How to Buy New Shocks and Struts

How to Buy New Shocks and Struts

Last Updated August 11, 2023 | Kevin Brent

It's not too hard to determine whether your shocks and struts need replacing, but finding the right set of replacements can be another story. We'll walk you through the most important things to consider when buying new shocks and struts and answer some common questions.

What is the Cost for New Shocks and Struts?

Generally, the cost to replace shocks and struts can range from $150 to more than $800, depending on the make and model of your vehicle. The average cost for a basic shock or strut replacement without including labor costs is around $200-$300.

While shocks and struts are easy to get at most auto shops or dealerships, there's usually a significant price markup. The best way to find a good deal on shocks and struts is to browse aftermarket options online and compare prices. Most aftermarket shocks and struts will be a direct fit replacement for your current ones and they can even cost less than OEM parts.

The other price consideration is labor costs. If you're replacing all four shocks or struts, you should expect to pay over $500 to have them installed. If your vehicle has been modified with a lift kit or racing suspension, the cost may be substantially higher as more specialized parts are needed.

If you plan on replacing your shocks and struts yourself, make sure you know the correct steps and safety procedures beforehand. Check out our guide to learn how to replace shocks and struts without paying a shop.

How Stiff Should My Shocks Be?

Another buying consideration with shocks is their stiffness. Stiffness is a measure of the speed at which your shocks can compress. It's determined by several factors including the valve and tube type.

Valves control the ease at which the piston in the shock is able to move through the hydraulic fluid. The larger and more open the valve, the softer the stiffness of the shock.

A stiff shock is great for performance driving, as it keeps your suspension more stable over flat terrain. However, an overly stiff shock can become uncomfortable on lengthy drives or harsh terrain. Most people prefer a softer shock absorber for their daily driver.

The softer the shock or strut, the more adaptable your suspension will be for unstable road conditions and off-roading. However, if you're not planning on taking your vehicle off-road, having shocks that are too soft may make daily driving more inconsistent and inefficient. It may cause frequent oscillations due to the ease of hydraulic compression on soft shocks.

Can Shocks and Struts Be Adjusted?

Many manufacturers make adjustable shocks and struts, so you can easily change the stiffness setting of your shock absorbers. They're a perfect solution for mixed-use vehicles like off-roaders and track cars that also function as a daily driver. They're also great for people who think they want a firm ride but aren't sure if it'll be the right fit for them.

Using a screw driver to select between four options

What is the Difference Between Monotube and Twin Tube Shocks?

You should also pay attention to the tube type to determine the stiffness of a shock. There are two main categories of shock designs, a monotube and a twin-tube system.

Monotube Shocks

A monotube shock has a single large piston in a tube of fluid, usually oil. The fluid tube is separated from a gas housing at the base of the shock by a floating piston. As the piston in the fluid moves through the tube, the gas at the base of the shock is compressed, providing resistance.

The base gas pressure in a monotube shock determines the level of resistance the shock provides, meaning that they can be tuned to fit the needs of your suspension system.

A monotube shock has a lower stroke, meaning it travels less distance to compress. This makes it more flexible for installation. Monotube shocks will also generally be stiffer than twin-tube ones, which improves performance. However, they do tend to be more expensive.

Twin-Tube Shocks

A twin-tube shock has a central tube of hydraulic fluid with an internal piston surrounded by a secondary tube filled with gas. When forces from the suspension cause the central piston to move, the hydraulic fluid is forced through the secondary tube causing the gas in the smaller chamber to compress. This compression generates the shock's resistance.

Twin-tube systems are generally softer, leading to lower performance but better ride quality. Because they do not separate gas from oil, most twin-tube systems must be installed right side up. This makes them less flexible to install. Twin-tube shocks are also the most frequently mass produced shock type, making them readily available and less expensive.

Diagram comparing a monotube and twin-tube shock for a car

Are Shocks and Struts Sold in Pairs?

Yes! If you've had a shock or strut damaged, then it may make sense to replace just that one. But most of the time, you'll want to replace your shocks and struts in groups. At the very least, you should do pairs (shocks for the rear, struts for the front). But most experts advise replacing all four at the same time.

Replacing all four means your shock absorption should be balanced. Having a brand-new set of struts and a still-functional but declining pair of shocks can cause unpredictable handling. It's also just less comfortable and hard to keep track of.

How to Find Shocks or Struts for Your Vehicle

While shocks and struts generally perform the same function, there are some differences across manufacturers and vehicle types.

The best way to make sure a shock or strut is compatible with your vehicle is to perform a make/model filtered search. This will ensure that the strut or shock you buy is designed to fit your vehicle.

If you're looking to upgrade your suspension or replace your worn-out shocks and struts, check out some aftermarket shocks and struts for these popular vehicles:

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.