5 Best Budget Friendly Suspension Lift Kits

Affordable Suspension Lift Kits for 2nd & 3rd Gen (2005+) Tacoma

The Tacoma is known for its durability and capability both on and off-road. A stock truck equipped with factory suspension can take you down many trails with little to no problem, but for those who wish to experience more advanced terrain, you should consider upgrading your suspension.

Lucky for you, this mid-size truck has some of the best aftermarket suspension support. The only downside is that research might be overwhelming with how many brands offer affordable options.

Let’s look at ride heights, spring rates, kit offerings, and more. When you’re done reading, you should better understand suspension lifts and the options available.

Coilovers & Ride Height

Bilstien 5100

When shopping for a complete suspension, you’ll find that most kits are centered around coilovers. As their name suggests, coilovers are coils (springs) mounted over a shock absorber.

Some more expensive coilovers offer ride-height adjustment like the BP-51 coilovers which use a threaded shock body to accommodate your desired ride height.

Some less expensive coilovers offer ride height adjustment through perches (adjustment increments) on the shock body rather than threads. Coilovers with perches are almost always less expensive than threaded shock bodies.

In this post, we’re going to look at coilovers with perches – not threaded shock bodies.

Ride Height

The most important thing to consider when researching is ride height. Ride height is measured in inches. You will see kits offered at .5″ – 3″ or even larger. Most coilovers with perches range from .5″ – 2.5″ in increments of .5″. Each perch is around 5.” of lift. For example, if a coilover has 6 perches, you can adjust preload (compressing the spring to increase ride height) from .5″ X 6 perches which equals 3″ of lift. Just because a coilover stops at a certain measurement doesn’t mean you can’t go higher. For example, you can stack shims on top of coilovers to achieve an additional .5″ – 1″ lift.

Spring Weight

Perch setting + the weight rating of your spring + additional weight on your truck equals ride height. The heavier the weight rating on the spring, the higher your truck will sit. Spring weights range from 600+ in increments of 25 lbs but are most commonly found in increments of 50 lbs. For example, the Bilstein 5100 can be optioned with spring weights of 600 lbs, 650 lbs, and 700 lbs. If you plan on adding a steel front bumper, winch, steel skid plates, and steel rock sliders – consider a heavier spring rate (650-700 lbs). If you plan on running stock with no aftermarket armor, a 600 lb spring is great.

Shock Stroke

Lift kits with these coilovers offer increased ride height but little shock stroke or “travel”. The factory coilovers on the Tacoma offer 5.5″ of shock stroke. If you upgrade to a set of coilovers with perches, you can expect an additional 1″ (on average) stroke.

Additional Features

Some of these coilovers can be optioned with remote reservoirs for increased heat dissipation. If you plan on driving fast over rough terrain, we recommend upgrading to remote reservoirs. You don’t need remote reservoirs if you plan on hitting mild terrain. Very rarely will you find compression and rebound adjusters at this level.

Mid-Travel

This is where budget-friendly ends and moderately advanced “mid-travel” begins. Everyone’s definition of “mid-travel coilover” is different but when the shock body is threaded and there is at least 2″ or more of “extended travel” – that’s when you enter the next stage of lift kits. Since this post is on affordable options, we’re not getting into mid-travel.

Leaf Packs

Rear U-Bolt Flip Kit with Icon RXT Leaf Springs & Wheeler's Off-Road SuperBumps

For affordable leaf packs, you have three options:

1. Add-A-Leaf (AAL)

An add-a-leaf is exactly what it sounds like, you are simply adding a leaf to your factory leaf pack. Once added to your existing leaf pack, it provides a 1.5″ – 2.5″ lift in the rear. AALs are designed to handle close-to-stock loads and shouldn’t be used if you plan on carrying heavy gear and bumpers.

2. Replacement Leaf Pack

Upgraded leaf packs are designed for heavier loads and can support anywhere from 100-300+ lbs depending on the model. However, due to their design, the ride quality will be significantly stiffer without a load in the rear to weigh them down. Leaf packs are similar to coilover springs in that, the higher the weight rating you go up, the more weight you need to complement its rating. The OME leaf packs, for example, can be optioned as light duty (0 lbs), medium duty (300 lbs), or heavy duty (660 lbs). If you plan on installing a rear bumper, camper shell, drawer system, or any other heavy mods in the bed – leaf packs are the way. An upgraded leaf pack is designed to not only lift your truck but also to support additional weight.

3. Spacer

Spacers are not recommended as they provide poor ride quality and no off-road performance. However, if you’re looking for the most affordable solution out there, spacers can be added underneath a leaf pack to increase your ride height. Since this post is about affordable suspension options, let’s not go into detail on spacers as they’re not technically considered a “suspension lift”.

Now that we’ve covered the need-to-know basics of a suspension lift kit, let’s look at the most popular options on the market.

1. Bilstein Stage 1

Budget Friendly Lift Kits Tacoma - Bilstein

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One of the most popular names you’ll hear researching affordable suspension kits is the Bilstein 5100. I have tested this suspension on over 3 trucks and it’s been great for all applications; both 4Runner and Tacoma.

For the price and performance provided, Bilstein should rename this to the “ultimate budget-friendly lift”. You’ll receive two front coilovers and two rear shocks. The front coilovers are adjustable via four perch settings offering a 0″ – 2.5″ increase in ride height.

Adjusting Height

To adjust the height, the coilover must first be disassembled, then you can raise or lower the bottom spring clip into the desired notch on the shock. Bilstein offers two coil ratings: 2.5″ MEDIUM DUTY (600 lb) or 2.5″ HEAVY DUTY (650 lb). You should only run heavy-duty springs if you plan on adding more weight – like a bumper and winch. This is to allow the ride quality to become more comfortable. Without the weight up front to compress the springs, the stiffness of the coils won’t absorb as much compression and rebound resulting in a rougher ride. When purchasing the 5100s, look for a vendor who assembles the coilovers for you. This is much easier and safer than using a cheap coil spring compressor. That is if you’re a beginner.

Adding UCAs

When lifting your truck, you alter the geometry of your suspension components that aren’t designed for increased ride heights. One of these parts is your upper control arms (UCAs). UCAs are vital to your truck’s handling after installing a lift. The angle of your factory UCA pivot is no longer optimal and affects performance. Without new UCAs, you will experience poor handling, bad alignments, and potentially increased tire wear. The best way to correct this is by using aftermarket UCAs such as SPC (Specialty Products Company). With new UCAs, you can correct any current and potential alignment issues. We recommend installing new UCAs with corrected caster/camber specs at 2.5″ or more of increased ride height so they’re not required.

Rear Options

Additionally, this kit gives you two options for lifting the rear. The first is an AAL for lighter load builds and the second is a replacement ARB leaf pack for those wanting to carry additional weight. Companies usually throw in new bushings and longer U-bolts for an easy installation.

With the increased ride height, brake lines may be stretched and should be extended for safer driving off-road. If your lift is around 3″ and you intend on wheeling, 24″ extended brake lines are recommended.

2. Bilstein Stage 2

Budget Friendly Lift Kits Tacoma - Bilstein

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The second kit on the list is Bilstein’s Stage 2 lift kit which includes bigger and beefier parts over the Stage 1 lift. Equipped with the Bilstein 6112s upfront and the 5160s in the rear, you can push your truck faster and harder over rougher terrain.

Stage 1 VS Stage 2

The Bilstein 6112s are designed for heavy abuse off-road. Compared to the 5100s, the 6112s have a larger body size of 2.65″ to the 5100s 1.95″ and have a larger piston size of 14mm, meaning more shock travel. The height-adjustable feature allows the 6112s to range from 0″ to 2.5″ of upfront lift. The 6112s are paired with Bilstein’s 600lb coils, to take the heavy weight of an aftermarket front bumper and winch. For the rear, Bilstein uses their new and improved 5160 shocks, equipped with an external reservoir for increased cooling.

Rear Options

You are given two suspension configuration options when building your kit. The first is the standard Icon Add-A-Leaf that already comes with the kit. For an additional price of $100, opt for the Icon multi-rate RXT leaf spring pack. This leaf pack is the better option, allowing you to carry all your gear while maintaining a smooth ride without a sagging suspension. You can add or remove individual leaf springs based on your setup/load. If you want to save money and skip the leaf pack, the standard AAL will still add lift to the same height but isn’t designed for heavier loads.

Adding Aftermarket UCAs

Since the lift is only 2.5 inches, aftermarket UCAs are not required but are still recommended. You have options here. Choose from SPC, OME, or Total Chaos. SPC and OME are the budget options while Total Chaos is the higher-end option. SPC and OME are great options for all budget lifts while Total Chaos is designed for mid-travel setups and go-fast builds. SPC offers more alignment control via its adjustable ball joint mount design while OME is the cheapest. OME is still a great upper control arm, don’t let its cheaper price point fool you.

3. OME Nitrocharger 2-3”

Budget Friendly Lift Kits Tacoma - OME

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The next kit on the list is the Old Man Emu 2-3″ kit. OME is a renowned manufacturer in the off-road/overland community for its wide variety of options and part quality. This kit is customizable to suit the needs of your truck for a good price.

Front Coil Options

OME offers three different coil configurations. The OME light load 887 is designed to take stock loads while providing up to 2″ of ride height. If you are keeping your truck light, these are the way to go. Next is the OME medium load 888 which supports 100-200 lbs of additional weight, and provide 2.5″ ride height. The last option is the OME heavy-duty load 886 which supports weights exceeding 200+ lbs and can lift your front end 2.5″-3″.

Front Shock Valving

There are two options. The 90021 Nitrocharger Sport Shocks feature softer valving, and the 90000 feature firmer valving. The softer valving 90021 shocks will give a more comfortable ride quality while the firmer valving 90000 shocks will provide better handling on and off-road.

Rear Options

  • Icon add-a-leaf provides 1.5″ while maintaining stock weight.
  • Standard Dakar Leaf Pack supports 100-300 lbs of weight while increasing ride height by 2.5″.
  • Heavy Dakar Leaf Pack supports 300+ lbs and provides 2.5″ to 3″.

Adding Aftermarket UCAs

With this kit, OME offers its upper control arms. They are not required for this kit, but it’s recommended to add them for some peace of mind and performance.

4. Dobinsons Quick Ride

Budget Friendly Lift Kits Tacoma - Dobinsons

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Similar to the OME, the Dobinsons quick ride lift is fully customizable with multiple weight configurations and even color options. Dobinsons guarantees you will have great ride quality both front and rear, on and off-road.

Front Coil Options (Load Ratings)

The quick-ride lift offers multiple coil options:

  1. Light load (C59-302): Supports Stock weight, and 1.75″ ride height.
  2. Medium load (C59-314): Supports 50-110 lbs, and 2″ ride height.
  3. Heavy load (C59-352): Supports 110-240 lbs, and 2″ ride height.
  4. Heavy load (C59-354): Supports 110-240 lbs, 2.4″ ride height when loaded, 2.75″ stock.
  5. Heavy load (C59-318): Supports 110-240 lbs, and 3.0″ ride height.

It’s important to note that without the additional weight on your truck, the ride will be stiff.

The front shocks are both twin-tube nitro-charged however one is longer, providing an additional 1″ lift up front, for a total of up to 3″ in the front. If you plan on a 3″ ride height, choose the longer travel shock. The same goes for the rear, if you plan on a taller ride height, opt for the longer travel rear shock.

Rear Lift Options

The only downside to this kit is that Dobinsons adds lift in the rear with a lift block (spacer) and extended U-bolts. The lift block is placed underneath your current leaf spring package and is bolted on using the extended-length U-bolts. There are two different height options: 1.25″ and 2″. As we mentioned before, spacers are not the best way to lift a truck so if you can, save up some money and just upgrade to a full leaf pack or an add-a-leaf. You will need to call a vendor directly to modify your order but it will be worth it in the end.

5. Eibach Pro

Budget Friendly Lift Kits Tacoma - Eibach

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This kit is the cheapest of the five but that is not to say it isn’t a great option. Eibach is a well-known suspension manufacturer that takes pride in its quality parts. Eibach is the go-to manufacturer for white-labeling coils and other suspension components for many name brands in the space. You can’t go wrong with Eibach.

Adjustable Front Suspension

The front end is lifted using Eibach’s height-adjustable perches to reach the desired ride height. Eibach pairs their coils with heavy-duty custom application-specific valved shocks. Sizes can range from 1- 3″ in the front of your Tacoma.

Rear Options

The rear of your truck is lifted using a 1″ block and extended U-bolts although you can opt for an add-a-leaf which we always recommend.

Final Thoughts

That just about covers it! Hopefully, this post gave you a better idea of where to start looking for quality and affordable lift kits.

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Milton
Milton
1 year ago

Thanks for the info. I am planning my first lift.

Scout
1 year ago
Reply to  Milton

Happy to help!

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