Should You Lift a 4x2 Truck or SUV?

Lifting your two-wheel-drive truck can increase its capabilities off-road.

2018 Chevrolet Silverado RST concept truck parked by trees off road.Chevrolet

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If there is anything Americans love more than trucks, it's lifted trucks. From California to Texas to Montana to Florida, it seems like every other Chevrolet Silverado has a 3-inch lift kit and is rolling on 35-inch tires. But what if your ride is a 4x2 (or two-wheel drive) truck or SUV? Lifting a 4x2 is definitely possible, but there are often fewer options than what is offered on four-wheel-drive (4x4) models. Chevy added a subtle lift to its two-wheel-drive Silverado RST Off Road Concept — pictured in this story — a trim that doesn't make 4WD compulsory.

Whether you want the look or to enhance your truck's off-road performance, should you still go to the trouble of raising it?

What you need to know before lifting a 4x2

First, you'll need to decide if you want to install a body lift or a suspension lift kit. A body lift is used for trucks and SUVs that are body-on-frame, where the body is attached to a separate chassis. Because they are two separate entities, putting spacers between the body and the frame accomplishes the lift. Body lifts are usually good for one to three inches of extra height.

Remember that a body lift doesn't provide any more ground clearance. For that, you'll have to go with a suspension lift. Here both the body and frame are lifted. However, you'll likely have to swap out control arms, shocks, springs, and possibly steering components, which will add to costs.

side profile view of 2024 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner parked in studio.Toyota

The pros and cons of raising a 4x2

One advantage to a body or suspension lift kit is adding larger tires, which can turn your 4x2 truck or SUV into a mud-drinking, dirt-slaying monster. That may be a little over the top for most, but adding larger off-road tires makes a big difference if you're regularly venturing off the highway. Some 4x4 enthusiasts may deride your vehicle's lack of a front differential, but you can tell them that most Trophy Trucks racing the Baja 1000 are rear-wheel drive only. In 2023, Toyota reintroduced the Tacoma PreRunner after a hiatus, which is a 4x2 version of the best-selling pickup that's named after the trucks used to pre-run off-road races.

Specific downsides for 4x2 trucks are mostly that, though it may gain the look of a competent off-roader, it doesn't benefit from the increased traction of a four-wheel-drive system. If you get a two-wheel-drive truck into an unfavorable situation — such as heavy mud or sand — it's possible that you could get stuck and need assistance to get out, where a four-wheel-drive truck would likely not.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to lifting any vehicle. A higher center of gravity increases the chances of a rollover. Lifted trucks and SUVs with larger tires will see a decrease in fuel economy. If you tow regularly, a rig with a suspension lift will likely need a drop hitch, which may reduce towing capacity.

How do I keep my lifted 4x2 truck or SUV road-legal?

If you plan on lifting (or modifying) any vehicle, you'll need to check your local vehicle laws beforehand. Some states have laws stipulating how high the vehicle's headlights and taillights can be off the ground. Other states have a maximum bumper height.

Similarly, you'll have to determine if modifying your vehicle affects the factory warranty. For example, Mopar offers warranty options if the lift is purchased from Mopar, is professionally installed, and is raised no higher than four inches from its original height. It's up to you to do your research before you spend your money.

After all, who says only four-wheel-drive trucks should have all the fun?

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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