravity of the vehicle is located. Every lifting method (including larger diameter tires) changes the center of gravity since the weight of the vehicle is being lifted. This means that you will experience more body roll during a turn since more weight is riding higher on the vehicle. This can affect stability during a hard quick turn as weight shifts to the outside.

Let’s look at how weight is generally distributed around a half-ton truck:

  • 10% – Tires, Wheels, and Axles
  • 20% – Body, along with all components inside of the body
  • 70% – Frame, Engine, Transmission, and Drive Train

Center of Gravity:

Obviously increasing the tire size raises almost all vehicle weight and the center of gravity along with it, but only half as much as the tire diameter increase (3 inch tire increase = 1.5 inch center of gravity increase). A suspension lift also raises about 90% of the vehicle’s total weight increasing center of gravity almost as many inches as the lift size. Body lifts only raise 20% of the vehicle’s weight, giving you the lowest center of gravity increase of all the options and causing the least amount of change in how your vehicle handles.

body lift center of gravity
larger tire diameter center of gravity
suspension lift center of gravity

Here is a breakdown of how body lifts, suspension lifts, and bigger tires affect a vehicle’s center of gravity:

Lift Type Lift Size Center of Gravity Increase
Body Lift 3 inch lift .60 inch
Wheels and Tires 3 inch diameter increase 1.5 inches
Suspension Lift 3 inch lift 3 inches


Body and Suspension Lift Combo

It is possible to get the best of both worlds by stacking a body lift and a suspension lift. This is a great way to raise a vehicle and keep the handling characteristics of your truck or SUV intact. You can also get similar ground clearance increase by combining a suspension and body lift + bigger tires as you would with a full suspension lift – for about the same price.

Let’s say you wanted to lift your truck to achieve 4 inches of ground clearance and make room for 33 inch offroad tires. You could buy a 4 inch full suspension lift and have it installed at the shop, but a good quality kit is going to run you about $1,700 before installation fees so that may not leave much room in your budget for the tires that you want. Another option is combining a 2 inch lift and leveling kit with a 3 inch body lift kit, which is about half the price saving money for your 33 inch tires that will bring ground clearance up to about 3.5 inches. All this for about the same price plus less change to the factory suspension geometry and how your truck handles.

tale of two trucks lift kits and tires infographic

*This information is based on a 2016 Toyota Tundra model with 30″ stock tires.

Prices evaluated for:


In Conclusion

Hopefully you now have a really good idea of what the pros and cons are of the different lifting options that are available. Remember – lift as much as needed, but as little as possible. Think about what your lifting goals are. If you want more ride height and bigger tires then a body lift is least expensive and causes minimal changes to how your vehicle handles. If you need some ground clearance for rough trails then a suspension lift is the ticket. A lot of times the best kit you can get is somewhere in-between, like a leveling/lift + body lift kit that balances cost, results, and handling of your vehicle.

From all of us here at DST: Ride Smooth (and tall), and Drive Hard.

14 comments
  1. Brit
    Brit
    August 14, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    When comparing the body lift vs the suspension lift, whats the best way to figure out the maximum sized tire I could fit for my application in regards to both lifts?

    Reply
    • Zach Davidson
      Zach Davidson
      August 16, 2018 at 2:08 pm

      Hey Brit,

      Most lift kits display the maximum tire size available post-installation either on the product page or in the instructions, specific to the vehicle model that the kit is made for. However, if you happen to find a kit that doesn’t give you this information, the easiest step would be to call the kit manufacturer who should have the information for your truck model regarding tire size.

      If the kit manufacturer doesn’t have a maximum tire size listed then there’s no guarantee that a larger tire is going to fit.

      That said, you can try to measure the available space by using your stock tires. With the help of a friend, you can turn your wheels completely in both directions, measuring the distances from the edges of the tire to the wheel well and suspension components for both the driver and passenger sides. It is also advised that you measure the width and backspacing of your stock tires compared to the suspension components. A general rule-of-thumb is to stay about 2 inches below the shortest measurement to make sure your new tires fit while lowering the potential for rubbing or understeer.

      Hope this helps, Brit. Good luck with your lift.

      Reply
  2. jeremy harris
    jeremy harris
    August 17, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    How do I know which kit (Body lift or Suspension lift) is best for my application?

    Reply
    • Zach Davidson
      Zach Davidson
      August 20, 2018 at 9:20 am

      Hey Jeremy,

      That depends on what you’re looking to get out of a lift and how much you’re willing to spend.

      If you’re trying give your vehicle a more aggressive look or make a little extra room for larger tires, a body lift is going to get you great results at a much lower price than a full suspension lift. The added ride height that you gain will provide you with a great look but will not increase the ground clearance of you vehicle.

      There are cheaper suspension lifts that work by adding spacers on top of your coil springs or underneath your rear leaf springs, typically for moderate trails that require a little extra ground clearance or larger tires. These carry all of the benefits of a body lift and some of a full suspension lift, while having less of an effect on your vehicle’s handling.

      If you’re planning on taking your vehicle down the most intense trails that a stock vehicle can’t access then a higher priced, full suspension lift is for you. These kits exchange many or all of the factory suspension components and increase body roll which changes the handling of your vehicle but will increase ground clearance, make room for tires, and can provide greater flex or axle articulation.

      Hope this helps.

      Reply
  3. Bear Lingle
    Bear Lingle
    August 24, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    With a suspension lift will I have to have an alignment done after installation. Also my pickup has ABS and active suspension. Will a lift kit effect those systems. If I change my mind and decide to purchase a body lift how will effect the handling. My pickup will be higher and it will be easier for a roll over. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Zach Davidson
      Zach Davidson
      August 31, 2018 at 10:01 am

      Hey Bear,

      Depending on which kit you buy, it is possible you will have to get an alignment done after installation. Many of the Daystar suspension lift kits that we sell minimize any changes on your OEM suspension and don’t require a post-installation alignment, but these are not full suspension lifts, which do require alignment. It all depends on the brand and quality of the kit you decide to go with, as well as the height of the lift.

      Most lift kits will not affect your ABS, but your active suspension is a different story. Since an active suspension contains actuators, sensors and other complex components, an ordinary suspension lift isn’t going to work. When searching for a suspension lift, you will have to find a kit that is listed as compatible with your vehicle and active suspension components and will not effect the operation of your active suspension.

      Since a body lift only elevates the cabin and interior components, the increase in center of gravity is much smaller than you would see with a suspension lift. The total increase in COG depends on the weight disbursements of your pickup, but a body lift shouldn’t increase it by much. Just remember that any lift increases the COG by some degree, increasing the chance for body roll and it’s up to you to determine how great that increase will be.

      Thanks, Bear. Good luck with your lift.

      Reply
  4. David
    David
    August 30, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    I have a 2003 Chevy Silverado and was told that I could get taller spindles for the front and blocks to go on the rear. I’m guessing this would be considered a body lift? Would this require any alterations to the OEM suspension parameters on my truck?

    Reply
    • Zach Davidson
      Zach Davidson
      September 10, 2018 at 9:41 am

      Hey David,

      A spindle lift actually falls under the category of a suspension lift. Since the spindle carries nearly the full weight of the vehicle, the sprung weight, it leads to a greater increase of the center of gravity and handling when lifted than a body lift would. A spindle lift works by rotating the mounting points downward on a new, taller spindle, providing a couple inches of lift. The effects that a spindle lift has on the OEM suspension parameters of your Silverado should be minimal, and it is typically an easy installation process compared to many other suspension lifts.

      Now, if bigger tires is what you’re after and you want to keep the center of gravity a little lower than a suspension lift, you could try a body lift. Performance Accessories offers 2 inch and 3 inch lifts for the 2003 Silverado 1500. These will give you that taller look for much less and give you room for tires up to 35″ in diameter.

      Hope this helps, David. Good luck with your lift.

      Reply
  5. steve widman
    steve widman
    October 1, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    I have a 2014 chevy Silverado 1500 I put superspring on the rear for payload it raise the rear. I like to put spacers in front to even the body out level how do I figure out which size spacer to use? Do I measure the front end on ground then raised it with floor jack then measure the height after I raise it a certain height that should tell me what size of spacers I need? Before Front bumper 8.25 behind front tire on body 14” front of rear tire on body17” after I raise it to a certain height I came up with Front bumper 10.25 behind front tire on body 16” front of rear tire on body17.50 ? So I think I need a 2” spacer.

    Reply
    • Josh Daniels
      Josh Daniels • Post Author •
      October 5, 2018 at 3:06 pm

      Hey Steve,

      Our ASE Certified mechanic suggested measuring as close to the front of the front wheel well as possible.

      The limiting factor with these leveling kits is going to be the effect that the lift has on the suspension. The higher you go the more out of alignment some of your parts can become which can lead to premature wear and failure. We sell several Daystar leveling spacers for your truck and they are all 2in lifts, so i feel like you’re safe with that number. You’ll maintain the raked stance but the front will be 2 inches higher, which should level you out when you’re hauling.

      Hope this helps Steve.

      Reply
  6. Kim
    Kim
    September 12, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    I’m trying to figure out the best combo or just straight suspension to clear 37’ tires and get some lift. It is currently sitting on a leveling kit and 33” tires. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Josh Daniels
      Josh Daniels • Post Author •
      September 13, 2019 at 11:14 am

      Hey Kim,

      A lot of this depends on your vehicle and what kind of suspension you have.

      MacPherson strut spacers, torsion bar keys, lift blocks and u-bolts, and taller spindles are options for different vehicles that give you ground clearance and room for those tires. A body lift will make room for the tires, add ride height, and is generally much less expensive than the other options. Most manufacturers (and our customer service folks) can tell you the max diameter tire size for a specific lift kit.

      Those 37″ tires will give you about two inches of lift and ground clearance by themselves over the 33’s, so a body lift that allows you to install them would be the less expensive way. If a two inch body lift will give you the space for those tires then you end up with:

      +4 inches ride height
      +2 inches ground clearance

      Basically, unless you’re looking for maximum ground clearance, a body lift is going to be best for keeping center of gravity lower and suspension angles in acceptable ranges. Plus it’s less dinero.

      If you want to call or chat with our customer service folks and let them know your make and model they could be more specific about what actual kits are available and what route you might want to take. If you want to peruse on your own you can take a look at the brands we offer:

      Daystar
      Tuff Country
      Performance Accessories

      Thanks for the question Kim, and hope we helped with your decision.

      Reply
  7. Wiz
    Wiz
    October 4, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    Have a 2018 Nissan Pathfinder not finding any solid info about how to lift it. Is it possible? Just looking to get a couple of inches for larger tires.

    Reply
    • Josh Daniels
      Josh Daniels • Post Author •
      October 9, 2019 at 2:08 pm

      Hey Wiz,

      I just talked with the tech guys over at Daystar (who also have Performance Accessories and Tuff Country under their umbrella) and they said they don’t have any suspension or body lifts for the 2018 Pathfinder in development at this time.

      If bigger tires are what you want, finding a body lift kit is going to be your best bet, though trimming of the panel around the wheel wells could also be required to make room.

      Does anyone know of a lift kit fitted for the 2018 Pathfinder?

      Sorry Wiz, and hope you find something that works.

      Reply

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