Bilstein vs Rancho: Complete Review (All you need to know)

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Any serious off-road addict is no stranger to the good ol’ Rancho vs Bilstein shock comparison. Even if you’re not into dirt adventures, these shock absorber brands offer reliable performance and firm control over your ride.

That said, let’s be precise and not compare apples to oranges when it comes to picking a shock absorber:

  • Pure offroad shocks: Bilstein 5100 series faces Rancho’s RS9000XL or the RS7000MT series.

  • Off-road/on-road balance: Bilstein 4600 is a direct competitor to the classic Rancho RS5000X with stock height trucks.

I’ll do an in-depth review, but first I’d like to summarize a few important points.

First, offroad shocks: Bilstein’s 5100 series heavily leans on performance with its patented digressive valving.

The patented digressive valving gives the Bilstein shock an optimum grip which enhances stability and control.

However, this means that you’re getting a firmer shock that can even turn stiff and uncomfortable on lower loads. Bilstein 5100 works best with lifted vehicles that have a higher center of gravity, larger wheels, and heavyweight tires.

Rancho’s RS9000XL shocks are insanely versatile with their 9 adjustable settings. You can go from a soft, OEM-style ride to a balanced Bilstein 5100-like firm, ride-quality performance.

No other shock absorber allows such flexibility, and that’s why people love this specific series of rancho shocks.

Control Rancho

The RS7000MT absorber is not as flexible, but it fixes a common Rancho shocks pain – rust and corrosion of the tube itself. In a way, it’s an emulation of Bilstein’s 5100 series with its reinforced zinc plating.

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5100 Bils
Bilstein 5100
  • Firm control for ultimate performance
  • Best suited for heavier trucks, otherwise can be stiff
  • Zinc-plated, sturdy monotube
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Rancho RS9000XL
Rancho RS9000XL
  • 9 adjustable settings give you complete terrain freedom
  • Works amazing for lighter trucks
  • Somewhat prone to rusting
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Rancho 7000 Seriers
Rancho RS7000MT
  • Durable monotube shock for offroad use
  • Fixes Rancho shocks’ rust problem with zinc plating
  • Pretty much identical to Bilstein 5100
Check Price on Amazon

With offroad/onroad balanced shocks: Bilstein 4600 is a more sensible choice than RS5000X for stock height trucks/SUVs. A tad better dampening and really smooth ride for cheaper.

With lifted vehicles, go for the RS5000X as Bilstein shocks from the 4600 series don’t support lifts.

Now, let’s dive deeper.

Offroad fiesta:
Bilstein 5100 vs Rancho RS9000XL vs Rancho RS7000MT

As I mentioned before, the keyword for the 5100 Bilstein shocks series is ‘high-performance shocks’ and lean more towards pure offroad shocks better suited for lifted vehicles.

On the other hand, Rancho shocks (RS9000XL) rely on ‘adjustability’, giving you freedom in how you want your ride to feel on different terrain.

That’s one of the reasons you see a lot of lighter-model Jeep owners rooting for Rancho shocks.

Take the TJ or even older-gen Wranglers – potholes or washboard roads will hit hard with a pair of 5100 Bilstein shocks.

With 9000XL for your JKU, you just dial down your rancho adjustable shocks and get a comfortable, cushy, and smooth ride.

For heavier vehicles like a Ford F250 or a Silverado 2500HD (read some reviews) this won’t be a problem. They were born for the firmer nature of Bilstein 5100.

There are structural differences too.

Bilstein 5100 is a monotube shock absorber – the rod goes into the tube powered by pressurized nitrogen gas coming from a separate sealed chamber. No oil gets displaced, and you get improved damping ability.

A monotube design is always to be prefered to a twin tube design when it comes to off-road surfaces due to it being less durable than the former.

As I mentioned before, the keyword for the 5100 series is ‘performance’. Rancho 9000 relies on ‘adjustability’, giving you freedom in how you want your ride to feel on different terrain.

That’s one of the reasons you see a lot of lighter model Jeep owners rooting for Rancho shocks. Take the TJ or even older-gen Wranglers – potholes or washboard roads will hit hard with a pair of 5100. With 9000XL for your JKU, you just dial down and get a comfortable, cushy ride.

For heavier vehicles like a Ford F250 or a Silverado 2500HD (read some reviews) this won’t be a problem. They were born for the firmer nature of Bilsteins.

There are structural differences too. Bilstein 5100 is a monotube shock – the rod goes into the tube powered by high-pressure gas coming from a separate sealed chamber. No oil gets displaced, and you get improved damping.

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5100 Bils
Bilstein 5100
  • Firm control for ultimate performance
  • Best suited for heavier trucks, otherwise can be stiff
  • Zinc-plated, sturdy monotube
Check Price on Amazon

Rancho’s RS9000XL is a tri-tube shock.

A controlled valve regulates the flow of oil from an inner tube to a second one until it reaches the outer reservoir at the end. To Bilstein’s high-pressure gas, Ranchos offers low-pressure gas for smoother operation.

Generally, Bilstein 5100 shock absorbers are sturdier due to the monotube construction. The zinc plating also helps – while both shocks are made of steel, Rancho RS9000xl shock absorbers are only painted.

They rust quite easily because of that, something a lot of offroaders are reporting.

There’s a fix – you can just paint/extra coat them with the fantastic FluidFilm to protect them from dirt/debris. Here’s a good video on that:

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Rancho RS9000XL
Rancho RS9000XL
  • 9 adjustable settings give you complete terrain freedom
  • Works amazing for lighter trucks
  • Somewhat prone to rusting
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Rust and overall durability are what the Rancho RS7000MT tackles. It sticks to a monotube construction, has a zinc plating, and emulates almost everything from how Bilstein 5100 performs.

You lose in terms of the tri-tube adjustability of 9000XL, but you gain in terms of outer body sturdiness and long-lasting, better performance. Seriously, it’s like a Bilstein 5100 series twin.

In any case, these are the top representatives of mid-range ride quality shocks. Not as premium (and expensive) as the extreme-grade Fox, and certainly several cuts above your typical entry-level brands.

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Rancho 7000 Seriers
Rancho RS7000MT
  • Durable monotube shock for offroad use
  • Fixes Rancho shocks’ rust problem with zinc plating
  • Pretty much identical to Bilstein 5100
Check Price on Amazon

Towards a balance:
Bilstein 4600 vs Rancho RS5000X

As I mentioned before, things are pretty much comparable here between the different models of shock absorbers (including piston size).

You don’t have the disparity in design and function like the brand’s dedicated offroad shocks.

An important note to remember as I mentioned – the Bilstein 4600 series doesn’t support lifted/modded vehicles although they do have a monotube design similar to Bilstein 5100.

No, it won’t work whatever you do, so keep that in mind.

Aside from this little hiccup, I think the Bilstein 4600 simply rides better on stock vehicles. The yellow/blue design is also an eye-catcher and looks pretty great on most models.

Read what F250 owners say about the 4600

Similar to RS9000XL, Rancho’s 5000X shock absorbers are painted, not zinc-plated. The same applies to the Bilstein 4600.

However, once again I’ve seen a lot more Rancho users complain about their tubes getting hit by corrosion.

If towing, an alternative could be KYB’s MonoMax as I wrote in another post. They’ll feel stiffer on lighter to medium loads, however.

Bilstein vs Rancho feat

Rancho vs Bilstein Manufacture battle:
Where are they produced?

Here’s a fun fact, if you didn’t know.

Rancho shocks are a part of the Tenneco empire. If the name doesn’t ring a bell – that’s the manufacturer of Monroe aftermarket parts.

Which maybe makes it logical that they spread their supply chain across the world. As far as I’ve read, Ranchos are made in high-quality facilities from Mexico to Asian countries.

Bilstein, however, makes zero compromise in terms of location too.

Bilstein shocks are produced either in Germany or locally in the US. 5100 series specifically are split between German and American soil.

The brand’s higher grade shocks – namely, the 5160 and 6112 Bilstein shock series I’ve written about, are manufactured in the US only.

Generally, both brands’ shocks are durable and long-lasting on the inside.

As I mentioned, your only issues might be if you’re riding Ranchos on harsher terrain – salted roads, extreme dirt, etc. And even then you can fix their rust issues with a quick paint job – no need for a new shock absorber purchase over a bit of rust.

Rancho vs Bilstein Shocks: Conclusion

We hope that you have found our article about Rancho vs Bilstein shocks informative and now know which shock absorber is the right choice for your ride.

Feel free to leave as a comment any other shocks that you think would also make a great choice for your lifted vehicle, whether you are looking for off-road performance (like Bilstein 5100 shocks) or a more adjustable solution for various road surfaces (like Bilstein 4600/Rancho RS5000X).

All high-quality shocks deserve a mention.