Body Lift vs. Suspension Lift: What's the Difference?

There is more than one way to add height to some trucks and SUVs.

Red 2024 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon with Jeep Performance Parts 2-inch lift kit in the desertJeep

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One of the main off-road modifications you can do to your truck or SUV is to add better, larger tires. Tires are easy to purchase and adding meatier treads means you can go farther with less chance of a flat. However, depending on your rig, you might not have enough room to do so. This is where a lift kit comes in.

There are two ways to lift a vehicle with a separate frame, such as a full-size pickup truck, a Jeep Wrangler, or a Toyota 4Runner. You can apply a body lift or a suspension lift. Both allow for larger wheels and tires, but they vary in their complexity, price, and advantages.

What Is a Body Lift?

A body lift raises the body of a vehicle up and away from the frame, creating space between the wheel well and hubs to add larger wheels and tires. This is usually done with plastic, metal, or urethane spacers installed between the body and the frame. Most body lifts give about 3 inches of lift.

There are many advantages to a body lift. First, it's an inexpensive way to add some height to your vehicle. Most body lifts cost a few hundred dollars and can be installed by a mechanic.

A body lift doesn't affect the truck's handling too much since its original suspension components remain the same. You won't have to upgrade the drivetrain or steering components either.

However, a body lift doesn't necessarily give you more ground clearance, so you'll still have to pay attention to rocks and other obstacles on the trail. A body lift may also leave a gap between the frame and the body that some find unsightly.

A body lift can only be used with body-on-frame or ladder-frame trucks and SUVs. That's fine for most pickup trucks as well as some off-road SUV favorites such as the Toyota 4Runner, Jeep Wrangler, and Ford Bronco. Unibody trucks such as the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz as well as many SUVs combine their body and frame into one piece, so there is no way to lift the body away from the frame.

What Is a Suspension Lift?

A suspension lift raises the frame and body of a truck or SUV by adding longer shocks and springs. The greatest advantage of a suspension lift over a body lift is the increase in ground clearance, with kits that can raise your rig from a mild 1.5 inches all the way to 12 inches.

You can also fit larger wheels and tires on your truck with a suspension lift over a body lift, which can further increase ground clearance. Many suspension kits come with the components needed to increase wheel travel. However, suspension lifts are more expensive and often require professional installation.

Depending on your tire size, a suspension lift might increase the angle from the wheel hub to the differential, resulting in the wrong angle for the CV axles. You may also need a new driveshaft, longer brake lines, or an exhaust modification when you add a suspension lift.

If your kit doesn't come with upgraded upper control arms, you'll need a set. More adjustment will help correct any front wheel alignment issues.

Speaking of wheels, you'll need to be sure you have the correct backspace — a measurement from the wheel's mounting surface to its back lip — to account for all your new suspension components.

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Emme Hall
Emme Hall loves small convertibles and gets out to the canyons in her 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata whenever she can. You can also find her in the dirt in her lifted (yes, that's right) 2001 Mazda Miata, or racing air-cooled Volkswagens in races like the Baja 1000. She's taken first place twice in the Rebelle Rally — once driving a Jeep Wrangler and then a Rolls-Royce Cullinan the second time. She was also the first driver to take an electric vehicle to the Rebelle Rally when campaigning the Rivian R1T to a top-five finish