What to Know Before Buying a Lifted Truck


A black 2017 Ford Raptor, popular among lifted trucks, is parked in a puddle


Lift Kits and Trucks: The Inside Scoop


Even though we are primarily a Kia dealership, we also sell a lot of used vehicles, including pickup trucks from different manufacturers. From time to time, that can include lifted trucks that have been modified with aftermarket components to raise them higher than they were initially manufactured. Even when we don’t have any in our inventory, we have customers ask us about modified trucks. They’re often curious about the benefits and drawbacks of a truck that has a lift kit installed.


So, today, we’re going to take a look inside lifted trucks and learn what all the fuss is about. This won’t be about any specific models or certain lift kits; there are too many options and variations out there to really get into that. But let’s see what lift kits are, how they’re installed, and what they do for a truck – both good and bad. Hopefully, this will answer some of your questions to give you a better idea of what you’re looking for in a pickup.


Truck Design Basics


Before we start discussing the details of lift kits, we need to quickly explore how pickups are designed and constructed in the first place. There are essentially two basic ways a modern vehicle is designed: either unibody or body-on-frame. Most cars these days have a unibody design where the body of the vehicle and its frame are all one piece that the rest of the vehicle is built onto.


In contrast to this, pickup trucks are generally made using a body-on-frame design. The frame is built for the truck, which carries the engine, drivetrain, and suspension, and a separate body is then attached to that frame. It’s important to understand this basic design because the ability to lift a truck is often based on the body and frame being separate pieces attached to each other.


Types of Lift Kits


Now that you understand the basics of how pickup trucks are constructed (there’s more to it than that, of course, but for this conversation that’s all you need to know), we can look at the different types of kits used to make lifted trucks. There are essentially two types of lift kits, and they are both aftermarket pieces of equipment. Lifted trucks don’t roll off the factory floor with a kit installed – they are modified after they are manufactured to ride higher. Though there are many off-road variations of truck models (Rebel, Raptor, TRD, ect.), they are built with a different set of parts initially, and not technically a "kit."


The simplest and most common type of lift kit is called a “body lift kit.” This is basically a set of blocks or spacers that are used to lift the body of the truck up away from the frame. In other words, this type of kit is installed by removing the body from the frame, installing the spacers on the frame, and then reattaching the body to the frame. The spacers lift the body to create more room for larger tires.


A more complicated type of lift kit is called a “suspension lift kit,” which requires more work to install and is usually more expensive than a body kit. This type of kit does not simply increase the distance between the frame and body but replaces or modifies the leaf springs on a truck to physically lift its suspension. This is a more complex process and needs to be done by a professional service technician or mechanic to ensure the suspension still works properly in the lifted truck.

The front skid plate of a 2019 Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison is shown while it is parked on rocks on a trail outside Allentown, PA.


Advantages of Lifted Trucks


So now that you know how lift kits work, you might wonder why anyone would go through the expense and trouble of having their pickup lifted in the first place. Well, lifted trucks with body spacers installed have a larger wheel well so that you can put bigger tires on them. This is particularly popular for anyone interested in going off-road, since larger tires can help with better traction and control while on the trail, especially if you like to drive on rocky paths.


Lifted trucks with suspension lift kits installed have a much greater advantage: higher clearance. Since these kits raise the frame up through the suspension, you can get greater clearance for going off-road. When properly installed, they can also help improve handling for a lifted truck by moving the center of gravity higher. Of course, that requires experience and proper installation, which is not always guaranteed.


Drawbacks of Lifted Trucks


Body lift kits create a gap between the body of a lifted truck and its frame. This can actually be a visible gap, depending on how high the lift is, which doesn’t look great. Higher quality body lift kits include gap guards that help cover this area, so they don’t look bad and to protect the mechanical systems of the vehicle. Body lift kits also have strict limits on how much they can lift the body from the frame, topping out at about three inches.


Suspension lift kits do not suffer from that limit, however, so a truck with a suspension lift kit installed can be raised six inches or more, even up to a full foot in height. The problem here, however, is that such a modification raises the center of gravity for the truck and can potentially make it more top-heavy than it was when designed. Other components, like extended brake lines and shocks, may need to be installed depending on height. An improperly installed suspension lift kit can also be very dangerous since an inexperienced installer might make a mistake that causes a crash or damage to the truck.


Lifted Trucks: Good or Bad?


So what’s the verdict? Are lifted trucks good or bad? Well, that all depends on what you’re looking for and how well the lift kit was installed on the vehicle. If you want a standard pickup with tires that are larger than what the wheel well typically allows for, then a lifted truck with a body lift kit can be a great choice. It will typically allow you to go with a larger set of tires for tackling bigger off-road obstacles.


If you want greater clearance than the factory version of a pickup allows for, then a suspension lifted truck can check that box for you. You just want to be sure it was put in by someone who is experienced in this type of installation – a professional service technician or mechanic. You also want to make sure you understand how lifted trucks handle compared to factory standard models. If you’re used to driving a particular model and suddenly try one that is lifted, you will likely notice different handling overall. So, give yourself time to adjust and be careful anytime you drive a new vehicle. One more important thing to consider are lift laws. Each state varies, but many, including Pennsylvania, have regulations on how high a vehicle can be and which modifications are legal.


Learn More at Allentown Kia


Whether or not lifted trucks are right for you, it’s important that you know about all of your options and can make a well-informed decision before buying a new or used vehicle. Here at Allentown Kia, we believe in complete transparency with our customers, and our knowledgeable, friendly salespeople are always happy to answer questions and discuss any vehicle we have in stock. Come down and visit us at Allentown Kia today and let us help you find the perfect new or used car, SUV, or pickup for your needs.