Lift or leveling kits are often among the first modifications made to a pickup truck. Yet, there’s still confusion among aftermarket consumers regarding body lifts, suspension lifts, and leveling kits.

We’ve already tackled the difference between body lifts and suspension lifts in this earlier post. Now, we’ll look closely at how lift kits differ from leveling kits, and review why you might choose one over the other.

Leveling Kits

As the name implies, leveling kits level your truck.

Most trucks come from the factory with a “raked” stance. This means the rear of the truck sits slightly higher than the front. This added height in the back prevents your rear suspension from completely bottoming out under a heavy load. The advantage of this design is two-fold: It stops premature wear on your bushings and shocks and maintains decent handling when hauling cargo.

A leveling kit involves hardware to slightly raise the front of the vehicle so it matches the stock height in the back. This is done primarily for looks, but a leveling kit can also added a small amount of ground clearance for slightly larger tires. And because a leveling kit raises the front of your truck without affecting the rear, the payload capacity of the truck won’t change.

Leveling kits are very simple and typically include things like coil spacers, strut extensions, or torsion keys (depending on your truck’s suspension). Many can be installed without having to jack up your vehicle.

Lift Kits

A lift kit provides a more dramatic lift to both the front and rear of your truck. You can purchase lift kits—body or suspension—that will raise your truck anywhere from two to 10 inches or higher. Body lifts usually consist of a set of spacers that separate the truck’s frame from its suspension. They are usually less expensive than full-on suspension lifts, but are on the lower end of the lift range. They also don’t provide any of the performance advantages of suspension lift packages.

For maximum lift, you can’t beat a suspension lift kitThese kits are much more comprehensive than leveling kits or body lift kits and may include new springs, shocks, control arms, torsion bars, spacers, and other components. Suspension lift kits are more expensive than other options, but will accommodate extra-large tires and increase suspension articulation and performance for off-roading. Keep in mind, suspension lift kits can affect ride quality on the road, and the installation process can be intricate.

Leveling vs. Lift—How to Decide

Leveling Kit Pros and Cons

  • Advantage: Inexpensive
  • Advantage: Easy to install
  • Advantage: Slightly more aggressive stance
  • Advantage: Can accommodate slightly larger tires.
  • Disadvantage: Limited amount of lift
  • Disadvantage: Minimal change to look and style of truck

Body Lift Pros and Cons

  • Advantage: Allows for larger tires than leveling kit
  • Advantage: Less effect on ride comfort than suspension lift
  • Advantage: Less expensive than suspension lift
  • Disadvantage: Less lift range than suspension lifts
  • Disadvantage: No performance advantage other than larger tires
  • Disadvantage: Can create a gap between body and frame

Suspension Lift Pros and Cons

  • Advantage: Enhanced looks
  • Advantage: Most lift-range options
  • Advantage: Increases suspension travel/articulation
  • Advantage: Can accept extra-large tires
  • Disadvantage: Most-expensive option
  • Disadvantage: Very involved installation; may require cutting/welding
  • Disadvantage: May affect ride quality

The bottom line is that leveling kits are great for street trucks that see hauling or towing duty. Body lifts are great for trucks that see extensive street and highway use. And suspension lift kits are the choice of hardcore off-roaders or those who want a show-stopping high stance for their rigs.

Author: David Fuller

David Fuller is OnAllCylinders' managing editor. During his 20-year career in the auto industry, he has covered a variety of races, shows, and industry events and has authored articles for multiple magazines. He has also partnered with mainstream and trade publications on a wide range of editorial projects. In 2012, he helped establish OnAllCylinders, where he enjoys covering all facets of hot rodding and racing.