Coilovers vs Air Suspension

Coilovers vs Air Suspension

Last Updated March 21, 2024 | Meghan Drummond

Coilovers and air suspension are common enthusiast mods with varying install difficulties, handling characteristics, and price points. While both replace your ride's stock suspension set-up, they're targeted at different kinds of enthusiasts and builds.

Members of the car community have long been debating between these two suspension options, trying to determine which is better. In this article, we'll see how coilovers and air suspension compare and look at the pros and cons of each.

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Should You Install Coilovers?

Coilovers are different from the standard struts and shocks set-up found on most production vehicles today. They act as both a coil spring and shock absorber wrapped into one. They're used on off-roaders, track cars, and even daily drivers to stiffen the ride, reduce body roll, and increase performance. Check out our article to learn more about what coilovers are and how they work.

A diagram of a coilover showing each part

Like all suspension modifications, coilovers have advantages and disadvantages.

Pros and Cons of Coilovers
Pros Cons
Better handling Stiff ride
Adjustability Cost
Lowered Look

Advantages of Coilovers

Along with better performance than a stock set-up, you can adjust each corner of your suspension independently with coilovers. If you know what you're doing and like making precise changes to your suspension, they're the best option for performance driving.

Off-road vehicles also benefit from the adjustability of coilovers. While they're commonly used to lower vehicles, they can also raise them. Though there's a limit to the lift you can get, it's nothing to scoff at. Many coilovers can give you 3-5 inches of lift.

Coilovers installed on rear axle

Disadvantages of Coilovers

Ride stiffness is kind of the reason you buy coilovers in the first place. A lot of the advantages of coilovers come from the stiffness of the springs. But overly stiff springs can cause a painful ride. It's important to get the right spring rate for your vehicle. If you don't, you'll miss out on the performance gains while still having the harsher ride that comes with coilovers.

How Much Do Coilovers Cost?

Cost is another factor to consider when buying coilovers. High-quality coilovers are expensive, and you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 - $4,000. However, most good quality sets are going to run between $1,000 - $2,000.

You can pick up a set of coilovers for a few hundred dollars, but the quality could be suspect. Low-quality coilovers can lead to problems like squeaking, clunking, and the leaking of fluid.

How Much Does It Cost to Install Coilovers?

Having a shop install your coilovers can cost between $300 - $500. They're relatively easy to install, so you can save some money by doing it yourself.

However, the price of coilovers is still nothing compared to air suspension.

Should You Get Air Suspension?

An air suspension system is comprised of air shocks that replace the factory shocks and struts. The air shocks are infinitely adjustable, so you can dial in the perfect ride height. It can be found standard on some higher-end vehicles, but the majority of cars don't use it.

Air ride suspension lifting and lowering an S197 Mustang

Compared to coilovers or shocks and struts, air ride suspension is much more complicated and made up of many more parts. An air suspension system is made up of air shocks, an air compressor, an air tank, a manifold, and air lines. The air shock is fitted with an inflatable bladder than inflates and deflates with the use of an app or controller, acting as the vehicle's suspension. Inflating the bladder increases ride height, while deflating it decreases ride height.

The pros and cons of air ride suspension should be considered before converting your ride.

Airbag Pros and Cons
Pros Cons
Ultimate adjustability Cost
Superior ride quality Durability

Air Suspension Advantages

Air suspension has a few advantages that make it a unique fit for some builds.

The biggest reason for installing an air suspension system is for the incredible amount of adjustability it provides. With the press of a button you can instantly raise or lower your ride to the exact height you want, without ever having to leave the driver's seat. This makes it a great option for people building show cars or stance cars where millimeter perfect suspension height is essential.

Air suspension is also going to feel much more comfortable than coilovers and even stock suspension in most cases. The softness of the air suspension makes it ideal for those who place a premium on ride quality.

Air Suspension Disadvantages

While air suspension is perfect for a few applications, there are some major downsides that prevent it from being as common as coilovers.

An air suspension system is less durable than coilovers. Because the system is more complex, there's a lot more that can go wrong. One tiny issue can cause the whole system to fail and make the vehicle inoperable.

Also, if you're going to be doing any kind of performance driving, air suspension isn't recommended. Because it's so soft, you'll actually lose lap time from stock because of the increased body roll and weight from the compressors and tanks.

How Much Does Air Suspension Cost?

The biggest con to installing air suspension is cost. According to Bag Riders, air suspension can run you anywhere between $2,000 to $7,000. This is a huge difference in price compared to coilovers.

How Much Does It Cost to Install Air Suspension?

Labor cost is another factor to consider. Air suspension is much harder to install than coilovers, meaning that most people get it installed by professionals at a shop. Labor price can vary widely based on the shop you go to, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 - $3,000.

Air Suspension vs Coilovers: Which Is Better?

Coilovers are a great suspension mod that offers many benefits with few downsides. But lowering springs offer the perfect look that's almost unachievable otherwise.

Coilovers excel in the stability they provide through tight corners, even at high speeds.

Coilovers, on the other hand, are more expensive and give you the most precise adjustability possible.

Interested to see how coilovers compare to other suspension options like lowering springs? Check out our coilovers vs lowering springs comparison.

Sources: How Much Does Air Suspension Cost?, Bag Riders | The Pros & Cons Of An Air Suspension System, Accuair

This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.