So you want to lift your SUV.

Nice.

Having the extra height won’t just level up your rugged off-road capability, it’ll also make for a pretty sweet ride. To do this you’ll need to install a lift kit.

But before you get too spanner-happy, here are a few things you should (probably definitely) know.

How many inches are you chasing?

This question should guide what lift kit you get. The amount by which you want to lift your SUV will determine exactly what kind of lift kit you buy, plus what extras you may want to add on. If you’ve got an SUV that already has a fair bit of ground clearance (Subaru Outback, for example) then you’re already on your way to achieving your desired clearance, and an extra inch or two will probably do the trick.

However, if you’re after the monster truck vibe – you’re going to need a few extra inches under there. Oh, and some bigger wheels.

Benefits of a lift kit

More ground clearance = more off-road capability

One of the main benefits of a lift kit is the extra ground clearance and superior off-road capability that comes with being a ‘taller’ SUV. Off-road tracks can often present dangerous terrain, with sharp rocks or unexpected large pools of water. Being higher off the ground gives you an unprecedented advantage over your lower SUV counterparts.

More height = better visibility

This is almost obvious, but it’s also very valid. A higher car has more visibility, and for the more serious off-roading specialists – visibility is everything. Being able to see what’s ahead from a higher angle can make all the difference when you’re out exploring the unknown.

More suspension = smoother towing

If you get a suspension or coil lift, you can expect your SUV not just to be higher off the ground, but also far better at towing heavier loads.

Lift = looks

There’s no arguing about it. A (well proportioned) SUV sporting a lift kit is a beautiful thing. Why just have a car that can do all these things when it can look the part as well? If you’re planning on spending a lot of time on off-road tracks – you may as well look the part. There’s no doubt a taller, bulkier SUV will look more at home on the road less travelled.

Things to consider before lifting your SUV

1. Why do you want the extra clearance?

People lift their SUVs for any number of reasons. From wanting to be a better off-roader, to having a smoother towing experience, the lifestyle and driving habits often give a good indicator of what sort of lift kit you should go for. Here’s what we mean by that.

2. How often do you go off-roading?

If it’s a lot – then a good bit of extra lift is what you’ll need. For many, extra lift is about the added manoeuvrability. A lift kit can do wonders to your SUV’s approach, break-over, and departure angles – making tough and undulating terrain easier to traverse. But you might also want to consider whether larger wheels would increase your traction and whether it’s worth going to the extra effort.

3. Thinking of getting larger wheels to complement your 6-inch lift?

Then there are a few extra things you’ll need to consider – like getting an updated speedometer. Changing your wheel size will render your in-built speedometer incorrect in guessing your speed. This is an important thing to get replaced – especially if you’re driving on public roads. You’ll also want to check that your bigger SUV will fit into your garage after modification – adding on larger wheels plus a lift kit can dramatically change the height of your car – there’s nothing worse than realising that it won’t fit in its own home.

Is a lift kit risky?

At the end of the day, all modifications come with added risk. A lift kit does come with its own set of risks that anyone who’s thinking of adding one would be aware of. Here’s what you should know:

  • Lift kits change your car’s centre of gravity – making rollovers more likely. While these are very rare, and while most lift kits are tried and tested against strict standards, there is an added risk of a rollover if a drastic manoeuvre is undertaken at high speed. Remember to always drive with caution.
  • Lift kits change the ride and handling – if you’ve opted for larger wheels, this is especially true, but even a modest lift can make for a different driving experience. You may find the extra height a bit disconcerting at first, but it’s quick to adjust to.
  • Expect slightly higher fuel costs. With the added weight of the kit, plus potential larger wheels, you can expect the car to drink slightly more fuel than it normally would under factory conditions.
  • Expect to lose your manufacturer’s warranty – these kinds of modifications typically won’t leave you with much wiggle room if something else goes wrong.

Best SUV to lift?

These days it’s possible to lift pretty much any car. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

Basically, it comes down to how high you want your car to be, whether this is for offroading purposes or down to appearance. But don’t go lifting a Honda CRV and think you’ve made it look better.

We’d recommend going for a car that has AWD – making the most of inbuilt off-road capability will only create a more useful car. The likes of the Subaru Outback are ideal for this kind of adjustment – with the already rugged look, a lift can do wonders to its capability and looks.