Rough Country vs BDS vs Zone Suspension Lift Kits

by | Auto Tools, Comparisons (Cars)

If we’re talking suspension lift kits, the casual suspects are Rough Country, BDS, and Zone. A lot has been said regarding their performance – and most of it has been pretty much on point.

However, I can’t help but feel there’s also been some elitism, guys.

Yes, BDS is the best option you have for suspension lift kits.

But what is best varies according to your driving habits and needs. BDS would be a total overkill on some setups.

Here’s how I see things:

➥➥ Rough Country is a very sound choice for street driving and very light off-road driving. This kit of theirs is perfect for street queen trucks and 2WD automobiles. Good price, more than decent performance.

Do not expect RC to cope well with more serious off-road adventures, however. And don’t expect their shocks to compare to a pair of Bilsteins or the Foxes you get with BDS.

➥➥ BDS gets you the Premium Treatment. It is a must for heavy off-roading but it would be an overkill if you don’t plan on mainly spending your time off the streets.

The perks are a lot. More components included, all of them with kickass construction. Great upgrade options and the cherry on top – aluminum FOX shocks for superior ride performance and heat dissipation.

Obviously, the price here can be almost double most other brands.

➥➥ Zone is a bit of a middle ground (on the higher end of things.) I sincerely think they’re the best choice for 4WD Jeep owners.

Kits like this 4″ suspension lift show Zone’s best side: a good balance between money and quality, and smooth off-road performance.

There’s an additional important factor regarding Zone and BDS. Compared to Rough Country, you might need to do a little bit more of that cutting/grinding/welding business with your front differential.

By the way, both Zone and BDS are owned by the same company. I’m talking about Sport Truck USA.

OK, let’s take a closer look at these 🙂

Rough Country vs BDS:
A few important points to consider

I’ve seen a lot of skepticism regarding Rough Country. While I agree that RC pales in comparison to BDS, there are some things I’d like to note.

First, they’re continuously upgrading their designs. I’m talking about the Vertex coilovers from last year, the upgrade to N3 shocks…

Second, they’ve added new components to their lift kits. Before they were on the scarce side, but after the update it’s a good bang for your buck. A lot of critics are actually criticizing the older RC kits.

As I mentioned, RC is a very solid choice for street driving. BDS blows it out of the water when it comes to off-road.

There’s one specific reason – and this reason are the FOX shocks that come with BDS suspension lift kits.

I’m not sure what shocks you’re a fan of, but FOXes are the top of the top. Bilstein, KYB, Monroe, whatever – none of them gets even slightly closer to their quality.

A big difference between Rough Country and BDS lies exactly in their shocks as a rear component. FOX are an aluminum beast that not only drives extra smooth…they also don’t rust. Sure, RC moved on from those previous awful iron shocks to the upgraded N3 performance shocks. However, even this upgrade can’t match the absorption and longevity of FOX.

Another thing you might see with BDS is a more heavy-duty construction. Their U bolts are at least 1.5x thicker, their nuts are also prepared for more hardcore stress. The sleeves are slightly better welded and come with a better finish.

By the way, you’re free to mix things up. I’ve seen a lot of truck owners who get a Rough Country suspension lift kit and just grab a pair of FOX shocks or coilovers and install them. This guy did it nicely:

Rough Country and BDS suspension lift kits:
Recommendations

First of all, I’m not sure what kind of lift kit you’re looking for. 2.5″ suspension lifts are a staple for general driving and aesthetics. You won’t see any significant effect on ride comfort and handling, parts wearing out or your fuel usage.

4″ to 6″ allows for a cooler, more aggressive look. These lift heights are also better if you want to go for more off-road driving. Installation might take a bit more time and you should see some changes to fuel usage. Ride comfort becomes more important here, including the quality of your shocks.

Above 7″ is hardcore territory. Personally, I’m not a big fan. It looks monstrously cool, but the wear and tear and ride disruption are a bit too much for me.

That said, here are my recommended suspension lift kits.

Rough Country vs BDS suspension lift kits: my verdict.

This one goes from 2″ to 6″ depending on your preferences. You can also get one with the N3 shocks or without shocks (so you can install something of better quality like Bilstein or FOX).

A very affordable, good quality suspension lift kit for most urban truck drivers…or those into light off-roading.

The kit includes quite a few parts.

In front, you’ve got:

  • Lifted knuckles

  • Front crossmember

  • Rear crossmember

  • Non-torsion bar drop brackets

  • Differential drop brackets

  • Sway bar links

  • CV spacers

  • Skid plate

  • Hardware stuff

In the rear there are:

  • 6.25″ fabricated lift blocks

  • U bolts

  • Hardware stuff

  • N3 shocks (optional depending on your choice)

The reason I recommend using Amazon for Rough Country is the better price compared to other retailers or their official site.

Lots of off-road driving:
The 6″ BDS lift kit

BDS lift kits and how they compare with Rough Country: hint, better at off-roading!

Personally, I think BDS makes the most sense if you go for the 6″ suspension lift kit. Or at least the 4″ one.

You can either check it on their official site, or once again check it on Amazon.

Remember that BDS offers richer customization on their lift kits.

Generally, the fundamentals are:

  • 1/4″ steel crossmembers (laser cut)

  • Steering knuckles (CNC-machined)

  • Crossmember support braces

  • Sway bar relocation brackets

  • Cam bolts

  • Upper strut mount spacers

In the rear you have:

  • Offset pin lift block

  • U bolt kit

  • Rear brake line extensions

  • Shocks (FOX or BDS per request)

Good to mention that BDS has the best warranty out there. The company themselves refer to it as a No BS warranty. In short, if you originally purchased any BDS lift kit and it breaks, they will give you a new one. No matter what circumstances it went through!

Best suspension lift option for Jeep Wrangler/JK:
A Zone 4″ kit

Zone vs BDS vs Rough Country: a full comparison between these suspension lift kit options

Note: if you want a more modest 2.5″ kit for your JK or Wrangler, Rough Country has this great bundle.

However, if you want to embark on 4WD off-road adventures, the Zone 4″ will be a huge improvement over that.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to grind the frame a bit. Installation is no rocket science, but it will take a bit of time. You get:

  • Coil springs (4-door specific in this case!)

  • Adjustable track bar (front)

  • Cam washers

  • Rear sway bar links (extended); you can use the factory rear links in the front

  • Track bar relocation system (rear)

  • 2″ bump stop extensions for protection

  • Relocation brackets

  • Front/rear shocks tailored to JK – these are manufactured by Zone themselves

Overall, pretty good. While the Zone shocks here are twin-tube (and not a monotube which I praised in my KYB vs Bilstein article), it’s not that much of a problem. They are fitted for JK and manufactured with off-road conditions in mind.

Conclusion

I hope that this information could help you out at least a bit. As I mentioned, it’s important to think about your own driving habits and how a suspension lift kit ties into them.

It doesn’t make sense to overpay. Much as it also doesn’t make sense to be unprepared in case you want to do some dirty and rough driving, right?

Last but not least, please check with your local legislation. Some states are pretty uptight about lift heights. There’s a chance that in some areas you’ll get in trouble if you go for the higher lift kits. The rule still stands – look cool, but drive responsibly…and in line with the law. 🙂

Founder of ToolingFun. Couldn't even change a lightbulb in my teenage years. Discovered the joy of DIY projects during my 2nd year in college. All about tinkering around, trying fun tools and projects, and giving my opinion on industry brands!