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body lift vs suspension lift

Body Lift vs Suspension Lift: What’s The Difference

Determine whether a suspension lift or body lift is right for you.

Published October 20, 2018

Customizing your truck is an excellent way to add some personality and style, but it’s vital that you choose the proper way to lift your vehicle. This isn’t a job you want to tackle without proper planning and the right equipment. In the world of lift kits, you have two different options: a body lift vs suspension lift. They both have a purpose and several benefits, but they work differently.

While there’s a large selection of kits available in both these categories, it’s often hard to figure out which one is going to work best. There’s a lot to keep in mind when you do your shopping. Let’s take a closer look at the two lift options to determine which might be best for your needs.

Assessing What You Want From a Lift Kit

Each lifting method features its own purpose, which is why you need to evaluate your needs first. Depending on what type of performance and look you’re hoping for will determine what’s best for you. Those looking to enhance the appeal of their truck without too much concern over the performance might prefer to go with a body lift. This raises the height without altering any OEM suspension components.

If you are someone that wants increased off-road performance, you might prefer the suspension lift. Within this option, you’ll find several other choices you’ll need to make. There are simple suspension lift kits as well as complex kits. You can go as simple as adding spacers to installing a brand-new suspension. There’s no limit to what can be accomplished with a high-quality lift kit, which makes deciding between a body lift vs suspension lift even harder.

Once you know your goals, it’s time to take a deeper look at the body lift vs suspension lift to figure out which one fits your needs the best.

What is a Body Lift Kit?

A body lift kit works separately from your suspension components. In basic terms, it lifts the truck body by using spacers located underneath the cab. A body lift kit is the simplest way to add height to your vehicle. You can purchase a variety of heights, depending on what you’re hoping for. The best part about utilizing a body lift kit is that you can use one without affecting the overall ride or performance.

Some people also use a body lift kit in conjunction with a suspension lift. They are more affordable than a suspension kit and easy to install as well. On the other hand, they often leave a visible and unsightly gap between the truck body and frame. You’ll see a void above your rear tires that peeks into the wheel well.

Chevy Body Lift KitBody lift kits are commonly used when someone wants to install larger tires. Complete kits come with the brackets to realign bumpers and match the body. They also contain gap guards to cover the frame. A few kits even come with steering shaft extension and fuel filler neck extensions. Some people choose to lift the body without a kit and create home-built versions instead. These often look incomplete and it’s easy to tell the difference between the two.

Pros of Body Lift vs Suspension Lift

  • Raises the ride-height
  • Enables installation of larger tires
  • Built up on the stock suspension, so it won’t require a wheel alignment
  • Doesn’t affect handling or ride quality at all
  • More cost-effective than a suspension lift
  • Easy to install; can be performed by a beginner

Cons of Body Lift vs Suspension Lift

  • Installing larger tires might hamper the tire clearance
  • You can’t accomplish any gain in ground clearance
  • Often, there’s a visible gap between the chassis and body which is unsightly
  • Puts added strain on the vehicle’s components
  • Doesn’t improve the performance or suspension in any way
  • Doesn’t help you go off-road
  • If you choose to have it professionally installed, the price jumps dramatically

What is a Suspension Lift Kit?

lifted Chevy truckMost people have seen a truck with a suspension lift. You’ll commonly see a four to eight-inch lift with these kits. Of course, they require more modification than the body lift does, but you’re going to see a dramatic change as a result.

Not only will you gain height with this option, but also better suspension travel and ground clearance. This allows you to place more aggressive and larger tires on the vehicle plus wider, bigger wheels. Then, you can also add some wider fender flares which help to complete the appearance.

If you desire an off-road experience, you’ll want to add some performance coilovers. These have larger bodies which support the weight of the truck better. In addition, the spring rates are changeable so the extra weight from winches and steel bumpers is handled better. Some of these even adjust with the twist of a dial. With a performance coilover kit, you’ll lift the truck two to three inches so the center of gravity remains low to offer superior stability.

The extensive lift kits require new suspension, drivetrain, and steering parts. This might include replacement trailing arms, control arms, drive shafts, and four-link systems. Raising the vehicle’s height with a suspension lift kit often impacts the steering geometry, driveshaft length, plus the brake lines. In addition, there are legal issues regarding some suspension kits depending on where you live. You’ll want to look into local laws regarding the placement of your bumpers and lights as well as the vehicle ride height.

Pros of a Suspension Lift vs Body Lift

  • Improves off-road suspension
  • Allows for higher ground clearance – normally between two to twelve inches
  • You won’t have a visible gap between the body and chassis
  • Tire clearance increases
  • Better on the vehicle for the long-term
  • Variety of pricing options depending on what you want
  • Increases fender clearance
  • Spring spacer kits are cost-effective, similar to a body lift, but cheaper to fit
  • More options are available

Cons of Suspension Lift vs Body Lift

  • Affect handling and ride quality dramatically
  • Many options cost more than body lifts
  • Requires a wheel alignment because it manipulates suspension geometry
  • Harder to install and might be time-consuming
  • Raised center of gravity creates a tendency for rollover
  • Often involves a re-gearing of the vehicle
  • On-road drives aren’t as comfortable
  • Decreased gas mileage
  • Other systems might not be sufficient, like the brakes (as discussed in our lifted Suburban article)

Comparing a Body Lift vs Suspension Lift

As you can see, picking the lift kit that’s best for you will be subjective. It purely depends on whether you want more ground clearance and added suspension travel or you want a simple lift while sticking to a budget.

The basic body lift only raises the height minimally, but it won’t affect the handling and performance. All the equipment comes with the kit and it’s easy to install. With that in mind, it often doesn’t look right and doesn’t solve off-road suspension issues. That’s why it’s only good for people who want to install some larger tires and enhance the look.

suspension lift kit componentsA suspension lift, on the other hand, replaces the stock suspension to offer more shock-absorption. This makes it an ideal choice for off-road driving. The handling is greatly affected which could be dangerous on regular roads. With the additional ground clearance, the vehicle becomes less stable. It’s more expensive than a body lift but offers a superior drive off-road.

Let’s break down all the factors and see which one outperforms the other.

Cost

Lifting a vehicle is often expensive, but the quality you receive relates to what you pay. Many time choosing between a body lift vs suspension lift comes down to money. If you can afford to go all out on a suspension kit, then don’t skimp. It’s like paying for your home’s foundation; you want the highest quality materials and you want it installed professionally. If you’re planning to upgrade or replace the foundation in your truck (the suspension), then it should be done right.

When you compare the cost of a body lift vs suspension lift, you see that they both offer a wide array of options. With that said, you’ll quickly notice the big cost jump between the two as well. Your body kit comes with bolts, lifting blocks, and a few other components. With this simple kit, you keep the cost down. Even if you purchase the highest quality, most expensive body lift kit, you’ll find that it’s still affordable.

Your suspension lift kits are going to cost more comparably. That’s because they come with many more parts, but some of them require a good amount of engineering in order to manufacture them. With the added price, you get a better aesthetic appeal and better off-road handling performance.

If you have to choose based solely on cost, then you won’t have many options other than the body lift kit. Of course, if you’re investing in a lift kit, you’ll also going to need to factor in some new tires and possibly other components, so we hope you’ve figured that into your budget as well.

Installation

Replacing or installing any part of a vehicle might seem overwhelming. Dealing with torque settings, electronics, alignment, and finding the proper tools might just turn into a nightmare. Depending on how skilled you are, it’s possible to figure out any lift kit by yourself, if you want to.

Of course, the body lift kit is much easier to install when compared to a suspension kit. If you don’t feel capable of installing your kit yourself, you’ll need to pay someone else to do it. This just further increases the cost. Even if you don’t need someone to install the kit, there might be parts you need replaced that you can’t handle by yourself. When looking at a body lift vs suspension lift, this is something to consider.

The body lift kit is simple as far as installation is concerned. It doesn’t require a professional to figure out. You’ll simple separate the body and the frame with spacers. Then, you have to bolt the frame and body back together again. With the proper tools, you can do it in your driveway.

mechanic installing lift kitThe suspension lift kit is complex and usually requires more work. The higher you go, the more complex it becomes. Many people prefer to seek professional help to accomplish the task. There are some that are easier to install, and they often come with a lower price tag.

With that in mind, you need to factor in the additional work you’ll need with a suspension lift kit. For example, you’ll probably need a wheel alignment and work to your steering system.

If you’re deciding on a body lift vs suspension lift based solely on installation, you’ll prefer the basic body lift. But, if you’re up to the extra work or cost, the suspension lift is going to be more bad-ass.

Ground Clearance

If ground clearance is important to you, then you must take a serious look at the body lift vs suspension lift. Not every lift is going to raise your ground clearance. You need additional ground clearance if you plan to head off-road or want to install large tires.

The suspension lift is the winner in this competition because it raises your ground clearance one inch for every one inch you add to the lift height.

The body lift, on the other hand, doesn’t add any ground clearance to your vehicle. The frame and suspension remain at the original height and location; all that’s added is ride height. If you add larger tires, you might increase the ground clearance slightly, but nothing compared to what you’ll achieve with a suspension lift.

Remember that ride height is not the same thing as ground clearance. The ground clearance is only increased if the vehicle’s frame and supporting features raises further off the ground. This increases the overall distance from the undercarriage and ground. Ride height is measured by the distance between a point of the body and the ground. Often, it’s measured by the vehicle’s fender lip.

In addition, when you lift a vehicle’s frame from the body, you increase the ride height. That’s because only the body went higher from the ground, not the suspension. In a suspension lift, you’ll increase your ground clearance and ride height in the process.

If you aren’t concerned with additional ground clearance, then the body kit is sufficient for your needs. If, however, you plan to venture off-road, the suspension lift is going to be a better option.

Center of Gravity

lift kit - center of gravityYour center of gravity is the area where most of the weight is concentrated. By elevating your ride height, you also elevate the concentrated weight which turns into an increased center of gravity. With this additional concentrated weight comes handling issues, a reduction in traction, and increased body roll.

The increase at which you experience higher center of gravity depends on how high you lift your vehicle. It also relies on the weight distribution of your truck and the method you use to lift it. In a half-ton extended cab truck, you’ll see this typical weight distribution:

  • Tires, Axles, and Wheels – 10%
  • Body and the components located in the body – 20%
  • Engine, frame, drivetrain, and transmission – 70%

With these calculations in mind, you should see the following results:

Increasing your tire diameter also increases the weight by nearly 100%, adding one-inch to the center of gravity with every two-inches added in tire diameter.

The suspension lift raises the weight by 90% which increases the center of gravity 0.90-inch for every inch you raise the height.

The body lift raises the weight by 20% which results in a 0.20-inch increase to the center of gravity every time you go up an inch in height.

In easier to understand terms, the suspension lift has a great impact on the center of gravity and affect handling negatively. The body lift only elevates a minimal amount of weight so the handling feels more like the factory setup. If you want a raised ride, but don’t want to sacrifice the handling, you’ll prefer to use a body lift vs suspension lift.

So, What’s Better: the Body Lift vs Suspension Lift?

There’s no clear-cut answer to the question between a body lift vs suspension lift. If you have a passion for off-roading, then we highly recommend springing for the suspension lift. This gives you the most utility on off-road terrains. You’ll receive an improved performance and you’ll have the ability to install wider, bigger tires without affecting your clearance.

The body lift is geared more towards showing off and is only recommended for appearance purposes. It’s not going to provide you with any help off-road or on tough terrains.

Body-Lift vs Suspension Lift – Go for a Combination

suspension and body liftIf you want the best of both worlds, or you have trouble making up your mind, there’s another solution. You can combine a suspension kit with the body kit to achieve increased ride height, ground clearance, and provide room for bigger tires.

Let’s give you an idea of what we’re talking about.

Let’s say we have a 2018 Toyota Tundra and I’ve saved up $2,000 towards a lift kit. We could purchase a top-of-the-line suspension lift and have it professionally installed, but we have some concerns about handling. The other option available is to buy both a body lift and suspension lift which will work together in harmony to give us the best of both.

By choosing both, we achieve the lift and look we desire while allowing for larger tires and sticking to a budget. Of course, this won’t be the ideal situation for all consumers, but it’s something to consider. Instead of looking at the body lift vs suspension lift dilemma with a clear-cut winner, you can have it all with a body lift and suspension lift combination.

Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve fully evaluated the body lift kit vs suspension lift kit, hopefully, you see the answer for your needs. If not, here’s a short recap on what we’ve covered up until now:

  • The body kit is more cost-effective, but won’t add any ground clearance. It strictly raises your ride height because of the additional space placed between your frame and body. There will also be room for larger tires.
  • The suspension lift kit is more expensive, but it increases the ride height and ground clearance at the same time. This method raises the frame and everything it supports as well. You’ll also have room for larger tires with this lift.
  • You could also combine a body lift kit with a suspension lift to produce comparable results of owning a full-blown suspension kit, but at a lower price.
  • All lifting methods increase your center of gravity to a degree. The suspension kit raises it the most and increases handling issues, body roll, plus offers a reduction in traction.

With all this in mind, you now see why you need to evaluate your needs prior to making a decision about whether to use a body lift vs suspension lift. You’ll want to assess the cost, purpose in lifting your vehicle, and the ramifications of your choice. Either way, only raise the truck or SUV as high as you need to so you can reduce the adverse effects of the lift.

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Brian Jones
About Brian Jones

I am an ASE Certified Master Tech, but spend more time with my awesome family now than I do on cars. In my spare time, you'll still find me playing with tools, cars and many other "manly" gadgets.

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