If you just got a new truck and are thinking about whether or not you want a leveling kit or lift kit added to your truck, you are in the right place. We will go through the difference between a leveling kit and a lift kit in full detail.
We will compare the benefits and costs of each type of kit to help you understand what is better for your needs.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to leveling kits or lift kits and depends on a lot of factors.
In its simplest definition, a leveling kit is a lift that only impacts the front of the truck and raises the truck to be level with the rear. A lift kit will lift both the front and the back of the truck providing an overall increase in truck height.
Let’s dive into more details about each type and how they compare to one another.
What is a leveling kit?
A leveling kit is a type of adjustment to the height of a truck or car that only affects the front end of a truck.
Pickup trucks naturally come with what is called rake. Rake is the build-in angle of a truck downwards where the front of the truck is lower than the back.
This rake is important for towing vehicles. This allows the truck to sit level when a heavy load is carried or a trailer is pulled.
Leveling kits will keep the front end of your truck equal in height to the back end.
Pros of Leveling Kits
The basic leveling kits for trucks can easily be less than $100. At the time of writing this post, the leveling kit for the Ford F-150 was only $49.95! (See product below)
rough country 2 in. leveling kit for ford f150
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There are multiple types of leveling kits and what you see here is a spacer leveling kit. If you choose for a coilover, or another kind of suspension leveling kit, you may find yourself spending up to $500.
For more information on the types of leveling kits available, read: What is a leveling kit?
Improve ground clearance in front
Though the difference in the front and back of a truck is usually only a couple inches, when driving in conditions in which large obstacles are present, this could cause scratching to the bottom of the truck.
By lifting the front end of the truck, you reduce the risk of scratching or scraping your truck when going over rocks or large potholes.
Improve front end weight bearing attachments
When you level a truck you provide extra room and suspension sag in the front of the vehicle.
When you add any weight to a truck, you will experience some sort of sag. If weight is added to the front of a vehicle (such as a plow or large grille), the front will begin to sag.
If there is no leveling kit, this extra weight will cause the car to sag more than it already is from the factory rake.
The leveling kit allows the extra room to account for any front-loaded vehicle.
Allow larger tires or wheels
Due to the increasing height of the front of a truck, you can often upgrade your wheels or tires. Remember that this only impacts the front of the truck, so you will now only be able to accommodate the largest tires that are also allowed on the back wheel wells.
Easier to install
With the most common type of spacer lift, and with the need to only install on the front of the truck, the installation process is quite simple.
For those who aren’t as good with their hands, like me, this may be a little overwhelming, but for those with experience this is fairly easy to do.
If you’re interested check out this installation video below.
Cons of Leveling Kits
Reduce fuel efficiency
The rake in a truck also improves aerodynamics. So when you level your truck, you inherently create more space underneath the truck reducing fuel efficiency.
Do not adjust vehicle height
Those who want a large truck on the road will be dissatisfied with a leveling kit because it does not add any additional height to the truck. It only brings up the front of the truck to match the back.
This means that any leveling kit will only adjust the truck to the set height in the back and there is no customization.
Increases sag with cargo and towing
Rake is put in place to allow the truck to sit level when carrying large loads and towing.
If you install a leveling kit, the truck will sag in the back if additional weight or a trailer is added.
This can put strain on the vehicle and will decrease fuel efficiency even more than the stock counterpart.
Should I install a leveling kit?
Leveling kits are best for those who:
- do not plan to tow
- do not plan to carry heavy loads
- want to get rid of stock rake
- plan to plow or add other front end weight
- increase front end clearance
What is a lift kit?
A lift kit is an upgrade to a truck that increases the height of the entire vehicle. It both increases the height of the front and the back of the truck.
Cars can be lifted by either body lifts or suspension lifts.
Body lifts will add a spacer between the frame and the body of the vehicle. Suspension lifts will alter something within the suspension to lift the truck.
For a full list of the different types of lift kits, read: What is a lift kit?
Pros of Lift Kits
Can adjust to different heights
The major draw to lift kits is that you can add a lot of height. Lift kits come in many different sizes. There is no minimum or maximum height specified.
Of course there are other factors that impact the maximum height that can be installed, such as local laws or internal support, but generally, there are many heights to which a truck can be lifted.
Allow large wheels and tires
Other aesthetics that truck drivers like to add are large wheels. With a higher truck, the wheel well becomes less restrictive to install larger tires.
Cons of Lift Kits
Poor fuel efficiency
Fuel efficiency can be really poor with lift kits. Because the lift kits raise the truck from the ground, the aerodynamics are significantly worse.
The additional suspension system may also decrease engine efficiency. Often lift kits come with larger tires, too. Larger tires mean that the engine has to work harder to rotate the wheel to produce the same speed as before.
I was watching a video the other day and they said that after installing a lift kit on their Hummer it now only got 8 miles to the gallon……..others can be as low as 2!
Though body lifts can be as low as a couple hundred dollars, suspension lift kits usually sit at around $1000 and that is on the cheaper end.
Some high-end suspension lifts can be upwards of $6000. There is also the installation cost which needs to be taken into account to make the total estimate.
There are some cheaper alternatives to getting a lift kit, but there is risk associated with that. Some kits don’t come with all the necessary components to make all the internal changes. Some are very poor quality, some will decrease ride quality significantly, and some may just not work right.
Increases sag with cargo and towing
When a lift kit is installed it usually adjusts the truck so that the truck sits level after lifting.
This means that similar to leveling kits, there will be increased sag on the back of a truck when any cargo or trailer is added.
More difficult to load passengers and cargo
Though this may seem obvious, sometimes people forget to consider the impact that the height will have on the day-to-day functionality of the truck.
Sometimes this makes it more difficult for passengers to load and some people need to install a running board.
A higher truck also makes it more difficult to load anything in the truck bed.
Consider the use of your truck to consider whether or not this may be a major change for you, your business, or your family.
Need a running board?
Should I install a lift kit?
Lift kits are best for those who:
- want to install larger wheels and tires
- want to improve ground clearnace
- want to go off-roading
- want a higher truck look
What’s the difference between a lift kit and leveling kit?
|Leveling Kit||Lift Kit|
|Cost||Cheaper||Typically more expensive for higher quality|
|Tire Size||Can accommodate larger tires|
|Ground Clearance||Only provides extra ground clearance in front||Ability for larger ground clearance|
Leveling kits are almost always cheaper than lift kits.
Leveling kits are often spacer components for just the front of the truck making labor and parts cost a bit lower.
Due to the potentially significant impact of a lift kit, suspension component parts can be very expensive to minimize the ride quality.
Leveling kits to my understanding are easier to install than lift kits. Though this is not a statement that is true all the time, it follows a general pattern.
Depending on the type of kit used for either a leveling kit or lift kit, there can be varying levels of ride quality.
Different types of kits impact the output of the truck.
Poorly installed, cheap kits can significantly reduce ride quality. If you are not experienced, it is best to have an auto shop install your kit to ensure proper installation for both safety and ride quality.
Lift kits can accommodate much larger tires than leveling kits in general.
A leveling kit only allows an upgrade the maximum wheel and tire size on the stock truck whereas the lift kit can raise the height and clearance allowing a larger wheel to fit in the well.
Lift kits have the potential to increase ground clearance more than leveling kits.
Leveling kits increase the ground clearance in the front but maintain height in the back. Leveling kits allow both the front and the back to be raised off the ground.
Can you install a lift kit and leveling kit together?
It is NOT ADVISED to ever install a lift kit and a leveling kit together. There can be many incompatibilities between the two different types of lift kits and depending on the type can significantly damage your suspension.
Naturally most lift kits will in fact level a truck. The best way to explain this is with an example.
Let’s say you have a truck with a 2 in rake. This means that the front of the truck sits 2 inches lower than the back. Let’s say that is 34 inches in the front and 36 inches in the back.
If you were to buy a 3 in lift kit, this would raise the front of the truck three inches for a total of 37 inches.
Since the back of the truck already sits at 36 inches, the back would only need 1 inch to level the truck.
Before you select a lift kit, you should always make sure what the final product of the truck will be. You will want to confirm whether or not this will level the truck, but this is usually the case.
Final thoughts: Is a leveling kit or lift kit better?
Choosing between a leveling kit and a lift kit is dependent on a lot of factors.
You need to know your final goals in order to make an informed decision.
Are you going for looks? Are you going for a specific type of driving (such as off-roading)? What’s your budget?
Only until you know these things will you be able to make a final decision on which is best for you.
The big difference here is that a leveling kit will only lift the front end of the truck and a leveling kit will lift both ends.
If you want to get rid of factory rake and add a plow in front, a leveling kit is right for you.
If you are going for a really high lift look, want to put in larger tires, and have the extra budget to do so, you may start looking into lift kits to suit your needs.
It is also important that you consider the other changes that need to be made when adjusting your truck. This includes:
- adjusting the headlight angle
- reviewing the impact on payload and towing capacity
- adjust gear ratios
- adjust speedometer with speedometer calibrator if larger tires were installed
If you go to a quality auto shop, they should be able to assist you in these changes. Make sure to discuss with them these changes before you upgrade your truck.