Lifted Trucks: Pros and Cons to Know Before You Buy

By Russ Heaps 08/03/2022 8:00am

Lifted Chevy Z71 pickup truck

At one time or another, the thoughts of many truck owners and, to a lesser extent, SUV drivers drift to lift kits. What are the pros and cons of lifted trucks? Are they safe? How much do they cost? Can you buy a new truck or SUV with a factory-installed lift kit? Does your local dealership’s parts department have approved lift kits, and can the dealer install them? Is installing a lift kit a do-it-yourself job?

We answer all of these questions and more. So, if you want a basic tutorial on lifted trucks and lift kits, read on.

From here forward, we’re going to shorthand “truck and SUV” to “truck” where we can.

Lifted Trucks: Decisions to Make

Before you jump into the deep end of the lifted-truck pool, you have a few decisions to make.

  • What do you want your lift to accomplish? Towing? Off-roading? Do you want to enhance your truck’s coolness factor?
  • How high do you want it lifted?
  • What’s your budget? In other words, how much can you spend?
  • What are the factory suspension specifications of the vehicle you’re considering lifting?

What Is a Lift Kit?

Lift kits come in basically two types: body lift kits and suspension lift kits. Both aim to increase the distance between the vehicle’s body and the ground. Each accomplishes this mission in a specific and unique way.

Owners desire a lifted vehicle for various reasons, including appearance, towing, off-roading, and so forth. Most of us can enjoy years of truck ownership with the factory suspension and ground clearance. However, lifting is another aspect of truck ownership for many owners, and there are different types of lifts to consider.

Body Lift Kit

The simplest and most affordable path to lifting a truck is with a body lift kit. To understand how body lift kits work, you need to know how nearly every truck and truck-based SUV is constructed.

Trucks like the Chevy Silverado 1500, Ram 1500, Ford F-150, and others, and SUVs like the Chevy Tahoe, the Ford Expedition, and more are body-on-frame vehicles. In other words, assembly involves attaching a separate body to a steel frame and chassis.

On the other hand, cars, crossovers, and some pickup trucks like the Honda Ridgeline have unibody construction in which the body and frame are manufactured as a single unit.

You can only install a body lift kit on a vehicle with body-on-frame construction because the lift occurs between the frame and body. A body lift kit typically includes spacers you insert between the frame and the body.

Yes, body lift kits do raise the center of gravity. That body lift kits can make already taller vehicles a little more tippy is an unintended consequence. Therefore, you should carefully consider having your truck be top-heavy, especially for off-roading vehicles. Moreover, body lift kits do nothing to increase a truck’s ground clearance between the undercarriage and the driving surface.

Although body lift kits are less expensive to buy and install, they can only raise a truck’s body from 1 to 3 inches. However, this may be enough to satisfy an owner who only wants to elevate ride height for appearance or to accommodate larger wheels and tires.

Pros and Cons of Body Lift Kits

Here are a few advantages and disadvantages of body lift kits.


  • Cost – Relatively affordable. Think $400 to $800.
  • Installation – Compared to suspension lift kits, they’re also relatively simple to install.
  • Tires – If the goal is to allow for larger tires, they’re a sensible way to do it.
  • Looks – Raising a truck, even a little, can add to its curb appeal.
  • Towing – Your truck’s towing capability or safety shouldn’t be affected by a body lift kit.


  • Installation – It requires unbolting the body and then lifting it off the frame.
  • Looks – The factory bumpers don’t raise with the body in nearly every body lift kit. Moreover, a body lift may expose more of the frame.
  • Ground Clearance – Any ground clearance gained will be due to the taller tires if you choose to add them.
  • Handling – Lifting a truck does not improve performance and may make a vehicle more prone to tipping by raising the center of gravity.

Suspension Lift Kit

Suspension lift kits are more expensive and complicated to install. However, they can raise a vehicle by a foot or more. In other words, with a suspension lift kit, there’s no limit to the amount of lift within reason. Most factory-installed lift kits are of the suspension type.

Where a body lift kit raises the body from the frame, a suspension lift kit raises the body and frame from the axles. So, a suspension lift kit increases the height of the suspension. How it accomplishes this depends on the kit and the specific vehicle.

You can count on replacing most of the suspension components. For example, control arms, shocks, leaf springs, and so on are almost always affected. Furthermore, depending on the height, an aftermarket lift kit may require replacing steering components, too.

The result, however, may mean improved handling and performance, especially when off-roading. More wheel articulation, bigger tires, and expanded ground clearance all contribute to enhanced off-roading prowess.

Spacer Lift

Another method for lifting the suspension is with spacers inserted between the top of the shock absorber and its chassis mount. Their main drawback is, unlike a full suspension lift kit, they don’t increase ground clearance. Spacer lifts aren’t the best choice if extreme off-roading is your goal because they can cause the coil springs to compress beyond a safe limit.

As a less expensive solution to a suspension lift, spacers simply don’t offer the benefits of a full suspension lift kit. Moreover, they can cause more wear and tear on suspension components.

Pros and Cons of Suspension Lift Kits

We’ve assembled some benefits and disadvantages of suspension lift kits.


  • Height – You can raise your truck as high as you want, within reason, if you spend enough money on an aftermarket kit.
  • Ground Clearance – A suspension lift kit increases ground clearance and usually provides more wheel articulation required for extreme off-road rock crawling.
  • Tires – In most cases, you can run much larger tires with a suspension lift than a body lift.
  • Looks – If tall is good, really tall is better.


  • Cost – The price of an aftermarket suspension lift kit depends on how high you want to raise your truck. Consequently, you could be looking at $1,000 to $20,000. Suspension lift kit components also tend to wear out more frequently than the factory components, adding even more cost.
  • Convenience – Lifting a truck 6 inches or more could make getting in and out of the cab a hassle.
  • Wear –There is wear and tear on the components of a suspension lift kit, which could be more significant than with the factory suspension. The driveline also experiences additional wear because raising the frame and body from the axles increases driveshaft angles. All of that strain means more wear.
  • Towing – A suspension lift kit impacts towing, and not in a good way. For example, raising the frame raises the hitch. You may need to employ a drop hitch to compensate for added height. However, more than likely, that will reduce the truck’s maximum towing capability.
  • Insurance – Checking with your auto insurance agent before installing an aftermarket suspension lift kit makes sense. Many kits shouldn’t significantly impact premiums, but some will.
  • Warranty – If your truck is still under warranty, a suspension lift kit could void some parts of the contract. You may also need additional coverage for the lift-kit components.
  • Resale – A reasonable-height aftermarket lift kit probably won’t hurt the resale value if you can find the right buyer. In fact, with that buyer, it might even increase resale value. However, any vehicle customizing will reduce your pool of potential buyers.

What Is a Leveling Kit?

Some trucks roll off the showroom floor with a front-to-rear rake, where the rear is slightly taller than the front. This bit of engineering compensates for rear-end sag when hauling or tugging heavy loads. To offset this difference, you can install a front leveling kit to bring the front of the truck on level with the rear. It will also increase the clearance between the front bumper and the road surface.

An aftermarket leveling kit is a relatively easy installation that will set you back $200 to $600.

What Else to Consider?

We’ve thought of a few things you may not have when pondering a lift kit.

Lifted Nissan Titan pickup truck

Parking – A big vehicle is already a hassle to park. Jacking it up 6 or 8 inches only makes parking more challenging. If covered parking is important, you must determine how tall a vehicle will fit in your garage. Moreover, if you live in a neighborhood with a homeowners association (HOA), it may have rules regarding lifted trucks.

Regulations – Speaking of rules, your state may have regulations about a vehicle’s bumper and headlight height. Unless you plan on trailering your lifted vehicle to off-roading sites, the truck should not exceed your state’s height limits.

Mileage – Lift kits on their own don’t have much impact on fuel economy. However, suspension lift kits can add some weight. You may notice a reduction in fuel economy with the choice of tires. Lifting a truck is often followed by bigger, heavier tires. All of this gained weight and increased resistance burn extra fuel.

Can You Install a Lift Kit Yourself?

Well, you can give lift kit installation a try. Many shade-tree mechanics do so and quite successfully. Of course, a suspension lift kit is more involved and time-consuming to install than a body suspension lift kit.

In one case, you must have the means to lift the body from the frame. In the other case, you must be able to lift the frame and body from the axles. Both installations require a good floor jack and jack stands. Your tool arsenal must also feature a socket set and ratchets. Whether it’s a power drill with socket fittings or a pneumatic setup, you’ll save time and elbow grease over doing everything manually.

If you shop carefully for your lift kit, it will contain everything you need. Some suspension lift kits don’t include the shocks, which allows you to choose exactly the shock you prefer. The Mopar kits we reference below are complete kits.

The installation time is a function of your mechanical aptitude, experience with lift kits, and the vehicle model you are lifting. Even with all the required tools and jacks, installing a suspension lift kit will take 12 to 20 hours. A do-it-yourselfer with all the appropriate tools will need 8 to 12 hours to install a body lift kit.

Factory-Lifted Trucks

Some truck and SUV models arrive in showrooms with a factory-installed lift. These are almost always purpose-built off-roading trim levels. The primary advantage of a factory-installed lift kit is its cost is folded into the truck’s retail price and covered by the factory warranty. The disadvantage is that these lifts are constrained to a few inches.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk


Height-Adjustable Suspensions

Various truck and SUV models offer factory-installed adaptive air suspensions with an adjustable-height feature. Often such features are reserved for upper trim levels but not always. Adaptive air suspensions use sensors to monitor the driving surface relentlessly. They then adjust the damping at each wheel in less than a blink of an eye in response to changing surface conditions and driver behavior.

When adaptive suspensions provide some height-adjustment scheme, it is most often driver controlled. Usually, a switch, toggle, or button is available with which the driver can raise or lower the vehicle. More sophisticated ride-height systems, like that in the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer L, offer several preset heights designed for different tasks. For example, the Grand Wagoneer L’s Quadra-Lift has five presets: Normal (8 inches), Off-road 1 (9 inches), Off-road 2 (10 inches), Park (6.4 inches), and Aero (7.4 inches).

Usually, high settings will have a low-speed limit restriction. The Lexus GX referenced below won’t shift into its HI mode when the vehicle speed exceeds 18 mph. The high settings are almost exclusively for off-road use.

Examples of Trucks and SUVs with Adjustable Ride Height

2022 Rivian R1T


Dealer-Installed Lift Kits

Mopar is the brand of original equipment parts offered in Stellantis dealerships, including Jeep and Ram. Mopar engineers and builds lift kits sold through the parts departments of Jeep and Ram. For example, you can buy a 2-inch suspension lift kit for a 2020-2022 Jeep Gladiator for $1,695. It arrives with all the parts required, like 2.5-inch aluminum body monotube Fox shocks, longer front control arms, and so forth.

A 2-inch suspension lift kit for 2021 and 2022 Ram 1500 models will set you back $1,530. As with the Gladiator kit above, this kit contains every component required to achieve lift.

Installation Costs Vary by Dealer

Sadly, even if you have one of these kits installed on a new vehicle you’re purchasing, the cost can’t be folded into auto financing. And although these kits won’t void the vehicle’s factory warranty, they aren’t covered either. However, Mopar lift kits come with their own limited warranty.

Ford and General Motors don’t offer lift kits through the parts departments of their dealerships.

Pros and Cons of Lift Kits

We’ve detailed what we believe to be the good, the bad, and the ugly with body lift kits and suspension lift kits. Now we’ll lay out some general pluses and minuses of lifting a truck.


  • Visibility – No doubt about it, the higher you sit, the more you can see.
  • Tires – Regardless of the type of lift kit, you can run larger tires, whether for looks or off-roading.
  • Appearance – The taller a truck, the more rugged it looks.


  • Mileage – Lifting a truck usually involves bigger tires, too. Larger tires with deeper grooves sap fuel economy.
  • Center of Gravity – Lifting a truck also raises its center of gravity. This can render the vehicle less stable when cornering or during emergency-avoidance maneuvers.
  • Cost – Lifting a truck involves additional cost, whether it’s a factory lift, a dealer-installed lift, or an aftermarket lift kit.