People have been customizing their cars since the before World War II, sometimes with special paint, unique wheels, or maybe by making flames shoot out of the muffler. Sometimes the customization is practical, and sometimes it’s just to change to look of the car as it rolls down the street.
Lowering a car’s suspension does just that. Sometimes described as giving the appearance of an animal on the hunt, custom suspension has become a popular subcategory of automotive customization. So how much does it cost to lower a car?
This article will give you a quick introduction to the most popular ways a car’s suspension can be lowered, how much you can expect to pay to have someone do it for you, how much it might cost if you did it yourself, and how much labor is involved either way. So how much is it to lower a car? It depends but it can be done for free (believe it or not) or for $10,000+. Let’s start with the free options, shall we?
Most Popular Ways to Lower a Vehicle
Modifying The Leaf Springs
Almost all older cars tend to use a suspension system called “leaf springs”, essentially layered bands of metal tensioned into shape next to the wheel on the axle. If you want to lower your classic vehicle 2.5” or less, then modifying the leaf springs is the cheapest and easiest way to do so. It should be noted however, that modifying the leaf springs usually comes with a sacrifice to the handling of the car, particularly during breaking and acceleration.
Leaf Spring kits are available from a number of retailers online, and you can expect to pay between $100-$200 for one depending on the make and model of your vehicle.
The cost of labor for a professional installation floats in the $50-$200 per hour range. Be sure to call a number of auto shops in your area to get the best price. Professional installation should take 2-3 hours.
If you’re technically minded, this customization can be done at home over the course of a carefully spent afternoon with a car jack, a set of wrenches, a couple of C-clamps, some research and patience.
Total Cost: $100(low-end kit, self-installation)-$600(high-end kit, professional installation)
Cut The Coils
Cutting the coil springs is a popular way to lower the suspension on cars without leaf springs 1”-2.5”. To modify them, they need to be removed from the car and cut, in quarter-turn segments until the desired height is achieved. This method is tricky because if not done accurately it could lead to uneven suspension on the car, and unusual wear on the parts. Using heat to cut the coils can result in metal fatigue that could cause the coil to fail.
An alternative to cutting is to buy shorter coil springs. Prices for new springs from online retailers can range from $100-$700 depending on your vehicle.
Professional installation of new spring coils or asking them to cut existing coils is best done at an auto shop that specializes in custom work. You can expect to pay $200-$500 for a pro to do the work.
Installing new springs or modifying your old ones at home should only require wrenches, a car jack, a grinder, cutting wheels, and about 2-3 hours of patience.
Total Cost: $100 (low-end kit or purchase of tools)-$1200 (high-end kit, high-priced pro-installation)
Cover Your Coilovers
A popular alternative to cutting your coils or installing shorter ones is called the coilover. These are aftermarket suspension parts that completely replace the stock spring coil and feature an adjustable shock absorber that has a coil spring coiled over it. Well-tuned coilovers can lower the suspension of your vehicle down to 4”. It should be noted, however, that the more you lower the suspension of your car with coilovers, the greater the chance that the coils themselves will fail because of the constant tension they are under.
Depending on your car, coilover kits start around $1000 from online retailers, while more complex kits with higher quality components can be in the $8000-$9000 range.
Coilovers can be installed and fine-tuned at home over the course of an afternoon with a car jack, and a good set of wrenches, however it is a job for the advanced DIY car-enthusiast as poorly tuned coilovers can cause unexpected wear on other parts of the car, like the tires.
Having them professionally installed should only take a few hours, but labor costs mean you could end up paying around $600 for the job.
Total Cost: $1,000 (low-end kit, self-installation) – $9,600 (high-end kit, pro install)
Lower Your Car with Airbags
Another option is to replace the springs with adjustable airbags. This is one of the systems people use to make their cars rise, or fall at the flip of a switch. It can be installed at home, but professional help is recommended. Installing an airbag suspension system means replacing the coil springs with the needed airbags, but it also means adding air lines, an air compressor, an air tank, and wiring it all to dashboard switches. This method is great for getting 3”-5” of adjustable suspension, and can be added to any car.
Air suspension kits range from $1000.00-$4000.00 depending on the quality and capability of the parts desired.
The price of a professional install for these systems depends on the complexity of the kit, and the experience level of the installer. The average price for a professional install floats in the $1000 range, and about 10 hours.
Doing it at home is certainly possible if you’ve handled suspension work before, and are familiar enough with car electronics to install a new audio system. If you’ve got the tools and the talent you can expect to spend a weekend adding this system to your car.
Total Cost: $1000 (low-end kit, home installation w/o needing to buy new tools)-$5000.00 (high-end kit, reasonably price pro-install)
How to lower Your Car with Hydraulic Suspension
Hydraulic suspension is costly to buy, and costly to install. However, it can allow you raise or lower your car up to 5” inches, or even make the thing dance in your driveway.
Hydraulic lift kits range from $1,300 to well over $10,000 on the high end, depending on your vehicle and desired performance.
Advanced DIYers can do this installation themselves, but it requires knowledge of suspension systems, electrical work, and even wielding.
A professional install by a custom auto shop will cost between $2,000 and $5,000 dollars to install depending on the complexity of the system and your car.
Total Cost: $1,300 (low-end kit, DIY install)- $15,000 (high-end kit, high-end pro install)
Remember That Your Wheels, Tires, Fenders and Rest of Suspension Will Be Affected Once You Lower Your Vehicle
After you’ve dropped your suspension a few inches you now have to deal with wheel fitment. Wheel fitment refers to the design of the wheel and at which point along the wheel’s centerline it attaches to the axle. Changing the suspension of your car without getting the appropriate wheels to accommodate the new center of gravity can put undue strain on the axle and all the parts that connect it to the wheel, which will lead to reduced handling, part failures and your tires getting eaten by your car’s bumper. Be sure to research what kind of wheels you’ll need for your new suspension setup at willtheyfit.com. Keeping your bumper from eating your wheels is also a mostly straight forward DIY project that involves “rolling” some of the mounting tabs of your bumper, or removing them altogether. Be sure to research the modification needs of your specific suspension/wheel/tire setup before hitting the road.
A Few Names To Drop (Popular Companies that Offer Lowering Products)
There are a number of manufacturers in the marketplace that specialize in making parts and kits for custom auto suspension.
Eibach is a leading manufacturer who makes suspension coil kits for just about any automobile, averaging around $359.10 for a coil spring kit.
Koni is a brand that specializes in high performance upgrades starting at around $1,223.04.
A high-end brand Bilstein. Kits start around $269 and can cost up to $10,097.75. Prices for these kits vary greatly depending on the make and model of your car.
KYB is lauded for having gas shocks comparable to Bilstein, but at a cheaper price point.
Belltech is another company with more affordable suspension kits, starting at $550.00
QA1 is a manufacturer with a wide range of suspension products ranging in price from $63.97-$887.97
With a comprehensive catalog, Summit Racing Equipment features suspension kits starting at $107.97, all the way up to $4,245.75.
Similarly stocked, Auto Anything is an online retailer whose suspension kits start in the $100.00 range and go up to $2,373.19.
If you’re interested in airbag or hydraulic suspension, then Hoppo’s is a comprehensive stop for parts and kits. Kits start at $1,050.00 and range in price up to $1,450.00.
Similarly, HiJacker Hydraulics can get you started with a basic and affordable hydraulic kit that you can upgrade to meet your needs starting at $899.95. Their high-end “Pro-Jacker” kit starts at $1,699.95.
Conclusion to: How Much Does It Cost to Lower a Car
Automotive customization can be done at wide range of skill levels, and price points with very satisfying results. First, choose a method that fits your budget. Next, choose a brand. Finally, either get to work yourself or find a trustworthy shop in your area to do the work. Pro tip: Use forums or get introduced to people at car meets who can lower your car for a lot less than a professional shop can.