Best Lift Kit for Jeep XJ & TJ: For Every Budget
Stylethority is reader-supported. When you buy through links on the site, we may earn a commission.
Say what you want to say, but the XJ and TJ are my favorites. There’s something about mid-80s to late-90s Jeep design that simply nails it.
Both are also great off-road beasts if you slap a lift kit on them. Based on what I’ve seen in my social circles, there are 8 brands we consider proper for having some proper lifted fun.
I’ll limit my specific recommendations to 3 brands per model, though. Here’s the best lift kit for Jeep XJ or TJ.
➥➥ For Jeep XJ Cherokee:
➥ Best value: This Zone Offroad lift kit is great. The key lies in the leaf springs: ready to flex a bit, heavy-duty, minimizing component friction to last longer. Zone’s shocks are also a vast improvement over other competitors.
➥ Alternative pick: This Rubicon Express kit. If your XJ has the Dana 35 axles, RE’s set will fit right in. The 3.5” leaf springs achieve a closer factory ride feel and go well with modest 31’’ tires. No shocks, but the lower control arms are fantastic.
➥ Budget option: Maybe expected, but this 4” Rough Country. Aimed to balance out the front and rear, RC’s kit is a decent upgrade that focuses on affordability. All the hardware is here, but from bushings to shocks, it’s a slight downgrade considering the XJ needs.
➥➥ For Jeep TJ Wrangler:
➥ Best value: Contrary to XJ, Rough Country’s TJ kits work well. RC’s coil springs are way better than their leaf setups, and their sets showcase this. The N3 shocks are meh; that aside, RC kits offer everything to get your TJ going on a budget. The perfect mild off-road option.
➥ Baller-tier: Check out this TeraFlex 3” kit. It ain’t BDS, but component quality-wise, it’s quite near. Achieves great body roll, eliminates swaying…a kit ready for heated off-road fun. The VSS 9550 shocks are durable and don’t care about gravel or sand.
➥ Balanced pick: A return to Zone Offroad with this 4” lift kit. Awesome ground clearance and a massive wheel travel upgrade over some cheaper kits. The TJ isn’t as needy as the XJ with suspension, but if you have the money, you can always get this over the RC kit.
These recommendations are what I consider optimal, but they’re not an exhaustive list. After all, these are just 4 brands out of the 8 names I mentioned earlier.
Some other options could be BDS, Skyjacker, Rusty’s, and Old Man Emu. Note that BDS goes into the premium tier and you’d be shelling out a couple thousand dollars for a kit. Unmatched quality when it comes to their hardware components, though.
Let’s head on to the specific recommendations and elaborate on why I’ve picked them.
Best XJ lift kit options
The first important factor to note here is your XJ’s rear axles. XJ traditionally comes with either Chrysler or Dana 35 axles. Generally, Chrysler’s version uses a 3” u-bolt, while the Dana 35 clocks at 2 3/4”.
The Zone Offroad kit I recommend as the best value fits Chrysler’s build like a glove. In reality, the majority of XJs come with exactly this rear-end design.
The Rubicon Express, on the other hand, is a great option for the Dana 35 variety. Not everyone wants to mess with their rears and change things up on top of setting the whole lift kit up.
Anyways, here are a few of the reasons why I picked the Zone as the best XJ lift kit for the money:
- What matters is made in the US: mainly talking about the springs which power the whole kit.
- The leaf springs provide more flex, flatten better (for optimal wheel travel), and are sturdier than comparable brands.
- Focus on extra off-road durability in hardware such as the control arms and shocks.
- Extremely DIY-ready due to intelligently designed extended sway bar links and relocation brackets.
Zone’s pretty much hit the nail on the head when it comes to XJ’s suspension needs. The brand’s options aren’t the most premium take, but their kits strike an impressive balance between quality and budget.
As I discussed earlier, there are alternatives if for some reason you dislike the Zone Offroad kit. Rubicon Express is a comparable take when it comes to component quality.
Their kit also fares well with smaller size aftermarket tires and inches closer to OEM ride feel.
At the same time, Rough Country offers a decent budget take on XJ suspension. I still think RC is better for the TJ and less intensive Jeep setups. If you want an affordable way to off-road, though, definitely consider the RC option.
Just keep in mind that RC shocks are inferior to how Zone, Bilstein, higher-end Skyjackers, etc. ride. They can be stiff and too bouncy on some setups.
Great options for those running XJ on Dana 35 axles. The kit lacks shock absorbers, but both the leaf springs and control arms are heavy-duty.
Affordable take on slightly improved OE ride feel. Good for mild off-road, but not as durable in extreme situations. Shocks are...rough.
Best Jeep Wrangler TJ lift kit
Heading over to the newer classic: the TJ, we see a slight shuffling in options. I continue holding the opinion that the TJ isn’t as demanding as the XJ if you want to have some extreme fun.
As such, Rough Country’s options (check some examples) make a better bang-for-your-buck sense.
A brand that makes an appearance here is TeraFlex. I’m sure you’ve heard of these guys, and I’ve written my fair share on them too.
More on that later, let’s focus on RC now. What makes them that popular in the entry-level suspension scene?
Rough Country wins the hearts of casual to moderate TJ off-roaders with several things:
- Full component kits at a bargain price without too much sacrifice on comfort/quality.
- RC sucks at leaf springs, but TJ lift kits are based on coils. And thankfully, RC’s coil springs are generally pretty decent and ready to tackle harsher terrain without fracturing too quickly.
- RC’s higher lifts are perfect for 33’’ tires and clear out a set of 35’’s great too. At the same time, their kits don’t clash with the idea of highway cruising with your TJ too. Especially the lower (2.5”) setups that many more premium brands lack as an option.
Rough Country’s drawback here once again lies in the N3 shocks. These are too stiff and uncomfortable compared to both TeraFlex’s VSS shocks or what Zone Offroad puts in their kits.
Which prompts me to talk a bit about TeraFlex. What’s up with the pricing?
Well, TeraFlex’s value proposition isn’t only limited to the improved quality of the hardware components included.
Setups like this 3” lift kit focus on fantastic body roll improvement, eliminating sway issues, and tougher design to accommodate the harsh conditions of extreme terrain.
The 9550 VSS shocks are also more durable (triple chrome plating) and deal better with dirt, gravel, or sand. If you want more info on the VSS, check my TJ steering stabilizer post. The VSS shocks share the same design and perks.
Tougher components for extra harsh terrain. Fixes body roll and swaying better than other kits. Vastly improved shocks that have a dust shield and triple plating.
Last but not least, you can always go for a Zone Offroad setup.
This 4” Zone kit has the perk of including a fantastic rear pinion cam. This gives you better angles and more flexibility when handling extreme terrain.
Otherwise, the kit’s perks are quite similar to what we got with the Jeep Cherokee XJ setup. Awesome ground clearance and heavy-duty shocks that are a middle-ground between the inferior RC and the tougher TeraFlex.
As a cherry on the balanced budget top, you also get sturdier bushings on the components that matter.
Zone has been one of the favorites of Jeep enthusiasts with a moderate budget for their suspension needs. Both the XJ and TJ kits of the brand clearly showcase why this reputation still holds strong decades later.
Awesome rear pinion cam for hitting some nasty angles. Great ground clearance and a bump to wheel travel capabilities. The perfect mid-budget setup.
Installing your new kit
I won’t lie: to some, this can be a challenging task. Regardless of whether you run a Cherokee or a Wrangler TJ, plugging a full new lift kit can take anywhere from 8 to 25+ hours of DIY work.
The lower the lift, the less work. For many people a 2.5” or 3” lift kit doesn’t warrant changing the control arms, for example (and many kits don’t include them either).
At 4”, you see upgraded control arms making an appearance, as well as much more alignment factors requiring your attention.
As far as guides go, this video is a good showcase of tinkering around with XJ off-road suspension. The lift kit used here is Zone’s 4.5” setup I actually recommended earlier. It’s on a 1998 XJ Cherokee with 33’’ mud tires:
Well, there you have it. I know there are other options present, but this round-up would become too monstrous if I went with every option.
As I said, observing my social circles this is what I see people running on their older Jeep beasts.
If you have the money, I’d obviously vouch for BDS as a fantastic upgrade. Luxury brands such as Rock Crawler are a thing, too. In these cases, though, you have to shell out several times the cash you’d do with a Zone (or Rough Country) kit.
Height matters, too. Some brands don’t offer the more modest 2 to 2.5” lift kits. Most are focused on the sweet spot – 3” to 4.5”. When it comes to 5”+, the more expensive kit, the better.
Such heights require a lot of alignment and there’s a significant geometric risk to your vehicle if the hardware isn’t really well manufactured.
From the other brands I mentioned, you can also check my article on Skyjacker vs Rough Country. The Jackers aren’t a bad option too, but I feel in recent years, they’ve fallen out of favor compared to Zone and other medium-budget options.
Drop a comment below to tell me what setup do you run on your XJ Cherokee or Wrangler TJ. I’m always keen on hearing additional opinions and seeing what people run on their off-road rigs.
- Woolx vs Smartwool: Discussing Some Details - October 4, 2023
- Best Struts For Honda Accord & Element: What Works - September 22, 2023
- Bilstein vs Monroe Shocks: My Opinion On What Works Best - September 19, 2023